Bismillaahi wa’Alaa barakatillahi (“[I am eating] In the name of Allah (swt) and with the blessings of Allah (swt)”). These words are spoken before taking a meal to express our gratitude for the food on our table.
Food is life, a gift from Allah (swt) given to humans for sustenance. The Qur’an states “O believers, eat the clean things we have provided you, be grateful to Allah if you sincerely want to obey Him” (7:158).
The resources that Allah (swt) has provided to us are His gifts, and by respecting them, we are in turn being grateful to Allah (swt). No human can produce his own sustenance; we are, in essence, living off of the fruits of the earth, which are gifts from Allah. The food which we garner from the earth is our only means of sustenance. Without that food, we cannot survive. Hence, we owe our everyday existence to Allah, for Allah is our Provider and our Sustainer, ar-Razzaq being one of His many names.
According to the Qur’an and Sunnah, Muslims must follow certain etiquette, before, during and after eating, not only to be satiated with what is given to us, but also to be grateful and appreciative of the gifts of food and life that Allah (swt) has blessed us with. During a meal, Muslims have to abide by certain protocol to show their gratitude towards Allah (swt) and respect for His gifts. Prophet Mohammad (saw) said “mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish which is nearer to you (Bukhari VII; 65:288). In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) says, “Eat and drink but do not waste by excess, for Allah does not love the wasters” (VII: 31). Islamic law emphasizes the importance of remembering and thanking Allah (swt) while eating and only consuming enough food to survive. “A Muslim eats in one intestine (i.e. he is satisfied with a little food) while a Kafir (unbeliever) eats in seven intestines (eats much)” (Bukhari VII, 65:308).
Gluttony is considered wasteful. When one has greater access and availability of food and resources, one should take only what is necessary to sustain oneself without over-consumption. If there is an excess of food, then one must distribute it to the needy instead of hoarding or throwing it away.
Many of us are guilty of leaving food on our plates and trashing leftovers from the refrigerator. The amount of food wasted by well-off people could easily feed the famished stomachs of young children all around the world. Homelessness and starvation could lessen if charity were practiced locally. Major epidemics, famine and hunger could also be reduced if the right steps were taken to distribute food evenly round the world instead of having the wealthy few cache a majority of the resources. If charity were practiced more frequently, and an understanding that food and resources of this world are a blessing and gift from Allah (swt) were more widespread, then may be food shortage and hunger wouldn’t be so widespread today.
As the centuries have passed, people who can afford to, eat more, while those who can’t are left famished and dying. It is important to understand that Allah (swt) is the Sustainer of life and provides many of us with resources so we can preserve our lives. How we use the gifts of Allah (swt) is important. If we throw away these gifts instead of carefully cherishing them and sharing them with the needy, then we are disrespecting Allah’s gifts and being ungracious.
Because food is the key to life, Allah (swt) has outlined rules for us to respect food and treat it as a valuable and important part of our lives. Remembering Allah (swt) for His gift is integral to understanding the value of food. When Muslims are done with their meals, they must say, “Al-hamdu lill’hilladhi at-amana’ wasaq’n’ waja-alana minal muslimin.” (“All praise is due to Allah (swt) who gave us food and drink and made us Muslims”) (Tirmidhi). It is our duty to show our gratitude for our food by sharing it with others, thus showing our thankfulness to Allah for our gift of life.
By Mahruq Siddiqui
SIDDIQUI is a UC Irvine Alumna with a B.S. in Information and Computer Science.