Friday, March 14, 2014

Forbidden Food

"It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t miss out on anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do." I Corinthians 8:8

“Does the cake have any pork in it?” Sima cautiously asked.  One of the first things we will encounter with certain Muslims will be talk surrounding  food.  Perhaps we have invited them for a meal and they wrestled with accepting the invitation and we could not understand why. Maybe they actually refused our invitation and we felt hurt. There are times when our Muslim friends do accept an invitation but barely touch the food. What is going on, we wonder?

Not all Muslim women have concerns about what we offer them. In fact many of them feel honored and delighted to be given cookies or invited for a meal. But, in this posting, I want to refer to those who do manifest food concerns. They experience  genuine fear,  discomfort, and anxiety.

 The Qur’an commands Muslims to refrain from eating pork products and the Hadith discourages consumption of alcohol.  In Islam both are either forbidden(haram) or discouraged. To digest either of those things would make them feel like they are disobeying Allah which could bring about his displeasure or even judgment. Devoted ones will not want to eat beef or chicken that were not slaughtered according to Islamic requirements.  They try hard not to displease Allah.  A vast majority of them look at Christians as people who drink alcohol and eat pig. So, when we invite them for a meal they will be concerned about being served alcohol or pig or anything else which may contain an ingredient of them. Vanilla is made with alcohol. Cake, cookies, or chocolates will be assumed to be haram because vanilla is in them. They are afraid of anything which may have gelatin in them because that may come from pig bones such as marshmallows, yogurt, ice cream, etc. Then, of course, there is the fear of being served alcoholic drinks or eating any form of pork whether on pizza or a roast. With this in mind, it will be helpful when we offer them cake or cookies that we inform them that we made them without vanilla or animal shortening.  If we invite them for a meal we can assure them, right at the time when we are extending the invitation, that we will not serve any alcohol or pork. Then they will be relieved and thankful. They will feel safe with Allah and us. Often this reassurance will open the way to further friendship. Don’t get bogged down and vexed about their fears and these food issues. When we understand where they are coming from and how we can manage it we will be able to move forward in friendship.  That is what we really desire. I usually start with inviting them for tea and serve them vanilla-free cake, fruit, nuts, and sometimes samosas.  In the initial stages of relating it is not necessary to make a big deal about dietary religious laws. The time will come when we can talk about God and faith issues.  In the meantime keep loving them, praying for them, and extending hospitality.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for the freedom we have in Christ!