Clockwise from left: Shaikh Ahmad Al Qubaisi, Yara Ali, Douha Najjari, Tarif Al Hourani, Rana Al Salem. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Food wastage is not only an ethical issue during Ramadan, but a religious one too that should be severely limited during the month.

To outline Islam’s stance on food wastage, Gulf News contacted the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) hotline.

“It is not acceptable in Islam to waste food as Allah forbade Muslims to do so.”

Reciting verses from the Quran, the Awqaf official said: “...and eat and drink be not extravagant; surely [Allah] does not love the extravagant.”

With the natural gathering of friends and family for iftar during Ramadan, an excess in food is expected. However, the leftover edible portion should be re-used or given to the less fortunate.

“It is not permissible to throw the food in the garbage. Doing so is considered as disregard for the blessings of Allah and a failure to comply with His orders.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, the Mufti added that people who are neglectful with their food should not be socially alienated. “People who throw away the food and waste a lot of it should not be criticised. Instead, they should be advised in the right manner at the right time.”

Elaborating on the notion, Shaikh Ahmad Al Qubaisi argued that one of the main issues mentioned in the Quran pertains to extravagance and waste. Reciting from the Quran, Al Qubaisi said: “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord [himself] ungrateful.”

He also referred to one of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) hadiths (sayings): “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing.”

Al Qubaisi said, “Islam absolutely prohibits wastage in every aspect of one’s lives, whether it be with one’s time, one’s energy, or even one’s food. If God has blessed one among His believing slaves with more than his needs, then one must be grateful to God. Also, people should show God gratefulness and appreciation by sharing and distributing the excess food among the poor and needy of society.”

In fact, he encouraged the giving of excess food to others, especially to neighbours, as Islam largely emphasises the requirement to take care of one’s neighbours. “Not a believer who sleeps and his neighbour is hungry,” Al Qubaisi added, based on another saying by the Prophet.

People’s viewpoints on food wastage

Yara Ali, 25, Egyptian, medical interpreter

“First of all, everyone should know that we were born into a very generous culture. Especially when it comes to food, our Arab and Islamic culture approaches food differently in Ramadan. We feel proud when we serve a large amount of food. However, my mother uses some tricks to avoid wasting food in Ramadan.

“My mother’s freezer is her best friend. First, she plans her food menu before Ramadan; then she prepares pre-cooked marinated chicken and beef and stores them in the freezer which saves both time and food. Also, she incorporates iftar leftovers for the next suhour or serves it again the next day. Sometimes she keeps the food in the freezer and uses it after a couple of days. Further, she shares food with neighbours, or prepares some iftar plates for the needy and sends it to the mosque.

“Since I was born into a culture where we should finish what is on our plate as a sign that we have been fed enough, I do tend to put too much food on the plate. Nevertheless, if I were invited somewhere and I put little food on my plate, it would be considered a sign of disliking the food.”

Douha Najjari, 50, Syrian, fitness trainer

“I believe that putting too much food on my plate will eventually lead to me throwing away most of it. Therefore, I do not put too much [on the plate]. Also, since I’m a fitness trainer, I always advise everyone that they should minimise their food portions, whether by reducing the amount of food or using a smaller plate so that they have a healthy lifestyle.

“Also, by putting too much food on our plate, we are harming ourselves and the society because we are wasting food. By putting the required amount, we will benefit ourselves and the less fortunate.

“In general, we should try to minimise wastage of food as much as we can.”

Rana Al Salem, 23, Jordanian student

“My mother follows a few steps to avoid food wastage. For example, whether it is Ramadan or not, she cooks everything with measurement. She knows how many of the family members are eating at a time and prepares the amount accordingly. However, during Ramadan, my mother tends to cook half the usual amount of anything. As for our traditions and culture, my mum cooks various cuisines but in smaller portions. For instance, on normal days, she cooks three glasses of rice, while in Ramadan, she cooks a glass and a half of rice.

“I myself put smaller portions of food on my plate. Since I end my fast with dates, juice, and soup, I tend to eat a little bit of rice with salad and a piece of samosa.”

Tarif Al Hourani, 59, Syrian pharmacist

“During Ramadan, our bodies lack energy, because we do not consume enough sugars. Therefore, I usually end my fast with dates. I drink water or juices to compensate and I eat small portions of food, avoiding heavy food. For carbohydrates such as rice and bread, I usually eat small portions. In general, I eat a small amount of each type.”