Whether you are Muslim or not, you could find yourself invited to a Muslim home. There are certain rules of etiquette you should be aware of. Although your Muslim hosts will understand if you inadvertently slip up, they will be impressed that you took the time to learn their ways.
[h]Should You Bring a Gift?[/h]
While it is certainly not mandatory to bring a gift while visiting, it is a nice touch. Most Muslims do bring a token gift when invited for a meal. Many also bring a gift on the first visit. So, what should you bring? If you are invited for tea or dinner, dessert is a highly appropriate gift. Just make sure that the sweets are not made with alcohol, lard, gelatin, or any other pork product. Other appropriate gifts include flowers, vases, and house wares. It probably goes without saying, but do not take a bottle of wine or other alcohol to a Muslim home. When in doubt, simply pick up a cake. You can never go wrong with sweets.
Although it is acceptable here in America for unmarried men and women to embrace, it is completely unacceptable in Islam. Upon greeting a Muslim family, the men will embrace and the women will embrace, but a mixed gender embrace is a big no-no. An embrace usually entails a hug or partial hug and kissing both cheeks.
[h]Entering the Home[/h]
Most Muslims remove their shoes before entering the home. They will usually have a special place reserved just outside the door or in the entry way for shoes. This is both religious and cultural. Cleanliness is very important in Islam. Muslims are not to pray in a dirty area and the bottoms of shoes are considered unclean. As a matter of courtesy, you should remove your shoes if everyone else does.
[h]Mixed Sex Interactions[/h]
In many Muslim homes, the men will gather in one room and the women will congregate in another. This is because Islam strongly discourages mixing between unmarried men and women. Even in less strict households, where men and women do sit together, there are still certain rules:
- Flirtatious behavior should be avoided.
- No touching of the opposite sex, no matter how innocent.
- Conversation should either be between a group of women, a group of men, or the entire group together. Private conversations between an unmarried man and woman are frowned upon.
- When speaking to a member of the opposite sex, conversation should be relatively serious and businesslike. Overly playful speech could be misinterpreted.
Although these rules may sound rigid, most Muslims are fairly laid back. Most will not mind if you do not follow their rules. Still, it is a sign of respect to follow the rules of the household. Trust me, they will notice and appreciate your sensitivity and good manners!