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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Food


19.  Avoiding Excessive Consumption

from the Holy Qur’an, major hadith collections

and Islamic jurisprudence


Avoiding Excessive Consumption

From Islamic Source Documents: Qur’an and Hadith


The Qur’an admonishes Muslims not to eat or drink excessively.[1] Muhammad says that a Muslim eats in one intestine and a non-Muslim has seven[2] (meaning that a Muslim is satisfied with a small amount of food). In a variation concerning goat's milk, Muhammad says that a Muslim drinks in one intestine while a non-believer drinks in seven intestines.[3] Muhammad says that food should be shared by more people than it seems to be enough for.[4] He says not to eat two dates together without permission from one’s companions.[5]


There are numerous compiled hadiths stating that Muhammad and those around him had almost nothing to eat during his lifetime.[6] Muhammad and those in his group almost never had a cooked meal[7] or even a cloth to wipe their hands on at a meal.[8] They did not have white flour or sifted barley; they would just blow off the husk of the barley to prepare it for making dough.[9]


Statements are made that Muhammad and his family subsisted for long periods of time on only dates and water[10] with perhaps occasional gifts of milk[11] or meat[12], they never had enough wheat bread to eat for more than three days in a row[13] and they never enough barley bread to eat for two days in a row[14]. It is said that Muhammad never had thin, well-baked bread,[15] that he never had enough bread with olive oil to eat his fill of it twice in one day[16] and that he never even ate at a table during his whole life[17]. Similarly, many of those in the Muslim community at the time of Muhammad owned only one piece of clothing[18] and some of the women did not own a veil and had to share the veils of other women when coming out to pray[19].


It is also said that Muhammad never had,[20] or never even saw,[21] roasted sheep, though other hadiths[22] say that Muhammad ate roasted sheep (or at least roasted sheep liver and other organs.) The statement is also made that Muhammad would store enough food to feed his family for a whole year.[23]


There are numerous reports of occasions when Muhammad’s blessing would cause the amount of food to increase to more than enough to satisfy large numbers of people or to pay the debts of a needy person.[24] Similar stories are told in which water[25] or milk[26] are miraculously increased by Muhammad to provide enough for everyone.


Muhammad warns against extreme self-denial such as not eating meat or fasting throughout the year, keeping away from women and not marrying, praying throughout every night and not sleeping in one's bed. To do these things is to violate the traditions established by the life of Muhammad himself and thus to separate oneself from Islam.[27] Specifically, Muhammad said that a person invited to a feast should attend it[28]; in some hadiths, this refers only to a wedding feast;[29] if a person is fasting, he should attend the feast but not eat there.[30]



Avoiding Excessive Consumption

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller


In his Risala, al-Shafi‛i states that the reliability of the story that Muhammad prohibited the eating of two dates together (cited on this page, above) is uncertain.[31]


Islamic scholars* agree that both male and female orphans under the age of puberty are to be prevented from spending their wealth excessively. In some cases, such restrictions can also be placed on adults. Malik and al-Shafi‛i say that the governing authorities can restrict even a sane adult who is wasteful from spending in excess. Abu Hanifa says that someone who, as a minor, tended toward excessive spending can be prevented from excessive spending after puberty, but only up to the age of twenty-five years.[32] Unlike most others, who say that females are to be treated the same as males in this regard, Malik says that the spending of all females is to be restricted beyond puberty and a female's wealth is to be kept under the control of her father even for some time after she is married.[33] The Maliki school holds that a virgin female is not free to spend her wealth without restriction until she becomes too old to marry, which may be at an age of less than thirty or up to sixty years according to different scholars.[34]




*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.


§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.



Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.


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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC/CMJE website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources. Part or all of the hadith collections of al-Bukhari, with somewhat different numbering systems, can also be found here, here and here.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here. Part or all of the hadith collection of Muslim, with somewhat different numbering systems, can also be found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Full text online and download for Volume 1 are here and here and for Volume 2 are here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA.  Reliance of the Traveller can be found here and here.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

[1] QR 7:31

[2] BK 7:65:305, BK 7:65:306, BK 7:65:307, BK 7:65:308, BK 7:65:309, ML 23:5113-5114, ML 23:5115, ML 23:5116-5117, ML 23:5118-5119

[3] ML 23:5120

[4] BK 1:10:576, BK 4:56:781, BK 7:65:304, ML 23:5106, ML 23:5108, ML 23:5109-5110, ML 23:5111, ML 23:5112

[5] BK 3:43:635, BK 3:44:669, BK 3:44:670, BK 7:65:357, ML 23:5075-5076, ML 23:5077

[6] BK 3:34:283, BK 3:45:685, BK 3:47:741, BK 7:65:323, BK 8:76:461, BK 8:76:462, BK 8:76:464, BK 8:78:678, BK 7:65:297, BK 7:65:327, BK 7:65:334, ML 42:7080, ML 42:7081, ML 42:7091, ML 42:7099-7100, ML 42:7101

[7] BK 3:47:741, BK 7:65:367, BK 8:76:465, BK 8:76:466, ML 42:7089-7090, ML 42:7092

[8] BK 7:65:367

[9] BK 7:65:321, BK 7:65:324

[10] BK 7:65:295, ML 42:7089, ML 42:7094, ML 42:7095-7096

[11] BK 3:47:741, BK 8:76:466, ML 42:7092

[12] BK 8:76:465, ML 42:7090

[13] ML 42:7083, ML 42:7084, ML 42:7086, ML 42:7087, ML 42:7088, ML 42:7097, ML 42:7098

[14] ML 42:7085

[15] BK 7:65:297, BK 7:65:298, BK 7:65:326, BK 7:65:332, BK 8:76:457, BK 8:76:464

[16] ML 42:7093-7094

[17] BK 8:76:457, BK 7:65:298, BK 7:65:326

[18] BK 1:6:309, BK 1:8:348, BK 1:8:354, BK 3:39:540

[19] BK 1:6:321, BK 1:8:347, BK 1:15:96, BK 2:26:714

[20] BK 7:65:297

[21] BK 7:65:332, BK 8:76:464

[22] BK 3:47:787, BK 7:65:294, ML 23:5105

[23] BK 7:64:270

[24] BK 1:10:576, BK 3:41:580, BK 3:41:581, BK 3:41:589, BK 3:47:787, BK 3:49:872, BK 4:51:40, BK 4:56:778, BK 4:56:781, BK 5:59:383, BK 7:65:293, BK 7:65:354, BK 7:65:361, BK 8:78:679, BK 3:44:664, BK 4:52:225, BK 5:59:427, BK 5:59:428, BK 7:65:294, ML 1:41, ML 1:42, ML 8:3335, ML 8:3336, ML 23:5057, ML 23:5058, ML 23:5059-5060-5061, ML 23:5062-5063-5064-5065-5066, ML 23:5105, ML 23:5106

[25] BK 1:7:340, BK 4:56:771, BK 4:56:776, BK 4:56:777, BK 4:56:779, BK 5:59:473, BK 7:69:543

[26] BK 8:76:459

[27] BK 7:62:1, ML 8:3236

[28] BK 7:62:106, ML 8:3337, ML 8:3338, ML 8:3339, ML 8:3340, ML 8:3341, ML 8:3342, ML 8:3343, ML 8:3344, ML 8:3345, ML 8:3346-3347, ML 8:3348, ML 8:3349, ML 8:3353

[29] BK 7:62:102, BK 7:62:103, BK 7:62:104, BK 7:62:106, BK 8:73:241, ML 8:3338, ML 8:3339, ML 8:3349, ML 8:3353

[30] ML 8-3344, ML 8:3348

[31] SR170 (page 176)

[32] DJP 38.1 (Volume 2, pages 334-335)

[33] DJP 38.2 (Volume 2, pages 336-337)

[34] DJP 38.3 (Volume 2, pages 338-340)