What About Food and Drink? Are Some Things Forbidden or Not?
The Holy Scriptures say a lot about food. But before discussing dietary restrictions, we should first ask about Allah's general purposes for food.
There are many ways to approach this topic. We all know the pleasures related to eating. Good food is enjoyable, for Allah intended it that way. As the Injil says:
It was Allah who created various foods, so those who know and believe the truth can eat them with gratitude. … Allah richly provides us everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 4:3, 6:17)
Dining with friends and family multiplies the enjoyment, something Isa also appreciated. All this demonstrates Allah's goodness.
Food also demonstrates our dependence upon Allah. This thought should make us humble and turn us away from pride. Prophet Musa noted these truths when he reminded the Israelites of Allah's guidance in their lives:
So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord's mouth. (Deuteronomy 8:3, NET)
For all this, Allah deserves our praise.
Those are the central concepts that have been clear from the beginning. At times, however, Allah has changed the rules about eating. Adam and Hawwa were vegetarians (Genesis 1:29-30). Later, Allah told Prophet Nuh he could also eat any animal, but not blood (Genesis 9:3-4). Later still, through Prophet Musa, Allah gave very strict dietary regulations to the nation of Israel. That helped make them distinct as his special people. But Allah also intended that those religious laws create certain problems. He wanted the Israelites to learn that no one was perfect—that no one could do all Allah required (Acts 15:10; Galatians 4:1–5:3). Later, when Isa al-Masih lived on earth, he once again declared that any food could be eaten without fear of breaking Allah's rules.
He said to them, “Are you so foolish? Don't you understand that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him? For it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and then goes out into the sewer.” (This means all foods are clean.) He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-23, NET)
To reinforce that teaching, Allah gave a special vision to Peter, using him to convey the truth to the then largely Hebrew community of believers (Acts 10:1-48, 15:1-31).
Sadly, instead of uniting all people in appreciation for and dependence upon Allah, our beliefs about food often divide us. True believers in Allah are more concerned with others than with their own diet. They set aside their natural preferences and social practices in order to love others (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). We need to probe the motivations behind our dietary habits. When it comes to food, we humans can be tremendous hypocrites. If our choice of diet makes us proud, we are hurting not only others, but we damage our own relationship with Allah. As Isa's great emissary Paul said:
The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. (Romans 14:3)
There is also the issue of health. Some of us can't tolerate certain foods and we should avoid them. More often, however, we lack self-control and eat poorly or in excess, turning Allah's gifts into an expression of selfishness and even a means of personal suffering.
Finally, the Injil says that we will eat in heaven (Luke 14:15; Revelation 19:9). Hooray! There, food will never be misused again. Allah has the best ideas.