Some people take salt before and after every meal religiously. Is it a Sunnah to have some salt before and/or after meals? Is there any reference in the life of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alyhi wa sallam or the Sahaba that this was done?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Various classical jurists (fuqaha) of the Hanafi School mention in their respective works that it is from the general Sunna and recommended acts to commence and conclude one's meal with salt, and that there are numerous medical benefits in doing so.
The renowned Hanafi jurist, Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:
"It is from the Sunna to commence and conclude one's meals with salt, rather in doing so; there is cure from seventy illnesses." (Radd al-Muhtar ala 'l-Durr al-Mukhtar 6/340. The same, more or less, has been mentioned in Al-Muhit al-Burhani 5/204, Al-Bahr al-Ra'iq 8/209 and Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya 5/337. Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali also relates the same in his famous Ihya Uloom al-Din).
Hakim al-Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) explains in his brilliant Fatawa-collection titled 'Imdad al-Fatawa' that although there is no clear Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) establishing this practice, and that the report attributed to him (Allah bless him & give him peace): "O Ali, commence and conclude your meal with salt, since salt is a cure for seventy illnesses such as insanity, leprosy, stomach pain and tooth ache" is deemed fabricated (mawdhu') by many Hadith scholars, the act of commencing and concluding one's meal with salt can not be considered totally baseless due to two reasons:
Firstly, Imam Bayhaqi relates in his Shu'ab al-Iman that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said, "Whosoever commences his meal with salt, Allah will eliminate seventy types of illnesses from him." Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy on him) also records this report of Sayyiduna Ali in his Ihya Uloom al-Din, and the commentator of the Ihya, Allama Murtadha al-Zabidi after providing reference to Imam Bayhaqi's Shu'ab al-Iman does not judge the report to be fabricated. As such, this Mawquf report (a report traced back to a Companion of the Messenger of Allah, and not necessarily a saying of the Messenger of Allah himself) indicates some basis for this practice.
Secondly, there is a sound Hadith recorded by Imam Ibn Majah, Imam Tabarani and others from Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, "The best of your curries is salt." (Sunan Ibn Majah, no: 3315) The term used in the Hadith to describe the good nature of salt is "Sayyid (leader)" and "leadership" requires it being at the beginning and end of one's meal. Mawlana Thanawi further states that this could be the possible origin of commencing and concluding one's meal with salt. However, he states, this practice should not be taken as a categorical religiously-established ruling, but rather, a desired course of action. (See: Imdad al-Fatawa 4/111-113)
So, in conclusion, one should not consider commencing and concluding one's meal with salt to be firmly established through the Sunna, and as such, avoid placing exaggerated emphasis on it. At the same time, it should not be considered a totally baseless act having no origin whatsoever. It would be wrong to insist on taking salt before and after every meal, and likewise, it would be wrong to condemn someone who chose to do so. If salt is readily available on the table, one may commence and conclude the meal with it based on the fact that classical Hanafi jurists consider it a commendable act. However, if salt is not present, one should not go out of one's way in seeking and demanding it. This is the middle way, Insha Allah, and as always, the best of ways is the middle way.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK