Islam and Vegetarianism

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Muhammad’s warning: Do not allow your stomachs to become graveyards!

For this reason, meat is used in moderation in many traditional recipes. Many Sufitariqats prohibit meat-eating during retreats. The Qadiri shaikh Abdul Karim Jili, commenting on Ibn Arabi’s advice to avoid animal fat during retreats, stated that animal fat strengthens ‘animalness’, and its principles will dominate the spiritual principles.

The 15th Century poet Kabir, who was a Sufi, unequivocally condemned meat eating, characterising it as the ultimate failure of compassion, deserving of eternal punishment; he stated that even the companionship of meat-eaters was harmful to the soul.

In a gentler tone, the 20th century Sri Lankan Qadiri teacher Bawa Muhaiyaddeen also encouraged vegetarianism, stating that arrogance, haste and anger may decrease by elimination of meat from the diet. He taught that consumption of meat promotes the development of animalistic qualities, whereas consumption of plant and dairy products promotes peaceful qualities. He noted that Islamic rules pertaining to animal slaughter have the effect, if properly observed, of reducing the number of animals killed for food.

Sufism has a deep-rooted belief that vegetarianism is an essential step towards spiritual growth. Sufi saints like Rahim Bawa Mohiyuddin and Hazrat Rabia Basri showed love and compassion to animals and taught that mercy towards them is essential to Islam.

Great Sufi saints like Sultan Bahu and Bulleh Shah were also vegetarian. Many of us do not know Sultan Bahu. Let me tell you most of the Sufi quotes and songs are written by these two Sufi saints.

A Muslim writer Hussain Fakhruddin writes his experience in his blog, Life of a Vegetarian Muslim. Excerpts :-

““Muslim and A Vegetarian ? How can it be? ” This is the only question I face every time I eat out with a new person. I am a practicing Muslim and a Pure Vegetarian. Everyone has a general conception that all muslims are Meat lovers.

I had no reasons to quit meat eating, but something happened when there was a Goat sacrifice in our house on the day of Eid-uz-Zoha. Hours after the Goat was sacrificed, I saw the raw meat on the plate still shivering. As if it still had life in it. Islamic way of sacrifice is no doubt the most scientific method of killing with minimal pain, but I just couldn’t tolerate the view of the pieces of meat shivering in front of my eyes. Some more hours passed by, the meat was cooked. I just couldn’t consume it. I didn’t see any physical movement on the cooked meat but could feel the shivering. I just couldn’t consume that meat.

It is said that before any sacrifice, the animal comes to know that its going to be sacrificed.  It has already given up the hope. The animal stops eating from the night before. I have seen in the animal’s eyes. Its deep. Its dark. Its scared. When the time comes there is a ceremony in which the animal should drink a few gulps of water just before the knife is rubbed against the skin. This is the most difficult part. The animal refuses to drink the last drink. Just to extend its life for a few more minutes. And when the animal is forced to drink, just when the water reaches its throat, the slaughter begins with prayers. I shall not go into the details of the processes involved in slaughtering. But all these hurt me more than anything else in the world. The sight is too frightful for me.

Every time I see a dead animal, I recite the prayers which muslims recite when they come across death of any human. Such is my faith.

I must confess that I am a food lover. I am mostly cut from my cultural foodie events. I do not go because the food is non-veg. I don’t expect them to understand either.

They respect my vegetarianism because I am not doing anything against the religion or against Islam. Just like any other ‘ideal’ muslim, I pray daily prayers, I don’t indulge in Usury or Interest on money, I offer charity, I don’t gamble, drink, smoke and most importantly, I believe that there is no god, but God. These are the basic pillars of Islam and I don’t think I am breaking them.

Its time when people should know the fact that in the Holy Quran it is mentioned that eating non-vegetarian food is not compulsory. A muslim can be a good practicing muslim by being a Vegetarian.”

Islam teaches that in Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, no creature can be slaughtered and that perfect harmony should exist between all living beings. Muslim pilgrims approach Mecca wearing a shroud (ihram). From the moment they wear this religious cloth, absolutely no killing is allowed. Mosquitoes, lice, grasshoppers, and other living creatures must also be protected. If a pilgrim sees an insect on the ground, he will motion to stop his comrades from accidentally stepping on it. Islam teaches respect for animals and nature; the Islamic tradition has much to say about humanity’s relationship with the animal world.

“Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.” — the Prophet Mohammed

“There is not an animal on the earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are all peoples like unto you.” — Quran, surah 6, verse 38

  • Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans says: “I am not fussy about any kind of food as long as it is vegetarian. I strongly believe in jaisa ann vaisa mann philosophy which is why I eat vegetarian food and not because I am a Sufi singer.”
  • Indian Sufi Saint and Chisti order Master Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was also a vegetarian. Indian first Master of Chisti order Hazrat Moinuddin Chisti also supported vegetarianism.
  • Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri, a British-Indian imam (scholar who knows the Quran in its entirety) also opposed killing of innocent animals and wrote books about it (Example: “Animals in Islam”).
  • The Chishti Inayat Khan, who introduced Sufi principles to Europe and America in the early part of this century, expressed similar concerns. He observed that vegetarianism promotes compassion and harmlessness to living creatures, and that a vegetarian diet aids in the purification of the body, and helps in the opening of the channels of breath and refinement of spiritual faculties.

Go veg!


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