Food is an important part of religious observance and spiritual ritual for many different faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, . The role of food in cultural practices and religious beliefs is complex and varies among individuals and communities.
The various faiths of Christianity include Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The
regulations governing food differ from one to the next, including some faiths that don’t
advocate any restrictions. Some selected facts include:
· Fasting is sometimes considered to be ‘praying with the body’. It is believed to improve
spiritual discipline – by overcoming the sensations of the physical world and focusing on
prayer and spiritual growth. It may serve as a way to respect those people around the
world who regularly face starvation or malnutrition.
· Self-denial (of food) can help Christians to remember that having what you want is not
always the path to happiness.
· Variations of fasting or abstinence are observed by some Roman Catholics on such
occasions as Lent or Good Friday; for example, some may strictly avoid meat at this
· Most Protestants observe only Easter and Christmas as feast days, and don’t follow
· Mormons avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
· The majority of Seventh Day Adventists don’t eat meat or dairy products, and are likely
to avoid many condiments including mustard. Those that do eat meat don’t eat pork.
Halaal (also sometimes spelled halal) is the Islamic term for “permissible,” similar to the
Jewish kosher. The use of the term varies between Arabic-speaking Muslim communities
and non-Arabic-speaking ones. In Arabic-speaking countries, the term halaal is used to
describe anything that is permissible under Islamic law, in contrast to haraam, that which is forbidden. In non-Arabic-speaking countries, the term is most commonly used in the
narrower context of Muslim dietary laws, especially where meat and poultry are concerned.
The Arabic word Haram means unlawful. The following items have been categorically
spelled out as being Haram by jurists in light of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the
Halaal food items includes the following: Milk (from cows, sheep, camels, and
goats), Honey, Fish, Plants which are not intoxicant, Fresh or naturally frozen vegetables, Fresh or dried fruits, Legumes and nuts like peanuts, cashew nuts, hazel nuts, walnuts, etc. Grains such as wheat, rice, rye, barley, oat, etc.
Haram food items include : Pig, Blood, Carnivorous animals, Almost all reptiles and insects, The bodies of dead animals, Halal animals which are not slaughtered according to the Islamic Law, Wine, Ethyl Alcohol, and Spirits.
People who practice the Hindu religion don’t eat meat from animals. They also avoid foods that may have caused pain to animals during manufacture. ‘Karma’ is believed to be the spiritual load we accumulate or relieve ourselves of during our lifetime. Animals are believed to have spiritual awareness. If a Hindu consumes animal flesh, they accumulate the Karma of that act – which will need to be balanced through good actions and learning in this life or the next. Depending on the level of adherence to this belief, in many cases beef is forbidden, while pork is sometimes restricted or avoided. Selected facts include:
· ‘Food is God (Brahman)’ is a common Hindu saying. Food is thought to be an actual part of Brahman, rather than simply a Brahman symbol.
· Foods contain energies such as sound waves that can be absorbed by the person who
eats them – the Hindu religion takes literally the maxim ‘You are what you eat’.
· According to the Hindu religion, violence or pain inflicted on another living thing rebounds on you (Karma).
· Prohibited animal products tend to vary from one country or region to the next; for
example, duck and crab may be forbidden in one geographical location, but not in another.
· Foodstuffs such as alcohol, onions and garlic are thought to inhibit the Hindu’s quest for
spiritual enlightenment by exciting the body and leading to acts which may have Karmic
impact, and are therefore avoided or restricted.
· While beef is forbidden, dairy products including milk, butter and yoghurt are considered to enhance spiritual purity. fasting depends on the person’s caste (or social standing) and the occasion; for example, rules regarding fasting depend on whether the day has religious or personal significance.
The dietary rules of Buddhism, which is more of a life philosophy than a religious doctrine,
depend on which branch of Buddhism is practiced and in what country. Selected facts
· In his lives on Earth, Buddha cycled through various animal forms before he took on the
form of a human being – this is why most Buddhists are vegetarian.
· Similarly to the Hindu concept of Karma, Buddhism proposes that violence or pain
inflicted on others will rebound on you, further strengthening the need for a vegetarian lifestyle. Some Buddhists believe that the cause of human aggression is violence against
· Some Buddhists avoid meat and dairy products, while others only shun beef.
· Religious dates vary from one region to the next. Mahayana Buddhism, for example,
celebrates three festivals for the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, while
Theravada Buddhists observe all three events on a single day.
· Buddhist monks tend to fast in the afternoon, and nuns aren’t allowed to cultivate, store or cook their own food;
instead, they must rely on ‘alms’, which are donations from believers. This sometimes
includes meats, as monks and nuns aren’t allowed to ask for specific foods.
· Traditionally, meat from bears, dogs, elephants, horses, hyenas, lions, panthers, snakes and tigers are strictly prohibited to Buddhist monks and nuns.
Jewish laws, ‘Kashrut’ refers to the laws pertaining to food in the Jewish religion. ‘Kosher’ means that a food is permitted or ‘clean’, while anything ‘unclean’ (such as pork and shellfish) is strictly forbidden. The Jewish ‘food laws’ originated more than 2,000 years ago and contribute to a formal code of behaviour that reinforces the identity of a Jewish community. Food forms an integral part of religion in life for a practising Jew.
· Foods must be prepared in the right way in order to be kosher; for example, animals that provide meat must be slaughtered correctly.
· The consumption of certain foods, including dairy products and fish, is subject to
restrictions; for example, there are rules forbidding the mixing and consumption of dairy
products with meats.
· Ritualised fasting is also included in Judaism. Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – for
example, is a Jewish fast that lasts from, approximately, dusk till dusk.
· Jewish feast days include Rosh Hashanah and Passover.
· The Passover commemorates the birth of the Jewish nation. The food eaten helps to tell the story of the Exodus; for example, bitter herbs recall the suffering of the Israelites
under Egyptian rule.
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