The Qu'ran reminds us animals and birds are 'communities like you'. So why do
so many Muslims break their fast with meat?
Not very, according to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, who argues that historically Muslims ate so little meat they were almost vegetarian. "Meat is not a necessity in sharia, and in the old days most Muslims used to eat meat – if they were wealthy, like middle class – once a week on Friday. If they were poor – on the Eids."
In today's world, meat-eating has taken on a new fervour, with many Muslims
demanding animal flesh as part of their daily diet. Just the other day, an
Egyptian journalist was relating to me how he attended a dinner at a local
organisation here in Cairo. When people arrived, questions began to fly across
the hall: "Where is the meat? We aren't going to have enough for everyone."
This statement by the ministry official goes against everything the prophet stood for, in the opinion of Gamal al-Banna, a prominent Islamic scholar who has come under attack in recent years for his "liberal" stance. Al-Banna told me that being a vegetarian and Muslim does not break any tradition and is in no way un-Islamic.