Flat Earth, Paper Religion: Recognizing halal as a systemic way of life

We laugh at it now, but once, the overwhelming majority believed the earth was flat. Perhaps there were exceptions, people who thought there must be something beyond what the eye can see. But the masses were taught and lived as if the edge of the ocean slipped into the end of all things.

Not the Qur’an. The earth, while “spread out,” is “rolling” in motion and form. The Arabic word for rolling is yakkawir, derived from kurah or ball, denoting a rounded shape. But the word “ball” is never used. Why not? According to NASA, the near perfection of the earth’s sphere is marred slightly by its spinning motion creating a slight bulging at the equator and polar flattening.

The scientific meaning denoted an order or “inner truth” – a message aimed at every mind, and in particular, the scholar, the maritime explorer, the oceanographer, past and present – those who sought to learn, to discover, to create; and in that process ibada, or worship, is born in its purest sense.

Far from being the end of the earth, the call to knowledge and reason is not only what separates the substance of Islamic faith from any other, but was a driving force behind the advancement of civilization for the benefit of all mankind.

But the light has dimmed.

These days, the world is us and them. They are “bad” – because they don’t pray and they eat pork. We are “good” because we don’t eat pork and we pray. Reason is absent, mocked, oppressed and diminished, replaced by rituals and fear.

Today’s Islam is a closed box, frozen in time.

Others have led in knowledge and risk and reason, for better or worse. Better, because they are without the ignorance that characterizes the Muslims of today; and worse, because the brilliance of the “other” is without reverence of God’s created ayah, or cosmos.

Today, the community that stands before God, prostrating, are but mindless – and yes, dummies – of the message that we no longer bother to heed, let alone read.

The term for “verses” or ayah is the same word for symbols and signs, used in the Qur’an to denote the natural world, from mountains and trees to cows – indeed, an entire chapter, Surah Baqarah, was named after the cow. Thus, the Qur’an’s ayah cannot be understood without the natural world – a journey marked by reverence, whether physical or intellectual. The created cosmos is the landscape in which the signs of Allah are manifested as recorded in the Book.

Much of the problem rests with those defining what is defined as lawful and unlawful.

We’re commanded to follow Halal, in particular through the “halal stamp.” And yet, from a Qur’anic perspective, much of what is labelled “halal” is actually haraam, or sinful, specifically the animal flesh that has been produced in cruel and toxic environments to their bodies and souls, and our own. Living in their waste, unable to move, pumped with hormones and carcinogens, these animals are considered ‘halal’ provided that someone with a beard has slashed their necks using the name of God.

What has not been properly investigated or unpacked is the Qur’anic concept of halal. The Qur’an tells us, “They will ask thee as to what is lawful (halal) to them. Say: ‘Lawful to you are all the good (tayyib) things of life.’” Essentially, what is lawful or halal is the equivalent of tayyib or good and pure.

But tayyib is not limited to what we consume: just as the Qur’an must be read in context and with reflection, so must halal and tayyib – rarely mentioned in a verse in separation. It is the process from which a thing is produced, created, developed and in the case of animals, raised. Thus, over and over again, the Qur’an tells us that, “Today, all the good things of life have been made lawful to you.”

Also made clear is that, “the food of those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime is lawful to you,” provided it is good and pure, and not specifically forbidden (carrion, pork and intoxicants).

Where we have not directly killed the food that is good and pure (tayyib) and therefore lawful (halal), we are commanded, “but mention God’s name over it and remain conscious of God.”

We are directly warned never to create artificial divisions ascribed to God: “Have you ever considered all the means of sustenance which God has bestowed upon you from on high, and which you thereupon divide into ‘things forbidden’ and ‘things lawful?’ Say: ‘Has God given you leave [to do this] – or do you, perchance, attribute your own guesswork to God?”

It is, in fact, zabiha that refers to the mentioning of God’s name over the animal during the process, not halal which speaks to the broader systemic way of living.

We learn, through various exhortations of God’s mercy, justice and power, that we are not allowed to betray or transgress the trust or waqf of Allah or his creation – the living ayah. “This she-camel belonging to God shall be a token for you: so leave her alone to pasture on God’s earth, and do her no harm, lest grievous chastisement befall you,” – thus the tribe of Thamud, and the powerful trading city of Petra, fell. The she-camel, of course, a metaphor, as is the fall, symbolizing the arrogance and indifference of mankind to the vulnerable, visible only as commodities.

It is no less than a destruction of God’s sacred created ayah when we eat what is neither good nor pure; when we exploit and brutalize for our own sustenance – even though consumption of carcinogen-high flesh increases our own risk to cancer; when we deny God’s waqf the right to pasture on God’s earth in the ways that he intended before we consume.

If we are Muslims, and our reverence is more than ritual, it is our responsibility to consume free-range animal flesh, where we have means, for it constitutes the closest version of “good and pure” that exists today, and where we do not, to abstain entirely; to ensure that the system’s standard is the absolute highest in mercy and justice; and to drastically decrease our consumption of the same, that we may “tread lightly on the earth.”

If we have businesses invested in the production or sale of food that is impure and against the mercy of God, we must leave that business behind or transform it and the culture around us. We know this is the command because God tells us in no uncertain terms that to “be just – that is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.”

But, if we fail to do so and continue along the unconscious path we are going, we are deniers of God’s truth – the essence of the word kufr (often wrongly interpreted as “unbeliever”).

These days, we have left reflection and knowledge behind for a piece of chicken produced from profit-mongering companies, approved by a bearded man or two who says it is okay.

And once again, the earth is flat.

This is not Islam – far from it.