Vegetarian Era









Islam and Vegetarianism

By Brother Initiate Zamir Elahi, UK (Originally in English)

Bismillah-hir Rahman-nir Rahim
(In the Name of God, Compassionate and Merciful)

A closer examination of Islamic teachings reveals that Islam is a deeply compassionate religion, especially regarding animal welfare. In particular, Islam does not prohibit vegetarianism. It is noteworthy that many Islamic countries are now waking up to the benefits of a vegetarian diet and seeing that vegetarianism is supported by the Islamic faith. For instance, the fundamentalist Islamic country of Iran is also home to the Iranian Vegetarian Society, which is very active in promoting the benefits of a pure vegetarian diet in the modern Islamic world, both in terms of health and the well-being of animals. In 1995, a Muslim Vegetarian/Vegan Society was formed in the UK, which promotes vegetarianism in accordance with the Koran’s teachings and demonstrates how kindness and compassion to animals are virtues expounded by Islam.

The Holy Koran and Compassion towards Animals


Numerous verses in The Holy Koran refer to the sanctity of animal life and the equal rights of an animal to have a peaceful life, seeking God and developing towards God consciousness, very similar to human beings on the planet:

“There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have We omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” (Sura 6:38).

“Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.” (Sura 24:41)

Animals form communities at the same time offering their services to humankind. In no way does The Holy Koran suggest that we should become their executioners:

“…We have made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful. (Sura 22:36)

He it is that has made you vice-regent (inheritors) in the earth.” (Sura 35:39)

The Holy Koran emphasizes that animals and humans have equal shares of Earth’s resources (see Sura 25:48-49, 32:27, 79:31-33), also saying that in God’s eyes they are equal to humans, and Hes communicates with them exactly as Hes does with humans:

“And your Lord revealed to the bee, saying: ‘Make hives in the mountains and in the trees, and in (human) habitations’” (Sura 16:68)

The Holy Koran uses the same Arabic word, “Wahi,” for God’s revelations to all Hiers Prophets, including the Holy Prophet Mohammed (pbuh4). This form of address is also used in the case of the bee, indicating that animals have a sufficient degree of psychic endowment to understand and follow God’s messages.

Furthermore, there are numerous verses in the Holy Koran where God emphasizes the use of fruits and vegetables to sustain both humans and animals alike (Sura 6:141, 6:151, 16:67, Sura 23:19) as well as to promote better health and living environments for Muslims.

Hadith – Life Teachings of the Muslim Prophet and Saints


Hadith (meaning “traditions”) in Islam refers to the recorded teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The Hadith is commonly taught in Islamic culture as a part of Islamic theology.

Many Hadith scriptures from the life of Prophet Mohammed as well as other Muslim Saints convey a depth of compassion and kindness towards animals and suggest that the primary duty of all Muslims is to care for the well-being of animals. The Prophet also emphasized the importance and effects of a vegetable-based diet, even forbidding the use of animal skins:

“Do not allow your stomachs to become graveyards!”

“A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.”

“All creatures are like a family (Ayal) of God: and He loves the most those who are the most beneficent to His family.”

“He who takes pity {even} on a sparrow and spares its life, Allah will be merciful on him on the Day of Judgment.”

“Allah will not give mercy to anyone, except those who give mercy to other creatures.

Where there is an abundance of vegetables, a host of angels will descend on that place.”

Many Sufis (esoteric Muslim practitioners) maintain that vegetarianism is in complete accord with Islamic doctrines and principles. The Sufi Qadiri shaikh Abdul Karim Jili, commenting on Ibn Arabi’s advice to avoid animal fat during retreats, stated that “animal fat strengthens animality, and its principles will dominate the spiritual principles.”

Similarly, the Chishti Sufi Inayat Khan, who introduced Sufi principles to Europe and America in the early 1900s, observed that vegetarianism promotes compassion and harmlessness to living creatures, and that a vegetarian diet aids in the purification of the body and refinement of spiritual faculties.

The recent century’s Sri Lankan Sufi Qadiri teacher Bawa Muhaiyaddeen also encouraged vegetarianism, stating that arrogance and anger may decrease if one eliminates meat from the diet. He taught that consumption of meat promotes the development of animalistic qualities, whereas consumption of plant and dairy products promotes peaceful qualities; and he noted that Islamic rules pertaining to animal slaughter have the effect, if properly observed, of reducing the number of animals killed for food. On this and on the concept of Qurbani (sacrifice of animals) in Islam, Bawa said:

“At one time the Rasul of Allah said to his cousin ‘Ali, ‘O ‘Ali, you should not eat meat. If you eat meat for 40 days, those qualities will come within you. Because of that, your human qualities will change, your compassionate qualities will change, and the essence of your body will change.”  

“During that time, the Arabs used to have cattle, camels, goats, ghee, dates, wheat flour, and all those things. They had no vegetables or curries. Those times were times of eating flesh. Then Mohammed the Rasul came. He could not stop them from eating flesh completely, because this was their only food. He could not tell them not to eat flesh, because they would have killed him. Therefore, he had to tell them slowly and explain it to them little by little.”

 “The qurban, or the commandment of saying the Third Kalimah when ritually slaughtering animals, was also sent down to stop this murdering. And like this, the difference between Haraam (not permissible) and Halaal (permissible) was sent down. All the Prophets came in order to gradually correct the people, to gradually reduce the number of murders, to reduce the actions against God’s commandments, and to gradually reduce arrogance. Gradually, little by little, these were lessened.”

The 15th Century Sufi poet Kabir Sahib unequivocally condemned meat eating. Characterizing it as the ultimate failure of compassion, he stated that even the companionship of meat-eaters was harmful to the soul. He emphasized that instead of killing animals we should “slaughter” the five passions of lust, greed, attachment, anger and pride:

O Muslims, I see you fasting during the day,

But then to break your fast you slaughter cows at night.

At one end is devotion, at the other murder –

How can the Lord be pleased?

My friend, pray cut the throat of anger,

And slaughter the ravages of blind fury,

For he who slaughters the five passions,

Lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride,

Will surely see the Supreme Lord face to face.

(from “On Eating Meat,” excerpt from Kabir, the Great Mystic)



From the teachings from the Holy Koran and as well as the Prophet Mohammed and other Muslim saints, it’s clear that Islam regards compassion towards animals as a responsibility of human beings. Recent research has even shown that the practice of  animal sacrifice (qurbani) for certain Islamic festivals is no longer recommended, out of consideration for the animals’ suffering as well as human health concerns. The Holy Koran is very clear that the act of sacrifice is a symbolic gesture of human generosity and giving alms; and that killing animals and offering their flesh in no way offers any salvation for humanity:

“Their flesh and their blood reach not Allah, but the devotion from you reacheth Him. Thus have We made them subject unto you that ye may magnify Allah that He hath guided you. And give good tidings (O Mohammed) to the good.” (Sura 22:37)

In the wake of higher awareness regarding these issues, some Muslim scholars have suggested that a day will come when Muslims will substitute other means of giving alms instead of the rite of animal sacrifice.

This short article shows that despite common beliefs and practices by many Muslims, Islamic faith and teachings strongly recognize the sanctity of animal life. Islam never intended that humans would kill animals in order to consume their flesh. The Holy Koran and many Muslim Saints emphasize the benefits of a meatless, vegetable-based diet and their impacts on human life as well as the ecology of the planet Earth. Interested readers are encouraged to follow the references quoted below for a deeper analysis of Islamic views on animals.


[1] This Arabic phrase, meaning “In the Name of God, Compassionate and Merciful,” begins all suras in the Holy Koran. Many Moslems recite this phrase before commencing any speech or action.


3 The Holy Koran consists of 114 chapters known as suras, each containing many verses. The notation “x:y” refers to Sura x:Verse y.

4 Peace Be Upon Him

5 The Prophet

6 The Third “Word”

7 Sheikh Farid Wagdi, on Sacrifice, in “Animals in Islam” by Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri (p. 117)


You may find for your own reference, many books and Islamic websites which will help you in your search of the truth, some of which are listed below:

- Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, &

- Bawa Muhaiyaddeen “Islam and World Peace – Explanations of a Sufi”

- Sufism and Vegetarianism -

- Kathleen Seidel, “Serving the Guest – A Sufi Cookbook and Art Gallery”,

- on vegetarianism (plus video of Imam Masri)

“Islamic Concern for Animals” by Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri. 1987. Athene Trust.

- Masri, Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad, Animals in Islam”, Petersfield, England: Athene Trust, 1989. A detailed analysis of the Qur’an and Islam as it relates to animals. Excerpts are available from the internet :

- Ahmed, Rafeeque. Islam and Vegetarianism. Awaiting full bibliographic details.

- Attar : Memorial of the saints ( available on internet )

- Communiqué Agence France-Presse du 16 avril 1997, Soheib Bencheikh, Grand Mufti de la mosquée de Marseille (in French) (published on internet) – see and,1-0@2-3230,36-246040,0.html.

- (French)