The words halal and haram are the usual terms used in the Quran to designate the categories of lawful or allowed and unlawful or forbidden. In the Quran, the root halal denotes lawfulness and may also indicate exiting the ritual state of a pilgrim and entering a profane state.
“Brothers…Don’t you be thinking you will obtain a speck of wisdom so long as you eat what is haram.”
Ibrahim Dasuki -may Allah sanctify his secret-
As much as they depend on spiritual foods that nourish the spirit, deeds of worship also depend on the strength and vivacity obtained from physical foods. While halal foods inject the body with spirituality and inspiration, haram and doubtful foods, their direct opposites, reflect onto it gloom, density and neglect. There is a strong connection between halal foods and righteous deeds. The consumption of halal foods play a great role in the acceptance of prayers, as is expressed by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-: “People…Allah the Almighty is undoubtedly Pure and Clean. He therefore accepts nothing but what is pure and clean. He has enjoined the believers what He has enjoined the prophets:
“O messengers! Eat of the good things and do good; surely I know what you do” (al-Muminun, 51)
“O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with, and give thanks to Allah if Him it is that you serve.” (al-Baqara, 172)
After quoting these ayat, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- spoke about a man with unkempt hair and dusted all over from the strain of a long journey, who lifts his hands aloft and prays, ‘My Lord…My Lord’, and added: “How will his prayers be responded to, when what he eats, drinks and clothes himself with is haram?” (Muslim, Zakat, 65)
For the spiritual progress of their hearts, Sufis are extremely careful with regard to two things, as is conveyed in the saying: “Beware of what goes inside your mouth when you eat and what comes out of it when you speak!”
The below hadith succinctly yet beautifully reminds us of the level of precaution we need to take in regard to the halal and the haram.
“Doubtless, the halal has been made clear and so has the haram. But between the two, there are certain doubtful things, unknown to most. Whosoever avoids the doubtful will have protected his religion and integrity. And whosoever does not refrain from the doubtful will in time fall into haram. Just like a shepherd grazing his herd around somebody else’s grove…there is always the danger that the herd will trespass. Beware that every king has a grove whose entrance is forbidden. The forbidden grove of Allah is what is haram.” (Bukhari, Iman, 39)
Hearts that willingly submit to and obey the Lord’s command become riverbeds of wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. In contrast, hearts unprotected from the haram and the doubtful turn into shelters of evil and immorality, through and through. The following examples provide enormous lessons on the importance of sensitive conduct concerning this issue:
Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- had a slave. The slave would hand Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- a certain amount of what he would earn for him to put to personal use. One day the slave, again, brought some food to Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him-, who began to eat them. That was when the slave abruptly asked, “Do you know what it is that you are eating?”
“No, I don’t. Why don’t you tell me?” responded he.
“Though I know nothing of soothsaying”, the slave began to explain, “I had once soothsaid and conned this man during my Jahiliya days. I bumped into him today and he just happened to pay me with what you are eating right now!”
Immediately upon hearing this, Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- poked his throat with his finger, and despite all the discomfort, vomited what he had eaten. (Bukhari, Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 26)
According to another report, the slave thereupon remarked, “Was this worth the trouble over just one single morsel?” Abu Bakr -Allah be well-pleased with him- replied, “Even if I had known I would die in the process, I still would have taken that morsel out.” (Ahmad ibn Abdullah at-Tabari, ar-Riyadu’n-Nadra, II, 140-141)
Also meaningful is the conversation that took place between Khidr (a.s) and Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani -may Allah sanctify his secret-, during the former’s visit to the latter. Khidr (a.s) does not touch the foods served to him by Abdulkhaliq Gujdawani (k.s) and draws back from the table.
“These are halal. Why are you not eating?” the astonished Gujdawani (k.s) asks him.
“True, they are halal”, replies Khidr (a.s). “But whoever prepared them has done so with anger and ignorance.”
Judging from these examples, over and above the question of whether what is eaten is halal or haram, the state-of-mind in which the food is prepared also has a bearing on a person’s psyche, behavior and the quality of his deeds of worship. This only serves to further underline the importance of the delicate approach that needs to be taken towards food.
Their sensitivity towards food led the righteous to cover the edibles they bought from the market or elsewhere, while carrying them home. This is to prevent hankering eyes ‘from hanging upon the food’ and the yearnings of the poor and the craving stares of the underprivileged from having a negative impact on the energy and strength hoped to be acquired from the food.
As well as staying away from the haram and the doubtful, a believer must also maintain the balance and avoid waste whilst consuming the halal. The ayah commands: “And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer, and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the Shaitans and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (al-Isra, 26-27)
Using his metaphorical tone, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret-, in his Mathnawi, gives voice to the effects of halal food on the spirit and the body:
“Our spiritual enlightenment came in a different form last night, as a few morsels of doubtful food that found their way in the stomach, blocked the way of spiritual enlightenment.
Doubtful foods, which the ego desires, are like spikes in your foot that prevent you from the path of the Real. That is why those who took no notice of what they ate soon joined the rebellious.
O body! You have such a beautiful rose in you that if you protect it, countless rose gardens of wisdom and marifa will form around, just from the fragrances it emits.”
Below are similar words from Abdulqadir Jilani -may Allah sanctify his secret-, in emphasis of the importance of halal food in purifying the heart:
“Listen, my child! Haram food kills the heart. There are morsels that light up your heart and there are morsels that suffocate it in darkness. Again, there morsels that will keep you occupied with the world and there are others that will keep you occupied with the Hereafter. There are morsels that will turn you into a devotee of both worlds; there are morsels that will direct you to the Creator of both worlds. Eating what is haram will keep you busy with the world and make yours sins appear acceptable to you. Eating what is mubah (licit) will keep you busy with the Hereafter and endear worshipping to you. Eating halal on the other hand will draw you closer to the Lord. Only with marifatullah (knowledge of Allah) may one know the nature and influence of foods. And marifatullah is written only in the heart, not in the pages of books. Marifatullah is injected into the heart by the Creator, not the created. And this happens only after affirming the Unity of Allah and putting to practice the Divine commands.”
Ibrahim Dasuki -may Allah sanctify his secret- speaks in a similar tone: “Brothers…Don’t you be thinking you will obtain a speck of wisdom, so long as you eat what is haram.”
Also noteworthy is the below words Sayyid Qasim Tabrizi -may Allah sanctify his secret- on eating what is halal, recounted by Ubaydullah Ahrar -may Allah sanctify his secret-:
“Sayyid Qasim one day said to me, ‘Do you know why wisdom and truth displays itself only rarely these days? It is because there are just a handful of people who have purified their inner worlds. Perfection lies in the purification of the inner. And that is possible only by eating halal. Halal food is very scarce these days and there is almost nobody who has achieved inner purification. What else! How do you expect Divine mysteries to transpire in them?’”
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, Sufism, Erkam Publications