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Wisdom behind Eating Pure and Lawful

{He makes Lawful to them the goodly pure things and forbids them from harmful impurely things} (7:157)

This verse is speaking of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his rule as conveying the commands of the Almighty and the guidance of the creator.

As we know religion or the way of life of Islam is about a lot more than just dos and don’ts, more than just commandments and prohibitions but in so far as they are commands things that we are required to do or things that we are call upon to do; and on the other hand, things that we are told to stay away from and to avoid.

This verse reminds us of the very important fact and that is everything which has been commended or everything that has been forbidden is according to the divine wisdom. And that divine wisdom relates to what is beneficial to the created being.

So for us as human beings who are created by the one who is Wise and Merciful, we trust in the fact that anything in which we’re asked to do is ultimately good for us; anything we are asked to stay away from must be bad for us whether we know what is bad about it or what is something which we’ll find in the future or something which we may never know.

But anything which is in itself good and beneficial has been made lawful to us, and anything which in itself harmful, evil, or impure has been made forbidden to us.

So anything which is Tayyib, goodly and pure is lawful, halal but does this mean on the other hand that everything that is halal (permitted) is in fact Tayyib?

tayyibThat should indeed follow logically, but at the same time there some subtle distinctions which we need to keep in mind when recognizing how our creator has instructed us to go and eat all those things which are halal and tayyib.

In many verses in the Quran, these two descriptions have come together. To give one example from 2:168:

{O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth which is lawful and goodly and don’t follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed he is to you a clear enemy.}

Verses like this are instructing human beings to eat and as we know we don’t need to be told to eat as this is an instinct within us. Instead, therefore, these instructions have to be taken as an instruction to be mindful, discerning and thankful. They’re link to the fact that our bodies are trust upon us and these are necessary in order to fulfill our worldly and religious duties.

Also these verses are often come in the context of nullifying certain false doctrines and invented laws that people had brought before the Quran to the extent that they had rejected worldly pleasures which God had made permissible.

So we come back to the question: is it possible for something to be halal and yet not tayyib i.e. to be lawful and yet somehow not good for us?

The first way that we can answer this is what if we were to be excessive and consuming that which is halal. Anything in excessive measures endangers us physically and spiritually and there is nothing tayyib about endangering ourselves or wasting.

Secondly, we look at the fact that halal and tayyib have been linked in these verses to extract the idea that both legal aspect and spiritual aspect have to be kept side by side or hand in hand.

Legalism on the one hand and Ihsan, seeking the best of all things depend on each other. So there are maybe certain products which are in the market which has been certified as being halal (permissible) and yet they contain the kind of ingredients that could never be described as tayyib because they’re unhealthy, not good for us.

Some of those ingredients can cause us to doubt is it really halal or not, where something which is tayyib is free of all doubt and suspicion and that is its own sweetness and pleasure.

There is a saying that “you are what you eat” and this has some physical truth to it but also a spiritual realty.

Our every being and our every output is affected by what we choose to input and that is why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed us to slow down in consumption while treating every morsel as a choice blessing. The name of God is mentioned over an animal when it’s been slaughtered for eating and again when it is presented as food.

The provisions of this world are to be treated with reverence, to be enjoyed with gratitude and not to be abused.

Another meaning of the word tayyib is to be appealing to people of sound taste. Something can’t be tayyib and yet be disgusting.

How many times have we seen certain foods which everyone to be aware of its origins and how they are produced, we would lose our appetite; but then if we go further and it actually harms the body or the mind, it can never be called tayyib even if it does receives a stamp or certification that it is halal because tayyib a mark of quality and benefit.

So is this a controversial thing which I’m saying that something could be halal and yet not tayyib because that is not the impression we get from the verses of the Quran, the verses of the Quran are describing things as they exist in nature.

But when human hands fiddle with crops… then the meaning of tayyib is lost by our own hands and our own actions even if the substance is remained technically legal, here we make a verse of the Quran which says:

{corruption has been appeared on land and sea due to what the hands of people have earned} (30:41)

And a verse like this has taken in new meaning and significance in our industrial age in which big companies engineer taste and manufacture addiction.

But before that, we must look at ourselves, we can blame the unethical companies but how much has to do with our incessant and increasing demands for convenient meals low prices, are we not also depending on meat such as word halal is used almost exclusively when talking about meat, not to mention that the prophetic standards of kindness to animals have been reduced to hollow bust as animals are stuffed with junk and stuffed into cages.

The beginning of the solution for all of us is to be conscious and mindful and aware and ethical about what we eat and a spiritual dimension of eating.

By knowing about halal, we have got half way to our destination but now, it’s time to think deeper and smarter about eating tayyib and being tayyib.


About Sohaib Saeed

Sohaib Saeed is a Scottish Muslim scholar specializing in Quranic studies and exegesis. He is founder and director of Quranica, an institute for research, education and outreach (www.quranica.com).

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