Laws of Religion
Laws of Islam Concerning Food
from the Holy Qur’an, major hadith collections
and Islamic jurisprudence
From Islamic Source Documents: Qur’an and Hadith
The Qur’an says to pay the amount due (zakat) for the benefit of the poor and to share one’s wealth, including food, with them directly. Muhammad says that people should give food to the hungry and also offer some of the food to those who serve a meal. Muhammad says that you should share your food with more people than it seems to be enough for. In fact, when a Muslim plants something that is eaten by someone else, or even by an animal, the person who planted is rewarded the same as for giving charity.
Abu Huraira (a close companion of Muhammad) said that the worst food is the food at a wedding feast to which only the rich have been invited or a wedding feast from which people are turned away or to which people who are invited do not come.
The Qur’an cautions against taking unjustly from the property of an orphan. However, if the custodian of an orphan's property is poor, the custodian may eat from the orphan's food. Muhammad gives permission to a woman, Hind, to take from her miserly husband, Abu Sufyan, without his knowledge or permission in order to feed her children, as long as the amount she takes is reasonable. If an animal is mortgaged, it is permitted to drink the milk from that animal because the person is spending money on it (by paying off the mortgage.)
In one story, Muhammad was unable to feed a guest because his family had no food at all, only water. Another man took in the guest and fed him, though his own children had to go without food as a result. This, according to the hadiths reporting this story, resulted in the revelation of a passage in the Qur’an (59:9) that praises those who are generous to poor immigrants.
Muhammad and his family would not eat food that was given in charity. They also would not eat food that was found because it might have been given in charity. Muhammad says that this is because charity is the impurities of people. However, Muhammad and his family would eat food that was received a gift, even if the same food had previously been charity to someone else and then given a gift to Muhammad and his family.
From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh§): The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd and Reliance of the Traveller
Zakat must be paid on a variety of types of animals and food crops including camels, cows, sheep, and crops that can be stored such as wheat, barley, dates and grapes (which can be stored as raisins). Zakat is a tax used to support the poor, though several types of people may receive funds from the zakat whether they are poor or wealthy, including a collector of the zakat and a warrior fighting in the cause of Allah (God).
According to Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school), it is obligatory to provide for one’s impoverished, disabled and child relatives if one has the capacity to do so. This applies to one’s parents, grandparents, etc., and to one’s children, grandchildren, etc., and also to one’s father’s wife.
Islamic scholars agree that the property of an orphan must be protected by the guardian to prevent unnecessary spending until the orphan reaches puberty. Imam Dhahabi (an important 13th-14th century Shafi‛i scholar quoted in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller) lists taking an orphan's property as an “enormity,” (which is defined on a previous page, Rules Concerning Dead Meat). However, Imam Dhahabi also says, as cited above from the Qur’an and hadiths, that if the guardian of an orphan is poor, taking some of the orphan's property is permissible as long as the amount taken is not excessive.
§The more general term sharia is often used loosely to mean the specific derived laws of fiqh, such as those summarized here.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
BK: Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.
DJP: The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.
RT: Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.
SR: al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
 QR 2:43, QR 2:110, QR 2:177, QR 2:277, QR 5:55, QR 9:71, QR 22:78, QR 27:3, QR 31:4, QR 73:20
 QR 2:177, QR 2:271-272, QR 30:38, QR 30:39, QR 51:19
 QR 76:8-9
 BK 7:65:286
 BK 7:65:370
 BK 1:10:576, BK 4:56:781, BK 7:65:304, ML 23:5106, ML 23:5108, ML 23:5109-5110, ML 23:5111, ML 23:5112
 BK 8:73:41
 BK 7:62:106, ML 8:3349
 ML 8:3353
 QR 4:10, QR 6:152
 QR 4:6, BK 3:34:411, BK 3:34:414, BK 4:51:27, BK 6:60:99, ML 43:7161, ML 43:7162-7163
 BK 3:34:413, BK 3:43:640, BK 7:64:272, BK 7:64:277, BK 7:64:283, BK 8:78:636 ,BK 9:89:275, BK 9:89:291, ML 18:4251-4252, ML 18:4253, ML 18:4254
 BK 3:45:688, BK 3:45:689
 BK 5:58:142, BK 6:60:411
 BK 2:24:562, BK 2:24:568, BK 3:34:271, BK 3:47:750, BK 3:47:751, BK 3:47:752, BK 3:47:753, BK 4:52:306, BK 7:62:34, BK 7:63:202, ML 5:2339-2340-2341, ML 5:2342, ML 5:2343, ML 5:2344, ML 5:2345, ML 5:2346, ML 5:2357-2348
 BK 4:52:306, ML 5:2347-2348
 BK 2:24:525, BK 2:24:570, BK 2:24:571, BK 2:24:572, BK 3:47:750, BK 3:47:751, BK 3:47:752, BK 3:47:753, BK 7:62:34, BK 7:63:202, BK 7:63:207, BK 7:65:341, ML 5:2349-2350, ML 5:2351, ML 5:2352, ML 5:2353-2354-2355, ML 5:2356, ML 9:3589, ML 9:3590, ML 9:3591-3592, ML 9:3594
 DJP 5.2 (Volume 1, pages 291-295), RT h2.1 (page 250), RT h3.2 (page 254)
 DJP 5.5.2 (Volume 1, pages 320-322), RT h8.8 (pages 267-268), RT h8.13 (page 270), RT h8.17 (page 272)
 RT m12.1 (pages 547-548)
 RT m12.2 (page 548)
 DJP 38.1 (Volume 2, pages 334-335)
 RT p8.1 (page 657)
 RT p8.2 (page 657)