Is it Sunnah to eat sitting on your knees?



Islamic Text

Yes, sitting on your knees to eat is a Sunnah. It has been established in an authentic Hadith narration.

عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ بُسْرٍ، قَالَ: أَهْدَيْتُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ شَاةً، فَجَثَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَلَى رُكْبَتَيْهِ، يَأْكُلُ، فَقَالَ أَعْرَابِيٌّ: مَا هَذِهِ الْجِلْسَةُ؟ فَقَالَ: إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَعَلَنِي عَبْدًا كَرِيمًا، وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا عَنِيدًا

Abdullah bin Busr  said, ‘I gave the Prophet ﷺ a gift of a sheep, and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ sat on his knees to eat. A Bedouin said: ‘What is this sitting?’ He ﷺ said, ‘Allah (Most High) has made me a noble slave (of Allah) and has not made me haughty or stubborn.’ (Sunan Ibn Maja 3263, Hasan).

The Hadith above make it abundantly clear that the Prophet ﷺ used to eat whilst sitting on his blessed knees. Therefore sitting in such a manner will be encouraged and rewarded if it is accompanied by a good intention. Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani mentioned that the Sanad (chain of narration) for this Hadith is Hasan (Strong):

حَدِيثِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ بُسْرٍ عِنْدَ بن مَاجَهْ وَالطَّبَرَانِيِّ بِإِسْنَادٍ حَسَنٍ قَالَ أَهْدَيْتُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ شَاةٌ فَجَثَا عَلَى رُكْبَتَيْهِ يَأْكُلُ

The Hadith of Abdullah bin Busr narrated by Ibn Maja and al-Tabarani with a Hasan chain in which he says, ‘I gave the Prophet ﷺ a gift of a sheep, and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ sat on his knees to eat… (Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari).

There are similar narrations in other Hadith collections that further strengthen the authenticity of this Sunnah. See for example Sunan Abi Dawood Hadith number 3773, al-Sunan al-Kubra of Imam al-Bayhaqi Hadith number 14653.

Since it is an established Sunnah to eat whilst sitting on the knees, there is reward in doing so. However, the reward will be dependant upon intention. IF one incidentally eats whilst sitting on the knees then there is no reward. But the person that intends following the Sunnah will be rewarded.

As well as the reward of following the Sunnah when eating sitting on ones knees, we believe there will be numerous other benefits too. Such benefits may be spiritual or physical. This is because the guidance of the blessed Prophet ﷺ is always filled with wisdom. However, we can specify these benefits as definitive religious facts if we have evidence from Quran or Sunnah to prove it. If that is not available then they will remain speculative and not religious facts. 

Some people are unable to sit on their knees when eating. This may be due to weakness, injury or lack of experience. It is incorrect to pressure or force such people to sit on their knees when eating. Rather sitting on the knees is a religious recommendation, not an obligation. Therefore, it must not be emphasised to the degree of an obligation.

And Allah (Most High) knows best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen (04.01.2021)

See also:

When a Muslim tells you meat is Halal, can you take his word for it?