Food represents one of the most common activities in human life. It is essential for survival. People go to great lengths to ensure that they and their families have enough food. Moreover, eating is associated with social activities. People invite relatives, friends and neighbors to a meal. They are keen to offer them the best they can have. Moreover, eating together becomes a social function in which certain manners and practices are observed. People often speak of table manners, indicating that those who observe them are refined people, well brought up and deserve respect and friendship. On the other hand, people who lack table manners are considered as vulgar and uncouth.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has taught us the best of manners in every situation. His teachings were often by example. However, he added instructions to ensure that people observed the right manners. For example, people in high position of authority were used to have a rich variety of foods spread before them. They would recline and eat at leisure. This used to be the mark of affluence and power. The Prophet made clear that he would have nothing of that. He is quoted to have said : “I do not recline and eat.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.) Ubayy ibn Kaab, a close companion of the Prophet famous for his fine recitation of the Qur’an, reports: “The Prophet used to sit on his knees when he ate. He never reclined when eating.” (Related by Abu Al-Shaykh)
For most of his life, the Prophet lived in poverty. He never complained. Prior to his marriage to lady Khadeejah, he lived in his uncle’s home, Abu Talib, who was poor. However, there always seemed to be enough food to go round. Khadeejah was rich and the Prophet worked in conducting her business. He was living comfortably. After her death and for most of the time until his death, he was poor. Sometimes, he might not find food for his family’s needs. He would be patient until God’s help was forthcoming. Thus the Prophet experienced all the problems of poverty. Therefore, when he had plenty, he did not forget the times of need, and he always remained kind to the poor.