ASSALAMU ALAIKUM 9th Shawwaal 1426 (12-11-2005)
Hassaan Sulaiman, Karachi, Pakistan
Firstly, it is imperative to understand that the time of eating is not a time for discussion even if the conversation pertains to a Deeni issue. Only if the subject is of urgency and requires immediate attention may one indulge in talk while eating whether it be a necessary worldly or Deeni matter. Remember that it comes in the Hadith that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would sit in a very very humble, even in a croucing manner, while eating. He said that he was a slave and he ate like a slave the food his Master (Allah Azza Wa Jal) presented to him.
In fact, the aversion for discussion during eating is so marked that the obligation of Wujoob has been waived if someone makes Salaam to you while eating. It is not necessary to respond to even Salaam while eating.
From the aforegoing you should understand that eating is not a time for verbal tabligh and naseehat. It is a time to reflect on the wonderful Ni’mat of food which our Raaziq bestows to us. Concentrate on the bounty and kindness of Allah Ta’ala when eating, and be immensely grateful and thankful when every morseful journies successfully down the gullet to reach its abode in the stomach. Thousands of people suffocate and die annually as a consequence of food getting stuck in their throats. The Mashaaikh have advised that with each morsel (lukmah) of food one takes into the mouth, one should recite: Al-Maajido. This is not Masnoon. It is the advice of the great Auliya. You will now realise from the aforegoing explanation that you should adopt a sombre, humble and reflective attitude and mood while eating food.
Deeni Naseehat is a serious act of of ibaadat. It should not be embarked on in a frivolous and noisy environment such as restaurants. This type of naseehat will not exercise any good moral and spiritual effect on the listner Restaurants are venues where fussaaq and fujjaar of a variety of persuasions gather. The Aswaaq (bazaars) are the worst places. These are places where the shayaateen gather, according to the Hadith. On his way our from the heavens on the occasion of his expulsion, Shaitaan supplicated to Allah Ta’ala to garnt him places of majlis, where there will be audiences for him Allah Ta’ala said: Your majlis will be the bazaars and the street corners. It does therefore not behove a man of the Deen to waste time unnecessarily in places frequented and loved by Shaitaan. Make use of the bazaars to the degree of fulfilling your need in the same way as you make use of the toilet to fulfil your need.
(1) It is not permissible to unnecessarily sit in the restaurants to have tea. If a person has a home where he can have his tea and meals, then it is not permissible to have meals and eat and drink in the public. Those who eat unnecessarily in the public are Mardoodush Shahaadat. It is understandable if a musaafir who has no friends, no host, etc. to see to his needs, eats at a restaurant. But for local persons, this is not permissible. If the food of the restaurant is cheaper than what can be prepared at home, then one may buy the food, take it home and eat it in the privacy and sanctuary ofm the home. Eating in public is in conflict with the Sunnah culture of Islam.
(2) As far as ‘capturing the sidewalk’ is concerned, the mas’alah is that the street, pavement and sidewalk are public property. It is mubah for anyone to trade in such places provided they do not cause difficulty to people. If they obstruct the movement of people, then it will not be permissible for them to trade in such public places. But as we have seen in Pakistan and India, there is absolutely no conception of morality regarding the sidewalks. In fact, the municipalities and police collect ‘licence’ fees from the traders who sell on the sidewalks. In view of the kuffaar authorities of Pakistan there is no enforcement of the Shariah’s rules pertaining to public property. It is a case of corruption controlling. In this scenario the issue of legality and illegality in relation to this type of public property has to be set aside.
The occupation of sidewalks by traders is another issue. Even if they cause takleef to people by obstructing the people, it remains permissible to buy from them. But it is not permissible to unnecessarily sit at the tables to eat or to drink tea. There will be some concession for travellers who have no place to eat. But, it is not permissible in general to sit at tables for meals. It is in conflict with the Sunnah culture of Islam.
(3) It is not permissible in general to eat at restaurants or in any public place. Occasionally, if there is a need, one may eat at such places. But do endeavour to find a private place to eat. Usually when we are on a journey and we have no host, and we are constrained to buy food at a restaurant, we do not eat inside the restaurant, even in Makkah and Madinah. We take the food out, find a Musjid or a park or a quiet place and eat on the ground.