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Adab 10: The Proprieties of Food and Sleep

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or proprieties of eating and sleeping according to the Sunna.

 

Imam Sha‘rani, the masterful gnostic of the inward sciences, noted that it may well be that the eternal divine pleasure of Allah Most High is found in an act of worship which most people are unconcerned with because of its relative insignificance; and on the other hand, the divine wrath may encircle a relatively meager sin, namely, in the eyes of people. The sunna in its entirety is important, as indicated in the words of the lawgiver, “And don’t deem anything of the good to be insignificant.” (Muslim) Allah Most High cares about the details, especially occasions where heedlessness is normally rife, and when you strive to be gratefully and gracefully prophetic, in whatever capacity you are able, He increases you in wondrous degrees.

One of the great blessings of life is food, so much so, that it serves as a reminder of one of the joys of the hereafter. Allah Most High says, “They will also be served any fruit they choose and meat from any bird they desire.” (Sura al-Waqi‘a 56:20-21) And the gift of rest is not lost on any of us! “And one of His signs is your sleep by night.” (Sura al-Rum 30:23) It is worth noting that food and sleep are mere means, and do not intrinsically cause satiation nor rest. Rather, it is Allah Most High’s creative act at work. But He has commanded that you take the means, as exemplified by His Beloved Emissary, Allah bless him and give him peace, so we strive to do so as servants seeking to attain unto the divine good pleasure in this life before the next.

1. Eating with Mindfulness

The first thing to keep in mind is the magnitude of the blessing that is food. To be fortunate enough to simply sit with a bowl of food in front of you is sufficient enough as a divine favor. Intend Allah Most High therein, by making His worship your primary aim in eating from the sustenance He has bestowed upon you. Clearly, there are many secondary intentions which may be made at this point, such as gaining strength to fulfill your obligations, to assist those in need, to increase in gratitude, and so on and so forth.

The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, instructed us to wash our hands before eating because it brings about “blessings” (Tirmidhi), and to recite the basmala, ideally with the aforementioned presence of mind, heart and soul, “In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate (bismi Llahi Rahmani Rahim).” Some of the righteous would encourage the pronouncement of the short form of the basmala (bismi Llah) with each bite! Proceed to eat with your right hand, unless you have an excuse, as the right is used for noble matters. But there’s no harm in using your left to assist with eating and drinking whenever there is a need.

Once you’re done, you should end with a supplication of praise and wash your hands thereafter. It is reported that the Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Praise be to Allah who has fed us, given us to drink, and made us Muslims (alhamdu li Llahi ‘lladhi at‘amana wa saqana wa ja‘alana min al-muslimin).” (Abu Dawud)

2. Eating in Moderation

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us that the worst container a human being can fill is his stomach. (Tirmidhi) Accordingly, the sunna is to eat with restraint, and not out of mere desire or fulfillment. The prophetic encouragement was to reserve, “A third for your food, a third for your drink, and a third for your breath.” (ibid.) And as some of the righteous point out, everybody knows their own third! Nevertheless, it is permitted to eat until you are full, and praiseworthy if coupled with genuine, righteous intentions.

It’s also proper to eat when you’re hungry, and not to delay a meal until you are starving. The latter, more often than not, will be a distraction and lead to the kind of covetousness and heedlessness the lawgiver was seeking to direct us away from. It’s important to eat slowly and with dignity. You were created to worship, not eat, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy food. On the contrary, we actually know some of the favored foods of the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and on occasion, he would praise food too.

3. Eating with Sunna

From the guidance of the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was to eat from the side of the plate “and not from its middle” (Abu Dawud) because the “blessing descends in the middle.” (ibid.) This is of particular importance when eating from a shared platter, but equally, may also be implemented in your own, individual plate so that the blessing can continue to descend throughout your meal. Of course, if there are multiple types of food, or parts to the dish, this is excusable, as the recommendation is in the case that the food is of the same type.

One should avoid any form of disrespect toward the food, or any wastage of it whatsoever. This is considered to be a form of ingratitude (kufran al-ni‘ma), and showing such disregard for a tremendous blessing makes one liable to losing it altogether. Further, it is imperative to ensure that you do not use any utensils made of gold or silver. Note that the gold and silver in question is that which is comprised of more than fifty percent of those metals. Otherwise, cutlery or dishes would take the ruling of the preponderating metal used in the alloy.

Blowing on hot food in order to cool it down is acceptable, if without sound, but best avoided unless there is a need because it is indicative of haste and blameworthy covetousness. Moreover, it is reported that eating uncomfortably hot food is a means of its blessing leaving. So what’s proper, then, is to allow the food to cool, and eat when it’s comfortable to do so.

Licking your fingers after eating is also from the sunna because you “don’t know in which part of your food the blessing lies.” (Muslim) Again, remember there is a sunna, or an adab, of the sunna itself. If this isn’t realized, people can often conflate strange or unbecoming behaviour with sunna merely because the words match up. It is important to learn and appreciate true adab lest you ascribe something ugly to the Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. Finally, using a toothpick or the like is also established prophetic practice, if there is a need for it.

4. Sunna Drinking

The sunna is to begin drinking with the basmala, namely, the same manner in which you begin eating, holding the glass in your right hand. Our Master ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be well-pleased with him) reported that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Don’t drink in one [breath] like a camel, but drink [in pauses] twice or thrice.” (Tirmidhi) Try to drink with pauses, thanking Allah Most High each time you move the vessel away from your mouth. Further, it is proper to drink in sips and not gulps, which incidentally, facilitates pausing. Gulping is contrary to dignity and it is thus a mannerism disapproved of by the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Sitting to drink is a recommended sunna, and it is improper, yet not religiously wrong nor sinful, to stand without excuse. There are two notable exceptions, however. When drinking the blessed water of ZamZam, the practice of the Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was to stand in order to drink as much as possible. As a matter of fact, the sunnas of drinking ZamZam are generally the opposite of regular water, perhaps in order to distinguish it for its blessed nature. The same actually applies to the leftover water of the ritual ablution (wudu), for it contains a blessing by virtue of the act of worship which was performed with it.

Importantly, men and women should avoid drinking each others’ leftover water, unless they are spouses or unmarriageable kin (mahram) to one another, as it is something which can arouse sexual desire. This is why the jurists deem it to be generally disliked (makruh).

5. Sleeping with Mindfulness

Just as with food, and in fact, just as with anything, you should make an intention before sleeping. The secret to success in intentions is to direct them to Allah Most High. After that, make secondary intentions which will help you attain unto that one, central point. Thus, intend to strengthen your body for worship, for example, and to give the body its right. “Indeed, your eye has a right over you,” (Bukhari) remarked the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, when he was informed of somebody who was regularly staying up through the night in devoted worship.

Before sleep, you should perform the ritual ablution (wudu), and spend a few moments reciting the prophetic supplications and remembrances (adhkar). There are numerous supplicatory utterances established in the sunna, but a simple formulation is: “O Allah, by Your name I die and I live (allahumma bismika amutu wa ahya).” (Bukhari) Similarly, it is recommended to recite Suras: Ikhlas, Falaq and Nas, and to also recite the tasbih (Subhan Allah), tahmid (Alhamdu li Llah) and takbir (Allahu akbar), thirty-three, thirty-three and thirty-four times respectively.

Then, repent for your missteps and erroneous ways so that if your soul is taken that night, your slate will be clean. Repentance takes only a moment of sincerity. And also try to sleep without anything in your heart against your fellow believers, a trait that famously astounded our Master ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, may Allah be well-pleased with him, when he diligently observed one of the Companions who was prophetically singled out as a person of Paradise.

Next, lie on your right side, on a bed that is not too hard nor too soft, with your right hand under your cheek, facing the qibla. If it’s not comfortable for you, do it for a few moments, and ask Allah Most High to bless you with an increase in sunna in your life. Avoid sleeping on the stomach as it is a posture disliked by Allah Most High, the posture of the inhabitants of the Fire – may Allah protect us all. Of course, if you have an excuse or a reason to do so, then it would be fine, but the basis is that when you have a choice, you don’t choose this posture over others.

6. Sunna Sleep

One of the wonders of the prophetic sunna is the encouragement to take a midday nap (qaylula), ideally at some point between the Islamic midday (al-dahwa al-kubra) and the entry of the noon prayer (zuhr). The exception to this would be Fridays, where the scholars recommend doing so after the Friday prayer (salat al-jumu‘a). Our Master Sahl ibn Sa‘d, may Allah be well-pleased with him, commented, “We didn’t used to take midday naps nor eat our morning meals, except after the Friday prayer.” (Bukhari) If you cannot do anything more due to work or other commitments, laying down with your eyes closed for a few moments would minimally suffice.

You should also keep in mind that propriety in sleeping entails avoiding the disliked times, usually the kind of times which could lead a person to miss the congregation, or worse, the prayer entirely. According to some scholars, sleep after the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr) is disliked, but Imam Tahawi explained that the soundest traditions (ahadith) actually permit sleep at this time. Sleep after the sunset prayer (maghrib) is particularly cautioned against, and the same principle applies to sleep after the entry of dawn (fajr). Generally, once the prayer time enters, a concerned believer would first pray, as he cannot rest with ease otherwise, and then consider sleeping.

If you experience something frightening in a dream, you should keep it to yourself, seek refuge in Allah Most High from the accursed devil, and then blow thrice to your left side. (Bukhari) If you see something noble, you may tell others about it, but it isn’t ideal to be distracted by dreams from the reality of your life. Dreams are only normally meaningful when godfearingness (taqwa) and piety (birr) permeates your being. Of course, there is a place for dreams, but the most important thing is the whereabouts of the Sacred Law (shari‘a) in your life. Good dreams don’t take people to Paradise.

We ask Allah Most High to increase us in love and following, that we be genuine in our concern, sincere and true in our emulation, and that we be joined with the Greatest Emissary, Allah bless him and give him peace, in the next life, for eternity.

And Allah alone gives success.

 


 

How Can I Protect Myself From Bad Dreams?

Answered by Ustadha Noura Shamma

Question: For the past month I have been having bad dreams once in a while, and this is something that would very rarely happen before. I recite ayat ul kursi, surah Ikhlaas, surah Falaq and Surah Naas every night before sleeping. What other steps can I take to protect myself?

Answer: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim,

I pray insh’Allah all is well with you and your family.

Alhamdulillah for the guidance and sunnah of our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, through whom Allah taught us all we need to know to have the best of this life and the next. The sunnah of the Prophet alihi salam covers every part of our lives alhamdulillah.

These are some of the key sunnahs we should perform in preparing for sleep and what to do if awakened during the night.

Getting ready for sleep:

Make a complete wudu, even if in as state of menses or otherwise, with the intention of following the sunnah and drawing close to Allah.

Shake out your bedding, and use a portion of your clothing to “dust” the bed, in case anything has crawled under the covers.

Cup your hands and blow into them gently three times, then recite the last three surahs of the Qur’an (surahs 112, 113, 114) into your hands, then wipe your face, head and as much of your body as possible. Do this three times.

Recite ayat al-Kursi (2:255) and the last two verses of surah al-Baqarah.

Lay on your right side, with right hand under check and face the qibla. Don’t lay on your stomach.

Ya’ish bin Tikhfah Al-Ghifari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
My father said: I was lying down on my belly in the mosque when someone shook me with his foot and said, “Lying down this way is disapproved by Allah.” I looked up and saw that it was Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). [Abu Dawud].

Recite the following duas.


بِاسْمِكَ رَبِّي وَضَعْتُ جَنْبِي، وَبِكَ أَرْفَعُهُ، فَإِنْ أَمْسَكْتَ نَفْسِي فَارْحَمْهَا، وَإِنْ أَرْسَلْتَهَا فَاحْفَظْهَا، بِمَا تَحْفَظُ بِهِ عِبَادَكَ الصَّالِحِينَ”

In Your name my Lord, I lie down and in Your name I rise, so if You should take my soul then have mercy upon it, and if You should return my soul then protect it in the manner You do so with Your righteous servants. [Bukhari and Muslim]

Make an intention to wake up for tahajud and ask Allah for help in doing so.

Ask for forgiveness and continue making thikr as you fall asleep.

If you wake up during the night and get out of bed, wipe the bed again with a part of your clothes.

1. If you have a pleasant dream, thank Allah Most High. Such dreams can be shared.

2. If one experiences an unpleasant dream then one should spittle (a form of spitting comprising mainly of air with little spit) three times on the left side and then recite three times: “I seek refuge with Allah from the evil of shaythan”. Also change one’s position to the other side and sleep. [Muslim]

It is important that we teach each other and our children these sunnahs from early age and make it part of bedtime routine. May Allah bless you all with restful and easy sleep.

And Allah Alone Knows.

Hadith references:

Al-Bara’ bin ‘Azib (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) directed me thus: “Whenever you go to bed, perform Wudu’ as you do for Salat then (before sleeping) recite: ‘O Allah! I have submitted myself to You, I have turned myself to You, committed my affairs to You and sought Your refuge for protection out of desire for You and fear of You (expecting Your reward and fearing Your punishment). There is no refuge and no place of safety from You but with You. I believe in the Book You have revealed and in the Prophet (peace be upon him) You have sent.”‘ Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) added: “If anyone recites these words and dies during the night, he will die on the true Deen, and if he remains alive till the morning, he will obtain good. And make this supplication your last words (before sleeping).”

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Hudhaifah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Whenever the Prophet (peace be upon him) lay down for sleep at night, he would place his (right) hand under his (right) cheek and supplicate: “Allahumma bismika amutu wa ahya [O Allah, with Your Name will I die and live (wake up)].” And when he woke up, he would supplicate: “Al-hamdu lillahil-ladhi ahyana ba’da ma amatana, wa ilaihin-nushur (All praise is due to Allah, Who has brought us back to life after He has caused us to die, and to Him is the return).”

[Al-Bukhari].

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘When one of you goes to bed then with the edge of your lower garment (or the edge of the sheet) clean the bed, for you don’t know what is in the bed.’

Our Mother Aisha (may Allah be well-pleased with her) narrated that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) went to bed every night, he would hold his hands together and blow into them, and recite into them  Qul Huwa Allaahu Ahad, Qul a’oodhu bi rabb il-falaq and Qul a’oodhu bi rabb il-naas. Then he would wipe his hands over whatever he could of his body, starting with his head and face and the front of his body, and he would do that three times. [Bukhari]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “By reciting it (Ayat- ul-Kursi), there will be a guardian appointed over you from Allah who will protect you during the night, and Satan will not be able to come near you until morning” [Al-Bukhari]

Recite the last two verses of Surat Al-Baqarah (Chapter 2 – The Cow)
Abu Mas’ud Al-Badri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying, “He who recites the two Ayat at the end of Surat Al-Baqarah at night, they will suffice him.” [Al- Bukhari and Muslim]

Hudhayfa said, “When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went to bed at night, he placed his hand under his cheek and then said, ‘O Allah, in Your name I die and live.’ When he woke up, he said, ‘Praise be to Allah who has brought me to life after He made me die and to Him is the gathering.'” [al-Bukhari]

“بِاسْمِكَ اللَّهُمَّ أَمُوتُ وَأَحْيَا”

Abu Hurraira (RA) reports that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked, “What prayer is most virtuous, after the obligatory prayers?” He said, “Prayer in the depths of the night.” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nisaa’i, Ibn Majah]

And Allah knows best.

wassalam,
Noura Shamma

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani