If there’s one thing that Muslims are known for around the world, it’s our hospitality. While other aspects of our respective cultures may have begun to wither away, Muslims continue to proudly uphold the legacy of hospitality that’s been passed down to us through the ages. True hospitality is more than just providing a guest with a bed for the night.
As the Prophet ﷺ said in a hadith found in Bukhari and Muslim, “Let the believer in Allah and the Day of Judgment honor his guest.”
What exactly does it mean to honor a guest in the 21st century? The following few guidelines help serve as a starting point for any Muslim man wanting to fulfill the Sunnah of honoring his guest:
Before they arrive
- Clean your dwelling
Depending on the normal state of affairs in your house, this might very well be the most time consuming part of hosting a guest. Still, this should never be skipped. Even if you yourself are accustomed to a certain level of messiness, adab dictates that you not subject your guests to it. Vacuum the house, straighten loose papers, dust the shelves, and scrub the bathrooms.
2. Prepare their room/sleeping space
Whether this is a guest room, your own bedroom, or even a couch, prepare the area where they will be staying. Put fresh smelling bedsheets out and have an extra blanket out. Have an extra blanket in the room. Put a clean prayer rug out for them. If the room has women’s personal clothing items, remove them if you can. Clear out a place for them to put their clothes. In addition, prepare the bathroom they will be using. Hang clean towels. Make sure there’s a lota in the bathroom and that it doesn’t look disgusting. Put a small basket with simple toiletries. Put in some toothpaste, mouth wash, shampoo, conditioner, and OTC medicines such as Advil, Tylenol, Tums, Pepto Bismal, etc. You don’t want your guest to spend the night suffering from a headache because they felt too shy to ask you for a Tylenol.
3. Stock up on snacks
This is especially true if your guests have kids, but even if they don’t, everyone can appreciate snacks. Have them out in an easy to reach place and make sure you make it clear to your guest that the snacks are for their enjoyment.
Soon After they arrive
4. Don’t delay in getting them food
Cooking fresh food for your guests is a Sunnah established by the Prophet Ibrahim (as). In fact, the story is mentioned in the Qur’an itself:
“Has the story reached you of the honoured guests of Abraham? Behold, they entered his presence and said: “Peace!” He said: “Peace!” (and thought: “They seem) unusual people.” Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a roasted fattened calf, and placed it before them. He said: “Will you not eat?” [Surat adh-Dhariyat: 24-27]
Be prepared to serve them hot food very soon after their arrival. If you’re a terrible cook, buy from your local halal restaurant. If you’re Halal-Man and not Zabiha-Man, make sure you check with your guests about their meat preference. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and choose zabiha meat. Serving someone meat from the local supermarket when you know that they only eat zabiha is an egregious act of betrayal.
5. Offer tea
This varies by culture but in most places, it’s considered good adab to offer guests tea after their meal. If you do, keep the sugar separate for those guests who avoid sugar or have health problems precluding them from consuming sugar.
6. Get them situated
After they’ve eaten, show them the way to their room. If you haven’t already, carry their luggage to their room for them. Have the wi-fi password written down and give it to them so they don’t have to ask. Show them the direction of the qibla.Let them
While they’re there
7. Prepare a warm breakfast
Food is a crucial aspect of hospitality and it applies to breakfast as well. Prepare a warm breakfast for them, at least on the first day. There’re few things which make a guest feel more at home than waking up to a warm home-cooked meal.
8. Never give them the impression that they’re a nuisance or are imposing on your time
This should be so obvious that it need not be stated. Unfortunately, with the rise of materialism, even some Muslims have begun to see the presence of guests as a nuisance. Within our tradition, guests have always been seen as a sign of blessings from Allah ﷻ. If you view guests as an unnecessary evil while going about your normal life, you’ve failed to follow in the prophetic methodology. Being hosted is, in fact, a right of the guest. When the sahabah asked the Prophet ﷺ what it meant to give a guest their due, he responded that the guest’s right was to be entertained for at least three days. What is beyond that is charity, but the first three days are a right of the guest.
9. Plan things for them to do
If you’re not sure what things there are to do in your city, look it up on TripAdvisor. Depending on your schedule and how much time you can spend with them, you may or may not be able to accompany your guests, but it’s always a good idea to be able to tell them about places in town they can visit. If your guests have their own plans or are also visiting other people, give them some breathing space.
As they leave
- Walk them to their car
Help them get their luggage inside the car. Give them any leftover snacks for their trip back home. Then wait by your front door until they drive off.
- Thank them for their visit
The day after they leave, send them a quick text message thanking them for visiting you and tell them you enjoyed hosting them.