While many people believe that Muslims mostly live in the Middle East, the truth is that we have practitioners of this ancient religion all over the world. The Muslim religion, or Islam as it is also known, is considered one of the three Abrahamic religions. The other two being Judaism and Christianity. We have many rules concerning worship, lifestyle, and food. It can be difficult to know what is allowed and what isn’t.
For example, do Muslims drink alcohol? According to the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, drinking alcohol is considered to be haram or forbidden. In fact, the Quran goes on to say that anything intoxicating is expressly forbidden. This includes alcohol of any kind, things made with an alcohol base (like perfume), and foods made with alcoholic beverages, even though the alcohol cooks out.
Before Islam became a religion, wine and alcohol were important parts of ancient Arab culture. So much so that when the Quran was developed it had to ban alcohol in stages. It started out discouraging it, before eventually moving to a direct order. Finally, not only did it ban alcohol but anything addicting. But the holy book had some good reasons for the prohibition.
Reasons Why Muslims Don’t Drink Alcohol
There are six main reasons why we aren’t allowed to drink alcohol:
- Prayer and alcohol don’t go well together
- Alcohol is addictive
- Alcohol makes you stupid
- It sets a bad example for kids
- It can make you forgetful
- It can get you arrested
Prayer, called salat, is an especially important part of our religion. We are supposed to pray five times a day: before sunrise, at noon, late afternoon, after sunset, and before midnight (usually before we go to bed). Because salat is so important, the ancient Muslim clergy didn’t want people missing even one due to hangovers or drunkenness. In fact, these daily prayers are so important that missing one without a good reason is considered a serious lapse in faith. Luckily, we can make it up by saying the prayer as soon as we’re able or including it with the next set of prayers.
Because of alcohol’s addictive qualities, the Prophet Mohammed compared the drink to a disease. It takes away will-power and self-control. It also takes away the ability to know right from wrong. Because we prize intellect, rational thought, and good judgment, drinking something that takes all those things away doesn’t make sense. It can also make us forgetful, and one of the worst things we can do is forget your prayers, or worse, God.
Since alcohol has such a harmful effect on our behavior, we believe drinking in front of kids sets a bad example. Kids learn by watching, and if they think the only way we can have a good time is by getting drunk, they will learn to use those same bad behaviors. In fact, any and all kinds of socialization need to be done where alcohol is not available. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol should be avoided when possible (although the Quran makes exceptions for times when it isn’t). It does state, however, that if the only place available to eat has alcohol it’s okay to go in. However, if we go into a restaurant with other non-halal people and they order drinks, we can no longer sit at the same table as our companions.
Finally, because alcohol often loosens our morals and we do things we wouldn’t do sober, it often leads to criminal activities. It’s simply better to avoid drinking so we don’t lose control and then do something evil. Because the Quran is considered to be a legal book in addition to a religious book, it serves to uphold the welfare of the Islamic community as a whole. It includes punishments for crimes, and the severity of the punishment depends on how serious the crime was. If we are doing evil deeds, we won’t be able to find salvation in God’s eyes.
Muslim Food And Drinks
So, we can’t drink alcohol and we’re not supposed to go into restaurants or bars that serve alcohol if we can avoid it. But what can we eat? And if we’re out and about, how do we know what places are safe for us food-wise?
We have foods that are called halal and haram. Halal foods have been prepared according to our dietary laws, so they are okay to eat or drink. Haram foods are off the table, literally and figuratively. They are considered unsafe for us to eat. Some foods that are considered haram are:
- Any meats not slaughtered according to halal custom
- All pork products, regardless of how they were slaughtered
- Alcohol of any and every kind
- Lobster and any fish that does not have scales
Most of the halal rules and regulations focus on meat and animal products. We need to ensure that our meat was processed in specific ways to ensure its purity (much like Kosher rules in the Judaic traditions). If we know or believe that the meat we want to buy wasn’t butchered correctly, we are not allowed to buy or eat it.
It can be difficult for us today to figure out what we can and can’t eat when buying packaged foods. Some things, like gelatin, are easy to figure out. However, when faced with ingredients that are unpronounceable, it can be difficult to know if they’re safe. Luckily, we have apps, books, and other publications and websites handy to help make sure we stay halal.
So what foods are considered halal? Rice, pasta, cereal, and bread are all considered safe as long as no ingredients like lard are added. Fruits, vegetables, and juices are all fine to eat. Dairy and dairy products are fine, although cheese and frozen desserts can’t be made with animal rennet or gelatin. We also consider Nuts, seeds, tofu, beans and lentils, eggs, and peanut butter fine to eat.
It is easier for those of us who live in our traditional communities to keep halal, as we are surrounded by others who are practicing Muslims. The shops and businesses will supply exactly what we need to keep halal. We don’t have to worry quite so much about ingredients that are forbidden, because they simply aren’t available.
However, there are over one and a half billion Muslims worldwide, meaning that it isn’t always easy to know if what we’re eating is halal. Luckily, the Quran provided guidance for those of us who find ourselves wondering if we can eat anything on the menu, or even if we should go to the restaurant.
Those of us who seek guidance about what we can and can’t eat in an unfamiliar place are often guided to make the best decisions we possibly can with the information we’ve been given. It’s okay for us to not know the religion of the food preparer, or how they made the dish. So long as the food doesn’t have anything automatically harem as far as we can reasonably guess, we are okay to eat it. If we believe or know that a dish has something forbidden, we are not allowed to eat it.
The Islamic rules for food and drink consumption are meant to keep us healthy and pure in God’s eyes. By following the guidance of the Quran, we seek out food that not only supplies sustenance but is also prepared according to God’s wishes. This way, we know that we are truly honoring not only the gifts God has given us but also honoring God directly.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.