For the past couple years I have been struggling with what it means to be Muslim in this day and age. The struggle has never been about my faith, rather how much my faith compels me to do the right thing, and in todays world thats a hard task.
When I was in college I would eat out regularly. Going out with friends, eating cheap meals from McDonalds and Taco Bell, life was easy, or maybe I was just easily fooled. As I learned more about what it means for meat to be Halal I struggled with whether I should eat from fast-food joints, diners, restaurants, and if I should buy meat that was not certified halal from places like Walmart or Kroger (ShopRite for all my East Coast readers). I got into organic foods and would advocate and support companies that were labeled free-range, halal, pasture grazed, cage free, humanely treated, organic, etc. I felt pretty good about myself.
That is until I got to the age of 27. This was the year that I started learning more and more about what organic truly meant, how meat is slaughtered (halal or otherwise), and how much impact eating meat and drinking dairy has on our environment. Now to preface, I have never labeled myself as an activist, a vegan, a vegetarian, I have always known that these qualities reside within Islam. It is because I am Muslim I feel an urgent need to eat better, to know how my eating habits are impacting the world, how the clothes I buy or the hand soap I use are causing detrimental damage to our environment. So I read, I watched, and I learned. The more I learned the more angry, depressed, and determined I became.
This is my case for why I believe that all meat, dairy, & eggs certified “halal” or not are bordering on haram (impermissible). I will point you too my sources that will take you and give you an in-depth look at why I came to this conclusion.
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
Lets start with the amazing documentary you can watch right now on Netflix called Cowspiracy. This movie takes you to the heart of our global warming problem, and the problem is, surprise surprise the meat and dairy industry. Why is this fact not known by everyone? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, but here are some facts I gathered from the movie. You can find these facts and many more on their website.
- Agriculture accounts for 51% of carbon emissions.
- Cows produce 116,000 POUNDS of waste per day.
- This waste is not treated and animal runoff is the number one water polluter which is destroying our oceans.
- One acre of rainforest is leveled every second for animal grazing.
- 1,100 activist against the agriculture industry have been killed in Brazil.
- A cow drinks an average of 50 Gallons of water PER DAY.
- 1 gallon of milk costs 1,000 Gallons of water to produce.
- 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to livestock that is then killed and eaten by the wealthy instead of using that land to feed those starving children.
How a vegan (Muslim) diet would save the earth:
- 1,100 Gallons of water per day saved.
- 215 pounds of grain per day saved.
- 30 square feet of forest per day saved.
- 10 pounds of CO2 reduced.
- 1 animals life per day saved.
The China Study
I came across a great book written by Dr. Joel Fuhrman M.D. titled Eat to Live. This book led me to read about the China Study which I had heard of before through a Hamza Yusuf lecture he gave a couple years back at RIS. Everything was adding up and the picture in my mind became clear. The China Study is the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. Spearheaded by T. Colins Campbell a Ph.D from Cornell University, this study examined the connection between eating animal products (meat, eggs, milk, cheese) and chronic illness. You can read the book in PDF format here.
Eating like a Muslim
As Muslims we are told that we are to be caretakers of this world and everything in it. That all life has rights, and we must protect and guard those rights. The trick that our society plays on us is to separate the care and mercy from our food. To ignore the fact that the piece of meat on our plate isn’t just a peace of meat, it was a living animal. Breathing, feeling, alive. To remove this essential aspect from our food is to remove the essence of humanity. Ancient tribes, Indians, hunters and gatherers they all understood the fact that mother nature was to be respected. Before killing an animal prayers were said, and after the kill the animal was thanked for giving its life. This type of care was ingrained into the minds of people. But now you walk into the grocery store and look at the meat isle stretching for miles and never once does the thought cross our minds that all this was once alive, and gave up its life to feed us.
To understand what I am going on about you must educate yourself. Watch this video of animals being abused, and tell me it doesn’t rip your heart in two. You will cry, that I promise you, and if you don’t its a good gauge at how heartless these eating practices have made you.
What does it mean to eat halal.
There are guidelines which as Muslims we must follow to ensure the meat is actually halal. These include, draining of the blood, slaughtering in the most humane way possible, not killing an animal in front of another, being gentle with the animal, giving it water before slaughter, and saying the name of Allah before slaughter. You can see the immense focus on care and mercy with how the animal must be treated from its upbringing, to the point of its slaughter. My argument is if all those guidelines are not being met except for one which is saying Allah’s name before slaughter that does not magically make it halal. Furthermore I can say with confidence that Allah is the Most Merciful, so mercilessly killing an animal only to invoke the name of the Most Merciful to satisfy a “halal” label is drenched in irony. I know this because my father used to run a slaughter house for Muslims, and the amount of disrespect, teasing, and abuse to the animals by these Muslim customers was maddening.
As Muslims we have to stop being okay with being mediocre. The first words to our Prophet was Iqra, read! Time and time again seeking knowledge is encouraged in the Quran. How did we stop internalizing these aspects of our great religion, only to be content with praying, making Hajj, and fasting. How can we as Muslims think that Allah will not ask us how we spent our time here, now. How can we sleep at night knowing that the food we buy is cursed by those animals who were caged, abused, beaten up, branded, kicked, and killed all so we could stuff our face. How can we feel like upstanding members of this world if the meat we eat is destroying that very world? Tell me how is that halal?
I have been to halal restaurants where I see people piling up the kababs, the tandoori chicken, biryani, steaks, eating meat with a side of meat, is that really the point of food? Is that really the destiny of these great animals? No. Food was and has always been a way to put energy in our body. This concept of fine dining, of indulgence and decadence in our food is a new idea that is literally destroying our world. If you don’t believe me, and I am not saying you should, go out and gain knowledge, think for yourself, and remove the veils from your eyes.
— Resources —
1) Eat to Live – http://www.amazon.com/Eat-Live-Amazin…
2) Cowspiracy – http://www.cowspiracy.com
3) Vegucated – http://www.getvegucated.com
4) Sheik Hamza Yusuf: Fair Trade – https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=seEpf-bmnIQ
5) China Study – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chi…
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