We sit, with awe and reverence in sha’Allah, to partake in the worship and blessings of another Ramadân. Some of us look upon this month eagerly, others with a sense of obligation and conviction. Doubtless, this year’s Ramadân will be long days of fasting for my of us across the globe. But in light of the recent dialog that has sprung up around the beyond halal subject, I thought I might share some thoughts, insights, and personal goals this Ramadân, from a food perspective.
To begin, Ramadân is more than just abstaining from food. It’s greater than the sums of abstention. Ramadân is an experience of both days and nights. I for one, as a diabetic, have struggled with the Tarâwîh prayers the last several years since being diagnosed as a diabetic. And therefore, just as we learn during the daylight hours how fasting awakens one’s senses while taming desires, one of my personal goals is to gain more of the night-time experiences that Ramadân has to offer. For me, this will require how I re-think food during this holy month.
Waste not, want not, goes the proverb. Like many of you, I have witnessed the Great Food Production that embarks once Ramadân arrives. Home kitchens as well as those of masajid go into over-drive. Sadly, I see a great deal of food prepared and wasted, thrown away due to over-production. I am reminded of this great hadith, in which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم admonishes us on the wasting of food:
إِذَا وَقَعَتِ اللُّقْمَةُ مِنْ يَدِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَلْيَمْسَحْ مَا عَلَيْهَا مِنَ الأَذَى وَلْيَأْكُلْهَا
“If a morsel falls from the hand of anyone of you, let him wipe off whatever dirt that is on it and eat it.” – Sunan Ibn Majah.
When I read this hadith, I contemplate many of the struggles that the West in general and America in particular struggle with. To quote (Imam) Bane, “victory has defeated you.” America’s conquest for abundance has led to gluttony and lavish attitude towards food. It is entertainment. It is purpose. It is a cure for boredom, or so we’d like. This hadith of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم reminds us of the blessing of food, and a frugality that underpins so many ethics of Islam. Current trends and attitudes within the Muslim community expend so much of our talent and energy into being accepted when we’re squandering opportunities to tackle issues for which Islam has been sent. We have abandoned the way of the problem solver and have taken up a failed and bankrupt apologetics. The proof is in the proverbial pudding: our mosques waste enormous amounts of food every Ramadân (indeed even other events). My question that I would pose is, why? Where does this need come from, and might not we turn over a new page, allowing us to experience Ramadân on a much deeper level (no more post-iftar food coma – a.k.a., the itis). Tarâwîh prayer becomes more enjoyable, not simply looking for the masjid that has the shortest number of raka’at offered. And in addition, we learn a valuable lesson on how we should relate to food that will last us when we enter Shawwâl. A lesson that all of America needs to address.
For myself, I know that I well need to keep a vigilant watch over my appetiate come time to break fast. I have found that eating a diet low on meat and high on plants works best. I am not advocating some form of Muslim vegetarianism but rather just sharing what I have found works good for me in order to maximize my performance during Ramadân. Oddly enough, what some call “portion control” today, Islam has called “Sunnah” for over 1,400+ years:
فثُلُثٌ للطَّعامِ وثلثٌ للشَّرابِ وثلثٌ للنَّفَسِ
“…and therefore leave a third for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing” — hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, صلى الله عليه وسلم as recorded in Sunan Ibn Majah.
And needless to say, I will endeavor to keep the ingredients tayyib, not only permissible (halâl):
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
“O’ you who have imân!, eat of the good things We have provided for you and give thanks to Allah if you worship Him alone.” Qur’an, 2: 172.