We have hitherto come across the Prophets words to Umar Ibn Abee Salamah (ra), O young boy, mention Allah’s name, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is next to you. In another Hadeeth, Jaabir Ibn Abdullah (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah (saas) said:
Do not eat with the left (hand), for indeed Shaitaan eats with the left (hand). 1
And in yet another Hadeeth, Umar (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah (swt) said,
When one of you eats, then let him eat with his right (hand) and if he drinks, then let him drink with his right (hand), for verily, Shaitaan eats with his left (hand) and drinks with his left (hand)2
Commenting on the ruling expressed in these narrations, Ibn Al-Jawzee said, Since ones left hand is made for Al-Istinjaa (using a rock, or the equivalent today of tissue paper, to clean the affected area after one relieves himself) and for touching impurities, and since ones right hand is for handling food, it is not appropriate for one hand to do the work of the other. By using one hand for a task that is specific to the other hand, one either debases something (the right hand) of high ranking or raises something (the left hand) of low ranking. And whosoever acts contrary to the dictates of (this) wisdom acts in concord with shaitaan.
Even though the above-mentioned Ahadeeth are famous to the degree that almost every single Muslim knows at least one of them – or at least knows its ruling – some Muslims (may Allah guide them) continue to eat with their left hands. And if you were to remind one of them, he might say something along the lines of, Eating with my left hand has become a habit, and I feel that it will be hard to break. Shaitaan makes such reasoning seem pleasing to their hearts, in order to prevent them from following the shariah. That one persists in eating with his left hand even after he is reminded not to proves that Eemaan (faith) in deficient in his heart. Worse and more evil is one who refuses to eat with his right hand not because of the excuse just mentioned, but because of his pride and arrogance. Salamah Ibn Al-Akwa (ra) reported that, in the company of the Messenger of Allah (saas), A man was eating with his left hand, and so the Prophet (saas) said,
Eat with your right (hand).
He said, I am not able to. The prophet (saas) answered,
May you not be ble to. Nothing prevented him other than pride, and so he (never later) lifted it to his mouth (i.e., the mans right hand became paralyzed) 3
And this wording is from Ahmads narration of the Hadeeth: His right hand never thereafter reached his mouth. An-Nawawee said, The Hadeeth shows that it is permissible to supplicate against a person who, without having an excuse, acts contrary to a ruling of the shariah. It also shows that we should order to good and forbid evil in all situations, even when it comes to eating. And finally, we learn from the Hadeeth that it is recommended to teach the manners of eating to a person when he violates one (or more) of them.
Related Issue : If one has a valid excuse – such as sickness, a recent surgery, etc. – for not eating with his right hand, then it is okay for him to eat with his left hand. And Allah (swt) does not charge a person with more than he can bear.
1) Relate by Muslim (2019), Ahmad (14177), Ibn Maajah (3268), and Maalik (1711). And the wording mentioned above is from Muslims narration of the Hadeeth.
2) Related by Muslim (2019), Ahmad (4523), At-Tirmidhee (1800), Abu Daawood (3776), Maalik (1712), and Ad-Daarimee (2030)
3) Related by Muslim (2021) and Ahmad (16064).