Yusuf Omar - Opinion | 13 September 2017
As we enter the summer months that brings with it cool evenings and warm mornings, many families opt to wed their sons and daughters during this period of favourable weather. Besides the weather, it is also a time that leads up to the holiday season allowing the newly-wed couple to spend more time together.
Keeping this in mind, while many are planning their Waleemas, I decided to look into a Hadith and discuss the practical aspect of inviting guests, and accepting invites. I refer to it as ‘practical’ because these tips won’t affect your budget or force you to scrap your current plan. It is simple tweaks that will do wonders for your spiritual, social and financial well-being.
Who to invite?
There is a Hadith of Nabi S.A.W. that relates to Waleema invitations however, many people misunderstand this Hadith. The Hadith states…
بئس الطعام طعام الوليمة، يُدعى إليها الأغنياء، ويُترك الفقراء
“The worst of food is that food served at a Waleema in which the wealthy are invited and the poor are left out” (Muslim)
The above Hadith is pretty straight forward. So how is it misunderstood? Some understand this Hadith to mean that only the poor should be invited. Questions arise like “So is it better to just have the Waleema at an orphanage?” or “My family is quite wealthy. So I shouldn’t invite all of them?”
The Hadith does not state that only the poor should be invited nor does it say that majority should be poor. Nabi S.A.W. is simply reminding us not to leave the poor out entirely. Let us look at a practical example of how this Hadith can be implemented into our Waleema plans.
First and foremost, preference should be given to family. There is no real need to emphasize on this point because most people are naturally inclined to invite their family first. There is also great reward in this as Islam encourages the strengthening of family ties. Besides family, one will also invite close friends and neighbours.
The emphasis is on who to invite after this. To make it easy to understand, let us work on a Waleema of 100 guests. After inviting family, close friends and neighbours, the amount of guests reach 90 (I know it will always exceed 90 but I am crunching the numbers so that this concept is easier to understand). The remaining 10 is now a point of discussion. You might have a few people in mind who could fill up the 10. Perhaps far family that you only see once every few years or friends that are not exactly close. Maybe the family that owns a tuck-shop a few streets away or maybe a colleague at work. From all these people, it is best to invite the poorest among them. These are people that you are not obliged to invite. If you invite them they will appreciate it and if you don't, they won't mind. Therefore, when making a selection, choose those that are the poorest, those that will appreciate it the most.
Of course, the above method is not a set ruling but just one method that could be adopted. If the poor are already included in the initial 90 (Which includes family, close friends and neighbours), then inshaAllah, the blessings will already be there. Once again, the Hadith is a reminder not to leave the poor out entirely.
In another narration, it is mentioned…
شر الطعام طعام الوليمة، يُمنعها مَن يأتيها ويُدعى إليها مَن يأباها
“The worst of food is the food of that Waleema in which those who need to attended are not invited and those who refuse to attend are invited”
Taking this Hadith in its context, we learn that after inviting the initial 90 mentioned above, we should invite those who “need to attend” when filling up the remaining 10 seats. This, of course, is referring to the poor who will appreciate the invitation. Those that will savour the meals offered. The wording “those who refuse to attend” is referring to people of high status who we would want to invite to add more glory and fame to our Waleema. Such people, in most cases, will not have time to attend or they will attend, but the invitation will not be appreciated.
The above Hadith is not complete. Along with advice given to the inviter, Nabi S.A.W. also advises the invitees. This was the beauty of the teachings of Nabi S.A.W. The Hadith further states…
ومن لم يجب الدعوة فقد عصى الله ورسوله
“And whoever does not accept an invitation has disobeyed Allah and his messenger”
Once again, the Hadith seems simple enough but it is often misunderstood.
The basic message is that if one is invited for a Waleema, one should accept the invitation and attend. If one, without a valid reason, does not attend then Allah and his Messenger has been disobeyed. The reason for this is that unlike a wedding reception or a Mehndi night, the Waleema is an act of Sunnah that was encouraged by Nabi S.A.W. However, there are a few situations when a person is relieved of the duty to attend. I will mention two.
A person can excuse himself/herself from attending if he/she has a valid reason. This would happen in a case where a mother has just given birth or a person has to look after an elderly bed-ridden parent etc. These excuses are generally understood and accepted. The next reason is one that most of us, when inviting, find it very difficult to understand and swallow.
A person has the right to excuse himself/herself from a Waleema invitation if the function is not in conformity with the Sharia. So if a person knows that there will be music at the function, or it will be a mixed gathering, then in this case there is nothing wrong in not attending. Due to offending the host, most people won’t mention the reason. The host needs to understand beforehand that some people might not attend due to the music or mixed gathering etc.
Some functions cater for Purdah facilities by having a small curtain in the back. I personally find this offensive. As if to say we’ll cater for Islam in the back. I think a better, more dignified method will be to allow the women in Purdah to sit at one of the tables in the back in such a way that no male can see them. That is just my opinion. Of course, the best will be to completely separate males and females.
In conclusion, let us keep the poor in mind when sending out our invitations and personally visit them when handing out the invite just like how we would personally visit the wealthy. Also, let us try our best to keep our functions in accordance with the Sharia. Remember, if it is not in accordance with Sharia, people have the right to refuse and we have no right to take offence.
Fun fact: وليمة (Waleema) is derived from the word ولم which means to unite or join. The joining of the spouses after a Nikah is therefore encapsulated within the word Waleema.
Yusuf Omar resides in South Africa and holds a BA in Islamic sciences. He is currently a writer/presenter at Radio Islam. He loves playing with words and has an interest in fine arts. He also believes in mermaids. Check out some of his other articles here. Interact with him on Twitter and Instagram.