Section 1 : The Holy Month of Ramada-n: A Month When Alla-hs Servants are Invited to be His Special Guests
 

The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:

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It is a month in which you have been called to the banquet of Alla-h[1]

Whenever we speak of diya-fah, we refer to the invitation commonly known and highly encouraged in Islam. Our traditions are replete with emphasis on inviting the believers and feeding them in the way of Alla-h (SwT). In fact a guest is also commonly known as the beloved of God. So much emphasis has Islam laid upon such invitation, that there is a prophetic tradition that says:



A guest is a guide to Paradise.[2]

In other words, serving a guest is so rewarding that it leads one to Paradise. This dictum also informs us that our hospitality should be such that it should qualify for such a reward. In other words, our invitation should not involve things that instead of making us closer to Alla-h (SwT), separate us from His neighborhood.

In another tradition narrated from the Holy Prophet (s), disliking a guest is equated to disliking Alla-h (SwT):

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surely whosoever hates a guest, hates Alla-h, and whosoever hates Alla-h, Alla-h [likewise] Hates him[3]

Those who assume a Divine spirit always love guests. One of the most outstanding prophets of Alla-h well-known for his great fondness of serving guests is Prophet Ibra-hi-m (a). History tells us that he would not eat any of his meals until he found a guest to eat with. At times he would have to travel one or two miles away just for this purpose. Due to his great fondness for guests, he was called Abu- Adya-f. Ima-m al-Sa-diq (a) is reported to have said: Indeed Ibra-hi-m was Aba- Adya-f (lit. father of guests); and whenever he had no guest, he would go out searching for them[4].

He is also known to be the first Prophet of Alla-h[5] to have served a guest. Ima-m Ali- (a) is reported to have said:

...


Prophet Ibra-hi-m (a) was the first to host a guest[6]

Perhaps the reason why the Holy Prophet (s) and the infallible Ima-ms of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) highly encouraged the believers to invite each other for ifta-r in the Holy month of Ramada-n was to adopt a Divine Attitude in themselves: In the same way as He has invited His believers to His Banquet and venerated them as well, His followers should adopt the same attitude. A very important point to bear in mind is that every invitation should accompany veneration (ikra-m). In several traditions the phrase ikra-m al-dayf has often been mentioned. This means that no ordinary entertainment is encouraged. One must struggle to observe ikra-m (lit. veneration). The Holy Qura-n alluding to this trait of Prophet Ibra-hi-m (a) says:



Did you receive the story of Abrahams honored guests?[7]

Some exegetes of Qura-n allude to the fact that the adjective al-mukrami-n in the above verse possibly signifies that the guests of Ibra-hi-m were honored by him and hence are qualified as honored[8].

Veneration should be manifested in all the levels of the invitation. We should therefore identify the etiquette of the intention of our invitation, the method of invitation, the banquet served in the invitation, the method of serving the banquet, where should the meal be served, etc. Islam has the answers to all these queries.

Veneration in the phases of every invitation, however, does not mean that one should overspend to ensure that the best meal is served. It rather means to serve within the bounds of the shari-ah according to ones capacity. It is noteworthy that when some of the poor companions of the Holy Prophet (s) asked him whether they would be deprived of the reward of invitation if they cannot bear the expenses of hosting a mumin brother in this holy month, the Holy Prophet (s) said: Protect yourself from Hell Fire even with a piece of date or a glass of water,thus indicating that it is not necessary for one to serve what is beyond ones capacity.

This however should not lead one who can afford to serve a decent meal to decide that he can be the host of so many believers by distributing dates in the mosque, and thereby earn much more reward than if he were to call one mumin brother and serve a decent meal at home. In short, one should serve according to his financial capacity.

One of the most significant attitudes we must adopt is to create a meaningful environment in our invitations. Not only should physical food be served, intellectual and spiritual food should also be served. Able speakers on significant issues that deal with self-reform or reforming the society can be invited to serve such spiritual meals. It is then that we may be able to claim to have adopted a Divine attitude in this holy month. In fact, the great scholars of gnosis have clearly stated that the Divine Banquet to which the believers have been called in the Holy month of Ramada-n is a spiritual repast.

In order to capture an accurate concept of the relation between the host and the guest, it would be useful for us to have a cursory glance over how lexicographers define this relation:

Notes:

[1] al-Iqba-l, vol. 1, pg. 26
[2] Biha- r al-Anwa-r, vol. 75, pp. 460-461.
[3] al-Mahajjat al-Bayda-, vol. 3, pg. 32.
[4] Tafsi-r Nu-r al-Thaqalayn, vol. 1, pg. 555.
[5]It should be noted that first here is in terms of time. Otherwise, it is the Muhammadan light in terms of the existential hierarchy, who by Divine permission, is the first host. This again is in terms of the world of contingent existence. Otherwise there is none save Alla-h Who is and was and will be the Host, and a second to such a Host cannot be comprehended at all.
[6] Biha- r al-Anwa-r, vol. 12, pg. 4.
[7] Holy Qura-n, 15:24
[8] See Tafsi-r Majma al-Baya-n, vol. 9, pg. 23 and Tafsi-r al-Kashsha-f, vol. 4, pg. 401.