Invites, In-Laws & Guests, Oh My!  A Primer on Being a Guest and Host

Invites, In-Laws & Guests, Oh My!  A Primer on Being a Guest and Host on

Shazia Ahmad

An A-Z Primer of Islamic Teachings on Being a Guest and Host


Allah’s role in the interaction:  For Muslims, inviting and hosting people should be an act of devotion in which Allah plays an important role.  More than a mere social obligation or a means of furthering a network of connections, we should see it as a spiritual act in which one exemplifies qualities Allah loves. He loves those who are generous, and has emphasized the rights of the visitor and the virtues of serving them in the best way.  Our beloved Prophet ﷺ taught, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let them treat their guest generously.”[1]

Accepting a ‘no’ gracefully:  If you issue an invitation to someone and they decline, accept it graciously without feeling offense or subjecting them to extensive questioning.  In the same vein, if you wish to pay someone a visit and they cannot host you, or ask to postpone the visit to another time or date, accept it and “go back” as the Quran prescribes[2] - do not insist and do not take offense.  There may be reasons for this that they do not wish to disclose, and one should not pry into their private matters, or worse yet, insist on an answer which may make them feel compelled to lie.  The Prophet ﷺ said, “Part of the perfection of one’s faith is leaving alone that which does not concern you.”[3]    


Blessings: Barakah [blessings and favor] is brought to a home that hosts and feeds others.  The Prophet ﷺ encouraged, “Eat together, for blessing is in the jama’ah [gathering of people together].”  and in another teaching: “Whoever has food enough for two should seek out a third (person to feed), and whoever has food enough for four should seek out a fifth or a sixth.”[4]


Culture and ‘urf [custom]:  While culture and custom play an important role in our interactions (and are acceptable to practice, as long as they do not contravene Islamic teachings) we should note that Islam gives us clear guidelines that outline the relationship between a host and a guest and their respective rights and duties.  This is especially important given that our community is so diverse, with people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds who may hold dissimilar understandings of hospitality and different expectations.  This holds true even within the family, among in-laws and relatives, where generational and cultural gaps may cause problems.  Islamic guidelines, etiquette and rulings should be the reference point we each go back to, to understand what to generally expect from the other and to guide our own actions which can help minimize conflict. 


Duration of stay:  We should make sure not to overstay when visiting someone, especially by staying late into the night.  The Quran mentions such an incident that happened at the time of the Prophet ﷺ, in which his guests tarried, and his ﷺ subtle indications that it was time for them to move on went unheeded.  Allah reminds us, “If you are invited, enter, and when your meal has ended, then disperse [and do not linger.]”[5]

An overnight guest should avoid staying longer than three days at someone’s home.  Any longer than that is considered, by Islamic teachings, to be a charity on the part of the host.[6]  If one does stay longer than three days, recognize that this is done out of kindness and try to look after your own needs as much as possible.  This can include buying one’s own groceries, finding one’s own means of transportation, helping with cooking and cleanup, and leaving time to the hosts to see to their own needs.


Exchanging gifts:  The Messenger ﷺ taught, “Exchange gifts, as this will increase you in love for one another.”[7]  It is of general good manners to bring a gift for the host.


(Bidding) Farewell: It is considered a sunnah to send off your guests by walking them to the door.[8]

Fasting:  As a guest, if you are performing an obligatory fast (such as making up a missed day in Ramadan), it is not permitted to break your fast due to an invitation.  If you are engaging in an optional fast (a sunnah or nafilah), then you may break it, but it is better to continue fasting, and if offered food, to inform your host that you are fasting and to pray for them.  If, however, they insist that you eat, or otherwise show signs of unhappiness that you are not eating, then it is better to break your fast. [9]  Plan ahead.  If you know you will be fasting, kindly inform your host beforehand so that they can accommodate you in the time the food is served, or arrange to visit on an alternate day.

As a host, be conscientious of your guests’ acts of worship and do not insist that they break their fast or overeat.  You will share in their reward and blessings, God willing.  

Food:  A guest’s ‘due’, as described in a Prophet narration, is to be served generously with special food for the first day and night.  Thereafter, the host may serve the guest the normal food that is usually eaten by the household.[10]  See also “Mealtime Manners.” 


(Being) Gracious and forgiving: Forgive mistakes and oversights made by the host if you are the guest, or by your guests if you are the host.  Easily taking offense and holding grudges over small matters is contrary to the sunnah, while having a forgiving and soft nature with people, even when they are irritating or hurtful, is an expression of Prophetic qualities.  He ﷺ taught, “The believer who mixes with the people and endures their harm has a greater reward than one who does not.”[11] 


The Honored guests of Ibrahim:  The Quran[12] describes when the angels came to Prophet Ibrahim to give him glad tidings of a child, and his good treatment of these guests.  Prophet Ibrahim greeted them graciously, prepared the best food he had- a fattened roasted calf- and offered it to them kindly by saying, "Will you not eat?'' Ibn Kathir explains many lessons we can learn about honoring guests from this incident, including offering the best of what one has and inviting one’s guests to eat using kind words.[13]  See also “Mealtime Manners.”


Inviting and accepting invitations: According to the majority of scholars, accepting an invitation to a gathering such as an ‘aqeeqa or dinner is considered mustahabb [recommended], as long as there is nothing sinful taking place in it.[14]  If it meets the proper conditions, an invitation to a waleema [wedding reception] is considered obligatory to accept.[15]

In-laws:  Inviting and hosting one’s in-laws has multiple rewards, as it is a means of maintaining the ties of kinship and being good to one’s parents, along with honoring one’s guests.  This encouragement to hospitality extends to the wife’s family as well as the husband’s, contrary to what some cultures may practice.  The Prophet ﷺ would often visit his daughter’s home.[16]  (See also “Kinship.”)


Joining hearts:  Inviting and accepting invitations is a way of joining hearts and increasing in love for one another, and receiving the love of Allah Most High.  In a Hadith Qudsi Allah says, “My loves becomes due for those who love each other for My sake; those who sit with one another for My sake, those who visit one another for My sake and those who spend for one another for My sake.”[17]


Kinship:  It is extra meritorious to host and visit relatives, as they have additional rights upon us.  We should note that it may be here where we fall into the mistake of ignoring Islamic guidelines and manners, assuming that they can be disregarded since we are dealing with close relatives and family.  In actuality, this can be the grounds from which resentment and family disputes develop, and we should be cautious of Islamic guidelines and recommendations.  See also “In-laws.”


The Lonely: We should make it a point to invite and visit those who may be lonely or in difficult circumstances, such as the elderly or sick, those with a recent death in the family or those new to the community.[18] 


Mealtime manners:  Among the manners recommended in the book Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasideen are the following: Engage in small talk about good things and do not eat in complete silence.  Extend and offer items to the guest, instead of making them reach for something or request it.  Do not stare at them while eating and let them eat comfortably.  Some other etiquette includes serving the food promptly and serving the best of what one has.  For the guest, among the manners of eating is to hasten to eat what has been offered to you, to eat what is directly in front of you, not to criticize what you have been served, and to pray for the host.   


Neighbors: Islam strongly emphasizes treating our neighbors well and we should be sure to include them in our hospitality.[19] 



Praying for the host:  It is recommended to supplicate for the host, such as saying the following from a prophetic narration:

أفْطَرَ عِنْدَكُمُ الصَّائِمُونَ، وأكَلَ طَعَامَكُمُ الأبْرَارُ، وَصَلَّتْ عَلَيْكُمُ المَلاَئِكَةُ

“May fasting people break their fast with you; may the virtuous eat your food; and may the angels bless you.”[20]

Punctuality: Keep appointments and respect people’s time.  Believers are called upon in the Quran to fulfill their promises. [21]  The Prophet ﷺ once made an appointment with one of his companions, and when he did not show up and instead made an appearance three days later, the Prophet ﷺ gently reprimanded him, saying in part, “I have been waiting and expecting you for three days.”[22]

The Poor: The poor should be included in our invitations and gatherings.  The Prophet said, “The worst food is that of a feast to which the rich are invited and the poor excluded.” [23]



Respecting privacy:  Respect and honor the privacy of your host.  When you sit, do not sit with a line of vision to the inner portion of the home, so that people of the household can move about freely without scrutiny.  Do not open doors that have been closed or enter other areas of the home without being told to do so (and keep your children from doing so.)  Do not listen to personal conversations or pry into personal matters, either by words or by your eyes.  One of my teachers taught us that being invited into someone’s home is a trust, that should be honored by keeping the privacy of the family and not exposing the inner workings of their home or other personal matters.


Salaam: It is of beautiful Islamic etiquette to greet one’s guest with honor and a cheerful face, and sit them in a place of honor in the home.[24] 



Uninvited guests:  Do not bring uninvited guests along without the permission of your host.  The host has the right to decline to host an uninvited person, and there should be no ill feeling on either person’s part if this is done.  At the time of the Prophet ﷺ, a man invited him along with four others, and on their way to the host’s home another man followed them.  When they reached his door, the Prophet ﷺ said, “This man has followed us. If you like, you can give him permission [to enter your home and join us], or if you like, he will go back.”[25]



(Honoring the) wayfarer or traveler: In Islamic tradition caring and hosting the traveler is intensely emphasized, and they have numerous rights, including a share in zakah.  Many of the rights of the guest that are discussed in books of fiqh center around caring for the traveler.

Wedding invitation: See “Invitations.”




[1] Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and others.
[2] See commentary on Surah an-Nur, ayah 28.
[3] In Nawawi’s 40 Hadith, Hadith 12.
[4] Sahih al-Bukhari. These hadith were cited in a very nice article on barakah by Productive Muslim that can be found here:
[5] Surah al-Ahzaab, ayah 53.
[6] "Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should serve his neighbor generously, and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should serve his guest generously by giving him his reward." It was asked, "What is his reward, O Allah’s Apostle?" He said, "(To be entertained) generously for a day and a night with high quality of food and the guest has the right to be entertained for three days (with ordinary food), and if he stays longer, what he will be provided with will be regarded as Sadaqa (a charitable gift).  Ibn Hajar mentions three interpretations of the hadith:
i)              Extra hospitality (more than what the host normally eats) on the first day, regular hospitality (what the host normally eats) on 2nd and 3rd day, stock up the guest (with 24 hours worth of provisions) for his journey on the 4th day. Anything beyond this is charity.
ii)             Extra hospitality on the first day, regular hospitality on the 2nd and 3rd day. Anything beyond this is charity.
iii)            If the guest is staying, he should be hosted for 3 days. Anything beyond this is charity. If he is only stopping by, but not staying, he should be stocked up (with 24 hours worth of provisions) for his journey. Anything beyond this would also be charity.
[7] Sahih al-Bukhari
[8] Narration in Ibn Majah
[9] In Fatawa al-Kubra of Ibn Taymiyya
[10] See hadith and commentary mentioned in Footnote 7.
[11] Ibn Majah, cited in Bulugh al-Maram
[12] See Surah adh-Dhariyaat, ayah 24-27
[13] Tafsir Ibn Kathir
[14] See the chapter on ‘Waleema’ in any book of fiqh.
[15] Some of these conditions include the invitation being specifically given by name (not a general invitation given to a group to attend), that it is an invitation for the first day of the waleema, and that the gathering does not contain any element of sin.
[16] See the following excellent article:
[17] Malik and Ahmad
[18] Our Prophet ﷺ taught, “Any believer who consoles his brother (or sister) who is afflicted with a difficulty, Allah will have him wear a garment of honor on the Day of Resurrection.” (Ibn Majah)
[19] Aisha (ra) narrated: “I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, say, ‘Jibreel, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, kept on recommending that I treat neighbors well until I thought that he would order me to treat them as my heirs’ (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Click to read more:
[20] Abu Dawud, Nasa’i
[21] Surat al-Maidah
[22] Sh. Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah in his book on manners, cited by Sh. Jamaal Diwan in his excellent short video here:
[23] Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim
[24] Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasideen
[25] Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim.  Narrated by Abu Mas’ud al-Badri.

By Shazia Ahmad , 20 Apr 2016

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