Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner?

lunapic-rednapkins

Last year, one of my college friends suddenly got in touch with me. “I want to see your children! Let’s get together with the whole gang!” she suggested. I agreed, thinking that it would be good to have a reunion with everyone after so many years, and especially following the births of several babies. Despite distinctly feeling that I no longer have much in common with these ‘friends’ due to my reversion to Islam since graduation, I did look forward to meeting up with them again, nevertheless.

The gathering took place and there were several awkward moments following the initial excited exchange of greetings, kisses-in-the-air and exclamations of delight at beholding each other’s children. The conversation soon began drifting around careers, domestic life and babies; with each person giving a detailed account of what she’d been up to all these years. With everyone pointedly ignoring my deep involvement with the Quran, and my da’wah-based teaching occupation since graduation; I nevertheless, playing the polite hostess, made sure everyone was well-served and comfortable. When I went into the kitchen to bring food to the table, I heard slivers of conversation filtering in through the door. Despite having progressed to managerial-level career positions boasting hefty paychecks in multinational companies, or having garnered several years of experience living with and adjusting to in-laws, it was disappointing to realize that my guests’ conversation still centered around exchange of gossip, catching up on rumors (mainly about others’ flings/engagements/marriages/divorce), backbiting, and demeaning others by referring to them with derogatory, college-era nicknames.

The moment of truth, however, came for me while one of my friends was introducing us to her sister-in-law; she mentioned everyone’s occupation as part of their introduction (e.g preschool teacher, Manager at XYZ etc.), but when it was my turn, not a word was said about what I do, and she moved on after just mentioning my name. To me, the message conveyed was clear: ‘we do not want to discuss your association with Islamic religiosity’. They were interested only in the past person under the superficial cloth hijab whom they had known in college – they were not interested in what that person had morphed into, since then. The entire gathering went by without any mention of Allah, His Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم], or His Deen Islam.

The ‘party’ left a bad taste in the mouth. I did not particularly feel insulted, but I had the distinct realization that whatever my relationship was with these people now, who once used to be such good “friends”, it was definitely not one for the sake of Allah. I had secretly hoped to be able to invite them towards Deen by meeting them, but what can one really say to a person when they literally become stiff and aloof, break off eye contact, and turn their head away, as soon as the conversation starts to drift towards the Quran, Sunnah or other aspects of Deen? lunapic-dinnertable

A few weeks later, I came across a hadith that opened my eyes and shook me to reality:

It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ] that the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said:

Do not keep company with anyone but a believer, and do not let anyone eat your food except the one who is pious.”

[Tirmidhi: 2395, Abu Dawood: 4832]

Whatever excuse we might present to ourselves when we invite people over for a meal to our house, the fact remains that our Prophet Muhammad’s [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] words reign supreme; they could not be truer or wiser. He has strongly advised us Muslims to mingle only with believers and invite only those “friends” over for a meal who are pious and Allah-fearing. This, of course, applies to personal or family friends, not to people with whom we have ties of blood or familial kinship. It also leaves no doubt about eating with those of our ‘friends’ who never pray salah, or who openly mock the teachings of Islam, both in word and deed.

IndoPak-food

When is it that people invite someone over to their house for a meal? It is when they want to further ties with them, or become closer to them for some reason. Usually, business owners regularly invite their loyal clients over for dinner parties; or families negotiating a possible marriage invite each other to elaborate banquets at their homes in order to get to know each other and hence, facilitate an eventual acceptance of the proposal. Having a meal together strengthens an already existing bond; or in the case of strangers, helps in breaking the ice to get better acquainted.

Our Deen has thus stipulated that when Muslims invite guests over for a meal, the latter should be pious, i.e. those who fulfill Islam’s obligations and perhaps practice da’wah in some form or other. However, accepting invitations to meals from other Muslims comes with no such restrictions. This system is therefore, intended to work in such a way that pious people are invited more often to other Muslims’ houses, and in this way, these role models of Islam move around among the masses, eating with them and inspiring them to act upon Islam as well.

As Muslims, we should meet and be polite with everyone in general, without judging his or her actions as right or wrong. However, our close friendships that result in frequent company, especially over meals, should involve only those who are at least religiously-inclined enough to fulfill the faraid (obligations) of Islam. This is an effective way of ensuring that we do not slip down the slope of piety, but rather, keep climbing to higher ranks of righteousness. This is also good for our children, because they get to make friends with other children from like-minded families.

This year, I followed Prophet Muhammad’s advice. I invited only those sisters whom I know for the sake of Allah for a party, i.e. my colleagues at the organization where Islamic education is imparted, and some friends with whom I studied the Quran together under a teacher. These are sisters who at least follow the obligations of Islam, and hold Allah and His Prophet close to their hearts. Consequently, during every discussion at the gathering – be it related to motherhood, our husbands’ jobs, or our relationships with in-laws – Allah, the Quran or Prophet Muhammad’s ahadith were consistently referred to and remembered. The guests left giving me dua’s and blessings. After the party, I basked in an all-enveloping feeling of love and warmth, and felt my imaan level at a new high.

I was reminded of a beautiful hadith at that moment:

Abu Musa [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ] reported Allah’s Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] as saying:

The similitude of good company and that of bad company is that of the owner of musk and that of the one (iron-smith) blowing bellows; the owner of musk would either offer you some free of charge, or you would buy it from him, or (at least) you would smell its pleasant fragrance; and as for the one who blows the bellows, he would either burn your clothes or you shall have to smell its repugnant smell.”

[Sahih Muslim: Book 32, Number 6361]

Alhamdulillah for our beautiful Deen: one that guides us in every aspect of life!

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9 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner?

  1. Assalam-o-alaikum!I wish I could keep saying Jazakillah here… really, this is exactly what was bothering me and I\’ve been, conscuiously as well as subconsciously, looking for any kind of explanation, any answer to the same predicament that I face. It\’s come to the point that I wish to avoid attneding family get togethers where I know certain people will be talking about things that will reach my ears and will be saddening – gossip, materialistic chatter and so on. Also, the experience you had with your friends – I had a similar one recently with some younger cousins. I notied how, as long as you talk nonsense and not attempt to move towards decent conversation, you\’re *tolerated* well enough by those around you. However, soon dirty jokes began to be shared among the younger girls and, not able to tolerate that any longer, I *indirectly* pointed towards the wrong in such indecent talk. That was it – from being tolerated, I was then pointedly ignored, some not even wanting to glance at me, while often making jokes specifically directed to counter that which I\’d suggested. What really shocked me, in such behavior, was that people will somehow manage to tolerate your presence (as a hijabi, etc.) as long as you don\’t open your mouth but if you do, you\’re out of the popular crowd and suddenly "public enemy no.1". I could thus totally understand how you must have felt when you were ignored by your friends, your intellligence insulted in that manner. It\’s like what happens at weddings, when people around you are praised for looking gorgeous and the "consolation prize" in the way of comments is handed down to you, assuming you have no taste or interest in looking nice.Your discussion about inviting pious people is also very helpful in understanding this issue, Jazakillah! I love it when we have guests and I get to serve them by being hospitable but the sinful conversation and even flat-out rejection of Deen in heated drawing-room arguments makes me wish we did not have certain guests visiting at all! I now see the difference in the kinds of guests that we should invite more often and the kind we must engage with in a different way. For a long while, I\’ve been wondering whether to blog about my own thoughts on this too… I might do that now, InshAllah. Would you mind if I shared your blog post on Facebook or quote it on my blog?

  2. BismillahWa Alaikumus Salam Ameera,You know, in so many ways, you and I are so alike…..it\’s uncanny. What you have described brought back a lot of painful memories. 🙂 As for the heated drawing room discussions on Islam, oh how they are common in my extended family too! Unfortunately, we still have to maintain ties with such people who are related to us (we can\’t just stop joining relations with them, as is the case with friends), but the manner in which we maintain relations can be changed from hosting dinners for them to perhaps casual, infrequent gatherings, or by calling them up instead of meeting too often. As for friends, yes, we should switch to more pious people for the close get-togethers and the long-term friendships. Yes, go ahead and share this article if you want to. Jazakillahu khairan.

  3. I wish I were more alike you in your knowledge and Deen MashAllah…the inspiration and motivation keep me going so Jazakillah for writing so well! May Allah give you much Barakah in it!Concerning gatherings, I\’m trying to avoid hosting get-togethers where I know there will be vain talk and nothing constructive. Instead, I want to encourage other kinds of activties, such as cousins going out for a walk or a trip to some museum. Also, understanding the uselessness of drawing-room discussions, I now do not feel guilty about staying clear of them. Now, the next step is to spend more time amongst Allah-conscious people, to boost the Iman and work off bad habits that creep in, InshAllah!

  4. Salamualaykum!MashAllah, beautifully written article and it really got me thinking. I\’m heading off to college pretty soon and I am dreading the thought of having to meet up with my high school friends for a get together before we all depart. We\’ve all changed so much over the years and it just seems that every time we meet up, the only thing worthy of a conversation is talking about others. Like you said, it\’s not that they don\’t know that I\’m somewhat Islamicaly inclined, but they just don\’t care and feel as though talking about my interests would kill the party. InshAllah, I hope something comes up so I don\’t have to go. Btw, I love your blog and all your links. 🙂 JazakAllah Khair for such insightful words. May Allah (swa) reward you with all the good.

  5. Salaam alaikumJazakillah Khair. Wonderful article. Im often surrounded by people who have nohing but useless dicsussions and indulge themselves in backbiting. I use to be stronger and keep quiet or tell them what I thought, but recently I find myself sometimes joining in. It is very hard to remain good without good company.

  6. Salaam,Da\’waa is towards people (specially friends old and new) who need a subtle/implicit nod towards the right path. Wouldn\’t you agree that social seclusion (from the deviated) and mingling within the "righteous" group, would impair one\’s ability to execute da\’waa to completeness.Its hard to have patience, and its equally easy (sometimes induced) to judge people and distancing oneself from them based on their acts, as your past friends maybe they require more perseverance and individual attention to understand. In all sincerity I would expect my righteous friends to do the same for me. Keeping in mind the recent flux of forces, which push people into distancing them from their religion.

  7. "social seclusion (from the deviated) and mingling within the "righteous" group, would impair one\’s ability to execute da\’waa to completeness."I am afraid from your comment that perhaps my point didn\’t get conveyed in this post as I intended it to. The thing is, I was explaining the obligation (I prefer to follow the opinion that the Prophet\’s [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] words – when given as a command to his followers, make it wajib on us to hear and obey) of inviting only righteous people to our tablespreads. I never spoke about not meeting people who are "not righteous" at all, or being socially excluded from them, or not meeting them when they desire to meet us. Of course, if they invite me, I always go. However, here, the Prophet\’s hadith opened my eyes to *who I should invite over to my own house*. There is a subtle difference.It is, in contrast, also wajib to accept a Muslim\’s invitation when they invite us, regardless of how righteous they are, but simply on the basis of Islam. So, the point my post was trying to make was, that I no longer invite to my home (especially for lavish dinners/banquets) those people not related to me by blood/neighborhood, who are not righteous, unless they themselves come over or ask me to meet them somewhere. There is a sensitive issue at play here. Please read the Prophet\’s advice/command again and ponder on it. What he means is that people in the ummah should make sure they invite only righteous people to their banquets, but should accept everyone\’s invitation. This automatically means that righteous people will be invited more to others\’ homes, and thus da\’wah will automatically take place in Muslim society.Last but not least, for what its worth, when I say "righteous people" I do not include myself. However, I do not go out of my way to meet people who do not pray or fast, or who verbally deride the Prophet or his sunnah\’s in front of me, or who ridicule Islam and/or its commands before me, unless they invite me somewhere themselves, or if I happen to meet them somewhere by chance.Allah knows best. I seek Allah\’s forgiveness for any errors in conveying His message.

  8. I am coming across this post after a looong time :P. But it was recommended by a commentator on my latest blog post so I felt compelled to read it. It completely describes my dilemma!

    But, er, I don’t have the solution you had. I am so not surrounded by nice ‘sisters’ or anything.

    JazakAllah for this post :). It was beautifully written.

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