Wastage of Food

Muslims believe that God has created this planet in harmony, an equilibrium, where there is enough of every resource to provide for every living being. Even the food God provided for people is a “trust” that needs to be consumed in -keyword here- moderation. It is easier to count our blessings when we focus more on the poor people around us, rather than the rich. When God is our mentor, our peers become less impressive. Allah says:

 

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

 

“O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.” (Surah Al-Araaf 7:31)

 

And when we read all this down-to-earth guidance about avoiding waste, it becomes clear that the answers in Islam are simple. “It is not acceptable in Islam to waste food as Allah forbade Muslims to do so.”They are personal and self-evident. Allah says:

 

وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَ جَنَّاتٍ مَّعْرُوشَاتٍ وَغَيْرَ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَالنَّخْلَ وَالزَّرْعَ مُخْتَلِفًا أُكُلُهُ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَابِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ كُلُوا مِن ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَآتُوا حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

 

“And He (is) the One Who produced gardens trellised and other than trellised and the date-palm and the crops, diverse (are) its taste, and the olives and the pomegranates similar and other than similar. Eat of its fruit when it bears fruit, and give its due (on the) day (of) its harvest. And (do) not (be) extravagant. Indeed, He (does) not love the ones who are extravagant.” (Surah Al-An’am 6:141)

 

We need only to focus on our own personal attempt at avoiding waste, and the net effect is possible to ripple through the entire population. Our environment will not change. We will not wake up one morning to a lovely clean environment without each one of us turning our attention inward. Allah says:

 

كُلُوا مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَلَا تَطْغَوْا فِيهِ فَيَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبِي وَمَن يَحْلِلْ عَلَيْهِ غَضَبِي فَقَدْ هَوَىٰ

 

“Eat of (the) good things which We have provided you and (do) not transgress therein, lest should descend upon you My Anger. And whoever on whom descends My Anger, indeed, he (has) perished.” (Surah Ta-Ha, 20:81)

 

Food waste material that is discarded or unable to be used. Various political organizations and entities have their own definition of what constitutes food waste. The causes of wasted food are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, and retailing. A closer look will make us horrified at the amount of food wasted by humans, who simultaneously complain that food is not enough for the ever-increasing world population. Allah says:

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُحَرِّمُوا طَيِّبَاتِ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

 

“O you who believe! (Do) not make unlawful (the) good things what Allah has made lawful for you, and (do) not transgress. Indeed, Allah (does) not love the transgressors.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:87)

 

Since the beginning of time, waste has been an environmental issue for humans. Waste is often equated with trash, but even before the existence of trash, there was a waste. Understanding the various forms of waste can help us identify ways to avoid and reduce it. Muslims have had lessons on avoiding and reducing waste for over 1,400 years and we can all benefit from the guidance offered in Islam. Allah says:

 

وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَ جَنَّاتٍ مَّعْرُوشَاتٍ وَغَيْرَ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَالنَّخْلَ وَالزَّرْعَ مُخْتَلِفًا أُكُلُهُ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَابِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ كُلُوا مِن ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَآتُوا حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

 

“And He (is) the One Who produced gardens trellised and other than trellised and the date-palm and the crops, diverse (are) its taste, and the olives and the pomegranates similar and other than similar. Eat of its fruit when it bears fruit, and give its due (on the) day (of) its harvest. And (do) not (be) extravagant. Indeed, He (does) not love the ones who are extravagant.” (Surah Al-An’am 6:141)

 

Action Plan

  1. Do not waste any amount of food, even if it’s expired. If the food is uncooked add it to your compost heap. Crumble stale bread and unwanted nuts together for birdseed.
  2. Only buy food that you need for that day or week and stick to a budget.
  3. Plate a little less food for each person. Islamic tradition says to eat in thirds – 1/3 for food, 1/3 for water, and 1/3 for air, strongly implying to be able to move and breathe easily after a heavy meal! Store leftovers for the next day.
  4. Recycle! Instead of spilling leftover drinks, water your plants. Use airtight lidded storage containers for snacks and reuse drinks bottles to cutback on surplus volumes of packaging.
  5. Go green and save energy by eating together with family or friends. At a larger gathering, you will actually use kitchen appliances fewer times and therefore less energy (power and electricity) than for every individual eating at different times.
  6. Start a compost heap with peelings, skins, eggshells, and worms!
  7. Donate your extra fresh fruit and tinned foods regularly to charity. The miracle of donation is that there are no losers and you help others.
  8. Join campaigns or faith groups during their food drives; fast during Ramadan, for those who are not Muslims events like Lent or Passover contain important values and eco-traditions surrounding food.
  9. Use your technology wisely for online grocery shopping – not ordering takeaways! And this takes us onto Top Tip Ten:
  10. Eat more home-cooked food.

Wastage of food, Facts, and figures: Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost, annually on a global scale. This is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food. Industrialized and developing nations waste almost a similar amount of food yearly, 670 million and 630 million tons respectively. Food wasted by the rich countries altogether is roughly equal to the amount of food produced by entire sub-Saharan Africa! An average consumer in developed nations is reported to waste one-third to half of the food material purchased.

 

Wastage of food, Islamic rulings: Islam guides believers to live their lives in moderation, regardless of whatever they intend to do.  If Allah Subhanah has blessed someone with abundance, the guidance of Islam states that neither should one live in a miserly state nor should one live in excess as a spendthrift; but be conscious and grateful for the favours of Allah and take the moderate path between the two.

 

A Criminal Degree in Commercial Food Waste: During ten years of life as a small family farmer in South Carolina, I saw a criminal degree of commercial food waste firsthand. Not only did we raise animals for halal meat, but we also planted two acres of fruit trees. Taking fruit to market requires separating the very ripe fruit away from the fruit that will handle to sell for a few days. Imagine offering that very ripe fruit to the poor, how thoughtful and generous. No matter who you give it to, it’s much better than discarding it as “rotten” because it won’t handle transporting to the market. Allah says:

 

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

 

“O Children (of) Adam! Take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink but (do) not be extravagant. Indeed, He (does) not love the extravagant ones. ” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:31)

 

Islam absolutely prohibits wastage in every aspect of one’s lives, whether it be with one’s time, one’s energy, one’s celebrations, one’s wealth, or even one’s food.  If Allah Subhanah has blessed one amongst His believing slaves with more than his needs, then one must be grateful to his Lord and as a sign of his gratefulness and appreciation, he must strive to share and distribute the excess amongst the poor and needy of society. Allah says:

 

إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوا إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا

 

“Indeed, the spendthrifts are brothers (of) the devils. And is the Shaitaan to his Lord ungrateful? ” (Surah Al-Isra 17:27)

 

It is unlawful to throw away food that is still good. Rather it should be given to the poor and the needy if possible or refrigerated for future use. Such is the abhorrence and hatred of wastage in the sight of Allah Subhanah, that He has declared the wasters and the spendthrifts as the ‘brothers’ of the Shaytaan, who is ever ungrateful to the Lord.

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