Yawning in public is considered to be a bad manner. If someone in a gathering yawns and makes sounds (sounds which come out while yawning), he/she is not looked in a good taste. In fact yawning is a disliked act at any point of time. The reason for this is fairly simple. Yawning is a sign of slackness and boredom. And who likes boredom? On the similar lines, when looked from Islamic point of view, yawning is disliked by Allah. Refer to following hadith in this context:
It was narrated from Saeed from his father, that Abu Hurairah (RA) said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Allah likes sneezing, and He dislikes yawning, so if one of you yawns, let him suppress it as much as he can, and not make any noise, for that comes from Shaitan who is laughing at him.”
(Hadith No. 5028, Book of Etiquette, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 5).
Therefore, it is clear that yawning is disliked by Allah. But since it is a natural act and can’t be erased completely, it is recommended to suppress it as much as one can. Another recommended action with regards to yawning is that one should cover his/her mouth while yawning. Following hadith tells us this.
It was narrated from Zuhair, from Suhail, from Ibn Abi Saeed Al-Khudri that his father said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “When one of you yawns, let him cover his mouth, lest the Shaitan may enter.”
(Hadith No. 5026, Book of Etiquette, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 5).
Therefore, it is mandatory for a Muslim to be careful when he/she yawns. Special care should be taken when we feel the urge to yawn during Salat. It not only makes us look ugly in face of public but also displeases Allah, which should be a bigger concern for us.
It is another natural act of a man, but unlike yawning, sneezing is liked by Allah. Sneezing, for the state of health and joy, is a mercy and grace of Allah. It lightens the brain and makes us feel comfortable. If the mists of the nose are not released and the wetness remains stuck, the person will experience discomfort. That is why Allah likes it, and several commands are associated with sneezing. Let us see each of these commands separately.
B.1. What should one say when he/she sneezes?
It is commanded that one who sneezes should say ‘Alhumdolillah’ when he/she sneezes. Refer to following hadith:
Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “If anyone of you sneezes, he (she) should say ‘Alhumdolillah’ (Praise be to Allah) and his brother or his companion (i.e. one who is with him/her) should say ‘Yarhamuk Allah’ (May Allah have mercy on you). When the latter says ‘Yarhamuk Allah’, the former should say ‘Yahdikumullah, wa yuslihu balakum’ (May Allah guide you and set your affairs straight).”
(Hadith No. 6224, Book of Al-Adab, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8).
Therefore, it is mandatory to say ‘Alhumdolillah’ when we sneeze, and the one who is with us should respond, and again the sneezer has to respond to his supplication (as mentioned in above given narration).
B.2. How important it is to respond when someone else sneezes?
The hadith mentioned in previous section says clearly that when our colleague sneezes, we have to respond by saying ‘Yarhamuk Allah’. However, I wish to refer to one hadith which tells us how important is it for a Muslim to respond to the one who sneezes. Please go through the following:
It was narrated for Ibn Al-Musayyab that Abu Hurairah (RA) said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “There are five things that a Muslim must do for his brother (i.e. a fellow Muslim): 1. Return his greeting, 2. Say ‘Yarhamuk Allah’ to the one who sneezes, 3. Accept invitations, 4. Visit the sick, and 5. Follow the funeral.”
(Hadith No. 5030, Book of Etiquette, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 5).
The words are ‘must do…’, that means it is very important for a Muslim to do the above mentioned five acts. Therefore, responding to one who sneezes is a must for a Muslim.
B.3. Up to how many times should we respond to the one who sneezes at a time?
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (RA) said, “Say ‘Yarhamuk Allah’ to your brother three times, and if he sneezes any more than he has a cold.”
(Hadith No. 5034, Book of Etiquette, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 5).
Therefore, we have to respond minimum up to three times when someone else sneezes. If he/she sneezes more, than it is up to us whether we respond or not from fourth sneeze onwards.
B.4. There is one case where we are not supposed to respond when someone sneezes.
Yes, there is one such situation when a Muslim should not respond to another Muslim’s sneeze. Following hadith explains this to us beautifully.
Anas bin Malik (RA) narrated that two men sneezed in the presence of the Prophet (PBUH), he responded to one of them and did not respond to the other. The one who was not responded to, said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! You responded to this person and did not respond to me?’ So the Prophet (PBUH) said, “He praised Allah while you did not praise Him.”
(Hadith No. 2742, Chapters on Manners, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 5).
This hadith tells us that Rasool-Allah (PBUH) did not respond to the person’s sneeze who did not say ‘Alhumdolillah’ after sneezing. Therefore, response to a sneezer is to be given only when he/she says ‘Alhumdolillah’ after sneezing. One who does not say ‘Alhumdolillah’ after sneezing, does not deserve the supplication in response. However, if the sneezer is ignorant, it is our duty to teach him/her to say ‘Alhumdolillah’ after a sneeze.
B.5. How to respond when a ‘Dhimmi’ (a Non-Muslim) sneezes?
So far we have discussed about how to respond to our fellow Muslim when he sneezes and how important it is to respond to the sneeze. However, same rules do not apply when we are with a Non-Muslim and he/she sneezes. Let us go through one hadith to make matters clear.
It was narrated from Abu Burdah that his father said: The Jews used to sneeze in presence of the Prophet (PBUH), hoping that he would say to them ‘Yarhamuk Allah’, but he used to say ‘Yahdikumullah, wa yuslihu balakum’.
(Hadith No. 5038, Book on Etiquette, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 5).
It is clear that we are not supposed to respond to sneeze of a Non-Muslim in the manner similar to like that of a Muslim. Either we should remain silent, or we may say ‘Yahdikumullah, wa yuslihu balakum’ (when a Non-Muslim sneezes) as our beloved Prophet (PBUH) used to do.
These are some manners associated with yawning and sneezing. The narrations discussed here constitute another beautiful example of the greatness of Islam, a religion in which even these things have been taken care of, a religion which is a complete religion. It is up to the Muslims to adopt all such manners recommended by our beloved Prophet (PBUH), in order we may be able to boast of ourselves as the best among the mankind on the earth.
And Allah knows best.