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Food and Hunger In Islam: Mystical Consideration.

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As-Salaam alaikum,

In his book, 'Futuhat al-Makkiyyah',  Sayyadi Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), may Allah be Merciful to him, devoted a whole chapter entitled the Presence of the Nourisher (Hadrat al-muqit), in which  Sheikh Sahl Ibn Abdullah al-Tustari's ideas on this subject were elaborated. He mentions a telling incident:--

                         ''He [Sahl] was asked about nourishment, to which he replied 'Allah'!  It was then said to him, 'We are asking

                             about food,' to which he [again] replied, 'Allah'.  Then the questioner said: 'I am asking you about the nourishment

                            of bodies or persons.' Sahl [then] knew that the questioner was ignorant of what he intended and so Sahl descended

                          [to his level] by an answer with another breath, different from the first breath... then Sahl said to him, 'What have you

                         to do with them', meaning the bodies, 'leave the houses to their Builder. If He wills He will destroy them and if He wills

                        He will fill them.'  Sahl thus retained his first answer but in another form. The house is filled through its dweller and

                       nourishment [of the body] is Allah just like he said the first time, except that [now] the questioner was satisfied with

                     the second answer.''

A slightly modified version of this event is cited in Abu Talib al-Makki's book, 'Nourishment of Hearts (Qut al-Qulub)', where al-Makki writes:--

         ''Sahl was asked about nourishment. He replied, 'his nourishment is Allah Most High.'  The man said, 'I asked about his

          bodily sustenance.' He replied, '[it is] the Remembrance of Allah.'  The man said, 'I asked about food.'  He replied: 'his meal

        is knowledge.'  The man [then] said again: 'I meant food for the body.'  He said: 'What do you have to do with the body? Leave

      the body to the One who took charge of it in pre-eternity, He will  take charge of it now.'

What all this establish is that austerity regarding food is not rooted in asceticism for its own sake, but in a mystical vision that identified Allah Ta'ala not just as the Provider of nourishment, but the nourishment itself. And as observed by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali in his 'Ihya Ulumuddin',  ''Wisdom and Knowledge lie in hunger whereas disobedience and ignorance lie in satiation.''

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