Book Review: Al-Ghazali on the Manners Relating to Eating

Ghazali Manners Relating to Eating

Title: Al-Ghazali on the Manners Relating to Eating (Kitab adab al-akl) Book 11 of the Revival of the Religious Science (Ihya Ulum al-din)
Author: Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
Translator: Denys Johnson-Davies
Publisher: Islamic Texts Society (2012); First published in 2000, reprinted in 2004, 2010, 2012

This is a short work, consisting of 52 pages. It has four chapters, by the following titles: What is Necessary for a Person Eating Alone, Additional Manners of Eating When in Company, Manners to be Adopted When Presenting Food to Visiting Brethren and Manners of Hospitality. Lastly there is an additional section titled, A Section Combining Miscellaneous Good Manners and Legal Prohibitions.

As this book is from the first half of the Ihya, it is very practical in nature, and contains none of the complexities relating to gluttony which is covered in the book, Disciplining the Soul and Breaking the Two Desires. The purpose of the book is to provide a simple straight forward teaching of manners relating to eating. In this book Imam Ghazali fills it with many narrations and stories of the pious predecessors, which I found very interesting. In regards to food the pious predecessors were so different from us in their approach and desire for food. Stories of the pious are always inspiring.

A few excerpts:

In Chapter One: What is Necessary for a Person Eating Alone, on page 7:

One should begin the meal with the words ‘In the Name of God’ and end it with ‘Praise be to God’. It would be well if one were to say with every mouthful ‘In the Name of God’, that greed may not distract one from mentioning the name of God (Exalted be He!).

In the Chapter Three: Manners to be Adopted When Presenting Food to Visiting Brethren, on page 19:

Al-Hasan (al-Basri) said, ‘A man shall be definitely accountable for every expenditure he makes on himself, his parents and others less closely related – that is, except what he spends on his brethren for food; for God would be embarrassed to ask him about that.’

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