“Muslim and A Vegetarian ? How can it be? ” This is the only question I face every time I eat out with a new person. I am a practicing Muslim and a Pure Vegetarian. Everyone has a general conception that all muslims are Meat lovers. Its true. The society that I live in doesn’t have the word ‘Vegetarian’ in their dictionary. A meal without meat or chicken in any ceremony would be nothing but low quality and cheap. A society which considers it holy to consume meat. A society where a child is a meat eater every single day of the week. He/she would go hungry on a day when vegetables would have been cooked. And I was no different. I grew up in this society.
I can say that I have consumed meat like no one else. I went hungry on days my mother cooked vegetables and expressed extreme anger on her for doing so. I used to coax her for not taking care of me. Then I used to rush to a near by restaurant to grab minced meat and bread. It was my favorite. I still smell the same Arabian/Mughalai Minced meat when I pass by that restaurant. I consumed meat for the first 16 years of my life and then I quit.
People taunted me with various fallacies, primarily one which I still get from others : “You’re not even a muslim if you don’t eat meat once in 40 days.”. That hurt sometime, but I ignored. At some point it made me feel that I was committing a sin. I only knew that I may be different and may not be right, but I wasn’t wrong and not a sinner. I am a strong believer of God, the one and only one God. This fact is enough for me to still call myself a Muslim.
I had no reasons to quit meat eating, but something happened when there was a Goat sacrifice in our house on the day of Eid-uz-Zoha. Hours after the Goat was sacrificed, I saw the raw meat on the plate still shivering. As if it still had life in it. Islamic way of sacrifice is no doubt the most scientific method of killing with minimal pain, but I just couldn’t tolerate the view of the pieces of meat shivering in front of my eyes. Some more hours passed by, the meat was cooked -A fantastic dish was served. I just couldn’t consume it. I didn’t see any physical movement on the cooked meat but could feel the shivering. I just couldn’t consume that meat.
It is said that before any sacrifice, the animal comes to know that its going to be sacrificed. It has already given up the hope. The animal stops eating from the night before. I have seen in the animal’s eyes. Its deep. Its dark. Its scared. When the time comes there is a ceremony in which the animal should drink a few gulps of water just before the knife is rubbed against the skin. This is the most difficult part. The animal refuses to drink the last drink. Just to extend its life for a few more minutes. And when the animal is forced to drink, just when the water reaches its throat, the slaughter begins with prayers. I shall not go into the details of the processes involved in slaughtering. But its all these hurt me more than anything else in the world. The sight is too frightful for me.
Most Islamic clergymen would outcast me or have a Fatwa on me if I said that every time I see a dead animal, I recite the prayers which muslims recite when they come across death of any human. Such is my faith.
At this point, I must confess that I am a food lover; I live to eat rather than eat to live; During my days of Vegetarianism since the age of 16, the most supportive people are my parents, Specially my mother. I take the opportunity to publicly thank her for all the trouble she has taken to cook separately for me Pure Vegetarian food. I may not trust a veg restaurant, but I would trust her that no matter what, she would cook vegetarian food for me where even a single spoon of Oil wouldn’t be shared between their non-veg cooking and my veg cooking.
I am mostly cut from my cultural foodie events. I do not go because the food is non-veg, and no one is that caring enough (except family) to prepare veg food for me. I don’t expect them to understand either.
Once in a blue moon, my parents would casually say to me “Why don’t you start eating for a change?”. I just chuckle.
I don’t force anyone to be a vegetarian though I advocate it. I never win and neither they lose. They respect my vegetarianism because I am not doing anything against the religion or against Islam. Just like any other ‘ideal’ muslim, I pray daily prayers, I don’t indulge in Usury or Interest on money, I offer charity, I don’t gamble, drink, smoke and most importantly, I believe that there is no god, but God. These are the basic pillars of Islam and I don’t think I am breaking them.
Its time when people should know the fact that in the Holy Quran, it is mentioned that one may eat permissible non-vegetarian food, for God has created animals for human consumption but it is not compulsory. It is also mentioned that Animals such as Pig and Pork meat is strictly prohibited (It has a scientific reason). A muslim can be a good practicing muslim by being a Vegetarian.