How did Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) welcome his guests?
Submitted by on Tue, 04/09/2018 - 11:54
Dear Brother / Sister,
The Prophet (pbuh) always had guests. He had many guests from distant and near places. Civil and official delegates would come from some states and tribes, and would stay for days. The Prophet (pbuh) would take care of those guests, serve and entertain them himself.
The Prophet (pbuh) himself served the delegates that came from Abyssinia. The Companions said,
"O Messenger of Allah! We will serve them; please leave it to us." The Prophet said,
"They entertained our friends before. Now I take pleasure in serving them in return for their service."
He entertained the delegates of Thaqif from Taif and allowed them to stay in the mosque. Then, they became Muslims and returned to their homeland.
When the house of the Prophet (pbuh) was not suitable for guests, the houses of Ramla and Umm Sharik of Ansar were used as guesthouses. Those women were very charitable and generous people. From time to time, there were a lot of guests; they were sent to the other houses as guests so that they would be served better.
The Prophet (pbuh) did not discriminate between the guests because of their religions. He treated everybody well, did them favors and showed them the same kindness and understanding.
Abu Basra narrates this attribute of the Prophet as follows:
"I was not a Muslim. I was a guest of the Messenger of Allah. I woke up at night, milked the goats and drank all of the milk. Thus, the Messenger of Allah and his family had nothing to drink. However, the Messenger of Allah did not say anything to me."
According to what Abu Hurayra narrates, a polytheist was the guest of the Prophet (pbuh) once. The Prophet offered him some milk and he drank it. Then, he offered him some more milk and he drank it too. The polytheist was oved by this act of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and became a Muslim in the morning.
The permanent guests of the Prophet were Ashab as-Suffa, who lived next to the mosque, who had no family and houses and who were poor. The Prophet (pbuh) regarded them as the members of his own family. He was their teacher and met all of their needs.
The Prophet (pbuh) had a big cauldron that could be carried by four people. When it was noon, they would bring this cauldron and the People of Suffa would gather around it. Sometimes, there were so many people that the Prophet (pbuh) could not find a place to sit.
The Prophet (pbuh) sometimes entertained the People of Suffa in his own house. Once, he took the Companions in Suffa to Hz. Aisha’s house. He told her to bring whatever she had in the house. After they ate, he asked her to bring some more food. She brought some dates and milk. They ate them too. Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) entertained them himself in his house.
Sometimes, a lot of guests arrived. The Prophet would give all of the food he had to them and he and his family would spend the night hungry. He would wake up at night and asked his guests if they needed anything. He tried to meet all of their needs until they left.
Once, a guest arrived. He said he was very tired and poor. The Prophet (pbuh) sent somebody to the house of one of his wives. His wife said,
"O Messenger of Allah! I swear by Allah who sent you as the true Prophet that there is nothing but water at home."
Then, he sent for another wife of his. She gave the same response. Finally, he found out that there was no food in any of his wives’ homes.
Then, the Prophet (pbuh) said to the Companions,
"May Allah show mercy to the person who entertains this man tonight!"
Thereupon, somebody from Ansar stood up. He said he could entertain that man and took him to his house. He asked his wife,
"Is there anything to eat at home?" She said,
"Only the food for the children." He said,
"Keep children busy with something. If they want to eat, make them sleep. When the guest starts to eat, turn off the lamp and we will pretend to eat with him."
They sat at the table. The guest ate the meal. They pretended to eat but they spent the night hungry.
The host went to the Prophet (pbuh) in the morning. The Prophet (pbuh) gave him the following glad tiding:
"Allah became pleased with both of you due to the nice deed you did."
We have the word hospitality in our language. It is a tradition and sunnah that still exists to love guests, to entertain them, to give them food and drink and to meet their needs. The source of it is the Prophet’s advice and encouragement.
To love the guest and to entertain him is a sign and indicator of belief. The stronger a person’s belief, the better he will treat his guest.
According to the narration of Abu Hurayra, the Prophet (pbuh) said:
"He who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment should offer food to his guest."
"He who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment should take care of his relatives."
"He who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment should say good things or keep silent."
The Prophet (pbuh) was both the owner of the eternal prophethood and the leader of the Islamic state as well as the commander-in chief of the Islamic armies; therefore, along with individuals and groups from all levels and beliefs, the envoys, that is, diplomatic guests were the guests of the Prophet (pbuh).
According to what resources state, Arabs followed the tribe of Quraysh related to important issues like war and peace. For, they regarded Quraysh as superior and acted based on their attitudes. They regarded the enemies of Quraysh as their enemies and friends as their friends. They accepted what Quraysh accepted. They followed the deeds of Quraysh related to Islam too.
When Makkah was conquered by the Muslims despite the grim struggle of Quraysh against Islam, that is, when it became certain that Quraysh surrendered to Islam fully, the Arab tribes started to send envoys and delegates to Madinah thinking that there was no need to lose any more time.
The days known as "Amul-Wufu" (Year of Envoys) in the history of Islam is the ninth year of the Migration, which is the year just after the Conquest of Makkah. After the Expedition of Tabuk and after the tribe of Thaqif accepted Islam, Madinah had a very intense diplomatic traffic. People from distant and near places poured in Madinah in order to meet the Prophet (pbuh), become Muslims and make treaties. The days and incidents stated in the chapter of an-Nasr of our Glorious Book were experienced on those days:
"When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory, And thou dost see the people enter Allah´s Religion in crowds..."
A. ENTERTAINING OF THE DIPLOMATIC GUESTS
We will consider not only the envoys of the foreign countries but also the delegates of Arab tribes and the individuals and groups that came from various regions to represent various nations and religions as "diplomatic guests". For, when it is viewed closely, it will be understood that all of those people had a kind of diplomatic mission under the conditions of that time.
There is no basic difference between entertaining diplomatic guests and the other guests. They offered them the food and drinks that they had. When the entertainment of the delegates of Sons of Hanifa is narrated, it is stated that they were given bread and meat one day bread and milk another day and bread and oil yet another day in the house of Ramla bint Harith. 1
The time period of the visits of the delegates were not the same. Some guests stayed for three days while others stayed 15 to 20 days. No matter how long the envoys stayed, they had the freedom of religion and conscience, and acted freely.
For instance, when the envoys of Najran came, they returned to their homeland as Christians, without changing their religion. No diplomatic guest was pressurized or harmed. The two envoys of Musaylama, the fake prophet, confessed that they exited Islam but they were not harmed since they were envoys. The Prophet (pbuh) said to them,
"I swear by Allah that were it not that messengers are not killed, I would cut off your heads."2
As the saying goes, "Do not shoot the messenger!"
2. Places of Entertainment
The envoys and delegates that came to Madinah, the first capital city of Islam, stayed and were entertained in the houses allocated for this, in the tents set up in the yard of the mosque or in the houses of some Companions.
When the delegates of seven people from the tribe of Salaman came to Madinah, they found the Prophet while he was going to a janazah prayer in front of the mosque. They introduced themselves and said they had become Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) said to his servant Thawban, "Entertain them where envoys are entertained." Then, he left. Thawban took them to a large house in a date orchard where Arab delegates stayed. It was the house of Ramla bint Harith. 3 Ramla's house was like a "state guesthouse" where most of the diplomatic guests were entertained. It is known that Ramla’s house was used for the same thing during the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr too.
In addition, Abdurrahman Ibn Awf's house, which was known as “the big house” because it was the first house a muhajir built in Madinah, was also one of the houses where “the guests of the Messenger of Allah were entertained”. It was even called "the guest house". 4 The envoys of the tribe of Azd were entertained in Farwa b. Amr’s house. 5
The Prophet (pbuh) entertained the representatives of Najran Christians consisting of fourteen people in Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s house. 6
On the other hand, some delegates of tribes stayed in the houses of their relatives in Madinah. 7
After returning from the Expedition of Tabuk in the month of Ramadan, the envoys of the tribe of Thaqif that came to Madinah were entertained in the tents set up in the yard of the mosque so that they would listen to the Quran and watch the Muslims. Khalid b. Said b. As and Bilal al-Habashi served them. It is pointed out that the envoys of the tribe of Thaqif did not eat the food brought by those two people unless they ate them first.
The envoys of the clan of Ahlaf belonging to Sons of Malik were entertained in a tent in the mosque. 8
The Prophet sent Wail b. Hujr to Muawiya b. Abi Sufyan to entertain him. He entertained Wail in a house in Harra. 9
Some Companions volunteered to entertain some envoys or guests. The Prophet (pbuh) accepted the ones that he deemed appropriate. 10 However, he did not allow all of them. 11
3. Officials in charge of entertainment
As we have mentioned above, Khalid b. Said, Bilal al-Habashi and Thawban, the servant of the Prophet generally served the guests that were entertained near the mosque. We have not been able to find any information about the people who served the guests in the house of Ramla bint Harith.
B. THE PROPHET TAKING CARE OF THE DIPLOMATIC GUESTS
The Prophet (pbuh) took care of the envoys, diplomatic guests that came to Madinah no matter how many people there were and no matter where they came from, whether they were Muslims or not and no matter whom they represented.
We should point out that the delegates that arrived generally consisted of the people under the leadership of the chiefs of tribes. The delegates sometimes consisted of civil people. There were intellectual people like scholars, poets and orators among the delegates. Those delegates generally conveyed oral messages. However, the envoys of the states that the Prophet (pbuh) invited to Islam would come with written messages.
Let us see how the Prophet (pbuh) took care of his visitors.
1. Wearing nice clothes
If the Prophet (pbuh) was informed about the arrival of the diplomatic guests, he would welcome them by wearing nice clothes. He also asked his close friends to be dressed like that. According to what Jundab b. Makis states, "When the delegates of Kinda arrived, the Prophet had a Yemeni garment on him. Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar were dressed like him too." 12 Jarir b. Abdullah, who came with a delegation and became a Muslim narrates: "When Arab delegates came, the Messenger of Allah would inform me about them and I would go to him by wearing my nice clothes."13
The delegations that did not inform about their arrival beforehand would generally find the Prophet (pbuh) in the mosque. After meeting them and finding out about why they came, the Prophet (pbuh) would enable them to be entertained. Then, he would continue talking to them.
We should point out that the Prophet (pbuh) did not resort to any artificial ways like impressing the envoys with pompous ceremonies though it was customary at that time. 14
2. Caressing the heads of the guests
The Prophet would caress the heads of the guests who seemed very excited, nervous and hesitant with his blessed hand. It is stated that a person who was treated like that would feel relieved and regarded it as a means of pride.
3. Inviting the guests to his house
The Prophet held the hand of Adiyy b. Hatam, who came to visit him, and invited him to his house; he put the only mattress filled with date fibers under Adiyy and he himself sat on the ground. He talked to Adiyy, talked about his hesitations and answered all of his questions. He mentioned him about the bright days of Islam in the near future and invited him to Islam. He also reminded Adiyy a practice of his, which was haram in his belief, stating that he knew about him and that he needed to get rid of it. Adiyy said he felt embarrassed because of his state but he also said gladly that the Prophet (pbuh) never mentioned it again after that.
4. Mentioning the people to come before their coming and praising them
We also see a kind of interest and compliment that only the Prophet (pbuh) can do. The Prophet (pbuh) uttered nice words about some people to his Companions and told them about their arrival in Madinah beforehand. For instance, Jarir b. Abdullah and Wail b. Hujr, whom we have just mentioned above, are among them.
Jarir narrates: When I arrived in Madinah, I made my camel sit. I opened my bag, changed my clothes and entered the mosque. The Messenger of Allah was delivering a sermon then. I greeted him. The congregation were glancing at me. I asked the person sitting next to me, 'Did the Messenger of Allah mention me?' 'Yes,' he said, ‘He has just mentioned you in a nice way.’ He said, ‘A good person from Yemen will enter through that door. He has the sign of an angel, a ruler on his face.’ Thereupon, I praised Allah. 15
Wail b. Hujr narrates: When I arrived in Madinah, I talked to the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) before I talked to him. They said, "He told us about you three days before you arrived. He said, 'Wail is coming to you.'" 16
5. Taking off his garment and making his guest sit on it, introducing his guest to his Companions from the pulpit
After the Prophet (pbuh) met Wail b. Hujr and shook hands with him, he took off his garment and placed it on the ground. They sat on it together. He ordered the Muslims to gather. Then, he ascended the pulpit. He called Wail to come near him on the pulpit. After praising Allah, he addressed the Companions as follows:
"O Muslims! This is Wail b. Hujr. He came from a distant place, Hadramawt, on his own, by desiring and accepting Islam, without being forced. He is one of the descendants of Sons of King."
Then, he prayed for him as follows: "O Allah! Give blessing to Wail, Wail’s son and his son’s son!' Then, he caressed Wail’s head. 17
Once, Jarir b. Abdullah arrived while the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting with his Companions. Nobody made room for him. The Prophet (pbuh) took off his garment, gave it to Jarir and said, "O Abu Amr! Sit on it." Jarir sat on it. Then, he expressed his gratitude by saying, "O Messenger of Allah! May Allah treat you as you have treated me!"
Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said to the people around him,
"When an honorable leader of a tribe comes to you, treat him kindly and show respect to him." 18
6. Visiting them where they stay and asking about their health
The Prophet (pbuh) took care of the diplomatic guests he settled in the guesthouses or the tents in the yard of the mosque. According to what Aws b. Hudhayfa, who was among the envoys of Thaqif, the Prophet would visit them after the night prayer, talk to them, tell them about what Makkans had done to him and give them information about the developments in Madinah.
7. Being interested in every issue that guests mentioned
The guests of the Prophet (pbuh) had various requests. Some of them came to test him 19; there were some poets and orators who wanted to compete with him and decide to become Muslims or not based on the result 20; there were some delegates who had unacceptable demands like the delegates of Thaqif who wanted to be exempt from performing prayers and not harming the idol Lat; there were some debaters who demanded mutual damnation; there were also some guests who complained about drought and asked for rain prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) was interested in all of those requests, answered their questions, competed and discussed with them, prayed for them, told them about Islam, explained them the principles that existed in their own cultures and books; thus, he tried to make them see the truth.
Consequently, they were taught the Quran and the principles of Islam if they became Muslims; they were granted some land or privileges; leaders and imams were appointed for some of them. We see the following statement in the document given to Sons of Bariq: "They have to entertain the Muslims who went to them during the time of war and famine for three days."21 Legal treaties were signed with those who did not become Muslims; they were given some documents and edicts of security.
8. Changing their names
It will be appropriate to point out the following issue: When the Prophet was introduced to a person, he would change some names with better names and would compliment people. For instance, he complimented Zayd, the leader of Sons of Nabhan as follows and changed his name from Zayd al-Khayl to Zayd al-Khayr:
"No Arab man has ever been described to me with his virtues and when I see him he does not have all of the virtues except Zayd. I have not been told about all of his virtues." 22 He would change the names like Abdul-uzza and, Abdul-lat, which were the manifestations of the polytheistic culture, with the names like Abdullah and Abdurrahman, which were in compliance with the belief of oneness. However, some diplomats, though very few, did not want the names given to them by their ancestors to be changed.
9. Giving food for journey and gifts
When the envoys wanted to leave, some food and gifts were given to them. The amount of the gifts changed based on the financial situation of that time.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not send gifts to the leaders of the tribes and states whom he invited to Islam. He generally accepted the gifts sent by them and rarely rejected them. However, he definitely gave gifts to the envoys that were sent to him. When he was in Tabuk, he expressed his sorrow to the Byzantine envoy as follows: "If we were in Madinah, I would give you gifts." When Hz. Uthman heard it, he took out a piece of valuable fabric from his bag and gave it to the Prophet (pbuh) so that he would give it to the envoy as a gift. The Prophet (pbuh) was very pleased with this kindness of Hz. Uthman. 23
We should state that the Prophet (pbuh) practiced giving gifts to envoys insistently and gave the following advice to the Muslims before his death:
"Give gifts to the delegation of envoys as I gave them." 24
The special care and hospitality of the Prophet (pbuh) shown to the diplomatic guests shows that the difference of religion, language and race was not important related to guests. That he entertained some of the groups of envoys near the mosque and some of them in the mosque cannot be explained with financial difficulties only. It is certain that this practice aims to enable them to listen to the Quran, see how Muslims worship and observe the level the Muslims obtained in human relationships and hence to convey them the message of Islam indirectly. Therefore, it is an indispensable opportunity to convey the message of Islam and a necessity of hospitality to make things easier and to show understanding to non-Muslim statesmen, diplomats and tourists who want to visit mosques. According to a recorded narration, the envoys of the tribe of Thaqif entered the mosque though they were non-Muslims. Some Muslims found it strange. Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The earth will not be dirtied by anything." 25 He announced his purpose by saying, "I will entertain there somewhere where they can listen to the Quran." 26 It will be a deed in compliance with the Sunnah for the administrators of the Muslim countries not to ignore such a purpose, to make their diplomatic guests visit mosques at a time when they can listen to the Quran and watch the Muslims worship. It should not be forgotten that such a deed is gift to the guest for a Muslim.
The wrong practice of some activities like music, theatre and shows of foreign origin, which the guests can see better ones in their own countries should be abandoned. It should not be forgotten that even the foreign groups that denigrate the Ottoman State politically today praise the humane deeds and nice Islamic attitudes of the Ottoman era. The Islamic-Turkish kindness and hospitality to be shown to the foreigners with Islamic thoughts, not with commercial purpose only, will cause some foreigners to love us, at least to change their feelings of enmity and prejudice. This will be a benefit for Muslims and Islam.
Hospitality has such a function of “winning hearts or pleasing people” in the international dimension. It should be understood and our people should be taught that tourists are not “suckers” but “hearts to win”; and they should be treated accordingly. We might atone for the great losses of value due to the tourism policies that consisted of commercial purposes only and that lacked ethical content.
I want to end this writing by narrating an incident that attracts the attention to another aspect of the issue:
There was somebody among the representatives of Sons of Muharib who came to Madinah in the tenth year of the Migration and accepted Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) looked at him carefully.
The man said,
"O Messenger of Allah! You have probably recognized me."
The Prophet said,
"I think I have seen you before."
The man said,
"Yes, you saw me and spoke to me. I opposed you by uttering bad words. We met in the fair of Uqaz. You were visiting Arab tribes and inviting them to Islam. Nobody treated you worse than me among my friends on that day. I praise Allah that he allowed me to live long enough to believe in you. My friends who were with me on that day died as polytheists."
The Prophet said,
"Hearts are subject to Allah's wish. They are in His hand."
The man said,
"O Messenger of Allah! Pray for me so that I will be forgiven."
The Prophet said,
"Being a Muslim eliminates previous sins." 27
In the last part of the writing, we address everybody who has not accepted the call of the last Prophet: "Being a Muslim eliminates previous sins." We remind them that being late will not be of any use to anybody. Our call is the timeless diplomatic call of the eternal prophethood: "Be a Muslim and attain salvation."28.
1. Ibn Sad, Tabaqat, I, 316.
2. Abu Dawud. Jihad 154.
3. Ibn Sad. Tabaqat I. 332.
4. See Kattani, at-Taratibul-Idariyya (translated by A. Özal), II, 202.
5. Ibn Sad, Tabaqat, I, 338; Köksal, İslam Tarihi, x. 115.
6. Ibn Sad, Tabaqat, I,357-8
7. See Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, I, 328; Köksal, ibid, x, 134
8. Ibn Sa'd. Tabaqat. I,313.
9. Ibn Sad, Tabaqat, I,351
10. See Ibn Hajar. al-Isaba, II,421; III, 254
11. Köksal, ibid, ix. 305.
12. Ibn Sa'd. Tabaqat, IW, 346; Kattani, at-Taratibu'l-Idariyya. II, 209
13. Dhahabi, Siyar, II. 382.
14. See S. Munajjid, an-Nuzumud-Diblumasiyya fil-Islam, p. 38, (Beirut, 1403/1983)
15. Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad. IW. 359-360, 364; Dhahabi, Siyar, II, 380-381; Köksal, ibid, x, 101.
16. Haysami. Majmauz-Zawaid, ix, 374 17. For references, see Köksal, ibid, x, 146-147.
18. Dhahabi, Siyar, II, 381.
19. For references, see Köksal, ibid, x, 137
20. For detailed information and references, see Köksal, ibid, ix, 32-33.
21. Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, I, 352; Köksal, ibid, x, 159
22. Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, I, 321; Koksal ibid, x. 8.
23. See Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, IW, 74-75.
24. See Buhari, Jihad 176-177; Kattani, ibid, II, 207.
25. Köksal, ibid, IX, 303. (Waqidi, Maghazi, from III, 964)
26. Ibn Qayyim, Zadul-Maad, III. 31; Köksal, ibid, ix. 303-304.
27. For references, see Köksal, İslam Tarihi, (Medine Devri) x, 324-325,
28. Bukhari, Badul-Wahy 6; Jihad 102; Muslim, Jihad 74; Ibn Majah, Muqaddima 10.
(Doç. Dr. İsmail L. Çakan)
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