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Question:

What’s the ruling for eating or drinking using my left hand? When I am using cutleries such as fork, and spoon should I still be using my right hand?

 

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

The prophet PBUH always prioritize everything that’s on the right side in his everyday life, if it involves good deeds. From ‘Aisyah RA:

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ يُعْجِبُهُ التَّيَمُّنُ فِي تَنَعُّلِهِ وَتَرَجُّلِهِ وَطُهُورِهِ فِي شَأْنِهِ كُلِّهِ

“The Prophet used to like to start from the right side on wearing shoes, combing his hair and cleaning or washing himself and on doing anything else.”

Sahih al-Bukhari (168)

Islamic Scholars’ Views

  1. Mandub or recommended to use right hand, makruh or undesirable to use left hand if it’s not a necessity

Majority of Islamic scholars from Mazhab Hanafi, Maliki, Syafi’e and Hanbali states that eating and drinking with you right hand is recommended and rewarded and it’s undesirable to eat or drink using your left hand when it’s not out of necessity. (Refer Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq 1/56, Bariqah Mahmudiyyah4/111, 45/294, Hasyiyah al-‘Adawi 2/425, Mathalib Uli al-Nuha5/242, Mughni al-Muhtaj 3/250 and Al-Iqna’ fi Fiqh Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, 3/231)

Most scholars in Mazhab Syafi’e hold the opinion of eating with your right hand is just recommended and rewarded, and this is the same as Imam Ghazali and Imam al-Nawawi’s view. (Refer Fathul Bari, 9/522)

According to Al-Mausu’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah Al-Kuwaitiyah, if someone in a position where he cnnot use his right hand, for example, he has an injury or a cut, then it is not undesirable for him to use his left hand. (Refer Al-Mausu’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah 6/119)

  1. It is prohibited to eat and drink using your left hand

There’s one ruling from Imam al-Syafi’e, where he states that the ruling for eating with your right hand is compulsory. (Refer Fathul Bari, 9/522)

This view is also the same as the opinions of muhaqiqqin scholars like Syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah, Ibn Qayyim and Al-Syaukani. (Refer Al-Mustadrak ‘ala Majmu’ al-Fatawa 4/211, Zad al-Ma’ad2/369 and Nail al-Authar 15/157)

Ibn Muflih wrote an opinion from Ibn Hazm and Ibn Abd al-Barr who prohibit the usage of left hand when eating or drinking in accordance to the literal meaning of the hadith. (Refer Al-Adab al-Syar’iyyah, 3/168)

Discussion of Quranic and Hadith Evidence

Among the evidences that are used by both groups is a famous narration where the prophet Muhammad PBUH instructs Umar bin Abi Salamah RA:

يَا غُلاَمُ سَمِّ اللَّهَ ، وَكُلْ بِيَمِينِكَ وَكُلْ مِمَّا يَلِيكَ

“O boy! Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand and eat of the dish what is nearer to you.”

Sahih al-Bukhari (5376)

Badr a-Din al-‘Ainiy said, some of the scholars use this narration to make a ruling that it’s compulsory to eat and drink with your right hand, there are also many warnings to those that doesn’t obey the prophet’s instruction. (Refer ‘Umdah al-Qari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari 21/29)

Another narration from the prophet PBUH:

إذَا أَكَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِيَمِينِهِ وَإِذَا شَرِبَ فَلْيَشْرَبْ بِيَمِينِهِ فَإِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَأْكُلُ بِشِمَالِهِ وَيَشْرَبُ بِشِمَالِ

“If you should want eat, eat with your right hand. If you want to drink use the right hand too, for the Satan eats with left hand and drinks with his left hand too,”

Sahih Muslim (2020)

This is the narration that Imam al-Nawawi referred to when he concludes that eating and drinking with your left hand is undesirable but not prohibited but at the same time he advised us to try our best to avoid anything that would resemble what Satan does. (Refer Syarh Sahih Muslim 13/190-19)

A different narration with similar meaning from Jabir bin Abdillah RA states, the prophet PBUH said:

لا تأكلوا بالشِّمالِ ، فإنَّ الشَّيطانَ يأكلُ بالشِّمالِ

“Don’t eat with your left hand for Satan eats with left hand,”

Sahih Muslim (2019)

Other scholars explained that although the narrations ask to use your right hand while eating or drinking and it may seem as though it’s compulsory, however, considering it involves manners and advice, the ruling changed to recommended and rewarded. (Refer Majmu’ah al-Rasa’il al-Fiqhiyyah min Syarh Manar al-Sabil, pg. 172)

According to Imam al-Qurthubi, the instruction in the narration is in the form of recommendation and it’s better to prioritize the right from the left. Just like the practice of prioritizing the things on the right is a virtue. (Refer Al-Mufhim lima Ashkala min Talkhis Kitab Muslim, 5/295)

 

The Narration of the Prophet Praying for Affliction to Those That Eat with Their Left Hand

There’s a narration that stated how the prophet PBUH pray for affliction to someone that refused to eat with his right hand:

أَنَّ رَجُلاً أَكَلَ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- بِشِمَالِهِ فَقَالَ « كُلْ بِيَمِينِكَ ». قَالَ لاَ 

أَسْتَطِيعُ قَالَ « لاَ اسْتَطَعْتَ ». مَا مَنَعَهُ إِلاَّ الْكِبْرُ. قَالَ فَمَا رَفَعَهَا إِلَى فِيهِ.

“A person ate in the presence of Allah's Messenger with his left hand, whereupon he said: Eat with your right hand. He said: I cannot do that, whereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: May you not be able to do that. It was vanity that prevented him from doing it, and he could not raise it (the right hand) up to his mouth.”

Sahih Muslim (2021)

Imam al-Nawawi said, the prophet PBUH prayed for affliction towards the guy is because he disobeyed the Islamic ruling. (Refer Syarh Sahih Muslim 13/192)

According to Imam al-San’ani, the prophet PBUH would never pray for affliction to anyone except if the person is purposely leaving what is compulsory in Islam. There’s also a possibility that the prophet prayed for his affliction is due to that person’s arrogance. And it’s not impossible to say that the prophet may have prayed for the guy’s affliction because of both of the reasons stated.

In reference to the narration, Imam al-Munawi viewed the situation as, although the act resemble what Satan does, it doesn’t necessarily forbid the action but refers to the undesirable ruling of the action. In view of the prayer the prophet made towards the guy, it’s because of the guy’s arrogance in refusing to obey the instruction of the prophet PBUH. (Refer Faidh al-Qadir 1/298)

 

Summary and conclusion

Briefly, after analysing the Quranic evidence, narrations and discussions by Islamic scholars, we could conclude as follows:

  1. Eating and drinking using your right hand is recommended, while using your left hand is undesirable, which is the opinion of the majority of the scholars.
  2. It’s prohibited to eat using your left hand intentionally to sneer the prophet’s sunnah and Islamic teachings.
  3. Eating using both hands is not prohibited especially considering that we need to use the proper utensils for some dishes (fork and spoon) nowadays.
  4. However, try the best we can to eat and drink using your right hand considering that we should try our best to emulate what the prophet PBUH did while he was alive.

Wallahu a’lam.