Hudhayfah b. al-Yamân relates that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Do not drink from gold and silver vessels and do not eat from gold and silver dishes, because indeed they are for them in this world and for you in the Hereafter.”

This is an authentic hadîth related in Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim among other books.

The meaning of the hadîth:

This hadîth has a story behind it. During `Umars reign, Hudhayfah al-Yamân had been appointed to the administration of Madâ’in, a major city that had been the residence of the Persian kings and where they had their palatial estate.

Hudhayfah was traveling thorough Madâ’in and asked for something to drink A man named Dahjân, who was the Persian chief of the town, brought him something to drink in a silver cup. Hudhayfah cast it aside and told those who were with him: “I have informed you that I had ordered him not to serve me drink in that, because Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: ‘Do not drink from gold and silver vessels and do not eat from gold and silver plates, because indeed they are for them in this world and for you in the Hereafter’.”

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…they are for them in this world…” he was referring to the unbelievers. He was merely pointing out the way things actually were and was not implying that it was lawful for them to dine from gold and silver dishes.

Its legal implications:


This hadîth raises a number of legal questions, the most important of which are as follows:

The first question:

The hadîth is proof that it is unlawful to eat and drink from gold and silver dishes. Al-Nawawî claims that this is a matter of juristic consensus, save for an opinion to the contrary that al-Shâfî`î used to hold but later recanted.

The opinion that to eating and drinking from gold and silver dishes is merely disliked had been attributed to Ahmad b. Hanbal, but this attribution is highly doubtful. Nonetheless, the argument advanced for this opinion is that the only reason eating from gold and silver is prohibited is because it resembles the behavior of foreigners. However, it can hardly be agreed that this is the only possible reason for the prohibition.

There have been other opinions. Mu`âwiyah b. Qurrah who was from the generation that came after the Companions, was asked about drinking from a silver cup and said that there was nothing wrong with doing so. However, he probably said this because he had not heard the hadîth under discussion.

Dâwûd al-Zâhirî was of the opinion that it is prohibited to drink from gold and silver dishes but not to eat from them. It is quite possible that Dâwûd al-Zâhirî never heard the hadith narrated by Hudhayfah, but heard instead a certain version of a hadîth related by Umm Salamah that only mentions the prohibition of drinking.

There is no doubt that the hadîth evidence on the matter is clear unambiguous about the prohibition of eating and drinking from gold and silver dishes.. Some of this evidence indicates that doing so is a major sin.

Umm Salamah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A person who drinks or eats from a silver or golden dish merely swallows into his stomach the fire of Hell.” [Sahîh Muslim]

Al-Bukhârî relates this hadîth without mention being made of eating or of gold, and this, as we have already mentioned, is probably what Dawûd al-Zâhirî relied upon in formulating his opinion.

The second question:


Is it merely prohibited to eat and drink from gold and silver dishes, or is it forbidden to use them for all practical purposes?

Al-Nawawî writes: “Our colleagues claim there is unanimous agreement that it is forbidden to eat or drink from gold and silver dishes or to use them in any way. The only exception to this is the opinion attributed to Dâwûd al-Zâhirî and an early opinion of al-Shâfi`î, both of which are spurious because they are contrary to the texts and to juristic consensus.

Al-Nawawî also writes: “There is juristic consensus about the prohibition of using gold and silver vessels for eating, drinking, purification, cooking, defecating, or for any other practical purpose. This would also include using them for cosmetics or as expensive containers, or for any other reason.”

However, the claim that there is juristic consensus on this matter is a doubtful claim. It is reported that some of the earlier scholars considered these other uses to be permissible, though it is a peculiar disagreement that runs contrary to a number of authentic hadîth on the matter.

The majority of scholars agree that eating and drinking are mentioned only as examples of how these items are generally used and that the prohibition is general. It is the same as when Allah says: “Those who consume the wealth of orphans wrongly merely swallow fire into their bellies and they will be scorched by a blaze.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 105] “O you who believe! Do not cosume interest doubled and redoubled. Fear Allah that perhaps you will be successful.” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 130]

In both of these verses, the prohibition is far broader and more comprehensive than the personal consumption of the unlawfully acquired wealth. The same can be said for the hadîth under discussion.

This opinion is supported by the reason given in the hadîth for the prohibition. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…because indeed they are for them in this world and for you in the Hereafter.”

The unbelievers enjoy in this world the use of gold and silver not only for dining, but to but for all sorts of things, like cosmetics and decoration. Some people of excess have gone so far as to secure for themselves gold or silver toilets.

The same can be said for the people of Paradise in the Hereafter. Their use of gold and silver will not be restricted to dining. It will cover a whole host of things.

We know from the Sunnah that in Paradise there are two gardens, the utensils and contents of which are made of silver; and two other gardens, the utensils and contents of which are made of gold, and nothing will prevent their inhabitants from seeing their Lord except the curtain of Majesty over His face. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

This hadîth is clear proof that Paradise contains all sorts of things made of silver and gold. Therefore, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…because indeed they are for them in this world and for you in the Hereafter”, he was not just talking about using gold and silver for dining.

There are many possible reasons that can be deduced for the prohibition of using gold and silver for dining. Such reasons might include imitating the unbelievers, imitating the denizens of Paradise while on Earth, excessiveness in luxury, unnecessarily taking currency out of circulation, aggravating the pain of the poor, or simply acting in a way that is contrary to proper Islamic humility and abstinence. In all of these cases, however, the reason exists whether the gold and silver utensil is being used for dining or for some other practical purpose.

Some scholars believe that the prohibition is only for dining with gold and silver. Among them is al-San`ânî, who writes in Subul al-Salâm:

Those who say that it is only unlawful to use gold and silver for dining are correct in their opinion. This is what is stated in the text. The claim that there is juristic consensus on anything else is incorrect. This is a bad example of substituting some other meaning for the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that mention only the prohibition of eating and drinking. They have deviated from his words and replaced them with the idea or “general usage”. On their own, they have abandoned the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and come with something more general in meaning.

Al-Shawkâni says basically the same thing. In Nayl al-Awtâr, he argues that the principle in Islamic Law is that things are to be considered permissible unless proven otherwise. This principle supports the view that gold and silver utensils are lawful for everything that is not expressly prohibited by the texts.

However, these two scholars are focusing too strictly to the literal wording of the hadîth, whereas it is far better to understanding the overall meaning that the hadîth is clearly conveying. Whether we approach the matter with analogous reasoning or by understanding that eating and drinking are mentioned as examples, we must come to the conclusion that we are not supposed to use gold and silver utensils.

Ibn al-Qayyim writes in Zâd al-Ma`âd:

The correct reason for this prohibition is that using such things causes the heart to feel haughty and puts it into a state that clearly negates the feeling of humble devotion we are supposed to have for Allah. This is the reason why the Prophet (peace be upon him) described these things as being for the unbelievers in this world, since they do not have a share in this humble devotion by which the pleasures of the Hereafter are attained. Therefore, it is not appropriate for Allah’s devotees to use such things in this world. They are only people who have abandoned this devotion and are pleased with the world and prefer its immediate delights to those of the Hereafter.

The third question:

Can we possess gold and silver dishes as long as we do not use them?

The majority of scholars consider it unlawful for Muslims to own gold and silver dishes. This is the opinion of the Mâlikî, Hanbalî, and Shâfi`î schools of law. That which is unlawful to use, like wine for instance, is equally unlawful to own. Owning something is a means to using it and means take the same ruling as the ends to which they lead.

Moreover, the rationale for prohibiting the use of such utensils is even stronger when we think of keeping them without using them. Keeping them without using them is much more frivolous and wasteful of wealth than having them and using them.

The Hanafî school of thought rules that the possession of gold and silver utensils is permissible. This opinion is also to be found among the adherents of the other three schools of thought.

They argue that the hadîth clearly mentions the prohibition of eating and drinking, and these are both examples of using the utensils. This is not proof that ownership of these things is unlawful.

Of course, those scholars who consider it permissible to use things made of gold for practical reasons other than dining see nothing wrong with owning such things.

However, the strongest opinion is that it is prohibited to use such things or even to own them. This opinion is in harmony with the objectives of Islamic Law, since it makes no sense that the law would permit a person to own such things and then prevent him from being able to use them or benefit from them. Either he should be able to own them and derive benefit from them or he should be prohibited from owning them altogether.

And Allah knows best

The fourth question:

If someone performs his ablutions for prayer from a basin of gold or silver, are his ablutions valid?

Most scholars say that his ablutions are valid, though he is sinning for using the gold or silver basin. Al-Nawawî claims that there is consensus on this matter among jurists, with the exception of Dâwûd al-Zâhirî, who is reported to have said that such ablutions are invalid.

However, it is not possible for Dâwûd al-Zâhirî to have held such an opinion, since he believed that nothing is prohibited besides drinking from gold and silver vessels.

The ruling that such ablutions are invalid has been attributed to Ibn Taymiyah and al-Zarkashî, but there is other evidence that indicates this is not the case. However, it is possible that there are two opinions on this matter. And Allah knows best.

Some benefits of this hadîth:

1. This hadîth shows that Islam approves of asceticism in the world and eschewing excessive pleasures. True asceticism is not achieved by forbidding what is lawful. It is achieved by abstaining from permissible things that are superfluous and unnecessary that neither benefit the person in this world nor the next. It is praiseworthy for a person to show humility in his dress and his home for the sake of Allah. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Simplicity of life is a part of faith.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan Ibn Mâjah, and Mustadrak al-Hâkim, among others, with an authentic chain of transmission]

It is also praiseworthy for a person to wear beautiful clothes and to ride a beautiful steed, however without ostentation or pride. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If Allah gives you wealth, then let the signs of Allah’s grace and generosity be seen upon you.” [Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, and Sunan al-Nasâ’î, among others, with an authentic chain of transmission]

2. The hadîth also indicates that it is not permissible for us to emulate the unbelievers and imitate them in their ways. The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave as the reason for prohibiting dining from gold and silver dishes that such things are for the unbelievers during the life of this world.

3. We also get a glimpse of the delights that await the denizens of Paradise, because the hadîth promises that they will enjoy the use of gold and silver. Indeed, they will dine from gold and silver dishes and recline upon golden couches.