Thursday, December 31, 2009

Food Culture and Religion: Islam and Buddhism Perspective (by: Ulvia Z.)

Food is important part of religious observance and spiritual for many faiths such as Islam and Buddhism. The role of food in cultural practices and religious beliefs are complex and varies among individuals and communities. Understanding the role of food in cultural and religious practices is an important to show respect and to respond to the needs of people in religious communities. It’s also important to avoid assumptions about a person’s culture and beliefs.
The central of Muslim way of life is moderation in all things including eating and dietary habits. When doing according to the way of Allah, daily acts like eating are considered as form of worship. Islam applies the concept of Halal as main role of food to all areas of a person’s life and includes regulations surrounding food. Halal means lawful or permitted. All foods are allowed or Halal except for those that are considered harmful. Prohibited foods or other aspects of life are called Haram. The Haram foods include meat from carnivore animal such as pork, alcohol. Gelatin made from pork or other carnivore animals is forbidden, but some gelatin may be Halal. Muslim also has fasting period such as Ramadhan and the ninth day of Zulhijjah.

Differ from Islam role of food, the dietary rules of Buddhism, which is more of a life philosophy than a religious doctrine, depend on which branch of Buddhism is practiced and in what country. Most Buddhists choose to become vegetarian to avoid killing animals because Buddhists believe that Buddha cycled through various animal forms before attaining the form of a human being. But this is different with the concept of Halal-Haram in Islam. Buddhists also believes that violence or pain inflicted on others will rebound on us, hence the needs for a vegetarian lifestyle. Some of them also believe that a contributing cause of human aggression is violence against animals. Some Buddhists avoid meat and dairy products but the others only avoid beef. This is affected by cultural influences. Buddhist monks tend to fast in the afternoon. Buddhist monks and nuns are not allowed to cultivate, store or cook their own food. Instead, they must rely on ‘alms’, which are donations from believers. This sometimes includes meats, as monks and nuns are not allowed to ask for specific foods.


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