“Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” (Quran 2:172) “Eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth.” (Quran 2:168)
I went to the shop to buy sugar this weekend. In the aisle of my grocery store I was confronted by an interesting choice. There were two packets of sugar. Both of them were certified organic, non-GMO, etc. but one was Fair Trade and the other was not. The fair trade sugar was smaller than the other although they were the same price.
Like most people I have to keep an eye on how every penny is spent in my home. Alhamdulillah, we are not poor but we are also not wasteful. So the question of how I spend my grocery money is usually settled by getting more bang for my buck. But this time I hesitated.
When Allah tells us to feed ourselves and our families lawful, wholesome, good food, was he talking about FDA standards or something deeper? Many of you know what goes on in facotry farms and slaughter houses. You have seen how cows and chickens are treated from birth until slaughter. Many of you are digusted by the horrible treatment of these animals and have opted for cage free, humane certified meat or simply removed meat from your diet. But what about the other things we eat?
Coffee, bananas, and sugar are three of the most valuable commodities on earth. They are argicultural products that are grown primarily by black and brown people in tropical climates and sold all over the world. Through a system of checks and balances the price of these staples are held down so that growers often linger in generational poverty. In reality, the real price of the sugar I was buying was probably twice as much as I was paying.
By buying fair trade items I am choosing to spend a bit more money for less product, but I am also choosing to make sure that the growers are empowered. If my cup of tea causes poverty and suffering it loses all sweetness for me. If the bananas in my kitchen are the result of virtual slave labor, I can’t call them wholesome, lawful or good, can you?
So, I bought the smaller packet of sugar. I also bought local produce and made a conscious decision to buy fair trade whenever I could. I beleive that we can reform the system and encourage positive reforms if we vote with our dollars. Yes, my grocery bill is slightly higher. However, providing my children with wholesome, clean food bought with halal means is a duty I must fulfill. I hope that as you prepare your iftar and suhoor meals you take into consideration the quality of the ingredients.