The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Practicing Muslim Customs as a Vegan

Posted on June 12, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Navaal Mahdi, intern

In Islam, Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated to commemorate the obedience of Prophet Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his son Ishmael as it was God’s commandment to him, as well as Ishmael, who was ready to be sacrificed. God accepted their willingness to make such a large sacrifice, and told them to sacrifice a lamb instead of Ishmael.

This idea of sacrifice is what Muslims ponder on the day of Eid-ul-Adha; the goal is to let go of what is most important or valuable to you for the sake of God. During Abraham and Ishmael time, a lamb was one of the most valuable goods someone could own; these days, the word valuable has different meanings to different people. Living in the United States, many of us are lucky because we have so many luxuries to be thankful for. We have healthy food available to us, especially as vegans, and we have clean water to drink. One of the ways a Muslim vegan could make a sacrifice for God is by feeding someone less fortunate–for example, a homeless person who comes to a soup kitchen–a healthful meal full of vegetables for lunch and fruit for dessert.

Another way to make a sacrifice on Eid-ul-Adha is to simply sacrifice money since it is of value to most of us. I know there are many people who can’t necessarily afford to make a large cash donation, and Islam supports the idea of donating within your means. You have to remember that giving up a large amount of cash isn’t expected of you; only those who have the means should do so. If you can’t afford it, even giving someone who is in need a dollar or two is a sacrifice, because you’re giving up something of worth. Islam preaches that God rewards those who make sacrifices in His name, and you will actually find that your hardships are eased when you think of others before yourself.

The most essential lesson that being vegan has taught me is selflessness. Now, I find myself thinking more about taking care of the planet, as well as taking care of other living creatures. Sometimes I’ll try to leave out some scraps of food for the stray cats that live around my house, which is better than throwing food out with the trash. I’ve also learned that it feels rewarding when you take simple actions, like watering your garden during an especially hot week while actively controlling how much water you use.

But honestly, one of the best ways I have learned to sacrifice my time is by spending it helping my fellow humans adopt healthier lifestyles. When I talk to people about vegetarianism and veganism, whether it’s at a Vegetarian Resource Group outreach booth or with my peers at school, I think about it like I’m helping them get information about how to be healthier because of all the research that supports that this way of life has great health benefits. Apart from that though, just sacrificing your time–especially if you’re a particularly busy person–to help out at your local soup kitchen, children’s recreation center, or even by picking up trash in a park is a great alternative way to make sacrifices.

I’m glad that in many ways, my religion goes hand in hand with being vegan, and that I’m able to properly practice being a vegan without compromising my religious beliefs. If you’re a religious person who also has customs that aren’t quite vegan, make sure you talk to a knowledgeable figurehead in your community to see if there are any ways you can live a vegan lifestyle while practicing your faith. Being in the know is better than being in the dark!

2 to “Practicing Muslim Customs as a Vegan”

  1. Aya says:

    OMG…That’s actually awesome. I have never thought about this issue in that way. When I started my research on how to go vegan and reasons behind that, I just asked myself how Islam is so good in everything and there is no alternative of sacrificing in Aid El Adha.. I know can understand why god asked Ibrahim to do that and how we can relate to him in our current days..Thank you for this valuable info

  2. Qudsia says:

    Well said, Navaal. And in fact the message is even deeper, in that, when God had been commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, it meant to sacrifice his life for sake of godly works. Living a good, virtuous life for sake of God and humanity is a much more demanding task than a day of physical sacrifice, even if it is of one’s own life or life of a loved one.

    This is why in the Holy Quran God says, the blood and flesh of your sacrifice does not reach God, what reaches Him is your righteousness.

    Also when coming back from a (defensive) battle, Holy Prophet Muhammad (pubh) said, we’re coming back from a lesser jihad toward a greater jihad. By “greater” jihad, he means ‘jihad of the self’ of fighting one’s own weaknesses and living a virtuous life.

    It is interesting though, that in Islam although animal sacrifice is encouraged and the meat is to be distributed for consumption and not wasted (as this is also part of the cycle of life and human brain in fact grew to significance after humans started consuming meat)but the actual partaking of meat is not mandatory, to the best of my knowledge. People’s eating habits are left to their own liking, except for prohibition of pork and alcohol. Had meat been banned, a Eskimo, for example, may not have been able to survive. People in some other parts of the world may also not have been able to gain vital nutrition for which they are dependent on meat. Living in western countries, we are fortunate to have a wide assortment of foods to use for our nourishment.

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