1. Sustenance is a great bounty and blessing of Allāh. It was the practice of the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) to praise Allāh upon the blessing of food after eating. Consequently, when the tablecloth would be lifted, he would say the following:
الحَمْدُ للهِ حَمْدا ً كَثِيْرا ً طَيِّبا ً مُبَارَكا ً فِيْهِ، غَيْرَ مَكْفِيّ ٍ وَلا مُوَدَّع ٍ وَلا مُسْتَغْنىً عَنْهُ رَبُّنَا
“Allah be praised with an abundant beautiful blessed praise, a never-ending praise, a praise which we will never bid farewell to and an indispensable praise, He is our Lord.” (Bukhārī, Tirmidhī)
We should value food, rather every morsel of food. Negligence in this regard should be avoided at all costs.
2. If a Muslim eats and drinks ḥalāl (permissible) with an intention to gain strength to fulfil the rights of the Creator and the creation, then this eating and drinking will be deemed a worship, otherwise it will be a futile, or (in some cases) even a sinful act. Therefore, before eating, ones intention should be regularly checked and renewed.
The Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is reported to have said, “The most evil and wicked of my nation will be those who will possess all kinds of bounties, they will desire colourful foods and clothing, boast and speak in an unrestrained manner. (Al-Zuhd)
This ḥadīth shows that constantly being indulged in luxurious food and lavish clothing is a detested trait. Making the above an objective of life does not befit a Muslim.
3. Food should only be eaten on true hunger. Eating outside of the body’s true hunger demands should be avoided. The ancient principle goes: “Eat only after true hunger and stop when there is still a little hunger remaining.” This aids in digestion and saves one from many illnesses.
4. Choose only that food which is pure and ḥalāl (permissible). Give preference to food which is earned through ones own effort as it is more blessed. Ḥalāl (permissible) food creates light in the heart, while ḥarām (impermissible) food creates darkness. Similarly, impermissible food deprives one from the acceptance of duʿā (supplication).
Abū Hurayrah (r.a.) reported the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) saying:
“O people, Allah is Pure and He therefore, accepts only that which is good. And Allah commanded the believers as He commanded the Messengers by saying: ‘O Messengers, eat of the good things, and do good deeds; verily I am aware of what you do’. And He said: ‘O those who believe, eat of the good things that We gave you’. He then made a mention of a person who travels widely, his hair disheveled and covered with dust. He lifts his hand towards the sky (and thus makes the supplication): “O Lord, O Lord,” whereas his diet is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, and his clothes are unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How can then his supplication be accepted? (Muslim)
There are numerous other narrations which display the benefits of ḥalāl (permissible) food and harms of ḥarām (impermissible) food.
5. Washing the hands prior and after eating is a mustaḥabb (recommended) act and a means of acquiring blessing. If one is in the state of janābah (major ritual impurity) or the hands are dirty, then washing the hands prior to eating is further emphasised.
It is narrated by Aisha (r.a.) that when Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) would be in the state of janābah (major ritual impurity), he would wash his hands and then eat. (Ibn Khuzaymah, Aḥmad)
In some narrations rinsing the mouth is also mentioned along with washing the hands.
It is narrated from Abū Saʿīd Khuḍrī (r.a.) that the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) ate meat, after which he washed his hands and rinsed his mouth, and thereafter performed ṣalāh. (Musnad Abī Ḥanīfah)
It is narrated from Abū Hurayrah (r.a.) that an Ansārī man invited the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) for a meal. We also accompanied him to the meal. Upon finishing, the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) washed his hands and recited a duʿā (which will mentioned later). (Ibn Ḥibbān)
These narrations are evidence of the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) washing his hands after eating.
In another narration, the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is reported to have said, “The blessing of food is in washing the hands before it and after it. (Abū Dāwūd)
The Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) also said, “Whoever would like Allah to increase the goodness of his house, should wash his hands when his breakfast is brought to him and when it is taken away.” (Ibn Mājah)
The mention of breakfast was for some other reason, despite this however, the ruling of washing the hands is for every instant of eating.
There are many other narrations which mention the virtue of washing the hands before and after eating. Based on this, many fuqahā (jurists) have ruled washing the hands before and after eating as mustaḥabb (recommended) and a means of reward and blessing.
As the hands are used in day to day tasks, they tend to accumulate dirt, hence washing the hands will rid them of dirt and the food will come into contact of clean hands. Similarly, after eating, particles of food remain on the hands, which may make other objects filthy or possibly spread germs, if left for an extensive period. For the above stated reasons, washing the hands both prior to and after eating is mustaḥabb (recommended).
As a side note, one should keep in mind that omitting the washing of the hands before and after eating is also transmitted from the Messenger of Allāh (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). This is evidence that the act of washing the hands before and after eating holds the status of mustaḥabb (recommended). And those scholars who have stated it to be sunnah also imply of it being of a mustaḥabb (recommended) nature. Thus, it is incorrect to scold someone who omits this practice and also incorrect to grant it the status of obligatory. Therefore, if one is in a situation where washing the hands is somewhat difficult or may cause difficulty for others, then washing the hand should not be given due significance.
(Adapted from Khāne Pīne ke Ādāb by Muftī Muhammad Riḍwan. Published by Kutub Khāna Idāra Gufrān, Rawalpindi.)