Date : 11-12-2011

Question :

Some people are accustomed to holding banquets for officials in return for a favor that had already been done or expected to be in the future, or to strengthen ties for future gains. What is the ruling of Sharia on this?

The Answer :

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May Allah`s peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Banquets are of two types:

First: Public banquets, such as weddings and the like. It is lawful for officials to attend this type provided that no unlawful matters or violations of Sharia are involved.

Second: Private banquets, such as the ones held for officials to achieve a private interest or a favor. It isn`t permissible to hold this type in the first place because it takes the form of bribery designed to achieve private interests outside the framework of law and order. The evidence on this is that Allah's Messenger (PBUH) cursed the one who bribes and the one who takes bribes. [Reported by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi]. Also, such banquet isn`t intended as an act of kindness or generosity. Rather, it is intended for reputation and showing off. This is attested to in the following narration: naarrated Abu Huraira: "The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited while the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Apostle ." {Related by Bukhari}.

It is forbidden for an official to attend such banquet because Abu Humaid Al-Sa`idi narrated: The Prophet (PBUH) appointed a man from the tribe of Al-Azd, called Ibn 'Utbiyya for collecting the Zakat. When he returned he said: "This (i.e. the Zakat) is for you and this has been given to me as a present." The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Why hadn't he stayed in his father's or mother's house to see whether he would be given presents or not? By Him in Whose Hands my life is, whoever takes something from the resources of the Zakat (unlawfully) will be carrying it on his neck on the Day of Resurrection; if it be a camel, it will be grunting; if a cow, it will be mooing; and if a sheep, it will be bleating." The Prophet then raised his hands till we saw the whiteness of his armpits, and he said thrice, "O Allah! Haven't I conveyed Your Message (to them)?" {Related by Bukhari and Muslim}.

However, if the banquet isn`t intended for achieving any interests or favors in the sense that some people are accustomed to take turns in holding banquets among themselves without any exaggeration in the kind or amount of food and drink.

It is incumbent upon an official to take care of citizens` affairs and interests on equal basis, fear Allah, and realize that he/she will be held to account for that on the Day of Judgment. The proof of this is that Ibn 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said: "All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian of his subjects, the man is a guardian of his family, the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband's house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects." [Bukhari and Muslim]. This can be achieved by avoiding doubtful matters since the Messenger of Allah said, "

An-Nu'man bin Bashir (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "What is lawful is clear and what is unlawful is clear, but between them are certain doubtful things which many people do not know. So he who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and his honour blameless. But he who falls into doubtful things falls into that which is unlawful, just as a shepherd who grazes his cattle in the vicinity of a pasture declared prohibited (by the king); he is likely to stray into the pasture. Mind you, every king has a protected pasture and Allah's involved limits is that which He has declared unlawful. Verily, there is a piece of flesh in the body, if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Verily, it is the heart." [Bukhari and Muslim].

It can also be avoided by giving up what is doubtful for that which isn`t doubtful since the Messenger of Allah said: " Hasan bin 'Ali (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: I have retained these words of Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Leave what causes you doubt and turn to what does not cause you doubt." [At- Tirmidhi]. And Allah the Almighty Knows Best.