As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatllahi wa Barakaatuh
In order to explain my dilemma, my regret, I must start somewhere near the beginning and explain to you how I was raised as this did have an effect on my actions. This will take us waaaaay back to one of my pre-Islamic phases in life.
Alhamdulillah, I was raised by my widowed grandmother and 3 single aunts. This is always the way I tell it — to emphasize the fact that they were 4 women alone consisting of 2 generations, raising a third. They were very kind and made a lot of sacrifices for me, one of which I think was marriage. I won’t go into all aspects of this but only to say that it was a rather strict upbringing and to this I have to say once again, alhamdulillah — Allah was really watching out for me. They were very loving and at the same time had a very heightened sense of right and wrong. One of these areas included manners. My grandmother had certain standards and would not bend for anything, or so it seemed to me. She always stood on formalities — that is to say, that one could never just drop in on her, you had to either say you’d like to visit or you had to be invited. I can remember many times when the doorbell rang that we would peek downstairs (through the curtains) to see who was standing at the door. Many times we did not answer it because it was someone who was just dropping by or it was meal time and grandma always said it was rude to stop by a person’s house at mealtime. Also, I was taught that if we were ever visiting a person’s home, never ask for anything – not water or food, nothing. It had to be offered to you. If someone did happen to come over when it was dinnertime, we just put our dinner plates in the oven, went and sat with the guest and then resumed our meal when the person left. This was the way she was; she felt that manners were extremely important, and they are, but I have to admit that I view manners a bit differently now.
So, as a result of this upbringing, initially, I retained some of these traits once I became Muslim.
My husband and I had only been Muslim for a very few months and one of the sisters of the community was named Jawaadah. She was an interesting sister and although of European American background, had taken quite an interest in the Yuruba tribe in Africa, had done extensive studies of them, their religion and had even visited there. She was a very nice single sister at the time. We used to ride with her and a few other people to Salatul Jumuah. One day she decided to pay me a unexpected visit. I had no telephone at that time, so I just had to live with that. We visited for a while and then she asked me for something to eat — I had already given her something to drink. Well, little did she know that she was breaking one of “Grandma’s Little Rules”. I was quite surprised, but went to look to see what I had in my refrigerator. There was the meat and trimmings for lunch that day and maybe a left over or two from the day before including some bread that I had made but was getting hard. I decided that I shouldn’t give her our lunch, so I warmed up the bread and served it with tea and jelly. I could see from her face that it was not what she was expecting. Still, shamefully, I did nothing more.
Eventually she left and as soon as my husband returned from the university, I told him of Jawaadah’s visit and how she had had the nerve to ask for something to eat. He knew how I was raised. He just looked at me quietly and said “You should have fed her our lunch”. As soon as he said those 7 words, I knew that I had made a judgmental error, but it was too late. Before I had the opportunity to invite Jawwaadah to my home again, we left Boston and returned to California.
There we began to meet Muslims from various countries and they were very generous and hospitable. We started learning Arabic, reading ahadith (we finally got our set of Sahih Muslim from Pakistan) and I came across a hadith that said (in meaning)”…whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be GENEROUS to his guests. . .”. Then we went overseas, first to Sudan, where we met some of the most hospitable people on the face of the earth. Many of them were extremely poor, but they would always ask you to come and visit and during that visit they would just give you tea and biscuits, then lunch, then make you stay till Asr, then more tea, something, anything to show how happy they were that you were a guest in their homes. After that year we spent in the Sudan, we came to Saudi Arabia, meeting many Saudis as well as Muslims from other countries: people had us for fatour as it was Ramadan when we first arrived. People we didn’t even know us, just someone my husband met, who said, “O come have fatour with us, your whole family. You must.” And so we went and we saw again and again the kindness and generosity that Muslims show their guests. When my mother-in-law (Allah have mercy on her) became Muslim and returned with us to Makkah, my neighbor Kholah (Umm ‘Umar), had us over for dinner. They had slaughtered a lamb special for the occasion and stuffed it with rice, nuts and raisins. It was wonderful to see it carried out like that on a huge platter and set in front of my husband’s mother. It was such an honor, and she had never seen anything like that before in her life!
During the 21 [now 33 with this update] years that we have been here, we have had the opportunity to have many guests throughout the years and especially during Ramadan and Hajj. I have learned from experience and studying the Deen that taking care of the guests’ needs is a characteristic of a good Muslim. We fed them well, insha Allah and were happy to do it. My husband always tells me to make more than I think is enough so that no one will go away wishing that they could have had more.
You see, this is my dilemma now. I have read, learned and actually experienced how a Muslim is to be kind and generous to his guests and think, “Oh, oh, if I could just have Jawaadah one more time for about two hours, I would prepare a feast for her using all the different dishes I have learned to cook from around the world. I would feed her and feed her until she would beg me to stop.” But, you see, that was a test– one that I didn’t recognize at the time — and sometimes we are not granted the opportunity to take the test over.
I don’t know where she is, nor do I remember her last name, if she married and had children or stayed single, if she is among the living or. . .
May Allah forgive me.
May Allah forgive me.
May Allah forgive me.
If only I had been told or read this hadith early in my Islam:
The Prophet ~ peace be upon him ~ said: If any Muslim feeds another Muslim when he is hungry, Allah will feed him with some of the fruits of Paradise.
If any Muslim gives another Muslim drink when he is thirsty, Allah will give him sealed nectar to drink. [Abu Daud, At-Tirmithi]
Hadith: “Any Muslim who supplicates Allah with a supplication that does not contain any sin or cutting off of family relations, Allah will give him one of three things for it:
Either He will speedily answer his dua
or He will save it for him until the Hereafter
or He will avert something bad from him equal to the value of his dua.
(Explanation: a dua has a certain relative value determined by Allah, so if a person says a particular dua, say 15 times in a day, then Allah protects him from something bad that is equal to the valued amount of his dua.)