Deep Tafsirs

Rerouting Toward Simplicity

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“More is better.”
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Celebrities wave that motto from the rooftops, and we’ve swallowed it whole. More is better, they say-—more variety on your table spread, more gadgets to top last year’s collection, more fashion in your closet to match this season’s trends. More is better, and those who tread the offbeat trails of simplicity are missing out.
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What spawned from these three words is a generation that consumes from whim rather than wisdom, impulse rather than intent. We forget that our prophets attached divine purpose to every provision-—food, especially. In every olive entering their mouths, they found a healing. In every bite of bread entering their bodies, they sought strength. To them, food was medicine, not something to abuse with excess. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
Our Qur`ān explores this topic in surat Quraysh, where Allah addresses the Makkans: “Let them worship the Lord of this House, [the One] who `aṭʿamahum from hunger and made them safe from fear.” He calls them to remember His benevolence toward them when He `aṭʿamahum, when He fed them JUST enough to reach satiation. Not abundantly. Not restrictively. Just enough. Something odd surfaces from this verse’s diction, and it clashes with our understanding of benevolence…
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Generally speaking, we associate generosity and benevolence with the ability to give abundantly-—with the grandmother who serves you a platter of cookies, though you’re the only guest (“eat up,” she tells you); with the older sister who offers you a nonstop shopping pass in her closet (“borrow my scarves anytime”). Their offerings know no bounds. But what of the host who serves you just enough? Who closes down the all-you-can-eat buffet? Whose service offers just simple satiation-—just enough nutrition to go about your day? Is that benevolence?
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To our Rabb, it is. By using the word `aṭʿamahum (eating only to satiation) and not its synonym `ashbaʿahum (eating to complete fullness), our Rabb dispenses a fresh perspective on food: the blessing of the meal lies in simple satiation, not overindulgence, and any excess is bound to engender illness. Remember that.

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