I’m not a Muslim, but I was invited to dinner by a group of local Muslims. I accepted as I was curious to see what table etiquette Muslims observed. We sat on the floor. Everybody said some short prayer. I learned later that it is a simple “in the Name of God.” Then everybody ate with their right hand, no utensils, from the same plate, from the side of the plate that was in front of them. It was a delicious, spicy meal and I was full.
Is that pretty much the way Muslims are supposed to eat? I felt awkward to ask questions of my hosts.
Glad you had a good time. What you saw is a mixture of culture and Sunna (practice of the Prophet, PBUH). Sitting on the floor is cultural. Eating with the right hand is Sunna, unless one simply can’t. There is one authentic hadeeth about that in Muslim’s compilation of Hadeeth, narrated by Salama ibn Al-Akwa`, where a man ate with his left hand and the Prophet (PBUH) ordered him to eat with his right hand. The man said he couldn’t. The Prophet (PBUH) replied that he is only saying that out of ego. Thus, we conclude that if one can eat with his right hand, one should.
Not using utensils is also cultural. Eating from what’s next to you is Sunna. And the Basmala before eating is emphasized Sunna. The Quran makes it clear that the Name of God must be mentioned on food before a Muslim can eat it (6:121).
Eating from the same plate is cultural. Some Muslims may misunderstand a hadeeth, narrated by Wahshi ibn Harb and reported by Al-Albaani who rated it Sound, in which a man said to the Prophet (PBUH) that he eats but does not get full. The Prophet (PBUH) advised him to gather with others when eating, mention God’s name before eating and then eat together. There is a blessing in eating together which will cause everybody to feel full. The misunderstanding that some Muslims may have here is that they may think that the plate must be one. The hadeeth is talking about eating together, but not necessarily from the same plate.
I did have a good time, and I was rather surprised to be invited, because I thought, wrongly, that Muslims are not supposed to have non-Muslims eat their food.
There is a narration, narrated by Abu-Sa`eed Al-Khudri and reported by At-Tirmizhi and Abu-Daawood and rated Sound, which suggests that. It is not clear if it is an advise from Abu-Sa`eed or something that the Prophet (PBUH) said. But the Quran makes it clear that people of the Book can eat Muslim food,
“And the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you and your food is lawful to them” (5:5), provided of course that it was not dedicated to other than God.