9-Food for thought what Quran says about eating

Around 200 verses in the Quran mention the words food, eat, and drink. Why is a “Book of guidance” so painstakingly concerned about our dietary intake? Could what we eat and drink actually impact our virtue or lead us to righteousness? Well according to the status quo, the answer is yes. Yet we should ask ourselves, if the Quran addresses the rational mind then what role could our diet possibly play?

To understand these words, and the concepts behind them, the root word definition is the key. This root meaning must remain constant throughout the Book. This is how the Quran preserves Its message. Here are a few things to remember from Post 2 and Post 5 :

  • Since language is constantly evolving, the interpretations must use the root word definition, not colloquial speech, and not through the lens of tradition. This ensures a static, immutable, universal, timeless message.
  • No use of homonyms. This means the same word cannot have two different meanings. For example, hajj cannot mean debate in one verse and a physical pilgrimage in another. Consistency is key.
  • Changing the meaning of the word as needed to fit a desired narrative is a sign of human manipulation 6:34, 6:115, 18:27 no one can alter the word of Allah.
  • Disregard all confirmation bias. In other words, do not read into the text what has been ingrained and indoctrinated from tradition. Clear your mind. Read what is actually being said, even if it contradicts what you have been taught.

The word Kulu كُلُوا

The root for the word كُلُوا (kulu) is أ ك ل (alif-kaf-lam). It occurs in Quran 109 times (click here). Here are a few examples from current translations:

  • Consuming inheritance, property, or wealth of orphans, and interest in 89:19, 4:161, 4:10, 4:4, 4:2, 2:275, 12:48, 2:188, 2:275, 3:130
  • Physical eating of food in 2:35, 2:57-58, 2:60, 2:187, 5:88, 6:118
  • In 3:183 used to describe fire consuming/eating a thing
  • And in 2:174 used to describe the one who consumes fire into their belly

Placing these verses side by side (a horizontal reading) highlights how the translator changes the meaning to achieve a particular interpretation. The word is the same but the meaning has changed. This is contrary to the Quran’s instructions. This root can only have one meaning throughout, either consume or a physical eating. It cannot mean both. You cannot alter the meaning as needed to achieve a desired narrative.

Lanes Lexicon description of the root أَكَلَ (alif-lam-kaf) the root for kulu – كُلُوا

The following are examples of how the root is used and defined in Lanes Arabic English Lexicon:

  • The swallowing of food after chewing it, versus swallowing whole without chewing. So that the swallowing of pebbles is not properly termed thus, since it is not chewed.
  • He ate his life. Meaning he became extremely aged.
  • He ate the flesh of my sheep and drank the milk of them. Meaning he ate, fed upon, devoured, or consumed my wealth or property.
  • The fire devoured or consumed the firewood.
  • He consumed his life.
  • Towns devour other towns.

Let’s take the first example of chewing before swallowing. The longer you chew, the more digestive enzymes are released aiding in digestion. This increases the amount of nutrients absorbed to nourish your body. Compare this to chewing on an idea or concept (click here for phrase reference) to nourish your mind. Thinking about something and giving it ample consideration enables you to make a sound decision based on reason and a thorough understanding. This is in stark contrast to simply obeying and rote memorization. That is comparable to swallowing without chewing. Meaning you are just doing it without understanding why and engaging your facility of reason.

The other examples above from Lanes Lexicon show a thorough consumption/utilization of something. Note that the one doing the “eating” is the one that is benefiting.

The word “eat” evolved from this origin. However, to understand the Quran’s message the focus remains on the root word definition, and not colloquial speech (its current use). Also, according to the Quran’s instructions, there are no homonyms. So throughout the text the meaning must remain the same; to consciously, attentively, and exhaustively consume, contemplate a thing.

Here are a few verses with the root:

In 2:35 it means; consume from “jannah” in abundance… In other words, consume consciously what “jannah” has to offer, internalize it. It is not a physical eating of food in “jannah” as the status quo has presented. It is about exhaustively and purposefully understanding a concept. The word Jannah will be explained in a future post.

Verse 23:20: And [We brought forth] a tree issuing from Mount Sinai which produces oil and food for those who eat. Does this make any sense? For those who eat? The words tree, Mount Sinai, oil, and food, must also be studied by their root words in order to understand their meanings. The verse is saying for those who are willing to consume these ideas, not eat. Everyone eats, but not everyone is willing to take the time to understand a concept, “chew on it.”

Verse 3:49, in present translations, is devoid of any rationale. Jesus is addressing the Children of Israel: …and I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses… What is the significance of this? Mohammad Asad realizes that it cannot mean eat and explains the following in his commentary: “what good things you may partake of in the life of this world, and what good deeds you should lay up as a treasure for the life to come”. He understands that implying eating lacks rationale and common sense.

A closer look at 2:168

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ . … eat of what is lawful and good in the earth and do not follow the footsteps of Satan he is a clear enemy to you.

As explained in Post 7, the word فِي (fi) is a preposition denoting inclusion, a receptacle, meaning inside not in. And الْأَرْضِ (Al Ardh) represents an abstract concept of those who are stupified, asleep, hence unable to engage in reason or intellect. The verse is saying to give deep thought on the lawful and the good found inside this conceptualized state of Al Ardh.

Our ability to use our reason, to judge between what is good and bad is truly what guides us to righteousness. Not the foods we eat. There is no logic in that, nor any explanation in Quran as to why.

In order to recognize these good attributes we have to engage our reason and logic. The only way to do this is to rise from the sleepy, stupified state inside the Al Ardh.

Saying Bismillah before eating? Halal slaughter?

Verse 6:118 has everyone reciting bismillah before they eat and before they slaughter (halal/zabiha slaughter). Yet it has nothing to do with meat, eat, or slaughter.

Sahih International translation: So eat of that [meat] upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned…

First of all, the word meat is inserted by the interpreter, it is not even mentioned in the verse.

Secondly, the word name, ism ( اسم ), is based on it’s root word meaning: something distinguished, recognized, high, lofty (explained in Post 7). By giving something a name you are giving it recognition, distinguishing it. To name something is to recognize it, and that is an act of reason. With this understanding we can translate the verse as follows:

6:118 So consume that which the recognition/ distinction of Allah has been recalled / remembered /recognized (zikr).

Allah’s distinction is in the attributes, the abstract ideas; The Wise, The Just, The Truth, The Noble, The Intelligent, The Righteous, etc… These concepts are what we are to look for and consume entirely when we find it inside the internal place called the Al Ardh.

Only when you can recognize justice, can you identify injustice. Only when you can recognize the truth, can you discern it from falsehood. And only when you can recognize nobility, can you distinguish it from the ignoble. You can only recognize these attributes once you wake up from your slumber and engage your reason.

The Quran is not a dietary book.

The status quo interpretation of 6:118 has coined the phrase “halal” or “zabiha” meat. The “halal” slaughter of meat is nowhere to be found in the Quran. Can the “Lord of all the Worlds” ordain something that would be a source of profit? The halal industry is a multi million dollar business (reference). Not only meat but candy, gelatin, cooking oils, nail polish, makeup, soaps, and medicine. Leading millions of Muslims into believing that what they put into and onto their bodies, and the rituals involved, can guide them towards righteousness.