Vegetarianism and Islam…The Debate

In the world of Green Muslims, the debate on vegetarianism can get quite heated. Some Green Muslims says that it’s just plain wrong, others say moderation is the way, some argue that it’s a personal decision whilst others  say its part of getting closer to god and his creations.

The debate was recently ignited by Joseph Mayton of Bikya Masr who published an article boldly claiming that ‘Eating Less Meat is More Islamic’. Well is it?

Mayton argues that historically Muslims would have consumed meat very rarely and also that the Prophet Muhammed warned against excessive consumption stating that it was as addictive as alcohol. Mayton also cites the importance of animal rights in Islam as well as the opinion of Gamal al-Banna, a prominent Islamic scholar who states that being a vegetarian and Muslim does not break any tradition and is in no way un-Islamic.

All very valid points, but in an piece on Green Prophet Zaufishan argues that “For Muslims eating meat in small proportions is “halal” (lawful) and a blessing from God. ”  She states that it’s more important to eat  “halal” and eat balanced, which includes meat . However, moderation is key and she notes that “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.”

So moderation is what Zaufishan promotes and also the importance of personal and social choice.

Vegetarian food can be fun and colourful

Well, Rianne ten Veen of  ’99 ways to please god‘ wrote to me asking why vegetarianism is seen as a personal choice but not a religious one- especially when we know that much of halal meat is factory-farmed.

“In the Quran halal is ALWAYS followed by ‘tayyeb’ (wholesome) and we know the religious guidance on animal care/ rights… Eating factory farmed meat with animals not allowed to behave in their ‘fitra’ natural way (move, eat their natural food etc), fill us with hormones indirectly, for me brings it most close to ‘haram’! And then we have the guidance on not wasting (eating too much), the principle of ‘la darar’ (do no harm) and with what we know on logging for plantations, waste of intensive farms.”

I think Rianne makes some really important points about the importance of making sure our meat is halal, the problematic nature of factory-farming and why going vegetarian is not such a bad idea. Even so, I see the problems of stating that Islam promotes vegetarianism as it simply does not. But what it does promote is moderation and I think that is a message that we can all agree on.

What do you think? Are Islam and Vegetarianism compatible?

Image via Eco-Jihad Blog and food image via Gamene.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Debate on Islam and Vegetarianism- Part 2 « A World of Green Muslims
  2. greenmuslima
    Nov 06, 2010 @ 20:25:33

    Re: “I see the problems of stating that Islam promotes vegetarianism as it simply does not” – I agree the Quran doesn’t state ‘thou shalt be an exclusive vegetarian'; however, there are at least 4 verses in the Quran which positively encourage the non-animal food blessings…:

    6:99 – “(God) is the One Who sent water down from the sky. Therewith We brought forth plants of all kinds and from them the verdure and We brought forth from it the clustered grains, and from the palm-tree its spathes with bunches of dates (hanging) low, the gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranates similar and different. Look at their fruit, when they bear it, and their ripening. Verily, in that there are signs for people who believe.”
    16:10-11 – “(God) is the One Who sends water down from the sky. For you this is a drink and out of it (grow) shrubs in which you let (cattle) graze freely. Therewith for you He makes sown fields, olives, palm-trees, vineyards and all kinds of fruit grow.” [the cattle here could be ploughing animals]
    50:9-11 – “We caused to grow gardens, grains for harvest, tall palm-trees with their spathes, piled one above the other-sustenance for (Our) servants.”
    6:141 – “It is He Who produces gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.”

    … and none that encourage meat … just that certain animals are definitely haram/ forbidden and that if you want to eat those which are not haram, then kill it properly, e.g….:

    6:142 – “Of the cattle are some for burden and some for meat: eat what Allah hath provided for you, and follow not the footsteps of Satan: for he is to you and avowed enemy.” – Satan mentioned in same sentence as meat eating… so eating too much of it can be easily done, and things like factory farming (where vast majority of meat nowadays available in many countries now comes from!) should be a definite no-no!
    22:36 – “The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the symbols from Allah: in them is (much) good for you: then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice): when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat thereof, and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility: thus have We made animals subject to you, that you may be grateful. ”

    My 2p. In peace, Rianne

    Reply

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