Allaah says; "O you who believe! Enter not the Prophets houses, except when leave is given to you for a meal, [and then] not [so early as] to wait for its preparation. But when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without sitting for a talk" [Q 33:53] In this verse, Allaah forbade believers from entering the Prophets house without his permission; similarly, among themselves believers should not enter one anothers homes without permission.
The prohibition, there, encompasses all believers. The verse also forbade them from entering before the meal, so as to wait for the food to be cooked. In the days of ignorance [pre-Islamic times], people would go to a banquet very early and then wait for the food to be cooked. Allaah forbade them from this practice with His saying; "[And then] not [so early as] as to wait for its preparation" [Q 33: 53] Then Allaah clarified that, as soon as the guest has eaten, he should leave and not remain seated, hoping for conversation, because that entails harm for the host who, in the context of the verse, was the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him].
The same rule applies to all people, because when they are hosts, it is trying for them when guests remain after they have partaken of their meal. Guests, therefore, should not stay with them much longer, unless the host wants them to stay or it is customary among a people for guests to stay after the meal. Hence, if there is no hardship or annoyance involved, they can stay. Since the prohibition hinges upon a reason annoyance and hardship an absence of that reason means that the prohibition no longer applies. Serving in order of age from the oldest to the youngest; and serving from right to left As a host, you should give special attention and care to the most aged guest. Ibn Umar [RA] related that the Messenger of Allaah [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said; "I saw myself in a dream, cleaning my teeth with Siwaak.
Two men were pulling at me, and one of them was older than the other. I handed the Siwaak to the younger of the two, and it was said to me, To the older and so I handed it to the older one. "[Muslim] In another Hadeeth, the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said; "Whoever does not have mercy on our young ones and knows not the right[s] of our elder[s], is not from us." [Bukhari inAI-Adab Mufrad]
And in yet another Hadeeth, the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, "Verily, from the glorification of Allaah is to honour the elderly Muslim; the bearer of the Quran, who neither exceeds the limit regarding it nor forsakes it; and the person of authority who is just. "[Bukhari inAI-Adab Mufrad] All of the above-mentioned Ahadeeth show that a host should give priority to the eldest when serving food or drink. Yet the following Hadeeth seemingly indicates otherwise. Sahl ibn Saad [RA] reported that a drink was given to the Messenger of Allaah [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him]. He drank from it, and to his right was a boy, while to his light were elder men. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said to the boy, "Do you give me permission to give them?The boy said, "By Allaah, O Messenger of Allaah, as to my share from you, I prefer no one to my own self." The Messenger of Allaah [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] then handed him the drink." [Muslim].
The Hadeeth, which seems to indicate that the person one ones right has priority, regardless of age, is in apparent conflict ,with aforementioned Ahadeeth, which indicate that elders have priority. Nonetheless, there is no real conflict or contradiction. When you are drinking from a glass or bottle and something remains, you should hand it over to he person on you right, or seek his permission to do otherwise. In commenting on Sahls narration, Ibn Abdul-Barr said, "From the manners of eating and sitting together is that a man, after he has eaten or drank, should hand over what remains to the person on his right, no matter who he is even if he is inferior to the person on the right."
But when you are serving food or drink in the beginning when portions are still untouched you should give priority to the eldest person present; next in priority is the person to your right. Perhaps the harmony struck between the different ahadeeth is further strengthened by the narration of Ibn Abbaas [RA], in which he said, "When the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] would provide others with drink, he would say, "Begin with the eldest. "[Abu Yalaa] This view combines the implications of all the proofs mentioned above. And Allaah knows best.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited