© Aishah Ho
Now and then we hear of stories coming out of the oil rich countries which would make us shake our heads. One example of this is the story of a wedding feast where lots of food were served but not many of these dishes find itself entering the guests' stomach. Instead, it gets dumped into the rubbish bin. At the same time across the Red Sea, thousands of Muslims are dying from hunger.
However, we do not have to look far for these shameful stories. If we look at the community here, we will see the same extravagance of wastage that can rival any of these oil rich countries.
For instance, a few weeks ago, a mother and her children were attending a gathering. The food was sufficient to feed everyone. There was a particular dish that her children only wanted to eat. Since there was only a bit of it to go around, she took a small portion that would at least give her children a taste of it.
When the meal finished and it was time to clean up, she noticed that someone had taken a hefty portion of that dish, took a few bites and discarded the rest. One can imagine how she felt at that moment.
That was only a small gathering, can you imagine what happens at a big Islamic function or gathering? When it is time to eat, the Muslims push and shove each other like some hungry stricken people to get at the food. Once there, they heap onto their plates as much food as it would feed them till the next day. For their children, they take as much food as they would eat themselves and not according to how much their children could eat. They forget that children do not eat as much as the adults. As they and their children are half way through their meal, they could not finish it and throw the rest into the bin without any reservations. Meanwhile, those who were at the end of the queue miss out on some of the dishes that are being offered.
Why is there a compulsion on the Muslims to waste food? Is there a psychological need to feel that 'I'm not poor since I can afford to waste food?' Is it a status symbol to waste food? Or is it out of sheer mindless habit to waste food (and water for that matter). Do the Muslims not realised that food is a blessing from Allah (swt) and that we will be questioned about what we waste?
Allah ta'ala said,
"...eat and drink, but waste not by excess. For Allah loves not the wasters." (Qur'an, al-Araf 7:31)
The Prophet (s) said, "If one eats from the dish and lickes it, the dish will express to him to wish that Allah may free him from Hell as he frees it from the devil." (Razin)
Abdullah ibn Zubayr (r) said that his father said when the verse Takathur was revealed the companions said to the Prophet (s), "Which provision will we be asked about? We don't have anything except dates and water." The Prophet (s) said, "That's what you will be asked about." (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Hasan)
As we can see, it is not only food but water that we are not allowed to waste. Unfortunately, most Muslims do not realise this. They think that since water is in abandance, how can one waste it? Thus, when they brush their teeth, they let the water run. When they wash the dishes, they turn the tap on full blast and let it run continuously while they gather the dishes to the sink or adjust the plates on the wires. When they take wudu, they turn the tap on full blast and let it run.
Ibn 'Umar (r) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s) passed by Sa'd while he was performing ablution and said, "What is this extravagance, Sa'd?" He said, "Is there extravagance in the use of water?" The Messenger of Allah (s) said, "Yes, even if you are at a flowing river." (Ahmed)
Here is a self test to try: You give a luncheon or dinner party for a group of friends. When it is time to wash the dishes, you see food scraps on the plates such as half eaten drumsticks, half eaten bread, half eaten salads, half eaten slices of cake and half drunk glasses of orange juice. While you scrape the food off the plates, do you
1) Feel upset and grumble about all these wastage? Or,
2) Automatically scrape it off without a second thought while at the same time you ponder how successful it all went?
If your answer is the first response then, alhamdulillah, you still are sensitive towards throwing food away. This is the feeling that we should try to remember when we eat at a friend's house or at a gathering.
If your answer is the second response then you have no conscience or qualm about wasting food (or drink). You seriously need to regain your conscience. If wasting was a trivial matter then why did Allah (swt) and the Prophet (s) bothered to mention about it?
The next time we start to put food onto our plates, we should ask ourselves, "How much of this food can I eat without throwing it away?", and "Will I like this dish? I should only take a bit to taste it first and if I like it I will take more later." Furthermore, mothers with children should ask themselves before they start to pile food onto their children's plates, "Will my children like this food?", "How much can they eat?", "Will they be able to finish the amount that I have given them?", and "Can I finish it off for them?"
If we examine and reflect on the three examples given, we will realise the sorry state of the ummah where there is no love for fellow Muslims. Everyone is out to get the best for themselves and their children. It does not matter if other Muslims are left with crumbs or even nothing. Let us reflect on this saying of the Prophet (s): "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he wishes for himself." (Bukhari)