Customs and Rituals

Do Muslims follow specific dietary customs or rituals?

Muslim dietary practice is similar in many ways to Jewish traditions known as kashrut, or keeping kosher. Certain foods are forbidden altogether, except in direst need. These include intoxicating beverages, pork, blood, foods prepared or cooked with pork fat (some would include, for example, doughnuts and other fried breads), and animals that eat mainly carrion (i.e., scavengers). If non-Muslims invite Muslim friends for a celebration with a meal, it is important that they give due consideration to what they will serve. Muslims do not require the separation of meats from dairy products as do Orthodox Jews, but hosts should avoid pork of any kind if at all possible.

Meat of certain animals is acceptable only when the animal has been ritually slaughtered. As in every Muslim ritual, one begins by declaring the “intention” to perform the action religiously. After pronouncing the first part of the basmallah (In the name of God—leaving off the names Compassionate and Merciful) and the takbir (Allahu akbar, God is supreme), the butcher severs the jugular and windpipe with a single blade stroke. The idea is to drain as much of the blood as possible, for it symbolizes the life force. By custom, Muslims in various places consider certain foods traditional for festal occasions, such as the meal that breaks the daily fast of Ramadan and the celebration that marks the end of that month. Many of these customs are inspired by Muhammad’s own practice. For example, he is said to have broken his daily fast with a glass of water and a few dates before taking a meal, so Muslims generally try to do likewise.


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