FOOD AND NUTRITION IN ISLAM
“O ye people! eat of what is on earth lawful and good; and do not follow the
footsteps of the evil one for he is to you an avowed enemy. Q2:168
The Qur’an contains many passages that give Muslims advice about healthful
eating habits and nutrition. These passages not only relate to the
preservation of a human being’s physical well- being, but also to his
spiritual health. Encouragement to eat only good and pure foods is combined
with warnings to remember Allah and avoid Satan. In this way, Muslims are
shown that eating is not merely an action to satisfy the hungry body, but
that, as in all of man’s actions, it has an effect on how well or how poorly
a Muslim will serve Allah Subhana Wa Taala. Numerous verses of Quran mention the foods God has provided for us to nourish and maintain our bodies. It is not an exhaustive list of dietary requirements but rather a general idea of the types of food that maintain a healthy body and prevent illness.
“He created cattle that give you warmth, benefits and food to eat.” (Quran l6:5)
“It is He who subdued the seas, from which you eat fresh fish.” (Quran 16:l4)
“It is He who sends down water from the sky with which He brings up corn, olives, dates and grapes and other fruit.” (Quran 16:11)
“In cattle too you have a worthy lesson. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, between the undigested food and blood: pure milk, a pleasant beverage for those who drink it.” (Quran l6:66)
“There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought. .” (Quran 16:69)
“And it is He Who produces gardens trellised and untrellised, and date palms, and crops of different shape and taste (its fruits and its seeds) and olives, and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste). Eat of their fruit when they ripen…” (Quran 6:141)
“…and from it (the earth) we produced grain for their sustenance.” (Quran 36:33)
Allah Subhana waTaala has also provided us with a list of foods that are forbidden and apart from these everything else is considered lawful.
“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead animals – cattle-beast not slaughtered, blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than Allah…” (Quran 5:3) “…and intoxicants.” (Quran 5:91-92)
Healthy nutrition means a diet balanced in quantity. Eating too much is contrary to Islamic teachings. A believer should recite “Bismillah” before consuming food.
Some food mentioned in Quran:
The Qur’an mentions several fruits that modern science has shown to have a preventive effect on several diseases. Fruits, which benefit the human body in many ways, also taste very good. In the Qur’an, Allah draws attention to their diversity and beauty and calls people to ponder upon their miraculous creation:
He sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots and from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and, from the spathes of the date-palm, date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are signs in that for people who believe. Surat al-An’am: 99
Allah creates various kinds of fruit, each of which have a different taste and smell although they grow in the same soil and are watered with the same water.
As well as their creation, the fact that fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and essential nutrients also leads people to think. Fruits, which grow in black mud extract from the soil only those essential nutrients (minerals) that are beneficial to human health. But how could the soil know what nutrients to provide? Similarly, could the fruit have the ability and intelligence to break down the soil into its component parts in order to absorb from it the exact amount of what it needs? However, this system operates in such a perfect order that every plant species has a specific and unique color, taste, and smell and contains a fixed amount of minerals and vitamins. For instance, a watermelon is never blue or sour, nor does it smell like soil instead of the special and unique smell that we associate with it.
In the earth there are diverse regions side by side and gardens of grapes and cultivated fields, and date-palms sharing one root and others with individual roots, all watered with the same water. And We make some things better to eat than others. There are Signs in that for people who use their intellect. Surat ar-Ra’d: 4
Dates, a fruit mentioned in Surah Maryam , grow in dry soil in warm climates and have many benefits. Allah indicates their healing power by telling Maryam, who was in labor, to eat dates:
A voice called out to her from under her: “Do not grieve! Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. Eat and drink and delight your eyes …” Surah Maryam: 24-26
The Holy Qur’an (16:69) says, “From its [the bee’s] belly, comes forth a drink of varying colors wherein is a cure for people. Surely there is a sign for those who would give thought.”
In Bukhari (Volume 7: Book 65), Aisha narrates that, “Allah’s Apostle used to love sweet edible things and honey.” He also attributed many healing powers to honey.
“ He sends down water from the sky. From it you drink, and from it come the shrubs among which you graze your herds. By it He makes crops grow for you, as well as olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect.” Surat An-Nahl: 10-11
Recent studies have revealed that olives are not only tasty, but also are a healthy source of food. Their linoleic acid is especially useful for breast-feeding mothers. Any deficiency in this acid slows a child’s development and contributes to some skin diseases. Health organizations, among them the World Health Organization, recommend that people living in societies with high arteriosclerosis and diabetes rates consume oil that contains at least 30% linoleic acid. And this raises the olive’s worth
The Prophet advised us to, “Use olive oil as a food and ointment for it comes from a blessed tree” (Tirmidi).
“Salt is the master of your food. God sent down four blessings from the sky – fire, water, iron and salt” (Ibn Maja)
The Prophet has called vinegar a “blessed seasoning” (Muslim).
Qur’an (20:8 1)
says, “Eat of the good things We have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein.” He produces gardens, both cultivated and wild, and palm-trees and crops of diverse kinds, and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Eat of their fruits when they bear fruit, pay their due on the day of their harvest, and do not be profligate. He does not love the profligate. Surat al-An’am
Pomegranates, another fruit mentioned in the Qur’an, contain a plentiful supply of potassium as well as such minerals as phosphorus, calcium, iron, and sodium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C. Acting together with sodium, potassium regulates the body’s water equilibrium and ensures that the heart beats normally. By maintaining the body’s potassium-sodium balance, it also helps the nervous and muscular senses to function regularly, prevents edema, and decreases the amount of sugar circulating in the blood.
Pomegranates revive tired muscles and enable them to move easily, and also strengthen the heart.
By means of it We produce gardens of dates and grapes for you, in which there are many fruits for you and from which you eat. Surat al-Mu’minun: 19
Grapes, which are highly nutritive and rich in vitamins and metallic substances, are an important food. About 20-25% of their content is sugar, which quickly enters the bloodstream. Therefore it is good for those who make physical and mental efforts, for it removes physical and mental weariness and fights anemia. The plentiful amount of iron and sugar contained within each grape also fosters blood production and acts as a natural medicine for liver, kidney, and digestive system diseases. They stimulate the kidneys and help them excrete such waste matters as urea. By discharging the body’s excess water, grapes lower high blood pressure. Patients with stomach ulcers, gastritis, joint inflammations, small intestines inflammation, rheumatism, tumid liver or spleen, as well as those who have been poisoned, are recommended to drink grape juice. Grapes also strengthen the heart’s muscles, are instrumental in treating bronchitis and coughing, and enhance the skin’s beauty by purifying the blood. Since it increases the secretion of milk, nursing mothers are advised to drink grape juice. Some chemicals found in grapes even decrease the probability of skin cancer.
In short, the Qur’an repeatedly tells us that food is a gift of Allah. We should consume it with humility and moderation and always thank God for His bounties (e.g., Qur’an, 7:31).