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The Fiddler on the Roof

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Inviting Muslims to Your Home: Things for Non-Muslims to consider
caraboska

Praise the Lord. Ramadan is coming up soon, and the question has arisen here of what happens if a non-Muslim wants to host an Iftar (evening fast-breaking meal) for Muslim friends. Here are my recommendations...

First of all, the food:

1) make sure any meat you serve is hand-slaughtered (i.e. zabiha halal, or at very least kosher if specifically zabiha halal meat is not available in your area);

2) don’t even think of using any ingredient of porcine (i.e. pig) origin. No pork, lard, bacon – nothing of the kind. Gelatine is a very common ingredient in many foods, and it is usually made of pigs’ feet. There are others as well. All ingredients must be checked. If the item is halal or kosher certified, it will be free of such items;

3) make sure that no item or ingredient on the menu contains alcohol and that no alcohol was used in preparing any item (it’s not acceptable even if all the alcohol has boiled away during cooking). You’d be surprised where it can show up: in cakes at the bakery (it’s often used in small amounts for the consistency of the dough or as a rising agent instead of yeast, and even more often as a flavoring agent in the icing), ice cream, mustard, certain types of vinegar… if there isn’t a label, or it’s not clear from the label,, ask to make sure no alcohol was used in making the item.

Now about prayer:

Somewhere on the Internet – don’t remember offhand at the moment where – there is a utility using Google Maps which allows you to determine the direction of Makkah (qibla) very precisely, even down to your exact apartment building and your exact entrance to a large building.

A non-Muslim should offer to invite Muslims to their home only if they are sure that their house (or at very least all areas thereof that will be occupied by Muslims at any time during the evening’s festivities) contain no items that could be considered idols.

Aside from religious symbols pertaining to non-Islamic religions, the category of idols can include even photographs of any human or animal, especially if the entire figure of the human or animal is portrayed. And certainly photographs of persons not dressed according to the rules of hijab should not be displayed in non-private areas of the home.

Another thing: it will be difficult or impossible to meet Islamic standards if you have furry pets wandering freely through your home. This especially concerns dogs, as nearly all observant Muslims consider them to be unclean. The biggest problems here are that

1) A Muslim must pray in clothes that have not touched animals or their fur. The same concerns the surface that the person prays on. So if you have pets, the Muslim guests will need to bring a complete change of clothes and have facilities to change their clothes and make wudhoo (ritual washing before prayer). And you will need to provide a pet hair-free prayer surface for them as well. If they bring their own prayer rugs, that would suffice, but it would be a nice touch to have a suitable number of prayer rugs available.

2) A Muslim cannot pray – even accidentally – in the direction of any animal. It is considered idolatry. So that means that either there needs to be an enclosed, animal-free prayer area, or the animals need to be enclosed at least during the prayer time so they will not accidentally walk in front of those who are praying.

3) And in the case of dogs, many Muslims believe that physical contact with dogs is to be avoided even outside of prayer times, as it makes one unclean. So dogs should probably be confined for the duration of the evening.

Since we have mentioned hijab: the non-Muslim should make sure that all non-Muslims present are aware of the standards of hijab, so that all are dressed properly in a manner that will be acceptable to the Muslims being invited, and know how to behave properly. Hijab is much more than just how one dresses.

So, in particular, the following behavioral principles should be kept in mind:

no touching members of the opposite sex (except one’s immediate family – people in the 'mahram' category of close blood relatives whom it would be incest for you to marry), except for medical necessity,

no being alone in an enclosed space (khulwa – seclusion) with non-mahrams, except for medical necessity,

no eye contact with non-mahrams,

a cordial but formal tone of voice, avoiding unnecessary speech to non-mahrams.

Indeed, some Muslims will be pleased if the non-Muslim makes the effort to entertain males and females in different rooms. if you know any of your guests maintain a separated household, this would be a good signal to do likewise while they are in your home. It is also necessary to be aware of the Muslim guests’ convictions concerning such things as music. Some find all forms of music objectionable, some find some forms acceptable and some not.

The non-Muslim should take great care in finding out the rules, discuss all of these issues discreetly and well in advance with the intended guests to find out what their convictions are, so it is clear that all details have already been taken care of when the invitation is issued. You could couch it in terms of questions:

‘Let’s say we were to attempt to make over my home so that it fits Islamic standards. What would you recommend? Are there any items I would need to get rid of or treat differently?’

'How about the kitchen – what would I have to do to make it halal?'

'How about the way I dress and behave? What would I have to do to make it hijab compliant?'

And it would be a good idea to do a trial run in advance to work out any kinks.


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