I took on the same habits. I believed the other changes I had made were radical enough. Luckily, as the teachings developed my refinement and awareness, I began observing the habits of different cultures of people. What I saw made me cautious about eating food that was not prepared by me or my close circle of believers. Slowly, I began to stay away from most peoples' foods.
*Disclaimer: The following are my personal experiences. It is a generalization and does not apply to every individual.
In my studies yesterday, I came across this quote:
"The spirit of Islam which prevails in the heart of each of Mr. Elijah Muhammad's followers can also be judged by the attention that he (or she) pays to such important aspects of life as food and clothing. A follower of Mr. Elijah Muhammad will never eat outside of his home, except in a Moslem-owned restaurant. Members of the Temples of Islam never touch pork, ham bacon, lard "or any other filth" -- forbidden by Allah. They do not take intoxicants of any type, and they do not even smoke. And most of them are known to eat but one meal a day!" - Abdul Basit Naeem, The Supreme Wisdom Volume 1, pg. 4
I enjoy reading articles such as this because it explains how others viewed us historically (when we kept strict standards). These types of quotes give an indication of what others admired in us, what was expected from us, and how we should strive to be. “A follower of Mr. Elijah Muhammad will never eat outside of his home, except in a Moslem-owned restaurant.” Even though we do not have as many restaurants as we once did, is this an excuse for Muslims to eat at non-Muslim restaurants?
I remember once, as a young Muslim, ordering a cheeseburger meal at a restaurant. When the waitress placed the food before me, I immediately realized they had made a mistake (assuming it was a mistake). They served me a bacon cheeseburger. I requested a new cheeseburger meal. Not more than 3 minutes later, the server returned with the exact same plate of food. They had merely removed the bacon. I could see the bacon grease left on the cheese. Not trusting them to be honest and create a new cheeseburger meal for me, I requested an entirely new meal, a chicken dish. Had I been wiser, I would have sent the food back and refused a replacement. However, I was in a group of non-Muslims and was afraid to ruin the mood for everyone else. I took an unnecessary chance. I have no idea what they may have done to the chicken before bringing it out.
Everyone in the Nation of Islam is warned to keep our mouths out of the white man’s kitchen. There are too many things to worry about when trying to eat Christians’ food. What about hygiene? Do you know that pork worms can be transferred by swine eaters who do not wash their hands sufficiently after defecation? How about germs like e-coli and hepatitis? Do you know how many non-Muslims do not wash their hands after using the bathroom? What about the inability to check the ingredients list? Do we trust them to use clean products? What about the plates and utensils? Do we trust those? Even if they would not have placed bacon on the burger, what about the meat itself? Who knows what was in it?
“Do not buy the Christians’ ready-prepared ground meats, or any ready-ground meat. Buy the quality meats that you like, and have them ground by the Orthodox kosher butchers, through their meat grinders, because they do not have the pig near their shops. They are like us – they hate the divinely-prohibited flesh.” How to Eat to Live Book 1, pg. 12, “Food God Suggests”
Many of us do not realize exactly how bad Christians are when it comes to meat production. We are too far-removed from the process. As much as I dislike PETA, they do offer valuable evidence of why it is totally improper to consume the devils’ meats. The Messenger warned us long ago:
“The Christian people have one of the most brutal ways of killing animals for their food. Many of their animals are killed under fright and excitement; they actually murder the animals they eat.
We, the Muslims, who have not been able to go out to the slaughter houses as yet to choose our meat, as the Orthodox Jews are doing, slaughter our animals or cattle at a time when they least expect it. We take their lives in the name of Allah, with a prayer over this condemned life to be used to sustain our lives.” How to Eat to Live Book 1, pg. 2, “Right Way to Eat”
Honestly, the types of foods in Christian restaurants are generally not the types of food we should consume in the first place. How to Eat to Live changes our diets so radically that it is difficult to find a meal that is even “theoretically suitable” for us in most establishments if we are used to eating Muslim food.
“STAY away from the foods and the styles of the Christians. Ninety-five per cent of the foods that the Christians eat are unfit for good health and long life.” How to Eat to Live Book 2, chapter 69, pg. 73
“Eat one meal a day or one meal every other day, if you are able to. And, eat the food that Allah has prescribed for us. Stay away from the poison food that dresses the Christian’s table. You do not have to eat every variety of food on the earth to be healthy, for two varieties of good food is sufficient.” How to Eat to Live Book 2, chapter 27, pg. 101
Let the confessions continue:
Hard-headed and rebellious as ever, I stopped eating at Christian restaurants. Then, I discovered Hindu restaurants. I thought this was wonderful because I was a vegetarian. Saag paneer! Vegetable jalfrezi! Aloo ghobi! Baigan bhartha! Naan! All the food was delicious! But I forgot Hindus are worse than Christians. I did not yet fully appreciate the cultural norms created by Hinduism as it relates to hygiene and food preparation. Indians are not known for their cleanliness. It is an overcrowded and unsanitary country. Indian Muslims are not as horrible due to their adherence to basic Islamic standards. Because of their beliefs about caste, Hindus, especially in rural areas, refuse to install proper toilets and prefer to defecate outside which leads to pollution and disease. To be fair, in underdeveloped countries, open defecation can be an issue for all citizens. However, there is a unique arrogance in the Hindu which makes them more willing to tolerate filth than to take responsibility for cleaning it up themselves. I have seen Hindus allow rats and other animals to run through their food as they prepare it on filthy alley streets. I have beheld even more unspeakable things that I prefer to keep to myself. Now, I strive to limit myself to Muslim-owned Indian restaurants, and even then, it is rare for me to go unless I am traveling. I always check the bathroom in any establishment before ordering food. If the bathroom is dirty, I don’t eat there.
Buddhists are in many ways worse than other Hindus. Don't get me wrong. In my travels I have met extremely friendly Buddhists and made wonderful connections with them. However, the topic I'm addressing is diet and hygiene. Many upper-caste Hindus view meat as impure, so they live as vegetarians. However, Buddhists eat a lot of pork and its essence, so contamination is always a concern. While living in Asia, I decided to take some pictures in a local temple. I was careful to avoid several wild dogs roaming the grounds. Suddenly, I looked to my side and there was a huge hog standing there! This was a shock, because I was in a well-populated area where one would not expect to see a huge pig wandering around. I couldn’t believe anyone would allow a hog to live in their “holy place”.
I discovered some Buddhists really do eat insects, dogs, cats, rats, snakes, and just about anything else imaginable. Chinese are perhaps the worst offenders, yet many of us eat at their restaurants most. Practically speaking, Buddhists are to Hindus what Christians are to Jews. They are rebels to the dietary laws of the religion they spring from. Buddhists are comfortable eating in conditions the Nation of Islam frowns upon, such as outdoors next to busy streets or other unhygienic places. I remember watching huge diesel trucks speeding by just a few feet away from where food stands were set up. The exhaust was so bad in that area, that we all wore masks daily to shield ourselves from pollution. Yet, the heavy clouds of filthy exhaust landed directly on the food as the trucks drove by, one after another. Muslim food vendors usually set up their stands further away from the road. Like Hindus, Buddhists are not as cognizant of handwashing as Muslims.
Recently, in Asia, I was surviving most of the time on a scrambled egg and a tiny bowl of white rice, fresh fruit, or muffins from the local 7/11. Anything else was either obviously prohibited, unidentifiable, or likely contaminated. I only had access to halal foods on weekends when I could travel away from my village to the big city, or on days when there was a night market and my beloved Muslim sisters from another village came to sell chicken. Praise be to Allah, as they learned of the severity of the limited access to halal food in my town, they began bringing me food, welcoming me to their home to eat, or including me on trips to other towns with halal restaurants – they would not accept money. We did not speak each other’s language at all, but we shared a true sisterhood through Islam. The only things I was cautious of when eating with the Muslims were a few ingredients, such as shrimp and nuts, but never their hygiene. The Muslims were mindful to exclude anything that I requested from my meal. They were only concerned about my happiness. I always felt comfortable eating with them.
Likewise, I have had good dealings with Orthodox Jews. Until recently, I have often lived relatively close to Jews. I did not have to worry about pork or its by-products when shopping at their stores. The worst I saw was nuts. They are closer to our dietary standards than even Orthodox Muslims who may eat seafood (scavengers). However, I have learned to be very cautious about assuming that Jewish establishments are pure. I have witnessed at least two “kosher-style” delis that served pork, one in my hometown, and another while traveling. Before patronizing any Jewish establishment, ask questions.
“The Holy Qur-an teaches the Muslims that the food of both the followers of Moses (the Orthodox Jews) and the food of the Muslims is good for each, because the foods of the two people do not vary too much. There are some weak Muslims and there are some weak Orthodox Jews but they (Orthodox Jews), as God taught me, live more closely to the Muslim way of eating than any of the rest of white civilization.” How to Eat to Live Book 2, chapter 24, pg. 89
“I say, eat the best of the food. The Orthodox Jews are right when they do not eat the hog and other poison foods, and if you buy from their markets, you will get the better foods. I do not make any mistake; I mean the Orthodox Jews, who do not carry in their markets the type of poison foods consumed by the Christians.” How to Eat to Live, chapter 36, pg. 128
My meal preference when traveling is a portable cooler filled with fruit, navy bean soup, and pita bread. It’s the safest bet. When traveling, you can never be certain what restaurants you will have access to when you arrive. You never know if a particular restaurant may be closed, may have sanitation issues, or may run out of a certain food. It’s wiser to bring a few simple foods – plus it will save your husband a few dollars (smile).
The moral of the story is that we must continue to develop our discipline and obedience to our culture. Learn from my experiences. Beware of placing too much trust in anyone, especially non-Muslims, for food. We cannot keep making excuses for gambling with our health. A busy schedule is no justification for turning to the devil. Making a large pot of beans on the weekend and eating that, along with some toast and milk throughout the week is the easiest method of meal prep in existence. Let’s try to do better and eat primarily from our kitchens, occasionally in Muslim restaurants, and never in Non-Muslim restaurants if we can help it.
Even if you are not concerned with the health risks of eating everywhere, think about how it reflects on the image of the Nation of Islam when we stand in line at Taco Bell or McDonald’s ordering poison. Everyone knows that Muslims do not belong there. We become just another reason for those who remember our forefathers to say, “Those Muslims sure aren’t what they used to be.” Let’s do better starting today.