Tuesday 14 July 2020 \

 

Contented with Bread, Dates and Vinegar

"Bring it. Blessed is the house that has vinegar to go with bread.’”

By Adil Salahi / 13 Nov 2013

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) led a simple life, free of all pretence. With regard to his food, he always ate whatever was available, criticising nothing. If he did not like something, he did not eat it, saying nothing against it. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) always expressed gratitude for having any type of food, making clear that no matter how simple or humble the food available, God was to be praised for having provided it. Umm Hani’ (may Allah be pleased with her) was a cousin of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) whom he frequently visited.

She (may Allah be pleased with her) reports:

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to my house once and asked if I had anything to eat. I said: ‘No, I have nothing except dry bread and vinegar.’ He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Bring it. Blessed is the house that has vinegar to go with bread.’” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi.)

We can look at this Hadith from different angles, but however we look at it, we find something to admire in the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) character. If we take it as an indication of the living standards of the Muslim community, we realize that the Muslims at that time were in dire poverty. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asks his cousin if she has anything to eat, realising that she might very well be without food. She tells him that the only food she has is dry bread and vinegar. It is hard to think of anything more indicative of poverty. Yet the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) partakes of it, blessing the house that gives him such a meal. We also note how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was keen not to embarrass his cousin. Had he wanted better food, he could have gone somewhere else. Any of his companions would have welcomed him and given him a decent meal. But he did not do that. Instead he sat down and ate such humble food, thankful for God’s blessing. We also see in his statement a reference to the healthy qualities of vinegar, which occurs in other Hadiths as well.

Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him), a young companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), reports: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed by my place and gave me a signal. I went up to him, and he held my hand as I walked with him. He then came to one of his wives’ homes and went in. He then let me in and I entered behind his wife’s screen. He then asked: ‘Do you have anything to give me for lunch? They said, ‘Yes.’ Three small loaves were brought to him and placed on a high spot of the floor. He took one loaf and placed it near him, and placed another next to me. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then took the third loaf and broke it in two, placing one half for himself and the other for me. He then asked his family if they had anything to go with the bread. They said: ‘No, except a drop of vinegar.’ He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Bring it. Fine it is to go with bread.’” (Related by Ahmad, Muslim.) Another Hadith also reported by Jabir quotes the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as saying: “Fine is vinegar to eat with bread.” (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, Al-Nassaie, Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi.)

These two Hadiths may be referring to one or two different occasions. They are both reported by Jabir, but the first gives a full description of the occasion, while the second merely quotes the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)’s comment on the type of food he was served. Yet the second is related in several anthologies, which suggests that Jabir reported it several times, as occasions arose.

Other Hadiths describing the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)’s attitude to simple food are numerous. Yusuf ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) reports: “I saw the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taking a piece of barley bread and placing on it a single date. He then said: ‘This one, i.e. the date, is fine to go with this bread.’ He proceeded to eat.” (Related by Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi.) In this Hadith, we see the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) having a single date with his bread. What humility and what contentenment!

Yet the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) liked tasty food. His taste was not different from that of other people. Hazrath Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her), his wife, reports: “God’s Messenger used to like sweet food and honey.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.) He ate of these whenever they were available, but if things were scarce, he was content to have anything, even if it consisted of nothing other than bread and vinegar.

When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) traveled, or went on an expedition, the food that was carried would not last the whole journey. Suwayd ibn Al-Numan (may Allah be pleased with him)reports: “I joined the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) on his expedition to Khaybar. When we arrived at Al-Sahba’, which is on the outskirts of Khaybar, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) dismounted and offered Asr prayer. He then asked for the food to be brought in. Nothing was put out except Saweeq(made from wheat and barley) and it was made wet. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ate it and we joined him. Then he rose to offer Maghrib prayer, rinsing his mouth. We also rinsed out mouths. He prayed without performing a fresh ablution.” (Related by Malik, Al-Bukhari and Al-Nassaie). The Saweeq must have become very dry after such a long journey. Hence, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) instructed his companions to wet it so that it could be eaten.

The Hadith specifically mentions that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) offered his prayers after eating without performing a fresh ablution. This is to make clear that ablution is not required after eating something cooked. Some scholars say that performing a fresh ablution is required, but this is not the case, because we have several reports to the contrary.

One of these is given by Abu Hurayrah: “I saw the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) performing ablution after eating a piece of dried milk, and I saw him later eating a piece of meat of lamb shoulder, then praying without performing a fresh ablution.” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.) This Hadith clearly indicates that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) preformed ablution after a meal if he needed to do so. If he had already performed ablution, then eating something cooked does not invalidate his ablutions.

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