I’ve had some interesting discussions recently about Islam and veganism, and whether or not there is a conflict between these two philosophies when it comes to the eating of meat, or the drinking of milk etc. So I thought I would put this out there for feedback.
The point that gets repeatedly raised by Muslims is that in Islam, ‘God permits the eating of meat’. Okay, I hear you. I can take on board the idea that God permits the eating of meat. No argument. But it seems to be that there’s a quantum difference between being permitted to eat meat, and eating meat as a religious obligation.
In the conversations that I’ve had, the word ‘permitted’ seems to disappear into the nether reaches of the subconscious and be replaced, at least tacitly, by the word ‘obligated’.
As a vegan (when I can manage it – not always easy living in Egypt), I have no argument with the concept of eating animal flesh or drinking cow’s milk, if it is a matter of survival. And it seems to me (and I am putting this out there with very little in the way of actual evidence here), that at the time of Mohammed, it might have been the case that eating meat/drinking milk was something of a survival necessity for the community, given its location and moment in history. If it comes down to the choice ‘live’ or ‘die’, then it makes sense that God is going to grant permission for his followers to do whatever is necessary to survive.
It would seem, that in spite of the permission for meat consumption being given by God, that Mohammed himself was a virtual vegetarian, and rarely ate meat. I am told that he routinely encouraged his followers to abstain or limit their consumption of meat too. It sort of follows in my mind, that a man of peace would indeed encourage something akin to vegetarianism (or possibly even veganism). There’s an obvious, common sense link.
Veganism and vegetarianism, however, are routinely ridiculed or looked at with curious horror, by many Muslims. It all seems to hinge on this ‘God gives permission to eat meat’ thing, which is used as the ultimate get-out clause. But it seems to me that there is nothing in this God-given permission that disqualifies a Muslim from making their own healthy, compassionate choice to avoid the consumption of meat and other animal-derived foods, for the betterment of themselves and all living beings.
So that’s my preamble. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. It’s a fascinating subject and I know there is much debate on this issue amongst a number of Muslim communities. There is even a Muslim Vegan Community on Facebook, which promotes the concept. Please feel free to comment, and do please take the poll below.