Is it possible to be a vegan and a Muslim at the same time?

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.



About Steve Gooch

Steve Gooch was born in March 1962 in Rugby, Warwickshire in England and grew up there with his two brothers and sister. He moved to Corsham in Wiltshire and attended Bath Academy of Art, where he studied sculpture and printmaking, before going on to work on projects for the artists Joe Tilson and Nick Pope. He also helped with the publication of a limited edition folio of Paul Eluard’s poetry. Steve moved to London to study for a postgraduate teaching certificate and then worked as a teacher of art in the UK. He gained his MA in Education with the Open University and also studied the discipline of Reiki with his Reiki teachers in Newcastle upon Tyne. His daughter Marianne was born in 1994. For a period of time, Steve devoted himself to teaching Reiki in his hometown of Rugby, before moving to Egypt, where he resumed his career as an art teacher, becoming the Head of Art in a prestigious British International School in Cairo. He continued to teach Reiki, introducing the discipline for the first time to Egypt. He also wrote extensively on the subject for various Egyptian English-language magazines. Returning to the UK, Steve’s son Sam was born in 2004. Not wanting to go back into the teaching profession, Steve took a job as a chef in a vegetarian restaurant and wrote his first book ‘Reiki Jin Kei Do: The Way of Compassion & Wisdom’. It was the world’s first book on that particular tradition of Reiki and is still considered to be the standard reference work on the subject. Steve them moved to Sudan, where he was again Head of Art at the prestigious Unity High School, and built an online living history for the school, called 'The Unity High School Archive'. It was in the process of building this archive that Steve uncovered a major scandal involving senior members of the Anglican Church, local dignitaries, and members of the faith communities. As a consequence, he got to know the head of the Secret Police in Khartoum quite well and then promptly left the country. Steve moved back to Egypt and took up a post as Head of Art in a school in Alexandria. Very much involved in the Reiki community in the UK, however, he founded the national organisation ‘Reiki Jin Kei Do UK’ and became the editor of ‘Focus: The Journal of Reiki Jin Kei Do UK’, and then set up the global ‘Reiki Jin Kei Do International’. He also set up the global video-arts project '12seconds for Peace'. The concept grabbed the attention of a number of big names in the peace movement, including Nobel Peace Prize nominees, and threatened to go viral. Circumstances (revolutions and social unrest) put it on the back-burner. Likewise, a major peace initiative called the 'Global Concert for Peace', scheduled for the summer of 2013, which would have been the world's biggest musical event, also went on the back-burner. Steve moved to Saudi Arabia for a little over a year in 2014, before returning to Egypt to take up a senior management position in another British International School in Cairo. Finally, after a year of professional purgatory in which he realised that there is no such thing as a good British International School in Egypt, he decided ‘enough is enough’ and quit the teaching profession for good to focus on his writing, art and Reiki classes. He is currently living in Cairo and writing ‘The Temple of the Djinn’, which is loosely based on the events that he uncovered during his time in Sudan. He is also teaching Reiki and working freelance for a variety of Egyptian magazines. He misses the UK and is looking forward to spending more time in his home country with his children. He'd also like to find time to paint and make sculpture.
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