This Is What A Muslim Vegetarian Looks Like

Arwa meets three Muslim vegetarians from around the world whose views, lifestyles and paths to vegetarianism couldn’t be more diverse and distinct

When I was 16, I discovered the horror of factory farming and decided to become a vegetarian. That was 8 years ago and I have been a vegetarian ever since. Thankfully, I no longer have to explain why I- as a Muslim- have chosen to become a vegetarian amongst my family and friends or face a barrage of questions before I tuck into my veggie dinner. However, for many people the concept of a Muslim vegetarian is still confusing. So I wanted to introduce you a few – an eco-warrior, one of faith, and one vegetarian for animal rights.

“Are Muslims allowed to be vegetarians?” and “Why would any Muslim want to be a vegetarian?” usually follows the polite explanation that I don’t eat meat. Over the years my responses to these questions changed but I now usually respond with a rather non-committal ‘well, it depends on the person’. I have been asked to speak as a Muslim vegetarian on a couple of occasion and whilst I was more than happy to do it, I often felt uneasy ‘representing’ Muslim vegetarians due to the diverse views and opinions we hold.

For some Muslims, the decision to become a vegetarian has been a truly personal experience with no relation to their religion whilst for others it stems directly from their Islam faith. Caring for the environment may have been a root concern whilst for others protecting animals was the primary motivation. In the spirit of showcasing this diversity, I have asked three Muslim to answer set questions about their vegetarianism and I hope you find their responses as fascinating as I did!

1. Eco-Warrior Vegetarian

Munqeth Mehyar- Jordanian Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, Jordan

Munqeth Mehyar

1. How long have you been a vegetarian and what encouraged you to become a vegetarian?

It’s been 14 years now and I became a vegetarian as the result of a personal experience.

2. Would you advocate that all Muslims consider and take up vegetarianism?

I would advocate that everyone consider becoming a vegetarian when they pass the age of 40.

3. Did Islam play a big part in your decision to become a vegetarian?

No.

4. What have the reactions to your vegetarianism been like from the Muslim/non-Muslim community?

I would say that in our culture eating meat is a must, hearing that some one does not eat meat out of choice was considered to be unusual and weird.

5. Finally, what is your favorite vegetarian meal?

Salads and vegetable spaghetti


2. Vegetarian of Faith

Rianne ten Veen- Green Muslim and author of ’199 Ways To Please God‘ a faith-based green guide

Rianne ten Veen

1. How long have you been a vegetarian and what encouraged you to become a vegetarian?

Not sure there was a single moment (or that full time vegetarians would be happy with me considering myself vegetarian – my intention and preference is clearly to be vegetarian, but sometimes it’s not appropriate to push your preference, so I do end up eating some fish or chicken). Whilst living in Argentina I’d eat quite a bit of meat as part of existing local culture; in the Netherlands I ate much less for this same reason. When living in Belgium I never bought meat as I couldn’t consider cooking animals, it felt too cruel.

Now in the UK I still never buy meat as I know vast majority of meat on sale is from animals raised in ‘non-fitra’ situations (as Muslims we shouldn’t just care about how animals were killed, but also have a responsibility to ensure that animals have a chance to live their life as God intended them to live, and definitely not locked up in tiny cages being fed a non-natural diet, e.g. grains or soy to grass-eating cows) and do not want to have contributing to that system too much on my record for Day of Judgment.

2. Tell me one piece of information that you would like others to know about being a Muslim vegetarian?

Maybe more a question: all vegetables are halal, by definition, and the Quran and hadith mention many good qualities of vegetables; how come they are so scarce then at many a Muslim event where food is provided?

3. Would you advocate that all Muslims consider and take up vegetarianism?

It is not up to me to say what others, Muslim or not, should or should not do. For environmental, health, animal welfare and so many other reasons, I would suggest people do try to give meat a break more often.

4. Did Islam play a big part in your decision to become a vegetarian?

Most definitely. Just read how positively the Qur’an mentions vegetables (e.g. 6:99, 6:141, 16:10-11, 50:9-11) but just tolerates meat (e.g. 6:142); note how rarely Prophet Muhammed PBUH ate meat. With global grain prices going up to feed our (increasingly cloned or artificially inseminated) cattle and chickens out-pricing the poorest; with intensive farming contributing increasingly to climate change; with meat generally having a significantly higher eco-footprint than vegetables contributing need to over-exploit arable land; with fish demand leading to species collapse and genetically modified farmed fish… a more vegetarian diet seems much more Islamic to me.

5. What have the reactions to your vegetarianism been like from the Muslim/non-Muslim community

I’ve been quite surprised at the negative response from Muslims – as if choosing not to eat meat equated to making it ‘haram’ (forbidden) and sounding surprised when I replied with a question whether they’d made haram all the vegetables they never ate?

6. What is your favourite vegetarian meal?

A big mixed salad: fresh raw spinach leaves, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, red onion, fresh garlic; sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds (the ‘good cousin of the naughty cousin’: no marijuana, but very healthy), slightly roasted pine nuts; a dressing of organic olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard… delicious!

3. Animal Rights Vegetarian

Summreen Sheikh- Founder of Vegetarian Muslims Group on Facebook and works in the environmental sustainability sector in the UK

Summreen Sheikh

1. How long have you been a vegetarian and what encouraged you to become a vegetarian?

Since I was five, I learnt about animals at school and decided not to eat meat anymore as every time I saw the meat I thought of the animal.

2. Tell me one piece of information that you would like others to know about being a Muslim vegetarian?

It’s very normal and halal.

3. Would you advocate that all Muslims consider and take up vegetarianism?

No, I would encourage them to think about where their meat comes from. To learn about what is required for their food to be truly halal and question if they genuinely think that the meat industry meets all these requirements. I would also suggest that they look into the consumption of meat in the time of our Prophet and see how eating meat was treated. We are encouraged to think for ourselves as Muslims, not follow the masses.

4. Did Islam play a big part in your decision to become a vegetarian?

No.

5. What have the reactions to your vegetarianism been like from the Muslim/non-Muslim community?

Muslims especially have a problem accepting something that is not common in their culture. Often people will say its haram (forbidden) to be vegetarian- obviously this is quite insulting and ignorant and requires a lot of self restraint from me! Non-muslims are more open minded to the diversity of my lifestyle choice.

6. Finally, what is your favourite veggie dish?

Daal chaal – lentils and rice- yum!

For more on Vegetarianism see:

How Vegetarians Can Solve The Middle East Water Crisis

Eid Al-Adha: The Muslim Festival of Meat?

RECIPE: Lemon-Scented Vegetarian Couscous

22 thoughts on “This Is What A Muslim Vegetarian Looks Like

  1. Siraganda

    This is a wonderful report on these three wonderful innovative and loving people!

    I spent much time in my life in muslim society and am a vegetarian for over 40 years now and since two years I try vegan!

    I had many close friends among muslim people and many of them were ready to embrace vegetarian diet, after they were conscious about the atrocities committed aganist helpless animals and the insane impact of the meat industry on this planet!

    Gods blessings
    Siraganda

    Reply
  2. CH S RAJAGOPAL

    A LIFE we save is A LIFE we give. Hence, by not killing the animals for human consumption is equivalent to sparing their lives so as to co-live with us. As different human beings, the animals are also pretty, innocent,and life enjoying ; We do no have any right to deprive the animals of their right to live as if we are above them . Can anybody deprive human beings of their right to live except God or the Nature the creator. So let animals have also their natural death just like human beings because all we species come under LIVING BEINGs category to co-exist. Hence the vegetarians who are practising vegetarianism are inturn allowing the other living beings (animals and birds) by sparing their lives; hence vegetarianism is real HUMANISM. Killing animals thus is an inhuman act of cruelty.

    Reply
  3. Sven Johansson

    I am also vegetarian and even if I am not muslim but a believing christian I am glad to
    read about these vegetarian muslims portrayed on this page. As a vegetarian christian I
    can meet the same kind of questioning as vegetarian muslims can. Many christians and
    many muslims support meat production and question others of their faiths that are vegetarian.
    I dream of a day when peoples hearts have changed so they no longer demand the killing of
    other living beings, for example meat-production and abortions ,the latter except in medical
    emergency situations.

    Reply
  4. rahmah

    … i agree to not eat any cain of meat , so i am try every day do not eat this poor animals INSHALLAH

    Reply
  5. Pratik khanal

    few minutes ago before reading this article, I used to think that all Muslims of the world should be hallaled and killed. Now I can see some change there and I have positive thinking for atleast three muslims in this world. Well done guys. Keep it up. I am not from a Muslim family but my parents are non-veg, but I am a vegetarian and my sister too. I was able to get rid of meat since I was 10 years old and I am 21 now. My parents are still non-veg. They sometimes insist me to be non-veg but I love animals and I can never do so. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. MoroccanVegan

    Je suis très heureuse de voir qu’il ya des musulmans qui pensent à la souffrance des animaux. Je suis végétarienne et fière de l’être. Pensons à tout ces animaux maltraités, que ce soit pour la nouriture, les expériences médicales, les jeux ou autres choses. Je connais un groupe qui combat pour la liberté des animaux ce groupe s’apelle ALF (animal liberation front)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lkwe2gNM-o
    j’espère un jour voir ce groupe dans un pays musulman.
    STOP ANIMAL CRUELTY
    FREEDOM FOR ALL ANIMALS!

    Reply
  7. Dr Yogesh Kodkani

    Islam definately forbids Blood consumption hence the insistance on Halal meat. but to the intelligent follower it means no meat cause it is never possible to completely drain blood from meat and every drop of blood consumed only propels towards hell.
    Also Bakri Id is commemoration of the Great Sacrifice of Abraham wherein he agreed to sacrifice his dear son and not a poor defenceless animal. So it is best celebrated by sacrificings ones loved possesions and definately not by having a massacre.

    Reply
  8. Shallar

    Rianna , if you eat even occasionally chicken , it would not be true to say you’re a vegetarian .

    IT IS LIKE SAYING ‘ I AM TOTALLY HONEST , N’CH ALLAH , AND SOMETIMES I TELL LIES .

    THIS IS WHY SO MANY PEOPLE IN OUR ENLIGHTENED AGE BECOME TURNED AWAY FROM GOD ALLAH . BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP TO BE HONEST . THEY THEN SAY ‘ I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ALL THIS HYPOCRISY . I WILL SEEK THE REAL TRUTH ‘.

    Reply
  9. surabhi

    Idd had got over in the morning and in the evening, I saw a
    small baby lamb was bitterly crying (his/her mother was
    killed in the morning ritual. Being a mother of 3 children,
    when i saw this, I almost was in tears. I wished I had not
    seen such a scene. My heart tugged. I prayed to
    god to give compassion to human beings who kill and
    eat the animals. Mahatma Gandhi asked for ahimsa
    not only for human beings but also for animals.
    Once, compassion strikes you cannot and will not
    eat any animals. So great is that power.
    I pray the Lord that all human beings in this world
    will get it.

    Lokha samastha sukinav bavanthu ( which means
    let all beings(animals included) live in happiness and peace

    Thank you.

    Reply
  10. PRITZ

    Nakia- in regards to your question about offering, think about it this way first yes ok your god and all creatures are your children right now would you want your children killing another child then offering it to you ???? Im a vegeterian and i dont eat meat nor do i distribute meat as that will be me promotoig meat and again will god give u haram things. You got to think of it that way

    Reply
  11. Alison Rogerson

    It’s just so heart-warming to see that the animal rights message is reaching many Muslims and thank God that many are turning to a meat-free and cruelty-free diet!! I have just forced myself to watch a youtube video of Pakistani men trying to slaughter a live camel and it was horrendous and I never want to view such torture again! The poor creature had a very slow death and the on-lookers were shouting and pulling the animal down with ropes – they could not even bear to be kind and sooth the beautiful creature! If, this is part of a religion, then, the religion needs to change its ethos.

    Reply
  12. nish

    I do not believe in god or createion. But If god exists he definitely did not create these animals for us to eat. Just look at them. You can see fear in their eyes when you try to kill them. They scream and try to run away. They have feelings and they have the same nervous system as we do and they do feel pain like we do. If there is a loving god he definitely expects us to be vegetarian and we definitely will be judjed for the compassion we gave his creatures.

    Reply
  13. rehana

    Peace to everyone!

    Thanks for clarifying this issue in this article! It is a challenge being a vegetarian in a religion where meat is a central part of meals. You have to put up with the endless parties where the host forces you to eat meat, the scorning looks you get when you tell people you’re vegetarian, the misinformed comments that being vegetarian is unacceptable in Islam etc!

    I once had a long discussion with a close relative, where he even brought me the Quran and showed me passages such as the one below, where Allah says,

    “O ye who believe! Fulfill your undertakings.The beast of cattle is made lawful unto you (for food) except that which is announced unto you (herein)…” (5:1)

    After many similar episodes, I actually started to think refraining from meat was haram!

    Choosing to be a vegetarian has nothing to do with religion. I care deeply for animals and I am appalled by the way animals are being treated these days to fulfil a commercial purpose. It is my personal choice not to participate in the abuse, torture and merciless treatment and killing of animals for their meat.

    Reply
  14. Subhash

    Tons of respect to you, the three aforementioned individuals and everyone else out there who is a vegetarian. I’m Hindu and i really don’t think eating a poor animal should have anything to do with one’s faith or religion. Its just about seeing the fact that should any other living have to bear the traumatic experience of living inside a cage, being brutally slaughtered and brought to you for food when you have other options? And you make a beautiful point there Nakia, cheers to you too.

    Reply
  15. Nakia

    Shazah: I’m not a vegetarian, but I think sharing non-meat items, donating some to charity, would be a wonderful way to honor the spirit of the sacrifice without having to have an animal slaughtered.

    Reply
  16. Shazah

    Thank you for sharing this! I have a question for the author, the three vegetarians interviewed here, or any Muslim vegetarians who are reading this: How do we address the issue of sacrificing an animal for Eid-ul-Adha or as a Hajj ritual?

    Reply
  17. Green Zabiha

    Thank you for the interesting article.

    The factory farm approach of meat production is a reflection of our stripping them–and us–of the sacredness we believe God gave them. If we saw animals for what they are, signs of God’s Majesty and Divine Mercy, we’d give them the respect and awe they deserve as most perfectly reflected by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

    So its definitely better to not eat such meat, as Muslims we maintain what we eat affects our physical and spiritual state, so animals that have been mistreated will bear witness on us.

    Thank goodness our Islamic tradition is replete with commandments and guidelines on how to raise, and humanely harvest animals with the love, dignity and honor that is befitting them.
    GZ

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>