What about the woman's role?
In many traditional cultures, it is the duty of the women to prepare meals. In Islam, women are not the cooks, that job lies with the husband. Allocating her with such a task is not in line with the sunnah. The Prophet SAW attended to the cooking, cleaning and mending. If a woman chooses to cook, it is a charity to the husband, but it is not an obligation for her to do so.
In some traditional Asian cultures, when somebody is getting married, the criteria for the intended wife is beauty, family status, wealth - and she has to be a good cook. Being able to cook well is introduced part of the checklist – something that never existed in the time of the Prophet SAW.
Look for example at how many things we have destroyed. The man is not looking for a beautiful soul, or piety, or a wife who wants jannah, who has the desire to support her husband or to develop the nucleus of society which is the family. Her intelligence, upbringing, character and manner are second place to her ability to feed him. In turn, women are encouraged to develop cooking skills from childhood, where this is emphasized over more important core elements such as having an excellent character.
A common complaint of such newly wed men is that their wives are unable to cook the same way that their mothers can. This creates unnecessary friction, hurt feelings and tension in the household. Imagine the bad manner of the husband to criticize his wife for doing something that was not even her Islamic duty to begin with.
Consider the impact on family structure, in the woman's role in life as a teacher of her own children, the backbone of the family, the navigator of all the affairs of the family and her role model in society. We have swapped it and diminished our purpose of life to fulfill one habit, which is eating.
What is the right way?
Eating in itself is not a problem. Rather, it is the addiction to habits and customs related to eating that is the issue. If this has occurred, then we need to break the cycle.
From an Islamic point of view, our bodies are a trust. As the guardians of our bodies, we have the duty to maintain our health and be in good shape in order to worship Allah. We should fulfil the trust given to us, and this includes ensuring that we keep our bodies safe by observing healthy eating habits.
Islam promotes use to do everything in moderation. It encourages simplicity and frowns upon excessiveness and wastefulness. The predominant idea of eating is to give the body enough nourishment, but not so much that it causes us to neglect our worship of Allah. It does not mean that we are to eliminate all delicious flavours from our food and to just serve bone and gristle – it simply means to keep things under control without transgressing any limits or abusing the bounties that Allah has bestowed on us. Mostly, Islam is about purity of the body and soul, and that purity also covers the purity of what we feed ourselves.
The following are some hints on how to simplify our eating habits and to go back to basics:
• Buy food which is easy to cook, inexpensive and which benefits us the most nutritionally
• Spend minimal time preparing and cooking the food – avoid complicated recipes or cooking processes which are time consuming
• Study the different food groups and nutritious values of different types of meats, vegetables and herbs, and apply it to your own personal circumstances (as individuals react differently depending on their gender, age and genetic characteristics)
• Avoid preparing meals which are not good for your long term health, for example, greasy food and dishes with a high sugar content
• Cook only what you need. If you find yourself constantly throwing away leftovers, it is time to reassess the amount of food that you cook
• Remember the intention and goal of eating, which is to nourish your body for the purpose of worshipping Allah
• Ask Allah to put barakah in your food and remember His blessings
• Start with “Bismillah” and eat with the right hand, using the tips of the first three fingers
• Never fill your stomach completely – the best way is to fill your stomach with one third of food and one third of water. The final third is to be kept empty
• Do not leave leftovers on the plate, for it could be that this is where the most bounty lies. Finish whatever is on your plate, and in future, only take what you are capable of finishing
• The same applies to the leftovers of your children – if they can't finish the food, the head of the household should try and eat the leftovers so that Allah does not lift the barakah from the household. In future, do not overfill their plates, and also instill in them the discipline to only take what they can finish
• Do not criticize your food. Rasulullah SAW never complained about what he was served, and if he found the food not to his liking, he would just refrain from taking more portions of that dish
• Avoid forming excessive attachments or addictions to specific ingredients or dishes
• Thank Allah for His bounty, generosity and kindness, even if the food is simple. We take food for granted, whereas the presence of food, together with our ability to taste and digest it, is a blessing from Allah. Just think of the people in the world who have no idea when their next meal will be, and also of the ill people who are incapable of eating even if the most delicious food is the world are in front of them
A final note
Today, restaurants and meals serve all kinds of delicacies, while more than one third of human beings cannot find even a basic meal. Many of the wealthy abuse their food as up to two thirds of what they order or buy, ends up in the bin. This does not just happen at an individual level -observe the amount of wastage in corporate functions, wedding dinners and hotel buffets.
Let's look at the purpose of life and a long vision to society. We will find that all the massive leftovers and wastage caused by a small and wealthy segment of society, if accumulated, can feed the rest of humanity, without the wasteful feeling any difference.
The reflection of all what we're talking about is so deep it generates chronic diseases of the heart – selfishness, greed, impatience. All these diseases of the heart will reflect on how we deal with others and the way we carry our goal in life, which is to be a role model to worship and invite others to the mercy and message of Islam.