Chapter XXIII (g)
The Rules of Eating
Men cannot sustain without food, for body cannot stand without nourishment, but moral virtue requires that one should not eat or drink in excess and one must not remain committed day and night only for this purpose. Shafii says:
من كان همته ما يدخل في جوفه فان قيمته ما يخرج منه
“The one whose object is filling of his belly should know that he is worth only that which comes out of it.”
Nothing is more hurtful to a novice in Sufism than excessive eating. I have already discussed on eating habits.
When Abu Yazid was asked why he praised hunger so highly, he answered:
“Yes! Had Pharaoh been hungry he would not have said,
انا ربكم الا علي
I am your Supreme Lord,”
and had Qarun been hungry he would not have been rebellious.”
Thalaba (may Allah be pleased with him) was praised by all so long as he was hungry, but when he ate his fill he displayed hypocrisy.
Allah hath said:
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَّهُمْ
“While those who rejects Allah will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat; and fire will be their abode.” (Q 47:12).
Sahl b. Abdullah Tustari said:
“In my opinion, a belly full of wine is better than one full of lawful food, for when a man’s belly is filled with wine, his intellect is at rest and the flame of lust is loosen, and people are secure from his hand and tongue, but when his belly is filled with lawful food he will seek for vain desires, his lust will increase and his nafs (lower soul) rises to seek its pleasure.”
The Sheikhs describing the Sufis have said:
اكلهم كاكل المرضي ونومهم كنوم الغرتي وكلامهم الكلي
“They eat like sick, sleep like shipwrecked men, and speak like one whose child has died.”
The foremost principal of eating is that one should not eat alone, and should prefer others in food. Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
شرالناس من اكل وحده وضرب عبده و منع رفده
“the worst among you is the one who eats alone, beats his slave and shows reluctance in charity.”
When seated for food one should not be silent, and begin by saying,؎
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيم
"in the name of Allah, the Most Merciful and the Most Gracious,”
and no one should say other to pick up or bring something for him, it makes the other annoyed. One should take salty mouthful first, and be fair with his friends.
The people asked Sahl b. Abdullah about the meaning of the verse,
إِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَان
Allah commands justice, the doing of good” (Q 16:90)
and he replied:
“Justice consists in dealing fairly with one's friend in regard to food, and beneficence consists in considering friend’s claim better to that morsel than to him.”
My Sheikh used to say:
“I am astonished at that man who declares that he has renounced the world, but remain anxious about a morsel of food.”
The food should be eaten with right hand and one should look only at his own morsel. While eating one should not drink unless he feels its extreme desire, and he should drink only as much as will moisten his liver. He should not eat large mouthfuls, and should chew his food well and not make haste, for it may cause indigestion and it is also against Sunnah. When he has finished eating, he should praise Allah and wash his hands.
If some persons belonging to a community of dervishes secretly go to some one’s invitation and eat something there, according to some Sheikhs this is unlawful and constitutes a breach of companionship, for as Allah has said,
أُولَـئِكَ مَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ إِلاَّ النَّار
they swallow into themselves naught but fire;” (Q 2:174).
But some hold it to be allowable when a number of persons act thus in union with each other. And some allow it in the case of a single person, on the ground that he is not obliged to deal fairly when he is alone, being alone he is relieved of the obligations of companionship.
Now, the most important principle in this matter is that the invitation of a dervish should not be refused, and that the invitation of a rich man should not be accepted and he should not be visited as well and also must not beg anything from him. Such conduct is an insult for Sufis, because worldlings do not pay due respect to dervishes.
In short, one does not become worldling because of the abundance of wealth, nor does little wealth make him dervish. The one who prefers poverty over wealth is not a worldling, may he be a king and one who disbelieves in the excellence of poverty is a worldling, even though he is reduced to want. When a dervish attends a party he should not constrain himself either to eat or not to eat, but should eat whatever is brought before him. If the host is a friendly person, the married invitee can take left over food to his home and if the host is not friendly it is not recommended to visit his house.
It is not praiseworthy to take home left over food under any circumstances. Sahl b. Abdullah says, “الذلة ذلةٌ taking away of leftovers is abasement.”