Riyad Us-Saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous)
Excellence of Eating with three Fingers and Licking them
748. Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "When one of you finishes eating, he should not wipe his fingers until he has licked them himself or has given them to someone else to lick for him.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) instructed his followers that after taking meal they should lick up their fingers before they wash or wipe them with a towel. Or they may get them licked by somebody - wife, son or disciple - provided he or she feels no aversion to doing so. Since Messenger of Allah (PBUH) approved of this act, it is commendable. As to its rationale, the subsequent Ahadith will offer exposition.
749. Ka`b bin Malik (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I saw Messenger of Allah (PBUH) eating with three fingers (i.e., the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger) and licking them after having finished the food.
Commentary: To use less than three fingers for eating speaks of the manner of the arrogant, whereas to use both hands to this end is indicative of an overpowering greed. So, the best way of eating is that shown by Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Here, too, is the affirmation of licking the fingers after taking meal, and not during it.
750. Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) commanded the licking of fingers and the gleaning of the dish, saying, "You do not know in which portion the blessing lies.''
Commentary: This Hadith underlines the wisdom behind licking the fingers and the vessel. The eater never knows whether a blessing underlies what has been eaten by him, or the particles sticking to his fingers and vessels contain it. Those particles, therefore, should not be wasted; they should be made part of food by being licked. They may be invested with a blessing and proved more useful for the eater's health and strength. Moreover, by this way he escapes disregarding the Bounty of Allah.
751. Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "When a morsel of any of you falls, he should pick it up and remove any of the dirt on it and then eat it, and should not leave it for Satan nor should wipe his hand with towel until he has licked his fingers, for he does not know in what portion of the food the blessing lies.''
Commentary: This Hadith tells us to pick up a fallen morsel and eat it after cleaning the dirt that may have stuck on it. This marks the expression of humility overcoming Satan as well as getting the blessing. Present-day Muslims hardly care for this directive of Messenger of Allah (PBUH) because they think that this act will bring disgrace and dishonour upon them. To make matters worse, they throw away a large quantity of unconsumed food in street dumps and dunghills and drains. They even deem it necessary to leave over some food in plates and dishes, still less of licking them. What a pity, the Muslim community has gone far away from the teachings and excellent example of their Prophet (PBUH)!
752. Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Satan appears at every thing done by you; he appears even at one's dinner. When a morsel of any of you falls, he should pick it up and remove any dirt on it, and then eat it. He should not leave it for Satan, nor should he wipe his hand with the towel until he has licked his fingers, for he does not know in what portion of the food the blessing lies.''
Commentary: A Muslim should be perpetually on his guard against satanic insinuations, even at mealtime. He is required to recite the Name of Allah in the very beginning so that he may be immune from satanic participation and mischief. If a man avoids picking up the fallen morsel, he will be providing Satan and his minions a chance to share food with him. So we seek the Refuge of Allah from the condemned Satan and his associates.
753. Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Whenever Messenger of Allah (PBUH) ate food, he would lick his three fingers and say, "If anyone of you drops a morsel of food, he should remove any dirt that may have stuck on it and then eat it, and should not leave it for Satan.'' He (PBUH) also commanded us that we should glean the pot, saying, "You do not know in which part of your food the blessings lies.''
754. Sa`id bin Al-Harith reported: I asked Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) whether it was obligatory to make Wudu' for Salat (prayer) after eating cooked food. He said: "No, because in the lifetime of Messenger of Allah (PBUH), such food was rarely available. We had no handkerchiefs, so when we ate such food we would wipe our fingers against our palms, forearms or (the sole of our) feet, and would offer Salat without fresh Wudu' (for prayer).''
Commentary: There are three points in this Hadith. First, the life of the Companions was simple, divested of all kinds of luxuries and comforts. They lived on whatever was available to them. Second, a man's ablution is not nullified by eating a cooked food. In the early days of Islam, this command was put into practice but later it was cancelled. Third, if a handkerchief, or a towel or water is not available, a man can (after taking a meal) clean his mouth and hands with his palms and wrists so that his clothes will not be smeared during Salat (prayer).