The Qur’an and Islam
Adopting a plant-based diet is the easiest, most consistent way to live in accord with the ethical, environmental, and health precepts of Islam.
“When I look at animals held captive by circuses, I think of slavery. Animals in circuses represent the domination and oppression we have fought against for so long. They wear the same chains and shackles.”
NOTE: The following information—compiled by several vegan Muslims—was arranged, edited and clarified by me. I believe in God, but I am not so arrogant and blind as to believe that God is human-like, or that God looks, thinks, or acts like us in any way. As a whole, humans are psychopathic, apathetic, and myopic. God is not! Furthermore, giving thanks, and/or praying to God, does NOT exonerate an animal-murderer from the crime. Author Cleveland Amory summed it up best when he wrote (just replace the word “Christian” with “Muslim”): “A missionary was walking in Africa when he heard the ominous padding of a lion behind him. ‘Oh Lord,’ prayed the missionary, ‘Grant in Thy goodness that the lion walking behind me is a good Christian lion.’ And then in the silence that followed, the missionary heard the lion praying too: ‘Oh Lord,’ he prayed. ‘We thank Thee for the food which we are about to receive.'”
“In Hell there is a huge roller, like the ones used to flatten stones on paved roads. This roller is two hundred and fifty miles long and the beam by which it is dragged is also the same length. Someone stands next to the beam with a fairly long whip in his hand and forces the people to lie on the ground, like stones on a path. Two hundred to two hundred and fifty other people are chained to the beam and are forced to pull the roller over the people lying on the ground. As they pull, they are whipped. They are screaming, and the people being crushed are also howling and wailing. Blood flows everywhere. This goes on from morning until night. Then all those who were crushed take form again and are made to lie down and be crushed once more. Then they are heaped onto a fire burning as high as a mountain. I have seen this. I saw different people there: a man who butchered goats, a man who butchered cattle, and a man who weighed and sold the flesh of animals. I asked them what they had done and they told me. I saw all of this with my own eyes.” M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, the late vegan Muslim spiritual teacher and renowned Sufi Shaykh
“All creatures are like a family of Allah. And Allah loves most, those who are the most compassionate to His family.” The Holy Prophet Muhammad
“All creations are given freedom and a place to live. They are all given water, air, fire, and a connection to earth and ether. But man grabs for himself what Allah has created as common to all. He snatches the homes of others for himself. He claims the water as his own. He claims the air as his own. He makes the sun his own. He makes the earth his own. He claims the moon is his. He attempts to make what was common to all, his own. All are members of the same body. Created from one essence. If fate brings suffering to one member, the others cannot stay at rest. You who remain indifferent to the burden of pain of others do not deserve to be called human.” Sa’di, the late vegan Muslim spiritual teacher
Pure Islam has always been very concerned with the suffering of any sentient life form. Ahadith (the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad) abound regarding compassion for humans and nonhuman animals alike. The great Sufi Rabi’ah al-`Adawiyah of Basrah was an early Muslim vegetarian. In recent times, M.R. Bawa Muhaiyadeen was very vehement and outspoken about “the true meaning of the first Kalimah” in relation to plant-based eating and compassion for all.
The Qur’an states that animals are individuals, communities and nations in their own right, not mere resources.
“There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, that doesn’t form communities like you. They ALL shall be gathered to their Rabb (Lord) in the end.” Qur’an, Sura 6:38 The essence of Islamic teachings on the rights and liberties of nonhuman animals is that depriving animals of their fair share in the resources of nature is so serious a sin in the eyes of Allah that it is punishable by punitive retribution. The Qur’an describes how the people of Thamud demanded that the Prophet Saleh show them some sign to prove he was a Prophet of Allah. At the time of this incident, the tribe was experiencing a lack of food and water, and was, as a result, neglecting its animals. It was revealed to Prophet Saleh to single out a she-camel as a symbol and ask the people of Thamud to give her a fair portion of food and water. The people of Thamud promised to do that but later killed the camel. As retribution, the tribe was annihilated. This incident has been mentioned in the Qur’an many times (7:73, 11:64, 26:155, 156; 54:27-31).
Understand, once it has been established that each species of animal is a ‘community’, then it only stands to reason that each and every creature has the right to life and a share in all the natural resources. If an animal is not posing a direct threat to the life of an individual (self-defense or vicarious self-defense justification), then the suffering one inflicts on any animal is excessive, cruel and contrary to the teachings of Islam. In other words, halaal (permitted) killing has NOTHING to do with keeping the animal completely conscious when slicing the animal’s throat, looking directly into the animal’s eyes when slicing the throat, watching the fear on the animal’s face when slicing the throat and watching the tears stream down the animal’s face when slicing the throat. It also has nothing to do with reciting Allah’s name and/or saying a prayer when slicing the animal’s throat. Halaal, without question, is for survival only in a true life-or-death situation. This means that if a Muslim is eating meat, cheese, milk, eggs and other animal products, then that Muslim is eating haraam (unacceptable) food which is a complete sin in the eyes of Allah.
M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen explained how the Qurban (the commandment of reciting the third Kalimah when ritually slaughtering animals) was supposed to destroy the evil that exists in our hearts, our minds and souls so we would stop raping, enslaving, and murdering animals, and stealing their babies! All of the prophets came to edify people in order to eliminate this devilish behavior because the global atrocity of eating animals kills more innocent beings in one year than all human atrocities combined!
This passage alone reveals why veganism is the most important aspect of animal rights: almost every animal who is abused and killed on this planet is abused and killed by the meat, dairy, egg and honey industries, despite the fact that humans have no right to commodify animal bodies and turn them into sandwiches and shoes! Sadly and truthfully, humans possess the dubious distinction of being the only expendable creatures on this planet besides fleas and ticks. We bring nothing positive to the table as we are destroyers, attackers and takers. Our extinction would benefit the air, the water, the forests and the animals. And all the excuses people use for exploiting animals—especially habit, convenience, taste, tradition and profit—are invalid, vacuous and barbaric reasons for causing intentional harm to them.
M.R. Bawa further states, “There are some learned people who only have a few levels of consciousness. They have studied the religious texts, and they have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees. But even though they have studied so much, they cannot discriminate between what is wrong and what is right. They do not distinguish between what is good and evil. They have not learned to treat other lives as their own. Nor have they understood through their awareness that all lives are one life, that all lives belong to one family, and that all beings are of the same family.”
Of the 114 chapters in the Qur’an, 113 begin with the phrase “In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.” All Muslims accept that showing compassion and charity is a service to Allah. Yet, the many cruel things humans do to animals—especially the cruelest of them all which is to kill them, dismember them and eat their flesh—is anything but compassionate, merciful and charitable. Accordingly, the Holy Prophet Muhammad stated, “No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother [human and nonhuman] that which he desires for himself. Allah will not be affectionate to a man who is not affectionate to Allah’s creatures. Whoever is kind to the creatures of Allah is kind to himself. A good deed done to an animal is as good as doing good to a human being while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.” The Holy Prophet Muhammad was once asked: “Oh Prophet, are we rewarded for kindness to animals?” Muhammad replied, “There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.”
The Qur’an states that man has “dominion” over animals. However, it is clear that this is not a license for enslavement and murder, but rather humankind’s responsibility towards all of Allah’s creation. In the beginning (Genesis), we are told that Allah created a perfect garden where we were given ONLY vegetation to eat. Allah commanded humans to eat of that vegetation alone to nourish the body. Yet, most religious leaders continue to misguide people with cruel interpretations of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Clergy who fail to condemn the mass murder of animals in slaughterhouses, the most evil and wicked places on this planet, are spiritual hypocrites because they promote iniquity and bathe in evil daily. In The Gospel of the Nazirenes, Jesus agrees: “Verily I say unto you, for this end I have come into the world; that I may put away all blood offerings and the eating of the flesh of the beasts and the birds that are slain by men. In the beginning the Creator gave to all the fruits of the trees and the seeds of the earth and the herbs for food. But those who loved themselves more than the Lord or their fellows, corrupted their ways and brought diseases into their bodies and filled the earth with lust and violence (75:6-14).” If cruelty is evil, and God is all-compassionate and all-merciful, then why do people believe God is an animal-killing, bloodthirsty, murderous devil? If slicing animals into pieces is permissible by God, then what horrible things could the Devil possibly do to animals? In other words, if you believe God condones the killing of animals, then the God you glorify is no better than the Devil you condemn. Cruelty to animals is sacrilegious and desecrates Allah’s name.
“Every creature that lives and moves shall be food for you; I give you them all, as once I gave you all green plants. But now you must not eat the flesh with the life, which is the blood, still in it. For the blood is the life.” Genesis 9:3-4
Many cite the above passage in Genesis as their “Divine Permission” to exploit nonhuman animals for whatever means they might happen to contrive. But they are unequivocally wrong. After the flood, it is said that Noah had taken every non-aquatic animal indigenous to his region aboard an ark. So allow us to visualize this for a moment. After the deluge had subsided, Noah could now kill and eat those that Allah had just told him to save? Are we to believe that it was important to save these animals from the flood, but now that everything was said and done, Allah—all of a sudden—decided it was okay for Noah to eat the animals he just saved? Moreover, if one of these animals were killed, then reproduction would have been impossible because there were only two of each.
After the revolutionary movement of Judah Maccabee, Nabi `Isa al-Masih (Jesus) wanted to abolish the enslavement and murder of animals altogether. In Al-Injil (the original, unaltered Aramaic Gospel) we are told that `Isa absolutely opposed flesh consumption when it was not necessary for survival. He went so far as to physically restrain those who abused and killed animals needlessly. And there is prophecy after prophecy in the Nevi’im (the writings of the prophets) of the Old Testament that speaks of the Messiah being vegan. Even ancient portions of the Book of the Dead allude to the Messiah being vegan. This is not at all something that one can make up as they go along. The divine message is a fundamental reality of oneness and compassion and peace. And becoming one with the animals of the earth and freeing them from their bondage is the final truth and final step for global salvation. Spiritually, we have been given higher wisdom to realize that meat, dairy and egg consumption is not necessary as it causes gratuitous pain and suffering to others who are a part of the oneness of Allah. Allah told the first Prophet Adam to eat a strict vegan diet. And many prophets after Adam prophesied that Eden standard once again.
The Historical Question of Sacrifice
“The first cases to be adjudicated on the Day of Judgment will be those of bloodshed.” The Holy Prophet Muhammad
Allah clearly spoke out against animal sacrifice (and flesh-eating) through his prophets. Pythagoras (570 B.C), Mahavira (599 B.C. and founder of Jain religion) and Buddha (563 B.C.) condemned the sacrifice and eating of animals. The three aforementioned prophets were among the 124,000 Prophets of Islam. We—as Allah states in the Qur’an—make no difference between any of them. It is furthermore alluded to in the Torah that the advent of ritualistic slaughter itself was descended from the days of more primitive spiritual misunderstanding. There are numerous passages in the Bible, Injil and Qur’an which downgrade in importance, or completely reject, animal sacrifice altogether.
“You believe that Moshe (Teacher of the Torah and Master of the Prophets) indeed commanded such creatures to be slain and offered in sacrifice and eaten, and so you do in the Temple, but behold one greater than Moshe is herein and he comes to put away the bloody sacrifices performed in the name of the Law, and the feasts on them, and to restore to you the pure oblation and un-bloody sacrifice of grains and fruits as in the beginning. For the hour is coming when your sacrifices and feasts of blood shall cease, and you shall worship a holy worship and pure oblation. Let these creatures therefore go free, that they may rejoice and bring no guilt to man.” Al-Injil 28:3-5
“God was displeased with the slaughtering of animals, not wishing them to be slain. He did not ordain sacrifices or desire them, nor from the beginning did He require them.” The Apostle Peter in the Clementine Homilies “`Isa (Jesus) said, ‘I came to destroy the sacrifices, and if ye cease not from sacrificing, the Wrath of YHVH (God) will not cease from you.’ ” Al-Injil (Aramaic Matthew)
“I hate, I spurn your pilgrim feasts. I will not delight in your sacred ceremonies. When you present your sacrifices and offerings, I will not accept them.” Amos 5:21-23
“For I desire mercy not sacrifices, and acknowledgment of YHVH rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6-7
The prophets of the Tanukh (ancient group of various southern Arabian tribes and clans that first moved into central Arabia) often spoke of sacrifices as an abomination to YHVH. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis stated that sacrifices should be replaced by prayer and good deeds. Similarly, such strong language can be found in Isaiah 1:11-16 and verses such as Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 66:3 and Micah 6:6-8 state that sacrifices are definitely unnecessary. Of course it will be the first pre-programmed, knee-jerk reaction of any devout flesh eater to suppose that such verses are subject to interpretation. Were the Prophets attacking the practice of sacrifice itself, or were they simply opposing the behavior of the people of their culture stating that their sacrifices were hypocritical or null and void due to their contrary lifestyles? To one who is insistent upon exploiting religion to condone their cruel desires, this will be a difficult case to prove. However, the rage of the notorious vegetarian Isaiah, must prove at least partially convincing that it was the practice of animal sacrifice itself that was being assaulted. “The reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me” (Isaiah 1:13) and “There is blood on your hands; wash yourselves and be clean.” Isaiah 1:15-16
The Sunnah (example) of `Isa and Other Vegetarian Prophets While many Anbiya (Prophets) were vegetarian, the one that Muslims should most closely be aware of is Nabi `Isa al-Masih (Jesus). For unlike the other Anbiya, it is `Isa who is said to return with Imam Al-Mahdi. Ahadith bears witness that `Isa will prostrate in Salat (prayer) behind the Imam al-Mahdi. So without delving into what literally dozens of Christian and pre-Christian Gospel accounts of `Isa say about him abstaining from flesh consumption, allow us to view several of the Islamic Ahadith that record the dietary habits of `Isa, the one who will Return and slay Al-Masih ad-Dajjal (anti Christ) according to the beliefs of all Muslims across the globe. `Isa told his followers, “Eat from the plants of the wilderness and escape from this world in Peace.” Notes: Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181/797), al-Zuhd, p. 198 (no. 563). Cf. Ibn Abd Rabbihi, al-`Iqd, 3:143; Ibn Asakir, Sirat, p. 138, no. 128 (Asin, p. 541, no. 111; Mansur, no 9; Robson, p. 73). “`Isa was a constant traveler in the land, never abiding in a house or a village. Whenever night fell, his lamp was the moonlight, his shade the blackness of night, his bed the earth, his pillow a stone, his food the plants of the fields. At times, he spent whole days and nights without food.” Notes: Abu Rifa’a al-Fasawi (d. 289/902), Kitab Bad’ al-Khalq, p. 333. Cf. Ibn `Asakir, Sirat, p. 133, no. 120.
“Masih said, ‘Flesh eating flesh? How offensive an act!'” Notes: Al-Raghib al-Isfahani (early fifth/early eleventh century), Mahadarat al-Udaba’, 1:610.
“`Isa Ibn Maryam, used to say: The produce of the earth is my food and fruit. I retire for the night with nothing to my name and awake in the morning with nothing to my name. And there is no one on earth richer than me.” Notes: Abu Nu`aym al-Isbahani (d. 430/1038), Hilyat al-Awliya’, 6:314 (Asin, pp. 374-375, no. 44; Mansur, no. 80; Robson, pp. 67-68.
The Qur’an tells us that `Isa told people what to eat, and these Ahadith tell us that he ate plant-based food alone and told others to eat plant-based food alone. As well, if Prophet `Isa al-Masih ate no flesh or animal products 2,000 years ago, then why do so many imagine that he would be ANY different when he returns with the Holy Imam al-Mahdi? And with that in mind, it would serve to reason that the Imam will abstain from flesh foods if `Isa, his closest companion, is a strict vegetarian.
Following the vegetarian diet (an Ital, “Vital” or “Total” diet) that Allah predestined humanity to eat is the only way to avoid complicity in the inherent cruelties of animal agriculture. Some, shamefully, misinterpret empathy for animals as a weakness. Antithetically though, standing up against cruelty is an act of strength, especially when most people merely follow the crowd. Being in a majority is not an indication of the truth. The Most High says, “If you obey most of those who are on earth, they will mislead you from the path of God” (6:116).
Furthermore, since humankind was not designed to consume animal products, it should come as no surprise that when we eat meat, cheese, milk, eggs and other animal products that we also will reap the destructive harvest of our actions, whether this is a harvest of environmental destruction or detriment to human health and soul. Allah created humans in a state of Eden as herbivores, not as omnivores, and certainly not as carnivores. Adopting a diet free of meat, cheese, milk, eggs and other animal products is the easiest and most consistent way for Muslims to live in accordance with the ethical, environmental, and health precepts of Islam.
(The linked thumbnail image is excerpted from an engraving by Gustave Doré (1832-1883), Canto VII: Hoarders and Wasters (1857), one of many of Doré’s illustrations of Dante’s Inferno.)