The Prophet (SAW) said; “The superiority of ‘Aisha to other ladies is like the superiority of Tharid to other meals.” (Bukhari)
When one first reads the above Hadith, it appears to be non-controversial and simply honors a strong Muslim woman. However, a vegetarian reading it might have trouble accepting the fact that the Prophet himself (SAW) elevated a meat dish to such a high rank among foods.
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On the other hand, Yahya has narrated a hadith which might please vegetarians. It states that the Umar ibn al-Khattab (RAA) said, “Beware of meat. It has addictiveness like the addictiveness of wine” (Malik).
In this Hadith, it seems that meat doesn’t hold such a high rank, after all; rather, it appears to be among the worst foods we can consume.
So what is the correct perspective regarding meat in Islam? Should Muslims be vegetarians, carnivores, or omnivores?
In the argument for meat, one must note that the Prophet (SAW) himself ate meat; he condoned and even encouraged eating it, and Allah has required sacrificing at the time of Eid-ul-Adha for the purpose of consumption.
The Prophet considered meat “clean”. According to the narration of Ibn Abbas; “The Prophet ate of the meat of a shoulder (by cutting the meat with his teeth), and then got up and offered the prayer without performing the ablution anew.” (Bukhari).
The Prophet consumed meat during his journeys. Jabir bin ‘Abdullah narrates; “During the lifetime of the Prophet, we used to take the meat of sacrificed animals (as journey food) to Madinah.” (Bukhari, Hadith No. 474, Vol. 7).
Also, according to the narration of Aisha, the Prophet admired the meat gift. “I never felt so jealous of any woman as I did of Khadija, though she had died three years before the Prophet married me, and that was because I heard him mentioning her too often, and because his Lord had ordered him to give her the glad tidings that she would have a palace in Paradise, made of Qasab, and because he used to slaughter a sheep and distribute its meat among her friends” (Bukhari).
Modern Science Says
Modern researchers have also begun to favor meat again as an important part of the diet.
For years, it was unpopular within the health industry because of fats and potential results of heart disease and obesity.
The structure of meat also requires a longer digestion time, causes constipation and increase body toxicity.
However, experts know that meat is the only source containing sufficient quantities of specific vitamins and minerals. That’s why most vegetarians become deficient in these nutrients over time.
Hence, an article in Prevention magazine asks; “Does this latest swing back to red meat mean that we’re heading straight for an imminent health disaster?”
Their answer was, “Not at all. In moderation, lean meats can provide significant health benefits; from preventing vitamin and mineral deficiencies and boosting immunity to building stronger blood.”
In fact, meat does provide many health benefits. Dr. Susan Kleiner, owner of High-Performance Nutrition in Mercer Island, Washington says; “People read reports that red meat causes cancer and heart disease so they think they have to stop eating meat. What they don’t realize is that people in these studies eat more than ten ounces a day. Eating three to five ounces a day is quite healthful.”
One of the most important nutrients found in abundance in meat is iron – a mineral that boosts the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Without enough iron, our red blood cells get smaller and we start feeling worn out. Women and athletes are even more at risk for iron-deficient anemia because their bodies use more iron due to menstruation and exercise.
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