|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
It looks quite unusual to find a person from the Arabian land to be a Vegetarian. It is with great surprise that people often Put the question to me, "Don't You take meat? Are you a Vegetarian?" Even in a country like India where a large number of people live On strictly vegetarian diet some are curious to know how I became a Vegetarian.
It was at the age of seventeen that I happened to read a book on mysticism. It left a deep impression upon my mind and I was attracted to Sufism and Mysticism. The book was a guide for me to develop the latent powers in me on the way to spiritual life. For a Sufi, Vegetarianism is a sine qua non. This was my first lesson in Vegetarianism and since then I have been both a Sufi and Vegetarian.
In 1923 I attended the International Psychical Research Conference in Paris by special invitation where I associated myself with many societies devoted to the development of spiritual life. I also attended similar meeting in Vienna, Berlin and Warsaw and I found that members of societies in these cities lived on vegetarian diet in order to develop the latent faculties in them.
Syria's famous Philosopher and Poet, Abu-l-Ala-Almaorri, who was a great Vegetarian of his time, infused the love of Vegetarianism and protection of animal life by his masterpieces and writings about the importance of Vegetarianism. In a couplet in Arabic he says: "People catch the flea and kill in; on the other hand they give alms to the poor. Better it is to free the flea (and not to kill it) than to give alms to the poor. Why so? because life is dear (precious) to them both and they are anxious to live longer."
I have found that Sufis during the period of their spiritual training not only do not take meat but also abstain from taking any kind of animal product. They do not cage the birds. Instances are not wanting wherein they have freed the caged birds after purchasing them. A genuine Sufi never harms a living being. Hence Sufis never hunt animals.
My experience of more than fifty years has led me to believe that vegetarian diet is easier to digest and keeps the physical mental and spiritual powers intact. Specially if a Vegetarian arranges his life after Nature's Rules by taking deep breaths in open air, enjoying fresh air 24 hours with balanced diet, his life will be certainly pleasant, his health sound, and he will reach the zenith of his age happy and successful.
A child eats what is given to him by his parents. He is not conscious of the kind of diet given to him. After some time he becomes habituated and it is difficult for him to up the habit easily. There are countries where vegetables, fruits, and cereals are not produced in sufficient quantities. The people there have no alternative but to eat meat. In cold countries people generally eat meat which is quite stimulating to them. But it does not affect their body and mind. In European countries like Britain, France and Germany, dieticians have proved that to maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health the vegetarian diet is the best and advise people in those countries to adopt it. That is why the Vegetarian Movement has been spreading rapidly in those countries.
But I must give a word of caution to the Vegetarian enthusiasts that a non-Vegetarian should take to Vegetarianism only in a rational way. The diet should be balanced and mixed. Non-Vegetarians should not be looked upon as sinners, as is generally the case with many Vegetarians. Our aim should be to convert them to our viewpoint only by bringing home to them the injurious effects of meat-eating on body, mind, and soul.