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Foreigners and Their FoodConstructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law$
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David Freidenreich

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520253216

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520253216.001.0001

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“Eat the Permitted and Good Foods God Has Given You”

“Eat the Permitted and Good Foods God Has Given You”

Relativizing Communities in the Qur'an

(p.131) 9 “Eat the Permitted and Good Foods God Has Given You”
Foreigners and Their Food

David M. Freidenreich

University of California Press

The foundations of the Islamic approach to the classification of foreigners may be seen in passages of the Qur'an that address the intertwined themes of meat-related food restrictions, foreign dietary practices, and the food of foreigners. Qur'anic discourse about meat-related food restrictions regularly juxtaposes the dietary norms which believers ought to follow with the beliefs and practices of foreigners, demonstrating that adherence to these norms marks believers as distinct from idolaters and Jews. Passages that address these restrictions, however, express three different, albeit overlapping, ideas about the relationship between the Qur'an's audience of believers and members of other religious communities. Surahs ascribed to the Meccan period of Muhammad's prophethood (ca. 610–22) portray these dietary laws as a golden mean between two undesirable sets of food practices: those of idolaters on the one hand and those of Jews on the other. Believers, unlike idolaters, possess accurate knowledge of the divine will with respect to food but, as non-Jews, are not bound by the punitively rigorous laws which God imposed upon the Children of Israel. In contrast, most passages about dietary laws in surahs associated with the Medinan period (622–32) emphasize the distinction between believers and Jews while rhetorically associating the latter with idolaters. Whereas Meccan surahs treat Jews separately from idolaters, Medinan surahs conflate these communities. This chapter examines Meccan and Medinan texts in turn.

Keywords:   food restrictions, dietary laws, foreigners, idolaters, Jews, surahs, Meccan period, Medinian period

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