Every true home is an influence of blessing in the community where it stands. Its lights shine out. Its songs ring out. Its spirit breathes out. The neighbors know whether it is hospitable or inhospitable, warm or cold, inviting or repelling. Some homes bless no lives outside their own circle; others are perpetually pouring out sweetness and fragrance.”
Sharing a meal together, even a cup of tea, indicates a relationship and friendship. In our culture, it is called “the right of salt” and places great responsibility on the guest to be faithful to and honest with his host. An enemy would avoid drinking even water if given from the hand of his enemy.
‘‘Chai?’’ is often the question you hear from Afghans. They are inviting you to share tea and conversation. In spite of years of war, hospitality remains the Afghan people’s core trait, and even the poorest refugees will offer everything they have to a guest. A common story told to Afghan children “socializes” them to this cultural value of hospitality.
A group of thieves one night entered a man’s house while all of the family was asleep. The thieves, under the instructions of their leader, began carrying out carpets and cushions - anything portable that had any worth. In the dark, the leader of the band reached into a cupboard, finding a hard smooth rock-like object. He immediately decided that it must be some kind of a gem. The thieves had almost finished their work when the leader put this “gem” to his lips. Tasting it, he was not only disappointed at finding that the gem was just a block of salt, but he was horrified that he had stolen the property of a man whose salt he had eaten. He immediately ordered his men to return all of the property to the house before the family awoke.
Afghans are very friendly and hospitable and there are several factors leading to this. One, it is obligatory by Islam to treat others as you want them treating you. It is a matter of roughhouses to help others in need even if you are not well off, but in better condition than those who needs help.
Afghans’ hospitality is a sweet memory for foreign soldiers. An American soldier praises the Afghans’ hospitality and writes regarding it with great amaze. He says that a group of US soldiers were fighting the Taliban several years ago when they were ambushed. There were about 5 of them, and all were killed except for one soldier who pretended to be dead, though he was badly wounded. When the Taliban left, he attempted to walk back to his base when he came upon a shepherd. The shepherd was afraid, but saw he was injured so he led him back to his village. There he was taken in, his wound treated to the best of what the family could do and fed and cared for. When the Taliban heard he was in this local man’s house, they went and demanded that the man turn over the soldier. He refused, stating: ‘‘He is a guest’’. The shepherd was able to contact the US military and the soldier was taken back to his base for further medical treatment.
In Islam, however, hospitality is a great virtue that holds a significant purpose. Being hospitable to neighbours and guests can increase societal ties as well as unite an entire community. Most importantly, God commands Muslims to be hospitable to neighbours and guests. There is a great reward in doing so. Hospitality in Islam covers many different areas in addition to the hospitality that we show guests who visit our homes.
In Islam, guests who visit our homes must be treated with kindness and respect. The same principle applies whether the guest is a family member, a stranger, Muslim or non-Muslim. Muslims should provide an abundance of food and drink to their guests to the best of their abilities.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to honor his guests; he even spread his garment for a non-relative guest to sit on it. He used to offer his guest his own cushion and insist on him to accept it from him. No one came to him as a guest but thought that he was the most generous of people. He gave each one of his companions sitting with him his due portion of his attention. So, he directed his listening, talking, looks and attention to all his companions. His meetings were characterized by modesty, humbleness and honesty. He used to call his companions by their favorite nickname to honor them.Being hospitable to a neighbour can mean offering food or gifts that are beneficial to him. The Muslim should give to his neighbour with an open hand and not expect, or request, anything in return. To hold the neighbour accountable for the good deed or remind him of it at a later date is despicable and certainly not in the light of Islam.
Another means of hospitality towards a neighbour is living in peace and tranquillity. It’s unfortunate that in many communities, neighbours become enemies and engage in battles over things like property infringement and the like. A Muslim must try his utmost to get along with his neighbour even if some of his own needs are compromised.
There are countless opportunities a Muslim can find to engage in this most noble deed. However, it is only by the bounty and blessing of God Almighty that it is possible for us to tend to the needs of others. And for this we should always be grateful to our Lord, who has provided us with all the tools we need to succeed in this life and the next.