Ethics of eating, drinking in Ramadan
“O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed upon you just as it was prescribed upon those before you, in order that you may gain taqwa Quran 2:183
Brethren, I thought today’s sermon should address an issue which we often gloss over or pay little attention to during the blessed month of Ramadan. This relates to our eating habit and schedules. You would remember that during the month, we are expected to eat early in the morning, begin our fast as soon as the fajr appears and observe fasting throughout the day. As soon as it is sunset, the fasting believers are expected to break their fast and enjoy every other lawful act till the dawn of the following day. This month consequently provides opportunities for Muslim families to bond together more than ever before.
It is equally true that during the month of Ramadan we have the opportunity to examine our spiritual status. A Muslim who forsakes the pleasure of food and drinks and embarks on this fasting, a Muslim who creates the conditions of hunger and thirst for herself, simply in obeisance to the will of the Almighty is actually and indirectly involved in sharpening his weapon of survival on the terrestrial earth where survival has become simply difficult if not impossible. Thus a Muslim who fasts is like a hunter who takes time off hunting in order to sharpen his weapon of hunt. Thus he who fasts becomes an unassailable and an inimitable fortress against the devil and its agents; you cannot be a beloved of the Almighty and still become a prey to earthly principalities.
Brethren through the act of fasting we create an artificial or temporary scarcity and want. This inculcates in us a spirit of gratitude and consequent devotion to Him. After fasting during the day, we settle down at dusk to break our fast. The meal on our table should remind us of the perpetual scarcity and want in which some of our fellow human beings are presently steeped. In other words, each morsel we put in our mouth during this month should remind us of the life of penury and want in which our fellow brethren all around the world are presently manacled.
The above brings me to the core of our sermon today. First of all, every one of us should approach our meal during this month and thereafter as an act of worship. Our Creator says: “O children of Adam! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but be not prodigals. Lo! He loveth not the prodigals.” (Quran 7:31) “Eat of the good things we have provided for your sustenance, but commit not excess therein.” (Qur’an 20:81). Thus each time a Muslim takes a good meal, he should have it in mind that he is actually following His injunctions.
Now when reference is made to a good meal, I am actually calling your attention to a meal which contains the right combinations of food items and recipes as advised by our ‘learned’ brethren in the field of human nutrition. Thus, let my sister give priority to a meal which is rich in vegetables and fruits. Brethren, I could not believe my ears last week when we were told by an Uncle that a combination of rice and beans (carbohydrate and protein) is not the best of meals for healthy living- ‘it is either you take beans and vegetable or rice and vegetable not the two combined together!’ he emphasized.
Again, brethren, remember that our leader Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) advised that we cultivate the habit of eating less as a method of preventing sickness and diseases. He is reported to have said: “Eat less you will be healthier.”. He says again: “Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath”. Thus to have fasted a whole day should not be taken as a warrant to become a glutton.
What about our water in-take during the month of Ramadan. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: “Do not drink water in one gulp (or one breath) like a camel, but take it in two or three gulps (with breaks for breath). Mention the name of the Almighty (say “Bismallah”) when you start drinking and praise Him (saying “Alhamdullillah”) when you finish. Our Uncle told us that the human physiology in reference to water in-take is similar to that of the chicken: it sips water; it does not gulp it. Brother, it is better for you to take water while sitting down not while standing.
During this month, it is usual for us to attend iftar gatherings where we would meet with our fellow brothers and sisters and break our fasts together. As Muslims we are required to show compassion, grace, gentleness, and consideration in such gatherings. In such gatherings, give preference to others in the service of food and drinks. Begin by washing your hands. This is a virtue which Islam has taught over a millennium ago. Take your food in smaller portions. Remember, your table manners sometimes mirror how closer or farther you are from this world. Do ‘justice’ to the food plate. In other words, avoid leftovers. Remember millions are out there who do not have the kind of opportunity that you have. What about eating with the right hand, This is a virtue which modernity continues to anathemize. To eat and drink with the left hand has become fashionable today; to eat with the right hand is to be primeval.
Brethren, as invited guests to a feast, it is permissible to ask your host for water or salt. Otherwise, accept what is offered and do not request additional items your host may not be able to afford. Dear brother, remember, Prophet Muhammad never found fault with any food; if he had the inclination, he would eat it, and if he disliked it, he would leave it. Should my sister makes a mistake in adding less salt to the meal, praise her for her efforts, Remember she is a like a judge in a court of law while in the kitchen: if she does it right she has hundred percent of the reward; if there is an imperfection she has fifty percent of the stakes! My sister! Use a combination of locus bean, ginger, curry and garlic as recipes for your meal throughout this month and avoid other seasonings- the latter are unnatural and recipes for illnesses and diseases! May this month’s fasting mark the beginning of greater favours from Him in your life. I say aamin on your behalf. Eat to fast this month, not fast to eat!
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