Foundations of Islamic Ethics of Food

1. Allah (SWT)* created the universe for us to use. Whatever is in the world is ready for our use except those things Allah has forbidden. Humanity has found remarkably ingenious ways to use the creation of Allah for our collective benefit. Biologists have engineered microscopic bacteria that make insulin for diabetics. Physicists have used the gravity of planets to move observers to collect data to advance human knowledge.

2. The purpose of eating is to nourish our bodies which require inputs of matter and energy. It is not wrong to take pleasure in food, so long as we do not go to extremes. We need to eat to live. We do not live merely to experience the pleasure of food.

3. We ought to purchase food from money that we have earned honorably. According to the Noble Messenger, Muhammad (S)**, “No one eats better food than what he eats out of the work of his own hand.” (Sahih Bukhari). Allah, in His infinite grace, has provided us an unlimited variety of ways to earn money in a permissible manner. We can practice medicine, work as engineers, advocate for clients in court, teach classes, serve food, or do one of the many jobs that observant Muslims perform all around the world. We must not steal, gamble, distribute intoxicants, or prostitute ourselves. The sins that accrue from these negative choices can undo the rewards we reap from our good deeds. A Muslim who steals incurs the sin of theft but additionally incurs the sin of eating prohibited food because the food he purchased was bought with dirty money.The lists of permissible and prohibited careers is not comprehensive. For example, I did not mention business management, but in general, that career would be considered permissible. On the other side, I did not mention exotic dancing, but that would be considered prohibited.

At your next meal, take a moment to thank Allah for providing you with the means of survival. Also, reflect for a moment on how you paid for the food you are eating. We should strive to be as grateful as possible and as obedient as possible to Our Merciful Lord, Allah.

(SWT)* = “Subhana wa Ta’ala” (Glorified in the Highest)

(S)** = “Salla allahu alaihi wa sallam (May the peace of Allah be upon him)

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