Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Can Muslims be vegetarian?

islamic vegetarianism islam muslimi stumbled into Yahya's website which explores the choice to be vegetarian and how it is ok from islamic point of view, a very thoughtful piece:

"The option to be vegetarian has always existed in Islam, whether or not it was actualized at any time or place. The great Sufi Râbi‘ah al-‘Adawîyah of Basrah was an early Muslim vegetarian; so were the famous poet Abû al-‘Alâ’ al-Ma‘arrî and the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II. In recent times, the renowned Sufi shaykh Bawa Muhaiyaddeen was a notable vegetarian Muslim. Nowadays there are more and more Muslims in different countries choosing to be vegetarian, although they have mostly kept quiet about it.

Sometimes we get negative, hostile, indignant, or incredulous reactions from other Muslims who have never considered the possibility. One common line of attack goes, "You can't make harâm what Allah has made halâl! That is a sin!" Excuse me, but who ever said anything about making anything harâm? Why even bring that issue into it? Why do they have to think of everything in life in terms of force and compulsion and forbidding? In Islamic law there are more categories than just obligatory and harâm. There are various shadings of desirable and undesirable, and in the middle there is the neutral (al-mubâh). The choice of what halâl food to eat is a neutral one - it doesn't have any direct bearing on what is forbidden or obligatory. I'm not making meat "harâm." I just don't wish for any, thank you.

Some Muslims will tell you that in Islamic law you are not allowed to refuse to eat meat. This is mere opinion unsupported by any evidence from the sources of the Sharî‘ah. Suppose they establish the "Islamic State," then how will they enforce this ruling? Hold me down, force my mouth open, and shove kebabs down my throat? Come on, I don't think so.

Others try to persuade you by saying that the Prophet, peace be upon him, ate meat, so you should too. Well, let's look closer at that argument. We all know that we should try to emulate the Prophet's sunnah. And what is more important in the Sunnah: to observe specific details of the Prophet's personal taste which others may or may not share? Or to abide by the great universal principles of behavior and character that he exemplified?

The Prophet recognized that each person is a unique autonomous individual with his or her own personality. When giving advice to individual Companions, he would specifically tailor the advice according to that person's own characteristics. He did not enforce any overbearing uniformity on the people. Especially when it came to eating, he recognized that different people have different tastes. And for that matter, not even the Prophet and his Companions ate meat all the time; it was only once in a while that they did, not every day. Some Muslims seem to be under the impression that eating meat is the sixth pillar of Islam or something, but clearly there is no reason for thinking so.

Also understand that Prophet's desertly living environment had very little food choice and among them, Prophet preferred to eat date, milk and honey - the predominant foods of his. Even when it came to fasting, its reported that he fasted with eating dates and broke fast with dates. Also noteworthy that without making haram, he openly said that he didn't like the smell of onion and garlic and he didn't eat those as personal choice. The type of food the Prophet loved most was the Hays. Hays made is a mixture of dates and dried milk, which were pressed hard with butter.

The one overall guideline on food that the Prophet gave was: Eat of what is halâl and what is agreeable to you. That says it all. Within the wide range of halâl food, each individual can choose to eat whatever suits him or her.

If people want to follow the Prophet's sunnah of eating, consider this: The Prophet ate what he liked and he left aside what he didn't like. That's all we vegetarians are doing! Furthermore, he never coerced anyone else into eating what they didn't like. How about imitating this sunnah?

There was a Bedouin tribe whose custom it was to eat lizards, and the Prophet never forbade them from doing so. But he himself would never eat a lizard. This shows that just because something is "halâl," that doesn't require you to eat it if you don't want to.

The bottom line is: no one has the authority to dictate to you what halâl food you can choose to put into your body. Islamic law is completely neutral on this issue; it is only a private matter for each individual to decide for his or her self.

Moreover, note that the Qur’ân does not simply say to eat halâl meat: it says to eat what is good and wholesome (tayyib), and what is halâl. Therefore, if any food is not tayyib, the Qur’ân does not encourage us to eat it."

"The Koran does permit meat-eating, but its also encourages healthful foods (which, many Muslims conclude, does not include animal products). Given these traditions, many Shi‘ite Muslims and the Islamic mystics, such as the Sufis, see vegetarianism as the Islamic ideal and choose this diet." - Karen Armstrong, A History of God

What about Hajj, animal sacrifice?
Yahya writes in his site, "It is not necessary to sacrifice animals in the Hajj. When I did my Hajj, I did it the Maliki way. According to Maliki fiqh, ifrad is the most preferred format. With ifrad, there is no animal sacrifice. I completed a pilgrimage that was perfectly valid according to Maliki fiqh - and no animals were harmed in the making of my Hajj."


According to scholars the Prophet Mohammed, although not a vegetarian, did prefer to eat vegetarian foods and had a great love and compassion for animals. His favourite foods consisted of yogurt with butter or nuts, cucumbers with dates, pomegranates, grapes and figs. He was known to have quoted: "Where there is an abundance of vegetables, a host of angels will descend on that place." (credit)

Personal opinion
i am not a 100% vegetarian. i jokingly call myself semi-vegetarian. i grew up so much depending on non-veg meal, it was hard when i tried. it gave me weakness, and coping with the energy pattern changes can be a problem. so at one point to begin, i decided to cut meat off at least from one meal, which reduces 50% reduction over rest of the life time. thats a practical way to start. occasionally i go on days with only vegetarian foods. gradual enlightenment so to speak! now a days if i have choice i prefer to avoid meat,. if no or little choice, i eat. islam encourage taking a middle path. when having option for fish and meat, obviously its fish. its a much much healthier option than chemical injected fat chicken drumsticks or growth hormone pushed beef.

# Related:
. Spirituality and Vegetarianism
. Vegetarianism and Sufism
. Vegetarianism and Comparative Religion Perspective
. Rethinking vegetarian options

# Further:
. Islamic Concern | animals in islam
. International Vegetarian Union's page on Islamic viewpoints
. Health and Nutrition from Prophetic Wisdom
. Islamic Vegetarianism Pin It Now!