Praise be to Allaah.
It is part of Allaah’s complete blessing upon us and the
perfection of this great religion, that Islam organizes all aspects of our
lives. There is nothing good but it has shown it to us, and there is nothing
bad but it has warned us against it. As well as beliefs, acts of worship,
interactions with others and morals and manners, that also includes our
private affairs in which Islam shows us the way that is befitting to man’s
noble status and the way in which Allaah has honoured him. That includes the
way the Muslim eats and drinks, and so on.
This is an established principle in sharee’ah: that which has
to do with honour and nobility, such as putting on one's garment and pants
and shoes, entering the mosque, using the siwaak, putting on kohl, clipping
the nails, trimming the moustache, combing the hair, plucking the armpit
hair, shaving the head, saying salaam at the end of prayer, washing the
limbs when purifying oneself, exiting the toilet, eating and drinking,
shaking hands, touching the Black Stone, etc are all things which it is
mustahabb to start on the right or use the right hand. As for things which
are the opposite, such as entering the toilet, exiting the mosque, blowing
one’s nose, cleaning oneself after using the toilet, taking off one’s
garment, pants and shoes, and so on, it is mustahabb to start on the left or
use the left hand. All of that is because the right hand is more noble and
honoured. This was stated by al-Nawawi in Sharh Saheeh Muslim. There
is a great deal of evidence to support this principle, such as the
In al-Saheehayn it is narrated that ‘Umar ibn Salamah
(may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “O young boy, say the name of
Allaah and eat with your right hand, and eat from what is nearest to you.”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5376) and Muslim (2022).
In Saheeh Muslim (2021) it is narrated that a man ate
with his left hand in the presence of the Messenger of Allaah (S). He said:
“Eat with your right hand.” He said: I cannot. He said: “May you never be
able to,” for nothing was preventing him from doing so but arrogance. And he
never raised it to his mouth again.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
prayed against him so that what he claimed of not being able to do it would
come true, because he was too arrogant to follow the truth and he did not
observe proper etiquette with the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him), and his excuse was a lie, and lying to the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is not like lying to anyone
In Sunan Abi Dawood (33) it is narrated that ‘Aa’ishah
(may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The right hand of the Messenger of
Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was for his
purification and food, and his left hand was for using the toilet and
anything that was dirty. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi
Muslim (262) narrated that Salmaan (may Allaah be pleased
with him) said: He (meaning the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him)) forbade any one of us to clean himself with his right hand.
And Muslim (2020) narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be
pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) said: “No one among you should eat with his left hand or
drink with it, for the shaytaan eats with his left hand and drinks with it.”
Allaah has warned us against disobeying the commands of the
Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as He
says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And let those who oppose the Messenger’s (Muhammad’s)
commandment (i.e. his Sunnah __ legal ways, orders, acts of worship,
statements) (among the sects) beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials,
afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant) should befall
them or a painful torment be inflicted on them”
This applies if one is able to eat with the right hand. But
if one is unable to do so, there is no sin in that. Al-Nawawi said in
Sharh Muslim (13/191): The objection to eating and drinking with the
left hand applies so long as there is no excuse. If there is an excuse which
prevents one from eating and drinking with the right hand because of
sickness, injury etc, then it is not makrooh. End quote.
Al-Ghazaali said in al-Ihya’ (4/93): Then the One Who
gave you two hands to do things with, some of which are noble, such as
picking up the Mus-haf, and some are ignoble, such as removing impurities.
So if you pick up the Mus-haf with your left hand, and you remove impurities
with your right hand, then you have used that which is noble to do something
ignoble, and you have neglected its rights and wronged it, and turned away
from what is proper. End quote.
To sum up what the scholars have said about the reasons why
the right hand is preferred for things that are noble:
That is differing from the
shaytaan, as in the case of eating and drinking.
It is honouring the right hand
over the left.
It is using proper etiquette
with people, so that one does not shake hands with them, take things from
them or give things to them with the hand with which one removes impurities.
It is a sign of hope that
Allaah will make us among those who are on the right hand (ahl al-yameen).
And Allaah knows best.