Bismi’Llāhi ir-Ramān ir-Raīm

In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate


We live in a time when so many of us have access to an abundant variety and quantity of food. Most have diets very different than those of their ancestors, who lived much simpler lives on all fronts, and in many cases were much healthier. There are many who plan their lives around trips to restaurants for the next gustatory adventure. Certainly, what the earth provides for our sustenance is part of the provision that Allāh ﷻ has written for us. This, however, is a means to supporting a life that is intended to be oriented towards Allāh ﷻ. In this way, any thing of the world should never occupy a central position in one’s mind, much less in one’s daily routine.

During this blessed month of Ramaḍān, we have the possibility of cultivating greater mindfulness and knowledge around all matters related to food, including food justice, sources, quality, dietary health, and mode of consumption. Each of these subjects are fields of study in and of themselves. Here, I endeavor to highlight a few key points for your consideration.

In matters of food justice, it is important to not be a part of the global problem. Food that is cultivated at the expense of any population is spiritually unlawful. Because we vote with our dollars, we should, to the best of our knowledge and ability, avoid purchasing food from profane sources. Allāh ﷻ says in the Holy Qur’ān, “Oh you people, eat from the earth what is lawful and wholesome and do not follow [in] the footsteps of Satan [Shayṭān], for truly he is your manifest enemy.” (al-Baqarah, 2:168). The family and companions of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ were known to exhibit great scrupulousness in what they ate and drank. Given the abundance of food variety, as well as the availability of ḥalāl meat and restaurants in much of the developed world, there is almost no good excuse for not eating ḥalāl today. Furthermore, every meal does not have to include meat, nor is it necessary to eat three meals a day, as some do better with less while others need more. These are all fine opportunities for cultivating self-restraint. We should be cautious and honest about the excuses we are willing to make in order to avoid a bit of discomfort and sacrifice.

Then there’s the question of food quality. Ideally, we would all have access to food that is wholesome (ṭayyib)—fresh, in-season, organic (toxin-free), and unaltered (i.e. not GMO or genetically-engineered). Allāh ﷻ says in the Holy Qur’ān, “Oh you who securely believe, eat from the good which We ﷻ have provided for you, and give thanks to Allāh ﷻ if it is He Whom ﷻ you worship” (al-Baqarah 2:172). With a bit of research and discernment, we can all learn how to make smart food choices that are also within our means.

Finally, let’s look at the issue of diet as it pertains to health. It is incumbent on us to honor and respect the sanctuary of the body by consuming the right food in the right time and quantity. Allāh ﷻ says in the Holy Qur’ān: “… eat and drink and be not excessive (therein)…” (al-A’rāf 7:31). There is a trend among Muslims to make up for what we did not consume during our fast by eating our usual daily quantity of food during the non-fasting hours. In a time when so many things have been inverted, it seems that fasting has now become a mercy from the eating. The Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said, “The son of Adam does not fill a container worse than his stomach. Sufficient is it for the son of Adam to take enough morsels (of food) to keep his back straight. And if it is necessary, then a third for his food, a third for his drink, and a third for his breath.” It is known that those who are moderate and careful in their consumption of food are healthier than those who are indiscriminate. Good food habits keep the mind sharp and the body light, strong, and finely tuned.

Referring back to the verse from al-Baqarah (2:172), “Oh you who securely believe, eat from the good which We ﷻ have provided for you, and give thanks to Allāh ﷻ if it is He Whom ﷻ you worship.” This verse points to the proper spiritual attitude we should have with respect to our consumption of food. By consecrating the act of eating through mindfulness of Allāh ﷻ (i.e. being grateful and giving thanks), the experience of consumption can be profound. The sacredness and spiritual benefits of meal-times can be realized by simply pausing before you begin, being mindful, breathing, and taking your time as you eat, and allowing each moment of enjoyment to radiate gratitude throughout the experience. Eating when you are in a negative state is literally a recipe for disaster. Food is processed adversely in a stressed body, and quite positively in the body of one who is composed and grateful.

We are all impacted by the relationships of our lives, directly and indirectly. We incur a spiritual debt for the negativity we contribute to and a reward for the good we enjoin. Mindfulness of Allāh ﷻ in all matters related to food and drink cannot be emphasized enough. Let us take advantage of this time to address some of our deficiencies around food matters. And Allāh ﷻ knows best.


© Ḥakīm Ilyās Kāshānī