Is It Sinful to Eat With the Left Hand?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam’aleykum,

Is it sinful to eat with the left hand?

One of our children is left-handed and he finds it very difficult to eat, and perform other functions, with the right hand.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

No, it is not sinful to eat or drink with the left hand. Rather, it is contrary to what is superior, recommended, and the way of Islam, as instructed to us by our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), because the right hand is used for noble matters.

A man ate with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) using his left hand, and he (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Eat with your right hand.” He said, “I cannot.” He (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Then you cannot.” Only pride had stopped him and he could not raise it to his mouth. [Muslim]

This is explained by the scholars to be a command of recommendation and propriety, and not of necessity as understood from Imam Nawawi’s comments in Sharh Sahih Muslim and elsewhere. As for the supplication made against him, it was due to his dishonesty, arrogance and acting contrary to the prophetic sunna and command.

In any case, there is no disapproval or impropriety in eating with the left when there is a need to do so due to some kind of inability, such as injury. Moreover, there is also no harm in assisting with the left hand as we have prophetic precedence in this.

Nevertheless, gentle encouragements towards the good will help, as well as the realisation that children (and adults) can be trained to use a different hand to do something. Ask Allah Most High for facilitation, and show him how to eat in a manner which is in greater correspondence to the sunna.

Please also see: What Are Some of the Sunnahs of Eating? and: Riyad al-Salihin: Book on the Adab Related to Food and: Is It Sinful to Eat With the Left Hand? (Maliki)

[Ibn `Allan, Dalil al-Falihin; Qari, Mirqat al-Mafatih; Nahlawi, al-Durar al-Mubaha]

And Allah Most High alone knows best.


Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: FrankGuido

Is It Sinful to Eat With the Left Hand? (Maliki)

Answered by Saira AbuBakr
Question: Assalamu alaikum. If someone is left-handed and eats with the left hand is it a sin?
Answer: May Allah reward you for your question.
In the Maliki school it is not considered sinful to eat with the left hand. However it is a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, peace and prayers upon him, to eat and drink with the right hand. This is true for both left and right-handed people. Leaving a sunnah is discouraged (makruh).
There is no harm in writing with the left-hand. Traditionally scholars would not discourage children from writing with the left hand.
In general, actions that are considered significant in the religion should be carried out with the right hand. This is especially true if these actions have been mentioned in prophetic narrations (narrations) as praiseworthy.
In the Risalah of Imam Ibn Abi Zayd al Qayrawani the author mentions the following:
If you (intend to) eat and drink then it is required (a confirmed sunnah) to say Bismillah and to take (what you will be eating or drinking) with the right hand (also a confirmed sunnah). When you have finished (eating or drinking) then say, ” Alhamdulillah” (silently). It is recommended to lick the fingers (but not by putting them all the way into the mouth) before you wipe your hands.
One of the etiquettes of eating is leaving one-third of your stomach for food, one-third for drink and one-third for breathing (i.e. empty). If you eat with another person (from the same plate) then take from what is immediately in front of you and do not take another morsel until you are done with the previous one. Don’t breathe in the glass (vessel) when you drink. (Taken from: Chapter on the Etiquettes of Eating and Drinking).
It is important to note:
A confirmed sunnah is an act the Messenger of Allah, peace and prayers be upon him, would do on a consistent basis and rarely leave. There is great reward associated with a sunnah act. It is discouraged to leave it (but not sinful). That is the basic ruling.
However, one of the greatest ways to get close to the Messenger of Allah, peace and prayers upon him, is to follow his practices.
The Messenger of Allah is reported to have said: “A person is with the one he loves.”
Saira AbuBakr
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Rami Nsour