By Amina Salau
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Have you ever stayed over at a friend’s or relative’s house, and wondered if you were being a good Muslim guest? The answer will probably be no, because many people do not give a thought to whether there are expectations of them as a guest. More often than not, the spotlight is on the host to provide an enjoyable experience for the guests.
Welcoming guests is first a duty and then an act of charity in Islam. So, as a guest, what is the ideal etiquette to be observed, so that both parties are happy with each other?
Announce your visit in advance
We all have busy lives, and even if we didn’t, it is inconsiderate to show up at people’s doorsteps without letting them know that you were coming. Unless it is an unavoidable emergency, and they could not be reached via phone calls, text messages or email, it is ideal to inform your host of your impending visit. Let them know when you will be arriving, the purpose of your visit, as well as the duration. Also, remember to ask if your stay will be convenient for them.
Bring along some gifts
The Prophet (sa) encouraged us to exchange gifts amongst ourselves, as it increases love. Since you are going to be receiving the love of sharing from your guest, it is a good idea to come with a gift for them too. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive; anything that will be loved by them should do.
Do not disrupt their schedule
You may be a student in a new town and need some help getting your way around. Even if your host does not have anything planned before your visit, be considerate of their time and be aware that they will have to fit you into their schedule.
Do not overstay
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Whoever believes in the Last Day should honour his guest and grant him reward for a day and a night. And it is not permissible for him to stay so long that he causes annoyance to his host. Hospitality is for three days, and whatever he spends on him after three days is charity.” (Ibn Majah; authentic)
If you have a genuine reason behind staying beyond three days, ensure that your host is okay with it. Staying for a short period will ensure that there is minimum possible inconvenience to your host.
Show gratitude for their hospitality
Show appreciation for all that your host is providing for you during your stay. The food, shelter, companionship and all, is at a cost to them. Even though they will, Allah willing, be rewarded by Allah (swt), it is good manners to let people know that you value what they have done for you.
Pray for them
Remember your hosts in your prayers, as they have been kind enough to extend their hospitality to you. You can ask that Allah (swt) showers them with His bounties as they have been kind to you.
Do not criticise them
Your hosts have their downsides, and some part of their lifestyle may not agree with yours. If these are things are frowned upon in Islam, a good idea is to find a subtle way to broach the matter without embarrassing them. Otherwise, exercise the highest level of tolerance during your stay. Don’t keep complaining that their kids are too loud or that their home is too small.
Stay out of their private matters
Even if they are close relatives, it is good to respect other people’s privacy. Do not enter parts of the house that you haven’t been invited to; do not enter another person’s bedroom without permission. This is quite common with extended stays, because you are now so familiar, you feel like a part of the family. It is still the etiquette of a good Muslim guest to be courteous with their host’s space.
If you are going to be staying for some time, make sure to help your host around the house. Help out in whatever way that they need assistance and take the weight of accommodating you off them a bit. A good start will be to clean up after yourself, always.
Announce your departure
It is good manners to tell your host in advance when you will be leaving. Your stay has an impact on their schedule, and it will be insensitive to not inform them or leave without saying goodbye.
Not all stays will be fantastic. It is possible that you part without any loving memories. You may have had a less than pleasant experience during your visit with someone. Remember that humans are not perfect, and everyone is living according to how they know best. Try not to speak badly of them during or after your visit, even if the experience was not so nice. Instead, say a prayer for them that Allah (swt) forgives them for their shortcomings and guides them.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam.
© IIPH 2015