Food in Sufi Culture

The Sufi have many practices and cultural foundations rooted in their treatment of food in preparation and presentation. Additionally, many of their practices are influenced by the surrounding cultures and the practices described in the Qur’an, the Islamic book of scriptures. Essentially, the Sufi food practices are derived from Islamic beliefs and seen shared throughout Turkey and among cultures whose beliefs derive from Islam.

Firstly, the food must be considered Halal, or clean, before it is prepared. Food that is impure is worthless and considered dangerous to consume. The Qur’an clearly commands followers to “eat of that [meat] upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you are believers in His verses” (Sahih International, 6:118). However, it is also possible to consecrate the food at the table if the food comes from an unknown source such as a market or as a gift by praying over it before consumption.

The Sufi also have rules regulating eating food from and among certain people. The aforementioned notion that gifts from bad people are Haram, or unclean, is very true in Sufi culture, and it extends around the bad person themselves. If, for example, a perfectly clean meal is prepared and shared amongst bad people, the “meal” is considered Haram. The food is fine, but by sharing the spiritual process of consumption with an impure person the ritual is ruined. The people that one shares a meal with matter in part because the act of sharing is so important to the Sufi people. Like most Turkish cultures, it is expected to prepare much more food than is needed to ensure that everyone is satisfied and to encourage generosity among peers.

This generosity, however, goes hand in hand with the Sufi’s strong belief in fasting. For many Muslims, the month of Ramadan is a highly holy holiday where people fast from dawn until dusk. The holiday celebrates the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, and highlights the self-discipline that Muhammad had and aims to emulate and respect it. To the Sufi, abstaining from food is just as important as eating and sharing it.

As for the actual food itself, once the fast has ended, the Sufi people bring out dates and other fruit with water, milk, and juices to drink. The food varies from region to region, but in Turkey the Sufi traditionally eat Ashura, a pomegranate and nut pudding of sorts. The Sufi are also known for their grains. They eat many types of breads in addition to various rice grains.

Finally, the Sufi people also consider food to be a resource both spiritually and communally. Essentially, Sufi Masters were able to create or produce food for people and they were centers of community. The attraction through food was the creation of bonds between people, and collecting in the houses of these masters created hubs for local groups and among regions. To this end, food was a social resource for the Sufi people. Again, since food moderation and starvation are signs of self-control, the Masters controlled which people should get food. For the Masters, bestowing food was a miracle-like activity. Miracles are a major element of many religions and communities, and to the Sufi miracles often manifested as the ability to provide food, again linking to the value of generosity.

Such Masters and their miraculous power to create food is essential to the formation of Sufi communities. This tradition has been carried on in fasting and discipline, great generosity, and sharing meals with people who are kind and wholesome. These elements of Sufi culture remain, as do their traditional foods and festivities.

6 thoughts on “Food in Sufi Culture

  1. Michael Palacio

    This culture sure seems to be the solution I am looking for in Cattle Ranching essay. It seems that the world’s overconsumption of beef has driven people in countries such as Brazil to cut down their remaining forest for cattle pastures. In the Amazon, this is a huge problem because farmers are being forced to expand their farms into the forest which is consider one of the most environmentally diverse areas on the planet. The Sufi Culture and its restrictions on food preparation and presentation could be the type of mindset that would lessen the effects of deforestation. In places like the United States, many people are eating beef that’s production has caused some of the highest deforestation rates in the last 20 years. If more people were conscious of where their food comes from like the Sufi, it could trigger a complete reconsideration of modern food production methods.

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  2. Robert Garrant

    The sentence ” Essentially, the Sufi food practices are derived from Islamic beliefs and seen shared throughout Turkey and among cultures whose beliefs derive from Islam” shows how the Sufi to view their meals as a sacred ritual. I wrote my paper on the food in the Roma culture and how it’s starting to help the Roma assimilate with other cultures. One of the distinctive differences is that the Sufi only eat food they view as clean and Roma will accept what they can get their hands on. The Roma diet is based on Availability and Affordability rather than the Sufi diet is mostly based on their spirituality.

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  3. Gregory Price

    I wrote my paper on the Alawites who are another islamic culture from the Northern Levant of Syria. They are not nearly as spiritual with their diets as the Sufi culture is, but community and sharing the meal with others is a huge part of Alawite culture. The Alawites also celebrate the month of Ramadan finishing each day with communal meals of friends, family, and neighbors. Most food is local, and grown or raised by the Alawite locals who prepare this food for their meals. It is very interesting how much respect and value these cultures have towards their food, and community.

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  4. Gregory Price

    I wrote my paper on the Alawites who are another islamic culture from the Northern Levant of Syria. They are not nearly as spiritual with their diets as the Sufi culture is, but community and sharing the meal with others is a huge part of Alawite culture. The Alawites also celebrate the month of Ramadan finishing each day with communal meals of friends, family, and neighbors. Most food is local, and grown or raised by the Alawite locals who prepare this food for their meals. It is very interesting how much respect and value these cultures have towards their food, and community.

    Reply
  5. Diane Dyess

    I found this post to be extremely interesting! I had no idea that this culture had such a process regarding food. I find it intriguing that they place food and religion together. I also never knew that food from an unknown source was not clean. I also did not realize they connected their food so highly with religion and spirituality. I think it is awesome that food is such a big part in their culture. In my Vienna Bridge class, we learned that the food is also a pretty big part of their culture and very important to them, but they do not connect with it much on a spiritual or religious level. My project was specifically on coffee in Vienna. Coffee in Vienna is huge. The coffee house culture is also really interesting and has been a big part of the Austrians lives for a very long time. While coffee is a little different than food, I found it interesting that my topic also was extremely important and a big part of their culture. From this post I learned about how the culture you picked put a big emphasis on food. I always find it so interesting when a culture does this, because food is such a great way to come together, especially when a culture places food on a level along with religion and spirituality. I personally do not identify with a culture specifically that places food on that level, but I think it is a great thing. I was really able to connect some of the points to you made to how Austrians view food in their culture, along with differences. The topic of food can be tough to write about but this post was extremely interesting and I definitely learned something new!

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  6. Matthew Waskiewicz

    There is a lot of good information in here Paul, this was a good read! It’s interesting to see so many practices involved with the preparation of the food. I had no idea that the Sufi where so spiritual when it came to not just preparing the food but also consuming it with the right people. When I read the sentence, “It is expected to prepare much more food than is needed to ensure that everyone is satisfied and to encourage generosity among peers” I felt that this was something that I could connect with. Whenever guests were over, or we would be eating amongst other people there would always be a generous portion of food on the table, to make sure that there was enough for everyone. Food is such a great topic to talk about because food is a very good way to bring people and communities closer together. It was very interesting to learn more about the Sufi’s culture and about the strong connection between the Qur’an and the food they eat.

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