Islamic Vegetarianism (Minhaj al-Awwal)

Islamic Vegetarianism (Minhaj al-Awwal)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Within the Muslim world, few issues are more controversial than that of vegetarianism or veganism. While this may come as a surprise to many on the outside looking in, the issue of animal flesh-consumption is inextricably tied in with holidays, ritual sacrifice and even literalistic assumptions about what it means to follow the “Sunnah” of Muhammad.

Within the Shi`i world, the attitudes are roughly the same, though there has been marked progress. While far from a perfect individual, or one for whom we do not have our share of strong criticisms as an organization, Khomeini himself sanctioned limiting or outrightly abstaining from animal flesh consumption. He not only declared it permissible (something which is important for those in the Shi`ah world who follow the notion of taqlid and believe his followers to be under commandment to adhere to his rulings. In fact, Khomeini went so far as to acknowledge that “in fact, it is not good to eat meat.”

“Imam Khomeini gave this address in Tehran eight days after the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by the Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam, setting forth the demands and grievances of the Iranian people.” 

Source:  text supplied by the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Washington, D.C.

“Assuming that the Americans can impose an economic embargo on us by persuading all nations to sacrifice their own interests – which is nothing more than an idle dream, something that will never happen – we can fast, or content ourselves with the barley and corn that we sow on our own land.  That will be enough for us.  We eat meat only one day a week, and in fact, it is not good to eat meat.  If necessary, we can even restrict ourselves to one meal a day.  So they should not try to intimidate us with economic pressure.  If we are faced with the choice of preserving our honor or filling our stomachs, naturally we will prefer to go hungry and keep our honor.”

Algar, Hamid. (1981). Islam and Revolution I p.285:  Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (1941-1980).  Berkeley:  Mizan Press.

Unlike other species on this planet, mankind eats flesh foods while we have flat front teeth, such as those possessed by a horse, cow, rabbit and the like. No natural omnivore or carnivore has flat front teeth. Likewise, no omnivore or carnivore has even close to as long a digestive tract as a human being. That is because herbivores take longer to breakdown and process the plant matter which they consume, while flesh eating animals must quickly expel the putrid flesh matter from their digestive tract. Accordingly, the consequences of this slow human digestion of flesh foods is one of the greatest causes of disease, sickness and premature death of human beings.

Unlike animals which Allah designed to be omnivores and carnivores, human beings can not run and catch their prey, nor do we salivate upon sight of the living animals which we consume. We associate only the cooked or processed form of their flesh as “food” while we associate the living animal beings as “animals.” Likewise, we sweat, as do all herbivores, while omnivores and carnivores always pant. Clearly these are signs for those who reflect.

Even if mankind could run and catch the animals they seek to kill and eat, we have no sharp claws, nor elongated sharp teeth with which to tear into the flesh of the animal. Again, this is not the case for any animal which Allah designed to eat flesh foods. Truly Allah is the best of Planners, the best of Creators, whose design is without flaw. In the same manner, we do not see other species of Allah’s creation drinking milk from lactating animals that was designed to nourish their young.

The Prophet Muhammad was asked: “Oh Prophet, are we rewarded for kindness to animals?” Muhammad replied: “There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.”

While many Prophets were vegetarian, the one that Muslims should most closely be aware of is `Isa al-Masih, who Christains call “Jesus”. For unlike the other Prophets, it is he who is said to Return with Imam Al-Mahdi . Ahadith bears witness that `Isa will prostrate in Salat behind “the Imam” al-Mahdi. So without delving into what literally dozens of Christian and pre-Christian Gospel accounts of `Isa say about him abstaining from flesh consumption, allow us to view several of the Islamic Ahadith (Recorded Oral Traditions) that record the dietary habits of `Isa – the one who will Return (whether you believe this literally or metaphorically) and slay Masih ad-Dajjal (“Imposter System”), according to the beliefs of all Muslims across the globe.

“`Isa used to tell his followers, ‘Take masajid (mosques) to be your homes, house to be stopping places. Eat from the plants of the wilderness and escape from this world in Peace.’ Sharik said, ‘I mentioned this to Sulayman, who added, ‘and drink pure water.'”

Notes: Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak )d. 181/797), al-Zuhd, p. 198 (no. 563). Cf. Ibn Abd Rabbihi, al-`Iqd, 3:143; Ibn Asakir, Sirat, p. 138, no. 128 (Asin, p. 541, no. 111; Mansur, no 9; Robson, p. 73).

“`Isa used to say, ‘Truly i say to you, to eat wheat bread, to drink pure water, and to sleep upon dunghills with the dogs more than suffices him who wishes to inherit paradise.”

Notes: Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241/855), al-Zuhd, p. 98 (no. 326). Ibn Qutbayba, Uyun al-Akhbar, 2:363; Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Kitab Dhamm al- Dunya, in Mawsu’at Rasa’il, 2:275, excerpt no. 138: Ikhwan al-Safa’, Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’, 3:34; and al-Ghazali, Ihya’, 4:180 (Asin, p. 400, no. 70; Mansur, no. 152; Robson, p. 70).

“`Isa was a constant traveler in the land, never abiding in a house or a village. His clothing consisted of a cloak made of coarse hair or camel stub and two hairless shirts… In his hand he carried a club. Whenever night fell, his lamp was the moonlight, his shade the blackness of night, his bed the earth, his pillow a stone, his food the plants of the fields. At times, he spent whole days and nights without food. In times of distress he was happy, and in times of ease he was sad.

Notes: Abu Rifa’a al-Fasawi (d. 289/902), Kitab Bad’ al-Khalq, p. 333. Cf. Ibn `Asakir, Sirat, p. 133, no. 120.

“If you want to fast as `Isa did, he would fast all the time and lived on nothing but barley. He always wore [garments of] coarse hair, and wherever he would be at nightfall he would plant his feet and keep praying until he saw the break of dawn. He would never leave a particular place before praying two raka`at. If, however, you want to fast as his mother, the Virgin did, she used to fast for two days at a time then eat for two days.”

Notes: Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (d. 373/983), Tanbih al-Ghafilin, p. 125 (Asin, p. 557, no. 139; Mansur, no. 39; Robson, pp. 74-75).

“Masih (the Messiah) said, ‘Flesh eating flesh? How offensive an act!’”

Notes: Al-Raghib al-Isfahani (early fifth/early eleventh century), Mahadarat al-Udaba’, 1:610.

“If you wish, you may repeat what the Possessor of the Word and the Ruh (Spirit), `Isa Ibn Maryam (Jesus the son of Mary), used to say: ‘Hunger is my seasoning, fear [of Allah] is my garment, wool is my clothing, the light of the dawn is my heat in winter, the moon is my lantern, my legs are my beast of burden, and the produce of the earth is my food and fruit. I retire for the night with nothing to my name and awake in the morning with nothing to my name. And there is no one on earth richer than me.”

Notes: Abu Nu`aym al-Isbahani (d. 430/1038), Hilyat al-Awliya’, 6:314 (Asin, pp. 374-375, no. 44; Mansur, no. 80; Robson, pp. 67-68.

Particular attention must be paid to the last Hadith, where it is stressed “If you wish, you may repeat what the Possessor of the Word and the Ruh, `Isa Ibn Maryam, used to say… the produce of the earth is my food and fruit…” Thus it is Islamically impossible for any Muslim to say that one “may not” say “the produce of the earth is my food and fruit” when here permission is granted.

“And (appoint `Isa) a Messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this Message):‘I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah ’s leave; and I declare to you what you should eat, and what you should store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if you are Believers.’” – Qur ’an, Sura 3:49 

وَرَسُولًا إِلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنِّي قَدْ جِئْتُكُمْ بِآيَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۖ أَنِّي أَخْلُقُ لَكُمْ مِنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ فَأَنْفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُبْرِئُ الْأَكْمَهَ وَالْأَبْرَصَ وَأُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا تَأْكُلُونَ وَمَا تَدَّخِرُونَ فِي بُيُوتِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ

The Qur’an tells us that Isa told people what to eat, and these Ahadith tell us that what he ate and told others to eat was plant based food alone. As well, if Prophet `Isa al-Masih ate no flesh or animal products 2,000 years ago, then why do so many imagine that he would be ANY different when he returns with the Holy Imam al-Mahdi? And with that in mind, it would serve to reason that the Imam himself might actually be abstinent from flesh foods if Isa, his closest companion, is.

The author of “Eqd’ud-Durar,” in Chapter Five, narrates from Hakim Abu `Abd’ullah (from his “Mustadrak”) that ‘Abd’ullah ibn Abbass said: “During Mahdi’s time the wild and ferocious animals would live in peace and the earth would throw out its buried treasures.”

In the seventh chapter of the same book, its author narrates from hakim (from his ‘mustadrak’) who narrates from `Uthman ibn Sa’id Muqarri (from his “Sunan”) who narrates from Huzaifa ibn Yaman that the Messenger of Allah said: “The inhabitants of the sky, the birds, the beasts and the fishes in the sea will become delighted by Mahdi’s existence.”

In the same chapter of the a aforesaid book the author narrates from Abu Na’im (from the book “Manaqib of Mahdi”) and Tabarani (from the book

“Mu’ajam”) who narrate from Abu Sa’id Khudri that the Messenger of Allah said: “During Mahdi’s era my nation will enjoy such bounties which they had never enjoyed before. The sky will descend rain upon them while the Earth too would not release anything from its vegetation but that it would expel them out.”

In the same chapter of the same book, the author narrates from Abu Sa’id Khudri that the Messenger of Allah said: “Mahdi will emerge from my nation. Allah will resolve him as the savior of the people. my nation will live in pleasure due to Mahdi’s existence. Due to him, the animals too will live a laudable life. The Earth will expel out its vegetation. Mahdi will distribute wealth in the just manner.”

May Allah hasten the end of suffering through the Imam’s Rise!