Perhaps this post might help us reconsider our understanding of nourishment.
Some students in my school complain about the food. Some outsiders comment about the students weight. The photo shows you what a student may eat for both lunch and dinner on the same day. For 6 days a week, it is a flavoured rice, with some fish cooked with gravy or boiled eggs. 7 to a tray.
That’s as simple as it gets.
*Bread with beans/potatoes with gravy for breakfast, daily. Flavoured rice with lamb on Fridays. Those with money may choose to eat outside the school. This is typically discouraged. This applies to students who live in the school, whose fees are ridiculously cheap even to local standards, Yemen being economically the poorest country in this region.
For the best and better students, you won’t find them commenting about the food because they’re not attending the school to eat. A look at them and their contentment shows how well fed they are. Many don’t quite understand, perhaps never heard that nourishment exists in many aspects and can come in different forms.
Imam al-Ghazali says the pious, don’t just speak little to watch what they say, but also look at little for they watch what they see. Some wear a shawl to somewhat block their own left and right vision. Caliph ‘Umar Abdul Aziz didn’t know his roof had a crack for over 20 years. He said he’s never looked at his roof for there’s no benefit gazing there.
What then about how closely they watch what they eat?
Habib Ahmad bin Zain al-Habshi, student of Imam al-Haddad, 300 years ago whom I mentioned recently, built 17 mosques. He’d feed the construction workers breakfast daily. One day it arrived late and they had instead eaten from the house of the neighbour of the construction site.
So he told them, I wanted full confidence that this mosque in built using halal (permissible) resources and I know that food from my house is. I will continue sending breakfast to you and pay your wages. But for the next 40 days, do not do any work on the mosque. (Simple said, that’s the period for things to leave ‘your system’)
Such was the care they put in for what they ate. Or more accurately for this context, what was consumed and produced. As we dream daily about being the ones fixing society, sharing copy paste quotes or finally resorting to criticizing others, perhaps some of that may visibly change by that which are less visible.
In Malaysia, I too used to frequent restaurants that made no assurance of it’s food being halal but declared itself being pork-free. But when issues about it are raised, such as presumably halal meat being cooked with alcohol or wine, thus not making it halal, the situation changes.
Some of the students won’t even drink at the diner in front of our school. There are no halal issues and the owner is a good man. One explained saying that there are many levels to it. Being in or near a place that is not nice socially is one, then there’s also avoiding doing things your role models do not do, even rarely.
‘Zain, have you even seen any of the scholars in these diners?’
The good people who influenced and impacted society beyond their place and time, they didn’t simply dismiss things like pork-free signage or a cracked roof. They went above and beyond in making sure it was legitimate, good and blessed. They nourished themselves in ways we have neither heard nor imagined.
And in turn we get fed.
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