Food is a source of nourishment that affects our bodies, minds and even our spirit. Recent news reports have featured manufacturers where prayers are said over food ingredients before they are processed. However, you do not have to be a new-age kind of person to acknowledge that food is considered a source of spiritual nourishment. The Quran and practices of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) highlight this belief repeatedly. Muslims believe that they have to eat from only the most pure and halal ingredients while refraining from alcohol and pork. Besides abiding by rules governing halal and haram, there are many ways to bring more blessings into our meals. After all, our spirituality can and does pass into the foods we eat.
“This is why, I always try to be in a state of purity or wudu, even when cooking,” says Mrs. Talat Husain, a Glendale Heights resident and mother of two elementary school-aged children. Mrs. Husain does not just stop at that. She even begins cooking with the intention to please God alone and to nourish her family, rather than to impress people.
Mrs. Naazneen Rahamatullah, of Skokie, could not agree more. She, too, tries to begin everything in life, including cooking, with the name of God. “I even begin cutting ingredients in the name of God. He is the One that has provided the food for us,” she says humbly. Mrs. Rahamatullah even suggests remembering God while preparing the food. “You can recite any supplication or the attributes of God to be conscious of Him at all times or listen to an Islamic talk on tape while cooking,” she recommends.
There are more ways to bring blessings into our meals. Instead of just making cooking a solo act, it can be used as a time to strengthen family ties. Shama Ansari is a busy mother of three who makes sure she gets everyone involved in the cooking process.
“I like my kids to be as hands-on as possible in the kitchen,” Mrs. Shama Ansari says. “My kids love to mix, cut, pour, and stir ingredients for our meals. It gives us extra time to spend together, and I secretly get to infuse math lessons and teach them about food groups and serving sizes in the process,” she giggles.
Mrs. Ansari has also made the kitchen table a place for homework. “After school is usually homework time, so I have the kids do their work in the kitchen or on the dining table,” she states. “If they need help, I am right there, and I can provide them with nourishing snacks ever so often. Our computer is intentionally placed at the kitchen table, so I can keep an eye on them.”
Another great time for togetherness is at the dinner table. Many Christians say grace before meals. Muslims, too, recite duas (supplications) at the beginning and end of their meals.
Mr. Husnain Ahmed of Lombard is adamant about eating together and reciting supplications at dinnertime, as a family. “Our two-year-old has even picked up the habit,” says Mr. Ahmed. “He is still learning to talk, but he can say parts of the duas easily. It is a good feeling, praise be to God,” Mr. Ahmed smiles. Some say families that eat together stay together, while others say families that pray together stay together. Why not do both?
It is common etiquette not to overfill your plate. Portion control is a well-known practice of the Prophet. He advised that our stomach should be filled with one-third food, one-third water and one-third air. He also taught to eat with the right hand, using the index finger, middle finger and the thumb.
Farah Parvez, from Waukegan, is a nutritionist who follows eating examples from the sunnah (practices of the Prophet Muhammad). “The ‘sunnah diet’ can help you look and feel lighter,” she says. “It is better to take smaller servings, so food is not wasted. Also smaller bites are easier to digest and after 20 minutes of eating, the stomach naturally feels full. This can also prevent bloating or heart-burn from over-eating,” notes Ms. Parvez. “Do not drink water in one gulp but take two or three sips with breaks for breaths. Take the name of God (i.e. recite Bismillah) when you start drinking and praise Him saying Alhamdulillah (all praise belongs to God) when you finish,” she adds.
Ayesha Malik of Clarendon Hills relies on the teachings of her faith to do her grocery shopping. “We have some great foods that the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, enjoyed and are mentioned in the Quran,” says Mrs. Malik. “I eat dates all year long, not just Ramadan. I also love honey, cucumbers, and olive oil. There are so many health benefits in these foods, and they are tasty too!” Ms. Malik says excitedly.
Indeed, God’s Messenger said, “Eat olive oil and massage yourselves with it, for it comes from a blessed tree.” (Hadith from Ibn Majah)
Food affects our character, behavior, thinking and even our worship. From the grocery store to the dinner table, we have so many opportunities to be in constant remembrance of God. He provides us with nourishment to give us continuous energy to worship Him. Introduce all these simple practices and tips into your homes and kitchens too, and you will connect with God and reap the fruits of your labor in more ways than one.