Have you ever got that feeling when you wished you could really cleanse your life of all those bad habits that you’ve developed and bring it as close as possible to the Prophet(saw)’s Sunnah? It so happens that whenever my Iman takes a dip for a period of time and (Alhamdolillah) grows stronger again, I begin analyzing the reasons for that dip. Anyone who’s tasted a period when their conviction was really strong would know how bad Iman dips are! And so, the analysis on the cause of the dip. One of the reasons I almost always come up with, as I mentioned earlier, are the numerous habits of routine and traits of personality we’ve come to live with, that have no real connection to the Sunnah and in fact are in contradiction to it.
Here’s an example: how many Muslims have you met and noticed that when they are served beverages by a host, they always leave a bit of the drink in the bottom of the glass? If someone (a friend or older person) casually points out that they haven’t finished their drink, the usual answer is, “No, No… I don’t want to appear like a very hungry person.” In fact, this practice is considered a very important part of the social etiquette followed in many households, where the elders explicitly instruct the children to not drink up all of what they are served… such that you will see even a five-year old towing the line perfectly.
I went out to eat with some friends recently and, as we were leaving, one of our group advised another to clean up her desert bowl. The girl responded with, “I wouldn’t want to appear that hungry!” It set me thinking… as Muslims, our actions reflect upon our beliefs and to a non-Muslim or impressionable youngster it would seem as if Muslims, and thereby Islam, regards hunger as an embarrassment. Before you cast that off as an exaggeration, just notice how we behave in the following situation…
Sara and her mother were visiting some friends. The host’s wife was preparing dinner for them but since it was running a little late, she apologized and said, “I’m sorry for the delay, the stove’s developed some problem today. Sara, you must be hungry, would you like some fruit before dinner?” Sara’s tummy growled in hunger but she firmly shook her head and said, “Oh no Aunty! I’m really quite fine, I had a really heavy lunch today!”
I’ve been in Sara’s place a great number of times and now realize what a lie that was, answering what I answered. But see, that’s the truth… our notions of social etiquette and what’s right and wrong can go so twisted and off the path of Islam that owning up to feeling hungry is a big no-no and in fact, we would go to the extent of lying to – ironically – save face!
When we read the Seerah of the Prophet(saw), it becomes clear that hunger was never a thing to be frowned upon. I can recall one or two occasions where the Prophet(saw) and his companions admitted they were hungry and even requested a little food from others, to satisfy the pangs of hunger.
Safiyya, the Prophet’s wife, said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, came one day and asked, ‘O Daughter of Huyay, do you have anything, for I am hungry.’ I said, ‘No by Allah, O Messenger of Allah, save two measures of flour.’ ‘Cook it!’ he said. I put it in the pot, cooked it, then said, ‘It is cooked O Messenger of Allah!’ He said, ‘Do you know if there is anything in the fat container of the daughter of Abū bakr?’ I said, ‘I know not O Messenger of Allah!’ He went himself to her house and said, ‘Anything in your fat container O daughter of Abū Bakr?’ ‘Nothing but a little,’ she said. He brought it back, squeezed it into the pot until I saw something coming out. He put his hand [on it] saying, ‘In the Name of Allah, invite your sisters for I know they feel as I do!’ I invited them and we ate until satiated. Then Abū Bakr came and entered, then ‘Umar came and entered, then a man came. They all ate to satiety and some still remained. (Majma’ al-Zawa’id)
In fact, I just remembered the time when the Prophet(saw), on the occassion of one of his marriages, said something very important.
In the hadith narrated by Asmaa’ bint Yazid ibn As-Sakan who said: “I beautified Ayesha for Allah’s Messenger, then called him to come to see her unveiled. He came, sat next to her, and brought a large cup of milk from which he drank. Then, he offered it to Ayesha, but she lowered her head and felt shy. I scolded her and said to her: “Take from the hand of the Prophet.” She then took it and drank some. Then, the Prophet said to her, “Give some to your companion.” At that point, I said: “O Messenger of Allah, rather take it yourself and drink, and then give it to me from your hand.” He took it, drank some, and then offered it to me. I sat down and put it on my kness. Then, I began rotating it and following it with my lips in order that I might hit the spot from which the Prophet had drunk. Then, the Prophet said about some women who were there with me: “Give them some.” But, they said: “We don’t want it.” (ie. we are not hungry). The Prophet said: “Do not combine hunger and fibbing!” (Ahmad and al-Humaidi)
So now, you’re wondering what a little thing like that has to do with weakening of Iman? The truth is, all these numerous tidbits add up to make a really un-Islamic picture of our routines and personalities. Really, if our actions and words do not reflect our faith, what must be the reality of such a faith even if one should claim it is “very strong”? Both, the big picture and the little details matter in the end, to make a huge difference.