Muslims are encouraged to engage in social acts and acts of worship together: prayer in congregation is encouraged, going out on the day of “Eid” and giving salam to one’s fellow brothers and sisters is required, smiling at one’s brother or sister in Islam is a highly meritorious act, and even eating together brings blessings to Muslims.
The concepts of unity and brotherhood are significant in Islam as anything that has the potential to bring together the hearts of Muslims and encourages them to be kind to one another is cherished as highly important.
With regards to bringing together the hearts of people, there is something to be said about talking over food. The most scintillating conversations or heated debates can occur in a café or restaurant over spaghetti and meatballs or a cup of coffee with an interesting companion. Shared meals provide people with the opportunity to share what is on their minds, how their day has been going, or simply how they feel at the moment: a concept that is quite significant in this world of incessantly beeping phone notifications and daily schedules planned down to the minute.
Life today can get pretty hectic when it comes to having free time, making it of the utmost importance that we human beings schedule time to sit and connect with our friends and families and regular conversation over meals seems to be quite the ideal way to accomplish that
Eating together brings far more benefits than first perceived.
Primarily, regularly scheduled family meals give families a specific time every day to share. This is important because hectic schedules of the twenty-first century have resulted in teenagers and children holing up in their rooms with their TV’s, laptops and iPods, while parents complain that their children never open up with them.
Communication is the prime benefit in sitting down together as a family over dinner; through it parents gain the opportunity to know what is going on in the lives of their children and kids can feel that their parents are more than just two authoritative figures in their lives.
Another benefit in eating together as a family is that it fosters positive feelings among people; anyone who has ever had a bad day and subsequently required some comfort food and the company of a close friend is a testament to that.
Eating with loved ones creates a warm environment that makes it easier to open up, talk and be affectionate with one another. Many time all it takes is good food and good company to have a wonderful time and good food with loved ones can bring about an air of warmth, comfort and mutual love between members of a family and create more of a tight-knit relationship within a family.
A benefit of eating together that is quite rewarding with regards to a person’s akhirah is the fact that eating together brings blessings in the food being eaten.
Wahshi bin Harb (May Allah be pleased with Him) reported:
Some of the companions of the Messenger of Allah said: “We eat but are not satisfied.” He said, “”Perhaps you eat separately.” The Companions replied in the affirmative. He then said: “Eat together and mention the Name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you.” [Abu Dawud].
In this hadith we are told of two things, if done together, result in Allah, Almighty blessing our food and putting barakah in it: saying Bismillah, and eating with others. Family dinners have the potential to increase the barakah of our food, a great blessing only attained when eating together.
This is also exhibited by the following hadith:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “The food for two suffices for three; and the food for three suffices for four persons.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. This hadith shows that if people share a small amount of food it will be sufficient for them because of the blessing Allah places in the food.
In essence, the benefits derived from eating together are multi-fold and contribute to increased communication between members of a family, their good relations, as well as blessings and barakah being placed in their food. As Muslims, these benefits are added to the fact that a deed that brings a family closer to each other is one that is highly meritorious.
Our beloved Prophet (upon Him peace and blessings) said,
“He who desires ample provisions and his life be prolonged, should maintain good ties with his blood relations.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
This hadith beautifully illustrates that when one is in the service of his/her family, one is doing an act worthy of reward from Allah, and aiming to strengthen the bonds of family is one of the best acts that can be done in order to receive blessings from Allah.
Every deed in Islam is judged according to the intention behind it, and so it should not be so surprising that such an overlooked, commonplace and seemingly menial occurrence such as a daily family dinner has the potential to bring about so many benefits to one’s family life.