An article by Joseph Mayton in The Guardian created some debate. He claimed that eating less meat is more Islamic. Is it? For Muslims eating meat in small proportions is “halal” (lawful) and a blessing from God. However, Mayton claims that Prophet Muhammad did not advocate ‘daily meat eating’, nor did the noted Sheikh Hamza Yusuf: “Meat is not a necessity in shariah, and in the old days most Muslims used to eat meat – if they were wealthy, like middle class – once a week on Friday. If they were poor – on the Eids.”
Beware of meat
In the Muslim world this is mostly a social product. European Muslims eat their fish, poultry and creatures with four legs daily along with salads and pastas, whereas on the Asiatic continent and in the Middle East meat-eating for many Muslims is reserved for special occasions as a result of availability and cost. In Islamic history the Prophet Muhammad faced poverty; his community broke their fasts in Ramadan with water and dates, as Muslims do today.
They were sanctioned from markets and business, which forbade them from even the basic foods. Later, as wealth generated, the Prophet’s wisdom was to prevent obesity, to prevent any illness and this is why he encouraged eating less meat to avoid a ‘love’ for it, opting for a wholesome, healthy and cleaner digestive system. “Beware of meat. It has addictiveness like the addictiveness of wine” (Malik).
Compassion, environment, and health
The Qur’an’s guidelines on healthy eating are clear: “O mankind: Eat of what is lawful and good on earth” (Quran 2:168). The message is to eat the “halal” and eat balanced, which includes meat. Animals are a source of energy for people, used as transportation, in agriculture and as food. As an eco Muslim and semi-vegetarian (I only eat meat on weekdays) stand in the middle ground that if you are able to eat to your social status do so, but do not order an extra double cheese burger as dessert when there’s a hungry population in your country.
Muslim vegetarians are on the rise for good reasons. In his article, Mayton interviewed Gamal al-Banna, a prominent Islamic scholar who said that being a vegetarian and Muslim does not break any tradition and is in no way un-Islamic. “When someone becomes vegetarian they do so for a number of reasons: compassion, environment and health reasons.”
Eating meat is not an Islamic stipulation but rather a blessing that God provides humanity. It is an option that encompasses the welfare of both animal and humans. Thus, being vegetarian is not only friendlier for the lives of animals, but also rewarding for people. So should Muslims become vegetarian for the greater good?
How full is your stomach?
The London Muslim thinks not:
‘While there are health benefits for those with high cholesterol avoiding red meat Islam does not advocate vegetarianism… My initial suspicion is the animal lobby seem to now be equating Muslims as a problem in terms of our meat consumption and appear to be attempting to establish an Islamic argument – where none exists for the advocacy of Vegetarianism.’
Perhaps the best conclusion for Muslims can be drawn from the Eco Prophet Muhammad himself in his words when he saw a man with a slightly rounder stomach than the slimmer man sat alongside, pointing at the larger man with a smile ‘that (your fuller stomach) could be on him!’ And to our vegetarian Muslims – stay green people.
:: image via hoyasmeg
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