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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-03

0508-FOODS: ETHICO-LEGAL ISSUES

By Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

1.0 HUMAN NUTRIENTS

1.1 The term rizq refers only to utilizable food and excludes food that is not absorbed or metabolized. Rizq is from Allah. He provides sufficient rizq for every living thing created. Famine or food shortages are due to human factors. Food provides energy, contributes to body building and repair, or plays a part in the vital metabolic processes.

 

1.2 Humans are at the top of all food chains. They can consume all organisms but cannot themselves by consumed by others. Being heterotrophs, they need both to consume both organic and inorganic molecules for survival. Macronutrients are needed in large amounts and are classified as carbohydrates, lipids, or proteins. Micronutrients are needed in small amounts and are classified as vitamins and minerals.

 

1.3 Modern man has time to spare for developing a sophisticated civilization because he learned how to domesticate plants and animals and does not have to spend all waking hours looking for food.

 

1.4 Eating is ‘ibadat starting with basmalah and ending with hamdalah. Nutrients can be classified as essential and non-essential. Essential nutrients cannot be synthesized by the body and have to be ingested in the diet. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) are defined as levels of intake necessary to satisfy the nutritional requirements of healthy individuals.

 

2.0 HUMAN NUTRITION

2.1 Human nutrition is at 3 levels. At the lowest level, humans eat to satisfy basic survival needs and necessities, dharuuraat. At the next level humans eat to satisfy wants, haajiyaat. At the next level humans eat food with refinements and embellishments, tahsiinaat. At the highest level feeding is associated with several complementaries, mukammilaat. The strong human appetite for food is needed for survival because it makes humans search for food.

 

2.2 The human body is a very efficient factory that converts chemical energy of the organic molecules in the food into various forms of energy needed by the body (mechanical, electrical, chemical etc). The amount of energy needed by an individual is affected by: surface area, age, sex, and level of physical activity. The Law of conservation of energy is a law of Allah, sunnat al llaah, that holds true for the human body and is violated when energy intake exceeds energy expenditure resulting in obesity.

 

2.3 The alimentary system is one of the final pathways for human corruption because humans strive by all means fair and foul to ensure food security and survival. Food security is the underlying but often unstated purpose behind crime, corruption, treachery, amassing of wealth, aggression, and many other transgressions.

 

2.4 A human can survive fasting for periods without food because of ability to ingest 100 times more food than immediate energy needs. The extra food is stored in the form of glycogen and fats for later use. Thus the time between meals can be used for civilizational pursuits.

 

3.0 REGULATIONS ON FOODS, ahkaam al ta’am

3.1 The human needs food to survive and eating is waajib. The general principle of the law is that all food is halaal unless specifically prohibited. Haram foods can be eaten in situations of necessity, dharuurat. Refusing to eat the halaal for no valid reason is bid’at. Food has qualities beyond the level of permissibility. We therefore must seek out quality and wholesome food so that we may have what the Qur’an describes as permitted and wholesome, halaalan tayyiban.

 

3.2 All food of plant origin is halaal unless there are specific and demonstrated harm. All aquatic life is halaal but some jurists except frogs and crocodiles. The meat of animals found dead is haraam. Meat of animals not slaughtered according to the Law is haraam. Meat whose method of slaughter is unknown is eaten after mentioning basmalah on it. The following are haraam: meat of animals that prey/hunt with fangs or talons, the meat of mules, and the meat of domestic donkeys. Flowing blood is haraam. Pork is haraam. Also considered haraam is any food that is harmful to health as shown by customary experience or scientific investigation.

 

3.3 Meat slaughtered in other than the prescribed way is forbidden. Dhabh requires mention of Allah's name while slaughtering otherwise taking the life of the animal is illegal. It is not haram to eat what a wild animal attacks but does not kill and it is slaughtered before death. The best method of killing the animal is using a sharp knife. It causes little pain to the animal when done quickly. Exsanguination should be as complete as possible. In the pre-slaughter period animals should be treated with kindness and consideration. They should not be allowed to see other animals being slaughtered. It is wrong to refuse feeding them reasoning that they are going to die anyway.

 

4.0 ETIQUETTE OF NUTRITION, adab al ta'aam

4.1 Food is by Allah’s permission and Allah's name is mentioned at the start of the meal. In the same way Allah's is praised at the end. A supplication, dua, may also be recited.

 

4.2 Hands should be washed to remove any infectious or toxic material. It is recommended to eat in a group because it has blessings. It is forbidden to eat at a table where alcohol is served. Eating is with the right hand even if the person is left-handed. Eating should be in haste and with earnestly; the objective being to finish food and go on to do other things. The meal should not be treated as a form of entertainment to be taken and enjoyed over a very long time. It is a necessary act of ‘ibadat to give the body the energy and nutrients needed to undertake the human mission on earth. Enough time should be spent chewing the food well to ensure good digestion. It is sunnah to eat from the top of the dish. It is sunnat to eat only the food next to you. Eating while reclining is not encouraged. Eating and drinking while standing are prohibited. Eating hot food is forbidden. Food served should be finished. Certain foods like onions should not be eaten when planning to enter a public place.

 

4.3 It is forbidden to blow over food. This will spread bacteria and viruses over the food that others will eat and may lead to infections. Food should be covered as much as possible to prevent environmental contamination.

 

4.4 At the end of the meal Allah is praised and His name is mentioned. It is recommended to use a tooth-pick to remove impacted pieces of food. It is recommended to wash hands after eating and to rinse the mouth. The host is praised and is thanked at the end of the meal. Waste in eating and drinking is condemned.

 

4.5 Food can be wasted by overeating because the just passes through the alimentary canal and is voided as waste. Food is also wasted by indiscriminate eating and buying. Poor methods of food preparation result in food waste.

 

4.6 Satiety can be described in three states: the necessary, dharurat; the needed, haajat; and the excess, fadhl. Dharurat is the minimum nutritional intake necessary to maintain health in the best status. It represents the balance between excessive and too little intake. Haajat is intake that is more than dharurat but which prevents the feeling of hunger. It is however recommended not to eat to full satisfaction, shaba’u. Fadhl is the excess intake beyond the need.

 

4.7 Appetite can be controlled by faith, iman. People should eat to get energy for ‘ibadat. We should be a community who ideally eat only when hungry and who do not fill their bellies when they eat. Both obligatory and nafilat fasting help in controlling excess intake. The fasting person takes and absorbs less food in a day that a non-fasting one. Fasting is also training in appetite control during the ensuing non-fasting period.

 

5.0 PROBLEMS OF SATIETY and HUNGER

5.1 Satiety is controlled by the hypothalamus which responds to negative feedback from increased temperature, signals from the distention of the stomach, high blood sugar and lipid levels, and emotional or cognitive factors. The human will can however overrule the negative feedback leading to breakdown of the equilibrium, mizaan, and consequent over-nutrition or under-nutrition.

 

5.2 Obesity is excessive accumulation of fat in the body when more energy is ingested that is expended. The excess energy is stored as fat. Obesity is a social and medical disease that was condemned by the prophet as a sign of social degeneration. Most cases of obesity are due to excess food intake although emotional, genetic, and endocrine factors play a role. Obese persons have a shorter life-expectancy. Obesity is associated with hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. Besides its association with disease, obesity in its extreme forms interferes with performance of physical acts of ‘ibadat such as saum, salat, and hajj. Obesity is treated by reducing food intake under medical supervision.

 

5.3 Fat-soluble vitamins, A and D, accumulate in the body to toxic levels if taken in excess. The water-soluble vitamins tend to be excreted and not accumulate if taken in excess.

 

5.4 Nutritional deficiency may be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative deficiency manifests as protein-calories malnutrition of children in poor countries and hospitalized adults in developed countries. Kwashiorkor is a form of protein energy malnutrition due to protein deficiency in the presence of adequate energy intake. Qualitative deficiency is usually of vitamins of minerals. It may be primary due to inadequate dietary intake or may be secondary to mal-absorption. Anorexia nervosa is a disorder usually of young women who literally starve themselves in order to be thin.

 

5.5 The Qur’an emphasized the virtues of giving food to the needy. The prophet taught the virtue of feeding others especially the hungry. The prophet taught the virtue of sharing food when he said that the food of suffices four. He also taught that food not needed should be given to the needy. Satisfaction of hunger of those in need and thus preventing both psychological and physiological distress is emphasized by Islam.  Giving water to the thirsty, human or animal, is emphasized

 

5.6 Food security is very important at the individual, family, and world levels.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr August 31, 2005