FOOD FOR THOUGHT
During Ramadan our minds invariably wonder to thoughts about food. While we continue to refrain from eating, it is acceptable to consider the verses in the Quran on this delectable topic.
From the tempting fruits of Eden to the etiquette reminders for eating with Muhammad, the Quran narrates examples to learn from vicariously. Wondrous sustenance was granted to many in the past including the ghost town sleeper’s unspoiled food, Mary’s divine provisions and dates, Job’s healing spring, Jonah’s edible fruit tree, and the feast from the sky for Jesus’ disciples. Many of these accounts underscore the fact that the prophets and messengers were only humans that ate and walked in the markets just like us. These individuals may also be contrasted with Abraham’s angel guests who did not eat. From the pages of the Quran we are taught our stomachs may long for cucumbers, onions, and beans but it shouldn’t be out of ungratefulness like the Children of Israel with the manna and quail. There are similar lessons in the account of the boastful gardener and his friend, Sheba’s marvelous homeland and the sure harvester. It must be our goal to thank God without fail for every morsel that He provides for our well being.
Provisions of the past were tied directly to crops, harvest, and springs, but God sends modern provisions through money, grocers and restaurants. However, it doesn’t diminish the importance of being appreciative. One way of demonstrating appreciation for His support is to adhere to God’s laws like giving “due alms on the day of harvest” or giving Zakat charity when we receive any provision of money. Those that observe Ramadan, acknowledge that God knows what is best for us. Allowing all the vast array of foods that God has deemed permissible shows recognition that He is the Most Gracious Provider, and that He imposes only a few limits on what to eat or drink in His scripture. Pronouncing God’s name on anything before it is eaten expresses belief in Him and His revelations. While Ramadan is a test of steadfastness, we are told in the Quran that God may test steadfastness through loss of money or crops as well. God alone has the power to relieve this type of adversity.
God also offers proof of His abilities and existence through the food He provides. The variety of colorful, self-packaged fruits and vegetables confirms His greatness and today’s shipping industry roaming the earth augmenting our choices, gives all the more reason not to take what God endows us with for granted. God tells us He is aware of the grain in the depths of the soil and He is the One who causes it to crack and germinate. He sends good weather to allow them to grow revealing His kindness and control. Out of His mercy, He has allowed a selection of livestock to be domesticated for our meals as well as fish and other meats. Humans cannot create a simple tree to feed themselves, yet God feeds and is not fed. Only God, the best Provider, could have planned such an amazing and pleasurable system of delivering nutrition and healing to His creation.
Other verses in the Quran use crops, gardens and fruits figuratively in order to give insight and understanding. Spending in God’s cause, for instance, is compared to a grain producing many spikes as well as crops grown in fertile soil. Preoccupation with this worldly life is paralleled with a flourishing garden suddenly struck completely barren and useless. However, most of these illustrative verses in the Quran are used in the allegorical descriptions of the Hereafter. No one would want to be like the occupants of Hell that are described as eating from trees of bitterness and drinking miserable drinks of sand. In contrast, the lucid passages about the lavish gardens and lush orchards of Heaven almost temporarily transport our yearning souls to the rivers of unpolluted water, fresh milk and honey that are reserved as a reward for the righteous.
God rewards the righteous from His inexhaustible bounties both in this life and in the Hereafter. Figs, olives, grapes, pomegranates and other foods mentioned in the Quran anchor its illuminating verses about God and all His splendor in the reality around us. As we find compassion for those that go hungry during Ramadan, we can also renew our appreciation of God and His innumerable blessings.