The Lahore Ahmadiyya Islamic Movement
Showing Islam is Peaceful • Tolerant • Rational • Inspiring
www.ahmadiyya.orgA Research and Educational Website
1. Islam


Physical and spiritual food
2. Ahmadiyya Movement
3. Publications & Resources

Contact us
Search the website

Physical and spiritual food

Christians to receive spiritual bread of Islam by this Movement's efforts

'Id-ul-Fitr Khutba in London

by Zahid Aziz

(The Light & Islamic Review: Vol. 72; No. 2; Mar-Apr 1995; p.7-11)

Introduction / Sparse food of Holy Prophet and Companions / Example of Holy Prophet's Companions / Moses' followers ask for more food / Jesus' followers ask for food from heaven / Fulfilment of prayer for Jesus' followers / Spiritual bread for followers of Jesus / Ahmadiyya Movement to take spiritual food of Islam to Christian nations /

The month of fasting brings to mind the subject of food and eating, and its relation to the moral and spiritual progress of human beings. During the fast we refrain from food for the body in order to nourish the spirit. Even apart from fasting, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, as well as his Companions, have taught by their practical example that in order to reach a high spiritual and moral rank you should in any case eat very little, and eat the simplest food.

Islam certainly does not forbid us from consuming delicious, enjoyable and hearty meals, consisting of the finest foods available. The Quran clearly says that no one can forbid the good things of life which Allah has created for His servants. See ch. 7, v. 32. Therefore self-denial is not allowed by Islam. But while we may make use of and enjoy the best things, including best food, Islam requires that we do not become attached to them in our hearts, and that we always remain capable of doing without them and giving them up whenever it is necessary to give them up for a higher purpose and for the good of ourselves and our fellow beings.

Sparse food of Holy Prophet and Companions

The Holy Prophet Muhammad as well as his Companions had no attachment whatsoever to the material things and comforts of the world, and this is why they were so unconcerned about their physical food, and subsisted in the simplest way possible for a human being. (See reports in Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Ta'am, book 70.)

It is related in two separate reports, one by the Companion Abu Huraira and one by the Holy Prophet's wife Aishah (may God be pleased with them), that after settling in Madina the Holy Prophet and the people of his household never got to eat fully for more than three days continuously throughout his life. (Bukhari, 70:1 and 70:23.). In other words, there were never three days in a row when the Holy Prophet and his family were fully fed every day. They may have eaten fully one day, may be even the following day, but after that it would be back to the normal sparse eating. You must bear in mind that the Holy Prophet was, at this stage, the head of an entire community and the ruler of a state which consisted of a city at first, and then extended to the whole of Arabia. Therefore it was by choice that he thus lived.

His wife Aishah related that during the life of the Holy Prophet, "we used to subsist on dates and water". (Bukhari, 70:6.). Of course, the Holy Prophet was not dogmatic or inflexible about his austerity, and if it so happened that he was offered some dainty dish, he would not turn it down, with an air of superiority, claiming to be leading a simple life. Rather, he ate and enjoyed that blessing of God. But in the normal course of his life, he ate very little, and had whatever came to hand, however coarsely prepared or simple it might be.

He once told his followers: 

"The food of two people is sufficient for three, and the food of three is sufficient for four." (Bukhari, 70:11.)

He also said in a very reliable report of his sayings: 

"A true believer eats in one intestine; a disbeliever eats as if he has seven intestines." (Bukhari, 70:12.)

Disbeliever here carries the general meaning of someone who is unthankful to God. By following this teaching the problem of food shortage in the world can be relieved to a great extent. But could anyone today solve this problem by repeating the miracles recorded of Jesus whereby he increased a few loaves of bread so that a crowd of thousands was fully fed on them? You can judge from this which example is more practical to follow.

Example of Holy Prophet's Companions

The Companions of the Holy Prophet followed his example of eating very simple food, very frugally. Many of the Companions would go out before eating, in search of a needy person somewhere to bring him home and eat with him. They would not eat unless they brought home a needy person to share their food with. There are incidents showing that they disapproved of anyone who ate too much. (Bukhari, 70:12.)

Once, at a time after the Holy Prophet had died, one of his well-known companions, Abu Huraira, was passing by some people who were roasting meat. They invited him to join them. Abu Huraira suddenly became overcome by the memory of the Holy Prophet and said to them: 

"The Messenger of Allah left this world and never even got to eat bread to the full."

Recalling the simple, hard life of the Holy Prophet, Abu Huraira felt unable to accept their invitation. (Bukhari, 70:23.)

Therefore, to acquire the highest moral and spiritual position involves neglecting worldly comforts and needs, as shown by the lives of the Holy Prophet and his Companions.

Moses' followers ask for more food

Now we turn to the two great prophets before the Holy Prophet, namely Moses and Jesus. The followers of Moses, after crossing the Red Sea, had to undergo the hardship of living in the desert for several years, where they missed the comforts available to them in Egypt, even as slaves. However, God's purpose in imposing this hardship was to make them a better people. But they started complaining about the lack of food. According to the Quran they said to Moses: 

"We cannot endure one food, so pray thy Lord on our behalf to bring forth for us some of the things the earth grows, its herbs, and its cucumbers, and its garlic, and its lentils, and its onions." (2:61)

Moses said to them: 

"Would you exchange what is better for you for something inferior?"

It was better for them to gain moral nourishment through the hardship they were undergoing than hanker after physical food. But they still did not agree to follow this course, and as a result the Israelite nation failed in its moral development.

Jesus' followers ask for food from heaven

Similarly, according to the Quran, the disciples of Jesus asked of him: 

"Is thy Lord able to send down food to us from heaven?" (5:112)

and Jesus' reply was: 

"Keep your duty to Allah if you are believers."

That is to say, instead of praying to God to send food they should seek their spiritual betterment through keeping their duty to God. According to the Gospel of John, some followers of Jesus asked him to show them the sign of bringing bread down from heaven, and Jesus told them to seek the eternal bread, not the bread which decays but the "true bread from heaven". (See John, ch. 6, verses 31, 32 and 27.) Again, the meaning is that they should look for their spiritual sustenance.

The Quran then tells us that on the insistence of his followers for him to cause food to come from heaven, as a sign of his truth, Jesus prayed thus: 

"Our Lord, send down to us food from heaven which should be to us an ever-recurring happiness [or 'id] to the first of us and the last of us, and a sign from Thee, and give us sustenance and Thou art the best of the sustainers." (5:114).

Allah replied: 

"Surely I will send it down to you, but whoever disbelieves [or is ungrateful] afterwards from among you, I will chastise him with a chastisement with which I will not chastise anyone among the nations." (5:115)

The prayer then was certainly fulfilled, since this is what God says. A warning is also given that whoever is ungrateful (or rejects the favour of God) after the fulfilment shall be chastised with an unprecedented chastisement. This means that what shall be granted through the prayer must be something very great and quite unprecedented, because the chastisement for being ungrateful for it is so great as to be unequalled.

Fulfilment of prayer for Jesus' followers

It will be seen that Jesus' prayer was not only for his immediate followers, but for "the first of us and the last of us" -- Christians of all times. Also, it cannot be imagined that Jesus was praying only for physical food and sustenance, since according to the Gospels he had often mentioned bread and food in the spiritual sense. For example, he said: 

"Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew, 4:4)

"My food is to do the will of Him Who sent me, and to accomplish His work." (John, 4:34)

"Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life." (John, 6:27)

As regards the fulfilment of Jesus' prayer for food, let us in any case look first at its physical side. The later followers of Jesus, the nations of Christian origin, certainly have been granted plentiful food and prosperity, unparalleled in history. Food production has multiplied unimaginably because of scientific developments. It is indeed as if food is coming from heaven. Recently genetic engineering has been used at the University of Nottingham (England) to produce tomatoes which last longer and have better taste and flavour. The same research will now be used to improve fruits such as bananas.

Strangely enough, the gospels record many miracles of Jesus to do with increasing the amount of food and drink available, e.g. feeding the five thousand, turning water into wine, multiplying the fish caught by the disciples to an enormous amount. (See, for example, Matthew 14:15-21, Luke 5:4-9, and John, ch. 2.) That was symbolic of what was to happen to the followers of Jesus in later times, that they would be rolling in plenty of physical sustenance. Indeed, the prayer taught by Jesus, "give us this day our daily bread", has undeniably been fulfilled in the physical sense to the greatest measure.

Spiritual bread for followers of Jesus

As regards the spiritual sustenance being asked for in Jesus' prayer, that was fulfilled by means of the revelation of the Holy Quran as the spiritual and the eternal bread for the followers of Jesus. Just as physical sustenance, food and bread were made available by God in answer to this prayer, so was spiritual sustenance in the form of His final revelation in the Quran. That is the bread Jesus taught his followers to pray for. And what that chastisement for being ungrateful refers to, is that if those nations, having benefitted from the physical bread given to them so abundantly, refuse to recognise the Almighty Who gave them that bread, and reject His spiritual bread, which is the real aim of this prayer, then a chastisement will come which will be unprecedented. In other words, if you concentrate solely on attaining material progress and prosperity, neglecting your spiritual needs, as has been done by the leading nations of the world of Christian origin, then that will let loose various forces of destruction. And we see that in various forms, such as the most deadly and destructive weapons being used on earth, the environmental systems of nature being destroyed, directly due to the urge for more and more material gain.

We now ask, How will the spiritual food and bread sent by God reach the Christian nations? Jesus prayed that the food should be sent down to be a source of joy for "the first of us and the last of us". As regards the "first of us", in the early history of Islam, as it spread westwards, Christians living previously in the Roman empire received that bread and embraced Islam in large numbers. Then came a very long period of centuries, when Muslims gave up taking the bread of Islam to others, and a time eventually came when it could not even be imagined that a Christian would embrace Islam; on the contrary, all the factors were in favour of the spread of Christianity among Muslims.

Ahmadiyya Movement to take spiritual food of Islam to Christian nations

It was then that Allah sent His Mujaddid, the Founder of this movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in order that the spiritual food of Islam and the Quran be received by the followers of Jesus, and that his prayer be fulfilled regarding his followers of the latter times. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote in a poem: 

"As I have been given the light to convey to the Christian nations, that is the reason why I was given the title of 'son of Mary'."

in other words his title of 'Messiah'. This Messiah was properly equipped by Allah to take the bread of Islam to the Christians. If you read the Quran further from the above point where the prayer of Jesus is mentioned, it tells us that God will ask Jesus in the after-life whether he had taught to people that he should be taken as god, and he would reply that most certainly he had not; rather, he had taught people to serve the one and only God, and that he could only vouch for those of his followers whom he lived among during his life, but after his death he was no longer responsible for them, and only God could see what they did.

This tells us two important things about how to present Islam to Christians. Firstly, the Christian belief in trinity and in Jesus' divinity must be refuted, and secondly Jesus must be proved to have died as a mortal human being, and not be still alive somewhere in heaven. And these were the lines of attack that Hazrat Mirza sahib employed, through the guidance given to him by God. Unfortunately the so-called orthodox Muslims had come to hold wrong ideas which actually gave comfort and support to the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus. Hazrat Mirza sahib corrected those notions of the general Muslims, and showed that they were opposed to the Quran. This was the greatest step forward in taking the spiritual bread of Islam to the followers of Jesus. There were several other points of misunderstanding about Islam too which he corrected, thus opening the door to the acceptance of Islam.

I will take something highly topical. Among the totally wrong notions that developed among Muslim religious leaders, one is this death penalty for so-called blasphemy against the Holy Prophet Muhammad. In the Quran, and the life and teachings of the Holy Prophet, there is not the slightest trace of any penalty whatsoever to be imposed by Muslims upon someone who "insults" the Holy Prophet. The actual teaching of Islam is that Muslims should show patience if they hear words offensive to their faith, and should disregard and ignore any such abuse. It is these kinds of teachings of Islam which this Movement has always been stressing.

Yet in Pakistan a law was recently made, and alleged to be based on Islamic teachings, that anyone found guilty of insulting the Holy Prophet must be sentenced to death. You will have heard that two Christians were sentenced to death under this law in the last few days. Subsequently they were acquitted by a higher court. Both this law itself, as well as the farcical way in which this case was conducted, can only give Islam a very bad name in the eyes of any sensible and justice-loving human being.

In short, God created this movement for this age so that it may feed the world with the spiritual sustenance that was brought by the Holy Prophet Muhammad for all nations in the form of Islam and the Holy Quran, and so that the prayers of Jesus and his followers for the eternal bread from heaven are fulfilled.