Spirituality Of Food Ethics In Islam With Imam Afroz Ali (Part 1)

In last year's Rihla (spiritual retreat) with Deen Intensive , Imam Afroz Ali spoke about the Islamic meanings behind having ethics an...

In last year's Rihla (spiritual retreat) with Deen Intensive, Imam Afroz Ali spoke about the Islamic meanings behind having ethics and eating wholesome. I found this talk particularly impacting because the words 'ethical' and 'Islam' rarely come together in a mainstream event. Sure, you have your halals and harams but what difference does an ethic make to halal consumption?

Let's find out! Notes below taken from the Deen Intensive talk 2012 'Consumption Crisis'.

"A discussion on food is critical because we are at a food consumption crises.

Think about what our bodies consume - It's by God's mercy that our bodies are sophisticated enough to deal with what we feed it.
'In the food there is a shif`a', a healing- hadith.
We know that if we were to eat certain types of food, at certain timings and with measured portions of food appropriately, that balance would allow us to be regenerative rather than the opposite.

Our food is making us sick. And not just in the physical way.

I hope we learn to live organically and thus gain fruition through our behaviour. (Pardon the puns!)

This isn't about me (Imam Afroz) telling you what to eat, but it's to collect the nature of food and understand its effects to the spiritual well being of your body. So in these sessions we will look at the scientific understandings and the Shari` advice of Islam regarding consumption.

Food and consumption are always linked: both lead to a number of the diseases of the heart. These are diseases listed by classical Islamic scholars; not necessarily physically illnesses. So we will focus on four subject matters...

1) How food is produced today and how we consume it.
Caveat: we will be talking about ugly things. These things will potentially shock you. If this information does not move your heart, I don't know what will. Your heart will be corrupt by food.

You see, the intake of food doesn't only affect body it also affects the spiritual state. It is most likely that the current condition of your heart - the problems you face internally (greed, depression, jealousy) can be almost traced back to the food you eat.
Take steps to change your eating habits.
2) Another caveat from the famous Imam Ghazali will focus on the 10 praiseworthy and blameworthy characteristics of the way we look at food.

When we talk about kinds of ethics, we're looking at what Islam has uniquely brought to world; I guess we share this foundation with the ancient Greeks who promoted 4 primary virtues:
          1) Prudence
          2) Wisdom
          3) Courage
          4) Justice

By knowing whether we are deficient in these virtues we can rectify our extremes and move ourselves to embodying these virtues. I call this embodiment the 'sweet path'. It can lead us to a great balance in our mental and spiritual health.

Having your attitude and intake of food in balance is very important to getting your virtues right. It's a profound thing to understand and then implement.

3) Look at your journey towards spiritual living.
Whether it's vegetarianism or simpler living, how do we move to where we want to be?

Imam Ghazali has said: if you're going to take your current path of consumption and consumerism and try to go 'cold turkey', for example, trying to go vegetarian in 24 hrs, it's not going to happen.
Trying to jump start an ethical lifestyle immediately causes more harm than good. You need a natural progression.
4) Understand the purpose of Earth - Zuhd Economics.
By entering into a short discussion of why the Earth is here, we will get into a better understanding of what I like to call 'Zuhd-Economics' of ourselves (thanks to shaykh Faraz Rabbani!).

Shaykhs of past have explained that Zuhd is about you being detached from the values of this world. That doesn't mean we hide in a cave; we can utilise this world and all it offers. As a concept, Zuhd means using the world's resources as a means to akhirah (the afterlife).

Imam Ghazali has said we are in this world, we are not of this world. Our objectives isn't to achieve worldly status and wealth, only the akhirah.

There are no fuzzy feelings in our ethics that all food is simply great. It's not over-simplistic. We must re-evaluate our consumption; how much are we taking, what are we eating, why?

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said to `Aisha r.a.:
"Be persistent in your knocking of Heaven's door". `Aisha r.a. asked "What is this persistence?" He replied, "by minimising your food and drink."

So we learn that we must live in this world and not take too much or expect a lot. A fact of life is that there is no "happiness" - the everlasting joy is not designed for earth, but for Heaven. t

The most important lesson you can learn: 1) is to not ask too many questions, being observant instead. 2) and to listen to the words your teachers use; what they actually mean, not what they think you mean.

May Allah give us the tawfik to see the world as it is.

Part 1.

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