Is it Sunnah for the host or servant (khadim) to eat after the guests?
ِﺑ ْﺴ ِﻢ ا ِﷲ اﻟ ﱠﺮ ْﺣﻤ ِﻦ اﻟ ﱠﺮ ِﺣْﯿﻢ
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
There are different ways of feeding one’s guest based on different cultures. Amongst those, two are common:
1) You invite guests over to your home, and when the food is placed upon the tablecloth/table, everyone serves themselves, or if someone is near the dish you desire, you ask him to give you that particular food regardless of whether he is the host or someone else. The general rule when hosting a guest is to honor him; it is mentioned in a Hadith: ﺿﯿﻔﻪ ﻓﻠﯿﻜﺮم اﻵﺧﺮ، واﻟﯿﻮم ﺑﺎﷲ ﯾﺆﻣﻦ ﻛﺎن وﻣﻦ “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honor his guest.” (Riyadhul Saliheen: Hadith 308 with reference to Bukhari and Muslim). According to the first method of feeding one’s guest, honoring him can also be attained when the host eats with him simultaneously. As a matter of fact, many guests insist on their hosts to eat with them. In relation to the abovementioned method, there is no specific khadim (servant) who goes around the table/tablecloth distributing the food, however everyone helps themselves. 2) There is a specific individual/individuals who go around distributing the food or drink. Regarding this, there is a hadith where the Prophet ﷺ said, “The one who distributes the drink shall drink last.” (Sunan Tirmizi: 1894 & ِSunan Abu Dawud: 3725) We learn from this hadith that it is desirable and considered to be from Islamic mannerisms for the one who distributes the food/drink to eat or drink their portion last because for him to eat/drink first indicates to his excessive desire. Nonetheless, if the one serving prefers to eat/drink first, then there is no harm in that, and it would be permissible because it is not obligatory for him to eat/drink last, rather it is mustahab (desirable).
(Al-Durrul Mandood: v. 5, p. 509 [Maktabatul Shaykh]; Bazlul Majhood: v. 15, p. 33 [DKI]; Sharhul Nawawi of Saheeh Muslim: v. 5,
p. 161 [DKI]; Tuhfatul Almai: v. 5, p. 233 [Maktaba Hijaz Deoband])
Only Allah knows best
Written by Maulana Mohammad Ahsan Osmani Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah Darul Ifta Birmingham