Offering Gifts in Social Ceremonies Islamic Norms -By Abdullah Al Imran
Responding to invitation and treating the arrived guests well both are important aspects and parts of Islam. The guests are supposed to inform the host before their arrival to make the host prepare to treat them well. According to Islam hosts are obliged to treat the guests whether they are informed or not about the presence of the guests. But now-a-days it has become a great problem for both invited guests and host. The invited persons feel hesitation in responding to the invitation when they remain unable to offer the gifts as the elites offer. And the host feels embarrassed in treating arrived guests if they are poor and not informed about the Advent of the guest. These happen due to not following the teaching of Islam in case of treating the guest and responding to invitation.
Inviting colleagues, relatives or any other is one of the important parts of Islamic way of social conduct. Islam has certain regulations regarding invitation.
Pious and poor people are to be given priority while anyone invites. The worst practice is to invite only rich people, not the poor one as Rasul (SM) said: “The worst food is that of a feast, to which the rich are invited and the poor excluded” (Bukhari and Muslim). Rasul (SM) used to invite the non-believers and Mushrik for dining at the starting moment of his dawaah through which he got opportunity to send the message of Islam to those invited people.
On the other hand, responding to the invocation is a compulsory duty of a person in the eye of Islam as Prophet Mohamed (SM) said: Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) reported Allah’s (swt) Messenger (sa) as saying: “He, who does not accept an invitation, has disobeyed Allah (swt) and His Apostle (sa), and he, who enters without invitation, enters as a thief and goes out as a raider” (Abu Dawood).
Accepting Invitation is one of the six rights a Muslim has to another Muslim which are mentioned in the following Hadith. Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “A Muslim has six duties towards another Muslim: to salute himwhen he meets him; when invited, to accept his invitation; when asked for advice, to give it to him; when he sneezes, to praise Allah (swt) and say: ‘May Allah (swt) have mercy on you;’ when he is ill, to visit him; and when he dies, follow his funeral.” (Muslim) Carrying out of these obligations is compulsory.
Offering gift to host
Offering gift to the host is an important aspect while responding to the invitation.
The summoned should bring some gift though it is little.
But problem arises when invitees become not eligible to offer standard or expensive gift as the affluent guests offer. In bigger ceremony such as marriage, birthday, celebration after building house etc. several classes of people are invited where all have not same financial capacity. The economically solvent guests offer gorgeous and expensive gifts which the middle or lower class guests can’t afford. For not having the ability of offering standard gifts, relationship between them becomes fragile instead of being stronger. Since hosts observe the gifts provided from the guests, it has become a culture in our society. The ill-treatment of not giving the standard gifts messages negative image to the host regarding the guests and thus, formality or show off becomes the main purpose of the invitation or acceptance of invitation instead of performing moral and religious obligations. The best way of gratefulness is to supplicate to Allah (SWT) for the prosperity of the hosts. Rasul (SM) appreciated this activity which is mentioned in the following: Jabir Bin Abdullah (rta) said: “Abu Al-Haitham Bin Al-Taihan prepared food for Allah’s Apostle (sa), and he invited the Prophet (sa) and the companions (rta). When they finished eating he (sa) said: ‘If some people enter the house of a man, eat his food, drink his water and they supplicate (to Allah (swt)) for him, this is his reward” (Abu Dawood).
The following matters should be followed in invitation by both hosts and invitees
1. To give priority to pious and poor in invitation program.
2. Responding to the invitation though the host is poor
3. No one should arrive at host’s house without invitation.
4. To offer something as gift to the invitees though it is little.
5. Host’s shouldn’t desire expensive and standard gratifications from the guests and to be satisfied with whatever has been offered as the gifts
6. Not to keep negative concept over the invitees who have not been arrived because they may have serious reasons for not coming.
Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf in his commentary in Riyad-us-Saliheen states: “To honor a guest means to welcome him cheerfully, entertain him happily, according to our capacity, and have full regard of his comfort and rest.” In Islam, treating guests through better is the part of belief as Rasul (SM) stated.
“Let the believer in God and the Day of Judgment honor his guest.” (Sahi Muslim)
Allah (SWT) revealed verse in the Holy Quran describing the form of hospitality of the prophet Hajrat Ibrahim (AM) as follows: “Has the story reached you, of the honored guests (three angels; Jibril along with another two) of Ibrahim? When they came to him and said: ‘Salam, (peace be upon you)!’ He answered: ‘Salam, (peace be upon you),’ and said: ‘You are a people unknown to me.’ Then he turned to his household, and brought out a roasted calf (as the property of Ibrahim (as) was mainly cows). And placed it before them, (saying): ‘will you not eat?’ (Adh–Dhariyat 51:24-27). One of the companions of Prophet (SM) Abu Talha (rta) accepted a hungry traveler as a guest and treat him well though his family had little to eat. Later, Allah (SWT) revealed a verse highlighting his generosity. “…but give them preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his covetousness such are they who will be successful” (Al Hasr, 59: 9).
There is a conversation between Rasul (SM) and his associates regarding hospitality to the guests as follows. Abu Shuraih Khuwailid Bin Amr Al-Khuzai (rta) reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (swt) saying: “He, who believes in Allah (swt) and the Day of Judgment should accommodate his guest according to his right.” He was asked: “What is his right, O Messenger of Allah (swt)?” He replied: “It is to accommodate him for a day and a night and extend hospitality for three days, and what is beyond that is considered charity” (Bukhari and Muslim). This Hadith describes the scope of hospitality. Hospitality is for three days. At first day the host is supposed to entertain his guest with the best effort and in following last two days it will be moderated. Arrived gueasts are supposed to stay at the host’s house during Maximum three days. After that they should leave the house but if the host intends to treat the guests more than three days with best effort the extra generosity will be considered as charity which is not obligatory to him.
Imam Muhammad Al Ghajali wrote a paragraph in his book mentioning the form of generosity of Prophet Muhammad (SM): “(He) used to honor his guests; he even spread his garment for a non-relative guest to sit on it. He used to offer his guest his own cushion and insist on him to accept it until the latter accepts it from him. No one came to him as a guest but thought that he was the most generous person. He gave each one of his companions sitting with him his due portion of his attention, so he directed his listening, talking, looking and attention to all his companions. His meetings were characterized by modesty, humbleness and honesty. He used to call his companions by their favorite nickname to honor them. Another problem arrives when host think the guests are to be treated with expensive foods, gorgeous accommodation despite they can’t afford to offer these. Rasul (SM) disliked luxury and unnecessary decoration. Safina Abu Abdul-Rahman said: “Once a man prepared food for Ali Bin Abi Talib (rta) and Fatima (rta) said: ‘I wish we had invited the Apostle of Allah (sa) and he had eaten with us.’ So they did. But when he came and put his hands on the side-ports of the door, and saw the figured curtain that had been put up at the end of the house, he left. So Fatima (rta) told Ali (rta): ‘Follow him and see what turned him back.’ So, Ali (rta) did and asked him (sa): ‘What turned you back, Apostle of Allah?’ He replied: ‘It is not fitting for me or any Prophet to enter a house, which is decorated” (Abu Dawood).
Allah SWT discourages to do things beyond one’s ability. He says in the holy Quran
“Allah doesn’t burden a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for good deeds and gets punishment for evil deed what he earned” (Surah Bakarah, 2:286).
Based on the above discussion there are some duties to be performed by both the guests and the hosts:
1. The guest should inform the host about their presence and not to come without invitation.
2. The host should try to entertain with their best effort whether they are informed about the arrival of the guest or not.
3. Making the guest the center of attention for effective listening, looking, talking for satisfying them
4. Host should show their modesty, humbleness, honesty to the guests.
5. Not to do anything displeases the guests.
6. The guests shouldn’t desire expensive and standard entertainment from the hosts especially when they arrive at Poor’s house
7. It is important to be satisfied with whatever the guest gets from the hosts and to supplicate to Allah (SWT) for the prosperity of them (host).
8. Not to decorate house with luxurious and unnecessary things and to avoid treating which is beyond the host’s capacity.
The mentality of both host and the invited person shown in the above-mentioned problem is the result of the ignorance of Islamic way of response to invitation and hospitality. People are interested in showing up though they can’t afford which is strictly prohibited in Islam. Problems are started when someone try to perform not following the way of Islam where Islam has certain regulations regarding the fact. And this is a punishable and not acceptable to Allah (SWT) as he says: “And whoever seeks a way other than Islam, It will not be accepted from and in hereafter he will be one of the aggrieved”(Al Imran’ 3:85). So only following the Islamic ways of invitation and hospitality can erase the aforementioned problems and develop the relationship between the hosts and guests.
The writer is an undergraduate student at the University of Dhaka.