Getting to Know Allah
You Are What You Eat
The Table Is Set
The longest surah about dining etiquette and what a believer can and cannot eat of Allah's edible bounty is appropriately titled The Table.
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
5:1 O believers, fulfil your obligations. Lawful to you are the beast of the flock, except what is being recited to you now: "Game is unlawful to you while you are on pilgrimage." Allah decrees whatever He pleases.
Revealed truths about what believers can consume, and under what circumstances, are often accompanied by a warning to fear Allah, as in the following:
5:2 O believers, do not violate the Rites of Allah, or the Sacred Month, or the sacrificial offerings, or the animals with garlands, or those who repair to the Sacred House seeking the bounty and pleasure of their Lord. When you are through with the rites of pilgrimage, you can go hunting. And let not the hatred of those who debar you from the Sacred Mosque prompt you to transgress. Help one another in righteousness and piety, but not in sin and aggression. Fear Allah; Allah is Severe in retribution.
Jesus of Nazareth did away with many of the dietary rules of the Torah. In one interpretation of Mark 7:19, Jesus declares all food clean therefore permissible, and in Acts 10:15, God—in a vision to the apostle Peter—is said to declare that all formerly unclean animals are now clean, therefore may be consumed: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Therefore, the reference to "the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you" in Revelation 5:5 probably means the food of the Jews. Remember, the Koran is very much a synthesis of pagan traditions and Jewish beliefs, the reason for the similarities between what their respective flavour of the same god considers halal and haram food, e.g., pork.
The longest verse in the Koran on what foods are halal (allowed) and what foods are haram (prohibited).
5:3 You are forbidden the eating of carrion, blood, the flesh of swine as well as whatever is slaughtered in the name of anyone other than Allah. [You are forbidden] also the animals strangled or beaten to death, those that fall and die, those killed by goring with the horn or mangled by wild beasts, except those which you slaughter and those sacrificed on stones set up [for idols]. [You are forbidden] to use divining arrows; it is an evil practice. Today, those who disbelieve have despaired of your religion; so do not fear them, but fear Me. Today, I have perfected your religion for you, completed my Grace on you and approved Islam as a religion for you. Yet, whoever is compelled by reason of hunger (to eat what is forbidden), but not intending to sin, then surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful.
What your dog or trained falcon catches for you, you can eat.
5:4 They ask you (O Muhammad) what is lawful to them. Say: “The good things are lawful; and such hunting birds or hounds that you have taught, as Allah has taught you. You may eat whatever they catch for you, mentioning Allah’s name over it. Fear Allah, for Allah is, indeed, Quick in reckoning!”
Scholars believe the last verse revealed to Muhammad is about the food of the Jews and the women of the People of the Book.
5:5 This day the good things have been made lawful to you; the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them; and so are the believing women who are chaste, and the chaste women of those who were given the Book before you, provided you give them their dowries and take them in marriage, not in fornication or as mistresses. If any one denies the faith, his work shall be of no avail to him, and in the Hereafter he will rank with the losers.
Those who would deny any of “the good things” Allah allows are “transgressors,” so I wouldn’t do that.
5:87 O believers, do not forbid the good things that Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress; for Allah does not like the transgressors.
Do not be fooled by the pleasing, undoubtedly delicious fare that Allah has provided into thinking that He is not a god to be feared.
5:88 Eat of the pleasant things which Allah has given you; and fear Allah in whom you believe.
(See Chapter "Slavery" for Revelation 5:89 of this series, which is about freeing a slave as penance for a broken oath.)
Wine is not one of the good things!
5:90 O believers, wine, gambling, idols and divining arrows are an abomination of the Devil’s doing; so avoid them that perchance you may prosper!
5:91 The Devil only wishes to stir up enmity and hatred among you, through wine and gambling, and keep you away from remembering Allah and from prayer. Will you not desist, then?
If Muslims, to this day, cannot enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, blame Umar ibn al-Khattāb, who was what we would call a reformed alcoholic and one of Muhammad’s closest collaborators and future caliph. Initially, God only asked believers not to attend prayers while drunk.
The most bizarre revelations in the Koran are those concerning wine: the different verses progressively leading to its interdiction are in response to Umar asking God to clarify what He means. Exegetes tell us that Umar ardently wished that wine be explicitly prohibited by a revealed truth: “Dear God,” he said, “show us what we must do concerning wine. It makes us lose both our mind and our money.”
It was then that God revealed: “O believers, do not approach prayer while you are drunk, until you know what you say!”(4:43)
Umar is completely unhappy with God’s response when Muhammad reads him the verse; the prohibition against wine is not explicit enough as far as he is concerned. As if to satisfy Umar, the exegetes tell us, in all seriousness, God sends down another revelation: “They ask you about wine and gambling, say: “In both there is great sin and some benefit for people. But the sin is greater than the benefit.” (2:219)
It’s still not enough for Umar; he wants wine explicitly prohibited. It is then that a third revelation is received: “The Devil only wishes to stir up enmity and hatred among you, through wine and gambling, and keep you away from remembering Allah and from prayer. Will you not desist, then?” (5:91)
This time Umar appears satisfied: “Very good! I now consider the matter settled.”
Hela Ouardi, Meutre à la mosquée, Albin Michel, 2021, p. 55-56 (my translation).
The following, somewhat convoluted revealed truth, would imply that straying from Allah's decreed diet may not be that big of a deal if you do all the other things that He expects of a believer.
5:93 Those who believe and do the good deeds are not to blame for what they eat, if they are God-fearing, believe and do the good deeds, then fear God, and believe, then fear God and do good. Allah loves the charitable.
Be careful; it could be a test!
5:94 O believers, Allah will certainly test you with some game that your hands or lances may catch, so Allah may know who fears Him unseen. Whoever transgresses thereafter shall be painfully punished.
There is a range of punishments for breaking Allah’s injunction against killing game during the pilgrimage:
5:95 O believers, do not kill game while you are on pilgrimage. Whoever of you kills it willfully will have to give the like of what he killed of cattle, as determined by two just men from yourselves, to reach the Ka'ba as an offering; or will have to feed as expiation a number of poor men, or the equivalent of that in fasting so that he may taste the evil consequences of his action. Allah will pardon what is past; but he who offends again, Allah will wreck vengeance upon him. Allah is Mighty, Capable of Retribution.
Catching sea fare is halal while on pilgrimage.
5:96 Lawful to you is the catch of the sea and its food as an enjoyment for you and for travellers; but unlawful to you is the game of the land so long as you are on pilgrimage. Fear Allah unto Whom you shall be gathered.
To “eat from that over which the Name of Allah has not been mentioned” is running the risk of being labelled an idol worshipper, along with all the bad things that entails.
6:121 And do not eat from that over which the Name of Allah has not been mentioned; it is indeed sinful. The devils shall insinuate to their followers to dispute with you; but if you obey them, then you will surely be polytheists.
A believer is not at fault for eating any of the proscribed foods if it was not his intention or he was forced to do so.
2:172 O believers, eat of the good things which We have provided for you and give thanks to Allah, if He is the One Whom you worship.
2:173 He has only forbidden you [to eat] carrion, blood, pork and that over which (when slaughtered) any name other than that of Allah is invoked. But he who is constrained (constrained to eat those forbidden things) without intending to disobey or transgress, will commit no sin. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
16:114 Eat then from the lawful and good things which Allah provided you, and give thanks for Allah’s blessing, if you truly worship Him.
16:115 He has forbidden you carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that over which any other name than that of Allah is invoked. But whoever is compelled while neither transgressing nor exceeding the bounds, Allah is All-forgiving, Merciful.
People who foolishly kill their children or deny them food that Allah has deemed halal “are not well-guided.”
6:140 Those who kill their children foolishly without knowledge are real losers; and they forbid what Allah has provided for them, thus fabricating lies against Allah. They go astray and they are not well-guided.
Is there ever a reason to kill a child in cold blood? Deuteronomy 21:18-21 would have a son who consistently disobeys his parents stoned to death “so shalt thou put evil away from among you.”
The familial evil in Allah’s books that must be severely dealt with is similar: a rebellious child who would question his parents' beliefs and raise fears that he will one day abandon Islam or convince them to do so. To kill such a child is not committing a foolish murder (see Shared Prophets: – "Moses and Khidr," Boreal Books for an example of an exemplary murder of a boy).
Answering Difficult Questions About What’s on the Menu
Some listeners obviously had questions for Muhammad after he announced Allah's dietary rules. As He often does when asked a difficult question, Allah advised His spokesman to do what politicians do all the time: answer the question with another question and impute ulterior motives to the questioner, such as wanting to make God out to be a liar.
6:143 [Take] eight in pairs: of sheep two and of goats two. Say: "Has He forbidden the two males, or the two females, or what the womb of two females contain? Tell me if you a truthful."
6:144 And [take] of camels two and of cows [and oxen] two. Say: "Has He forbidden the two males, the two females, or what the womb of females contain? Or have you been witnesses when Allah commanded you to do this?" Who then is more unjust than he who imputes falsehood to Allah, in order to lead people astray, without knowledge? Surely, Allah will not guide the wrongdoing people.
Pork is for other gods, as Allah’s spokesman makes clear in Revelation 6:145, which appears to be in response to a question about a specific food that Muhammad skirts by repeating the general rule and adding the prohibition against eating “the flesh of swine.”
6:145 Say: “I do not find in what has been revealed to me anything forbidden to an eater to eat from, unless it is carrion, or running blood, or the flesh of swine – which are unclean. For it is profane and slaughtered to [gods] other than Allah. However, he who is constrained, intending neither to commit a sin nor to exceed the bounds, then surely your Lord is All-Forgiving, Merciful.
Vegetarians are not Muslims
Believers who do not eat meat are not real Muslims. Not only that, but they may lead others astray by following ‘their fancies’.
6:118 Eat, then, of that upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you really believe in His Revelations.
6:119 And why is it that you do not eat from that upon which Allah’s name is mentioned, when He has explained to you what is unlawful to you, except for what you are compelled to [eat]? Indeed many shall lead others astray by their fancies, without any knowledge. Surely, your Lord knows best the transgressors.
The following hadith confirms that those who do not eat what Allah has allowed are not true believers.
Three women approached the Prophet one day. One of them said, “O Prophet! My husband has shunned the company of his wife.”
The second said, “My husband has stopped eating meat!”
The third said, “My husband has stopped using perfume!”
Hearing the women, the Prophet was upset. He saw that misguided ideas were beginning to take root amongst his followers.
Although it was not the time for any mandatory prayer, he proceeded to the mosque. He went in such a great hurry that even his cloak was not properly placed on his shoulder and one end of it was touching the ground. He ordered the people to assemble in the mosque. People rushed there leaving aside their tasks.
The Prophet ascended the pulpit and said, ”I have heard that my companions are getting wrong ideas.”
He added, “I am Allah’s Messenger, I eat meat and delicious food! I wear good clothes! I wear perfumes and keep the company of my wives and have conjugal relations with them! Whosoever opposes my ways is not my follower!”
The Prophet has repeated this sentence on several occasions: "One who does not adopt my ways is not a Muslim."
What Do the Jews Have To Do With It!
At one point in time, Yahweh and Allah were in almost complete agreement as to the foods that the believers in both flavours of god could eat.
3:93 All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, save what Israel forbade itself before the Torah was revealed. Say: “Bring then the Torah and recite it, if you are truthful.”
3:94 Whoever, afterwards, fabricates falsehood against Allah, those are truly the evildoers.
Why Allah imposed additional restrictions as to what Jews can eat.
6:146 We have forbidden the Jews every [animal] with claws; and the fat of oxen and sheep except what their backs or entrails carry, or what is mixed with bones. This was the punishment We inflicted on them on account of their aggression. We are surely Truthful.
Eating of the good stuff disallowed by Allah and claiming that it is permitted, as the Jews did, may give you momentary pleasure but will lead to an eternity of hurt, unless you were not aware you were committing evil and repented afterwards.
16:116 And when you speak do not lie by saying: “This is lawful and this is unlawful”, in order to impute lies to Allah. Surely those who impute lies to Allah will not prosper.
16:117 A little enjoyment and then a great punishment is in store for them.
16:118 We forbade the Jews what We have related to you earlier. And We did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves.
16:119 Surely, with respect to those who commit evil in ignorance, and later repent and make amends, your Lord thereafter is All-Forgiving, Merciful.
Allah’s dietary rules would have been met with Abraham’s approval.
16:120 Indeed, Abraham was a model [of virtue], obedient to Allah and upright; and he was not one of the polytheists.
16:121 [He was] thankful for His Blessings, and Allah elected him and guided him to a Straight Path.
16:122 We made him praiseworthy in this world, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the righteous.
16:123 Then We revealed to you (Muhammad): “Follow the religion of Abraham, the upright; for he was not one of the polytheists.”
Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) was commanded to follow the way of Abraham and not the way of the Jews, and they themselves knew than these things were not unlawful in the law of Abraham. For instance, the Jews did not eat the flesh of camel but this was lawful according to Abraham. Likewise, ostrich, hare, duck, etc., were unlawful in the Jewish law, but they were lawful according to Abraham.”
Where You May Dine
24:61 The blind are not at fault, the lame are not at fault, the sick are not at fault, nor are you if you eat in your houses, the houses of your fathers, the houses of your mothers, the houses of your brothers, the houses of your sisters, the houses of your paternal uncles, the houses of your paternal aunts, the houses of your maternal uncles, the houses of your maternal aunts, those of which you are in possession of the keys or those of your friend. You are not at fault if you eat altogether or separately, but if you enter any houses, greet each other with a blessed and good greeting from Allah. That is how Allah makes clear to you the Signs, that perchance you may understand.
 Arrows used by pre-Islamic Arabs to cast lots. Divining arrows were strips of wood without points usually marked with values, inscriptions or symbols. These arrows were usually thrown haphazardly to divide the spoils, foretell the future, know the opinion of gods and so on.
 2:219 They ask you about wine and gambling, say: “In both there is great sin and some benefit for people. But the sin is greater than the benefit.” And they ask you about what they should spend, say: “What you can spare.” Thus Allah makes clear to you His Revelations so that you may reflect,
 The nearest sea, the Red Sea, is 43 miles from Mecca. It would have been next to impossible in Muhammad’s time for someone on pilgrimage to make the round trip to catch some fish without missing most of the event, which may explain Allah making it halal.
 Nowhere in the Koran, to my knowledge, is a believer someone who does not worship Allah (and Allah exclusively) as implied in this revelation.