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The Ruling on Taṭafful [Gatecrashing]

Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

A clarification on the lack of etiquette involved in showing up uninvited for a gathering of food and the rights of the individuals involved.

Narrated by Abū Masʿūd al-Anṣārī (رضي الله عنه) that a man from among the Anṣār invited the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) [for food] to be the fifth of five of his companions [i.e., the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and four of his companions]. When they arrived, another uninvited man followed them. So when they arrived at the door, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Indeed, this man has followed us. If you wish, allow him [to dine with us]. Or if you wish, he will return.” The [host] replied: “Nay, I grant him permission O Messenger of Allāh.”1

Ibn Qudāmah (رحمه الله) said: The testimony of al-Ṭufaylī is not accepted. He is the one who presents himself to eat the food of the people without an invitation. This is the opinion taken by al-Shāfiʿī (رحمه الله). There is no opposition to this opinion to the best of our knowledge. This is because it has been narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “The one who comes upon food which he has not been invited to partake in has entered as a thief and left as a Mugīr [one who loots and absconds with the wealth of another].”2 This is because he has eaten that which is ḥarām [for him] while engaging in an action that can be labelled as foolish, despicable, and emasculating. If, however, this action is not repeated from him then his testimony should not be rejected as it is considered a minor sin.3

Al-Bahūtī (رحمه الله) said: “Imām Aḥmad (رحمه الله) used to hate that a person intentionally presents himself to a gathering of people when food is brought such that he surprises them. The evidence of this is the saying of the Most High:

لا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ

“Enter not the Prophet’s houses, except when leave is given to you”
(al-Aḥzāb, 33:53)

Likewise a guest who follows an invited guest without being specifically invited. This person is termed ‘al-Ṭufaylī.’ This action is impermissible except if he surprises them at the time of eating unintentionally, then he may eat as explicitly stated [by Imām Aḥmad]. In other places he (رحمه الله) used to dislike this action except for the one who normally has an open invitation to the dwelling in question.4

Al-Nawawī (رحمه الله) said: If an invited person is followed by another uninvited one, then it is most befitting that the invited person does not give the uninvited one permission to follow him and forbids his action. If they happen to reach the door of the one who has prepared the food, then the invited guest should notify the host of the presence [of an uninvited person] such he may be given the opportunity to either allow him into his dwelling or prevent him from it. It is considered mustaḥabb (recommended) for the host to allow him in provided his presence does not cause undue harm to those present. For example, he harms them, or spreads among them that which is hated by them, or they find his presence contemptible due to him being known as a rebellious, continuous sinner or the likes of such reasons. If the host fears that his presence may result in such occurrences, then he may turn him away. However, it is most appropriate that he does so with amiability and tact, even giving him some of the prepared food if suitable, such that he is turned away in a goodly, beautiful manner.5

Ibn Ḥajar (رحمه الله) said: The host has the option to prevent the one who presents himself without invitation. If he enters without permission, it is within the rights of the host to remove him. However, the one who intentionally presents himself without invitation is not prevented in the first instance as the man who followed the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was not prevented from his action immediately due to the possibility that the host, out of his goodness and charitable nature, would allow him to dine with them. Thus, this ḥadīth proves that taṭfīl [presenting oneself without invitation] is allowed provided the person in question is needy.6

The ḥadīth also proves that the invited guest should prevent anyone from following him except if he knows that the presence of the follower in question at the gathering is pleasing to the host.

As for the action of taṭfīl being ḥarām, its evidence is narrated by Abū Dāwūd from the ḥadīth of Ibn ʿUmar: “The one who comes upon food which he has not been invited to partake in has entered as a thief and left as a Mugīr [one who loots and absconds with the wealth of another].” It is weak but we can use it to prove that prevention [as narrated here] should be limited to those who are not needy but still present themselves without an invitation. Prevention likewise applies to anyone whose presence is disliked by the host for example due to a low quantity of food, or too many guests at one time. Such a statement is consistent with the opinion adopted by al-Shāfiʿī (رحمه الله) that al-Taṭfīl is impermissible except for those who possess a familiar, comfortable, open-invitation type of relationship with the host.7

[1] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 5434 and Muslim: 2036 with very similar wordings.
[2] Weak: narrated by Abū Dāwūd 4:125 and graded weak by Abū Dāwūd and Shaykh ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-ʿAbbād in Sharḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd 13:422 and Ibn Ḥajar in al-Fatḥ 9:560.
[3] Source: al-Mughnī 14:169
[4] Source: Kashāf al-Qināʿ 5:175
[5] Source: Sharḥ al-Nawawī ʿalá Muslim 13:208.
[6] In a narration of the ḥadīth, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) described the man saying: “I saw the traces of hunger on his face.”
[7] Source: Fatḥ al-Bārī 9:561.

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: June 29, 2023
Edited: July 16, 2023

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