Food and faith: the ‘Treatise of Rights’ and the etiquettes of eating

Modern day politics and the way in which the media addresses things around the world always sees people discussing rights; rights of women, children, animals, certain groups etc. The typical response to all of these of course, is that Islam doesn’t give rights to any of these groupings.

The West mistakenly attributes the Magna Carta as the first charter of rights of its kind however, a good 600 years before that, Ali ibn al Hussain wrote one of the most extensive treatise on rights that encompasses the rights of a human in more detail than any charter of rights can aim to achieve. In it, he has mentioned all the methods that are necessary to the conduct of people with others, building a community and how to protect oneself from anxiety and disorders.

In it, the Imam delves into these subjects:

  • The rights of Allah (swt)
  • The rights of man on his self (including the tongue, hearing, sight, the hands and legs, the rights of your stomach and the private parts)
  • The rights of acts (including prayer, Hajj, fasting, charity and offerings)
  • The rights of leaders
  • The rights of the subjects
  • The rights of relatives (including the mother, the father, the child and siblings)
  • The rights of others (such as slaves, companions, neighbours, partners, property owners etc)

One example to focus on is the right of your self:

“The right of your self (nafs) against you is that you employ it in obeying God; then you deliver to your tongue its right, to your hearing its right, to your sight its right, to your hand its right, to your leg its right, to your stomach its right, to your private part its right, and you seek help from God in all that.”

In order for you to give yourself full justice, you need to be aware that the right of your Lord on you is to respect the body that they have, even down to respecting the smaller parts of your body which you probably don’t give focus on. Let’s take the right of the stomach for example:

“The right of your stomach is that you make it not into a container for that which is unlawful to you and you eat no more than your fill.”

As such, he goes into the detail that ensures that attention is given to not only what a person eats, but also how much one takes into their body. There are many traditions, which warn about the consequences of excessive eating, especially the way in which overeating can lead to disobedience, especially when the food itself is unlawful, or haram.

To extend the explanation of this, Jafar ibn Mohammed (Al-Sadiq) was approached by a man with a stomach ache and the heaviness of bowels; the Imam asked him to eat only twice a day, in the day and nights, as Allah (swt) prescribed for this as the food served for the people in heaven, “they will get their food prepared both times, morning and evening.” (19:62)

As such, even the timings in which the food is consumed is important, particularly since it helps to condition the soul into being more disciplined. Hand in hand with this concept is the fact that in timings your meals and eating your necessary fill will ensure that you avoid snacking and with this, health benefits will increase.

To read more about healthy eating and working out, check out these pieces:

Meatless Mondays

What’s so great about exercise anyway?

6 incredible health benefits of eating dates