One of the many questions that arise on the Muslim message boards in which non-Muslims participate is the very relaxed attitude Christians have concerning what they eat. There seems no rhyme or reason to the standards they set for themselves, in what they eat, with the worship of our Lord.
For example, when a Christian fasts, he often allows himself bread and water. In other words, he may abstain from those foods that he usually indulges himself with, and keep his body and soul together with plain, monotonous fare. Even if he abstains from all food during his fast, he will usually allow himself water. I do not mean to diminish the sincere fasting of those Christian sects, like some Coptic Christians in Egypt, who will abstain from all animal products, including dairy products, fish and eggs, during the entire fasting period, and who, from sunrise to sunset they, like the Muslims, abstain from eating or drinking anything at all. Others, however, just play lip-service to the official fasting periods, giving up a favourite item, such as chocolate, during the period.
Another example is Lent, a forty day Christian fasting period before the Easter. the Christian Easter coincides with the Jewish Passover, which celebrates the delivery of the Jewish people by God, out of Egypt and the successful crossing of the Red Sea. It used to also coincide with Ashúra – still celebrated by the Muslims, but according to the unadjusted Lunar Calendar, which progresses around the Solar Year every 33 years or so, rather than the Adjusted Jewish Solar-Lunar Calendar – which keeps it in line with the Solar Calendar that the Christians use. Nowadays, in this secular global environment, this build up to Easter begins with a holiday, often associated with Rio de Janeiro, now commonly a spectacle of processions of spectacular floats, and of naked flesh and flashy costumes dancing in the street, called Carnaval. In other cities, such as New Orleans, this festival is called Mardi Gras. The Rio event is now broadcast all over the world so that even the people not participating can get a taste of the excitement and a view of gyrating half, sometimes almost fully, naked bodies.
Originally, however, this was Shrove Tuesday, the holy day that people emptied their larders of all meat products, cooking them in a great feast that every one shared in because they would now fast (abstain from) meat for 40 days. If they left any meat in the larder, 40 days would be enough time to see that it went off and became inedible. Hence the feast: to consume all of it and not waste any of it. In addition, the people would build effigies of saints and carry them on biers or litters through the streets in a procession whilst they themselves dressed in sackcloth to show they were entering a fasting period. These may be the origins of the huge floats now built on motorized vehicles in Rio and the costumes the dancers now wear.
From this original holiday, we can surmise that the fast was principally the fasting of meat, which means, of course, that one may consume fish (the produce from fishing) or vegetables (the produce of tilling the earth). Even that ‘partial,’ but general, fast has become diluted so that now a Christian is free to choose what he will abstain from (if anything) during the Lent period, including non edibles – such as using his or her car. ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ is now a common question among practicing Christians.
Among practicing Roman Catholics, it is (was?) common to eat fish on Fridays, abstaining from the normal meat dish one eats on other days.
So why do they have these complicated and only partially adhered to rules of diet, if all dietary Law has been repealed by Jesus, (may God praise him)? I think it is because there were strict dietary laws which were gradually eroded as Christianity absorbed more and more customs from the varied tribes of people who took Christianity as their religion. Why? Because we can see the first stages of the rearguard action to defend these dietary laws in Acts, where James, the brother of Jesus, sought to stem the erosion which Paul’s doctrine had already precipitated, saying:
Trouble not them which from the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them that they abstain from meats offered to idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. [Acts 21:24-25 & Acts 15:20 and 28-29]
The seriousness of the dietary prohibition is such that it is compared with ‘fornication’. This offence doesn’t seem all that serious now, since it is common practice all over the modern world for young men and women to experiment with sex before marriage, or ‘live together’ without getting married, or even go through a succession of sexual partners for pleasure without any commitments each to the other. Among believing Muslims, however, it is a very serious offence. So serious that it often carries with it an unofficial death sentence due to the shame the family feels in which fornication occurs.
This unofficial death sentence is cultural, but born of the prohibition of sex without marriage. The Islamic Divine Law (al-Shariy’ah), which is derived from the Quran and official teachings of Prophet Muhammad (May God Praise him), does not allow a death sentence in these cases, and condemns such ‘honour killings’ as murder. According to Divine Law, however, the offending parties of a fornication case, both the boy and girl, should be scourged and then exiled from the community of Muslims in which the event took place for one year lest, in the hereafter, their punishment were to be roasted in a cauldron during the life of the grave (Barzakh), the place between death and resurrection, until the Day of Judgment should they died on it without repentance. This life is similar in concept to Catholic Purgatory, though it is not exactly the same.
The defense that Christians often erect in order to justify their non-observance of the Torah Laws, especially concerning what they eat, is three pronged, centering around, in the Gospels, Matthew Chapter 15 and Mark Chapter 7. They also cite Acts 10 from Luke’s scripture, and various passages from Galatians and Romansin which Paul argues the abrogation of Mosaic Law. These evidences I will, God willing, present and examine first. I will then discuss dietary law using Islamic proofs. Finally, I will present evidence that Jesus (may God praise him), came not to abrogate, but confirm, the Mosaic Law to the Jews, and examine the claim that Jesus(may God praise him) was to allow the people to distance themselves from that which had been added to it by the priesthood, and his mission was, as is written in the Quran:
“to attest the Law which was before me, and to make lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you…” [Quran, 6:50]
and thus that Christians are obliged, according to their scriptures, and now according to ours, to follow the Monotheistic Laws of God that are enshrined in the Quran, which confirms what is in the Gospel and Torah.
Read on: The Epistles