As Salaamu Alaikum,
The last time I ate with some brothers in the Masjid, one of them pointed out that it’s sunna to eat with the right hand (I was using my left). I was taught to hold a fork in the left hand and a knife in the right, and to set the table accordingly. I see brothers using their fingers to eat with, and although I consider it gauche I don’t say anything to them about it. I just figure it’s the custom in whatever country they’re from. But apparently, in the Masjid, I’m being gauche when I use the etiquette that I was taught.
Another time, I entered the Masjid with my left foot and a brother pointed out that it’s sunna to enter with the right foot and exit with the left. I usually just put one foot in front of the other to get from here to there and it generally gets me where I’m going, and I don’t give it a thought.
Does it really matter? What I really want to know is if it’s a matter of sunna or simply a foreign culture to use the right hand and the right foot, and more to the point if it isn’t just a silly superstition or an innovation of some kind. I’d really appreciate a clarification, if you don’t mind.
Answers: وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته
Answers: You have asked some valid questions. Kindly do not look at my responses as abrasive or mean-spirited.
Habits can always be let go of, if one is determined. It is not forbidden to eat with the left hand due to health conditions/limitations. Muslims do not view eating with the right hand ‘as a custom.’ They view it as a sunnah. Just as they view washing of private parts with the left hand as sunnah. Muslims feel it best to not eat food with the very hand that are used to wash one’s genitalia, clean the nose and other areas that may not be so very clean.
The above applies to the foot aspect as well. E.g.: Entering one’s home with right leg versus entering the toilet with left leg and exiting it with the right leg, etc. Such gestures are not compulsory. For a Muslim, it is more about how much you love the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) than just t a mere action itself.
Yes, the above are part of sunnah, and not just as aspect of a ‘foreign culture.’ The part that the brothers seem to be neglecting to mention, and which is key to understanding why their ideas are not rooted in cultural practices, is that such behaviors are proven through the Hadith wherein the Messenger (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) commands a healthy person to eat with his right hand. Upon that individual lying about his ability to do so, his hand became paralyzed. This implies that the pagan culture used to eat with the left hand and Islam abrogated this practice. It is sunnah because the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)recommended it.
To eat foods that would normally be eaten with a fork would not be a violation of this sunnah. Example, certain deserts can better be eaten with a fork/spoon than finger, etc. Food must be eaten in accordance to it’s specification.
It’s all about how much one loves the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and his teachings. It requires an effort on each of our part. It is about conditioning yourself with such matters. Gradually you would become better than many Muslims, if determination prevails.
Wishing you the best in all matters. Do not rush and be intimidated by our brethren. Like others, I too need to relearn how to teach people without offending them. I thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with you that which remains as part of our Islamic values.
Allah Certainly Knows Best.