Understanding The Prophet's Life
From Issue: 1055 [Read full issue]
Jabir ibn Abdullah reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Secure your doors, tie up your waterskins, turn over your vessels, cover up your dishes, and put off your lights. Satan does not open a secured door, untie a knot, or uncover a dish. However, a mouse could set a house on fire'. [Bukhari, Tirmidhi]
This hadith provides very useful instructions which remain valid for most people. The first instruction is to secure our doors before going to sleep. Today, in most places, this goes without saying because burglary is very common. But it need not be so. There are places in many parts of the world where people are safe from burglars, either because they live in a small community where everyone knows everyone else, or where social conditions provide enough security. Yet one may not be safe from other creatures finding their way into homes causing people some harm when they are asleep. Hence, securing our doors provides the necessary standard of safety.
Today, people have water supplied into their homes by pipes and tanks, where it is safe from ordinary contamination. However, in times past, people had to make sure that they had sufficient water for their drinking and home use. Hence, they stored it in containers, some types of which were made of hide or some other material. It is such containers, and indeed any other type, that the Prophet wanted to make sure were tightened so as to prevent any harmful object or insect from falling into them. The same applies to any plate, pot or saucepan where food is kept. While today we leave much of our food in fridges, there remains around the house much food that may be left exposed. The important thing in this hadith is not to leave food exposed overnight. Some insect might get into it or dust and harmful particles might drop on it, making it a cause of harm instead of a source of nourishment.
Putting off the light is the next injunction in this hadith, particularly when we talk about oil lamps and similar lights. Such a lamp may be blown over by wind, or by a cat, and it could then cause a fire. This is what the Prophet warns against when he mentions that a mouse could set a house on fire. What attracts a mouse is the wick of a lamp, and it could pull it and cause the lamp to fall over, spilling its oil and causing a fire. Hence, the Prophet repeatedly warned against leaving lamps on at night, or in a position where a mouse could pull at it.
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi