The cruelty free, vegan lifestyle is often associated with healthy living in general. Thanks to many social media sites and the rise of the blogger (or influencer), it is depicted as a brand-new trend; a cool Western way of living and addressing many of the modern woes we face. Naturally, since this has become the image of the vegan lifestyle, people are surprised when I state that the reason for my vegan lifestyle is a direct result of my Islamic beliefs.
We are all too aware of representation halal meat has received on the mainstream media. The Western media specifically has broadcasted outrage at the treatment of animals under the name of Islam and halal practises. It has garnered much disdain from environmental and animal rights organisations. People resented eating it due to their belief that it has been ‘slaughtered cruelly’ (Halal Meat: What is it and Why is it So controversial?- The Independent).
Needless to say the argument is hypocritical since most other meat widely used has been intensively farmed in horrendous conditions, yet concerns around animal welfare only arose within the public domain where halal meat was concerned.
So, how can the religion that encourages such cruel methods of slaughter be the very thing that taught me an ethical, meat-free way of living? Well, there is great emphasis on respecting the Earth and all beings on it, that comes first and foremost within Islam. Choosing a vegan diet is obviously a lifestyle choice, and of course it makes sense that other ethically conscious choices follow, however these decisions mean so much more than that. They are made to feed the soul as well as the physical body. As a Muslim, one must care about what actions they exercise in the world and how it helps others, not just themselves.
It is vital that sustainability and environmental protection is taught as an Islamic responsibility since it is stated as such within the religious scriptures.
Thanks to the perceptions people have of cultures and practises that are associated with Islam, like high-octane and luxurious lifestyles in Dubai to oil production in many Middle Eastern countries, eco-friendly ways of living aren’t synonymous with the religion as they should be.
Over-exploitation, mass production which leads to waste, intensive farming are all prohibited considering the pain and waste they create. Our habits are supposed to benefit others, of all species. “O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess” (Surah 7:31).
I am constantly in awe of the workings of our planet, of how intricate our existence is, how complex and beautiful each being is and we’re made to create a harmonious ecosystem, it doesn’t become difficult to integrate eco-aware habits into everyday Muslim life. Islam is the reason I started thinking about the environment and ethics in general, which has led me to a healthy, fulfilled and informed life that is focused on doing the best for myself, others and everything around me.
“God has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything” (Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth).
Additionally, staying fit and nutritionally aware ensures I can make the most of this physical body whilst here on Earth, respecting and caring for it is also encouraged in the Quran. I feel that teachings regarding the environment are ways to appreciate the bounties on Earth and to become more mindful of our surroundings, impacts and existence. I’m not arguing with the fact that the Quran states that animals have been given to people by God as sustenance; it is clear that Islam teaches that animals should be used for food. However, the use of animals as food requires very specific conditions which are very similar to organic methods of farming. The animal should be raised in an open, respectful and healthy way, it should not be killed in front of other animals, all tools to make the death quicker and as painless as possible should be utilised, etc.
Since I don’t feel that those conditions are met, veganism and ethical consumerism in general is a great option to abide by the environmental and moral teachings of Islam. It also takes into consideration the waste and labour conditions of others who are often treated inhumanely within fast paced industries. When you are an ethical consumer, you take into consideration how something was produced, who produced it and ensuring they are treated fairly. Clearly, there is space for veganism and ethical consumerism in general within Islam, and it should be integrated into teachings as a core element of the religion more often.
Hanna is a postgraduate student who spends her time writing, filmmaking and ranting about ethics 24/7. She is passionate about human rights, women's rights and creating a sustainable future.