Patrick Bensen: Bismillah. As-salaamu ‘alaykum!
Dawood Yasin: Wa ‘alaykum as-salaam wa barakatuhu.
Patrick Bensen: I want to hear about this conference. Were you able to go to this conference? I know you were you were sick – your worked for who knows how long to put this huge event together, and then ended up being extremely ill for the big weekend!
Dawood Yasin: Yeah, we had been planning it for quite some time. And you know, I thank everyone who helped. We were ready to roll, and the Wednesday before the conference – my daughter had been sick for the week, and I was able to avoid it, and people in my office – so someone who works for me was out for, this thing had him for solid two weeks, and just people around me are calling me: “Hey, I’ve been out of work for 10 days, this flu is really bad!” And praise God, I haven’t dealt with the flu or something like this in probably 15 years plus, maybe, I’m not sure.
But yeah, that thing grabbed me on the Wednesday and I was I was knocked out. I was literally in bed, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Friday, about 90 minutes before the program, I was able to get up and prepare myself and walk down – I thought that I was going to give the opening address, and I asked Imam Zaid at the last minute, “Can you just step in and do this? I just don’t have the strength to do it.” So I was able to attend first night just spectating. And the second day I did host my panel.
But that’s not it. Actually, the interesting thing is that in that state – my wife was actually in Utah – and I had to fly out immediately after the conference, literally run out the door of the conference, and catch a flight to Utah, and then drive back with her in a Prius. So really the conference was a cakewalk man – driving back from from Salt Lake City in a in the Prius, at my size, it’s bad on a on a good day, but when you’ve got this when you got a flu, it was it was something else.
Patrick Bensen: That’s intense, subhan’Allah. Especially because, I mean, it’s so funny because you take such good care of your body! And and obviously, everyone who knows you knows that about you – you’re always doing these very elaborate juice concoctions and all that – the healthiest of healthy eating is what you do. And the weekend of your biggest event around good quality halal food – he’s too sick to talk!
Dawood Yasin: Yeah. The timing was incredible. I mean, if that’s not, you know this this metaphor in the English, I think it is it, you know, “Man plans and God laughs.” I think that was definitely a manifestation of that.
Patrick Bensen: Subhan’Allah.
I wanted to ask, if you insh’Allah could give a quick synopsis of how you came to healthy food – how you made this decision? Because it’s, as you know, it’s a lot of work. It’s something that takes some pretty serious effort, and intention, and planning, and strategy, and continual decisions in our world. So how did you end up making this decision to to commit to healthier food?
Dawood Yasin: Let’s go – I’ll take it back for a moment, because I like what you said about intention, and commitment, and hard work, so to speak. What are we going to talk about, to mean, what you just described, and that was kind of my pre Islam. That is a description of ihsan for me, what you just mentioned, and so, later, once I was able to make those two connections, I think that’s how it’s maintained. And that’s what I used to kind of drive at that.
And perhaps you seen it in some of the things I write as well too, like, as far as my family, feeding them foods that are healthy for them and keep them healthy – and hopefully they’ll build those habits in their life – I just see that as an expression of love, really taught. If I think about, like, I love my kids, I want to make sure that every morsel of food that goes into their body to the best of our ability is is is the best that we can is the best that we can give them.
So I think that’s, that’s what you know how I think about that, going back, I think it was probably being in the fashion industry and just other people around me were eating really clean. So in the 90’s in New York, people in that industry, I was going to the gym five days a week, I was same height I am now obviously, but I was probably about 192 pounds, and just credibly lean, biking everywhere, being in the water a lot for most of the time in the summer is and, and just being fit and active.
So I would say the one thing I think really turned it for me was when I was in Paris one summer, and probably my first time at an open market. And just like, you know, here’s some fresh mint and we’re going to put this in our tea, and here’s some, you know, it was just wasn’t like, packaged tomatoes, it was like, we bought these tomatoes, so that dirt on them somewhere connected to the vine! And just that sparked it, I remember the smells and just how good that food tasted.
Patrick Bensen: Mashallah. So, that experience – were you Muslim at that time, or was that was before you converted?
Dawood Yasin: That was before I converted. And I think we ate, you know, I was eating pretty clean then, obviously not knowing a lot of the things that I know now, the impact of foods with regard to inflammation and other things like that. And again, when you’re 20 something that’s all like, way in the future.
Now, you know, I’m taking any and every advantage that I can to try and help prevent myself from from joints swelling up and being stiff. And I’ve just seen it a lot arthritis in my family, and just try to do as much as I can, from my side, to prevent those types of things from happening to my body. I’m, like I said, I just I haven’t been on the mats. And we just rolled for probably 90 minutes at five minute intervals here. We just kept swapping in swapping out and I’m 50 years old in September, God willing, and I feel good, I feel not even really at what I could be doing either.
So that’s always kind of this thing that motivates me to push me forward. And so if I can combine exercise and diet, I want to hopefully be able to inspire people to say that, “We don’t have to accept the conditions that our body is in right now. We can take it slow and move forward at whatever pace works for us.”
Patrick Bensen: Subhan’Allah. So I’m understanding that eating good food, it was initially something that you did to keep yourself in good physical condition, and partly related to your career at the time. And also this general experience, like you mentioned in Paris, that you get this food that just different, you had these vegetables that you still remember today – was that 25 years ago or something? And then – I think we probably share this experience – coming into Islam, then you have this additional layer that you have to deal with.
Dawood Yasin: Yeah. One of the things I think is interesting, and maybe it would have been different if I was if I had grown up in the Midwest, you know, consuming meat, the Illinois and, you know, and kind of places like this, where it’s like, you know, the read me, you know, is the staple, staple protein of one’s diet, mine was a little bit different, I think, because growing up on an island and around growing up in the ocean, really, I think, what our supplement for that was really seafood. So I was eating a lot of fish, just as a kid growing up, I really wasn’t a big like red meat, I need to have a state kind of guy. Always love chicken. And, and so we also did grow up eating a lot of upland bird, you know, and pheasant and rabbit and gain dear as well, too. So I had this guy of variety of protein. And beef really wasn’t a part of it. And I know that you didn’t mention just beef, per se, but I just wanted to to mention that.
Um, I think what happens, like you said is that all of a sudden you begin to win that transition happens. And I think I think it’s kind of a transition within a transition. Right? First you have this transition into Islam. And now you have to deal with all of the, you know, a law that is connected to your meat, then you have to deal then you kind of have a second awakening, if you will, which is well what is the quality that I’m being served in this meat. And so I think it sends you on like on a quest to move even further into into the space of searching for for every I space, I sound like vast wilderness if I could see if we can stay that right. Right, I feel people that are in this space. I really, you know, trailblazing and and looking at this. But I would say that, you know, once you begin to understand the metaphysical realities of food and impact on the relationship, as we talk through our tradition, all of a sudden, this thing takes on a whole different meaning and a different kind of need for attention for to really be the best quality.
And the other thing I would say that I think is really interesting Patrick is that when when you look at like a slaughter around lead, for example, you know, when we finish our, our hajj, at the ‘aqiqa, when a child is born, other type of ritual sacrifices, you have to ensure the highest quality of that animal, right, no physical defects that are on it. It can’t be blind, you know, it can’t have you know, some sort of outward skin ailments or other things like that. And I find it really interesting, because what I understood what I took from it is that we want to ensure that the gift that you’re giving, because in most of these scenarios, you’re actually gifting more of this meat than you would take for yourself. But two thirds goes out to charity. And one third remains with you. But you can also give all parts is that we want to ensure the gift that we’re given is the best gift to people. I thought that was really powerful.
Patrick Bensen: Mash’Allah. Yeah, absolutely. I definitely feel that, you know, that you mentioned sort of like a vast wilderness that, you know, you you really have to really have to search for this, because it’s not, I think there was an era when just halal meat of any kind was very hard to get.
Dawood Yasin: That’s right.
Patrick Bensen: And a lot of people just kind of gave up, you know, that, that, that that’s a solution that people…
Dawood Yasin: And adopted a fatwa that said, hey, it’s okay, you know, America is Christian country, and so therefore, we can eat all of their meat!
Patrick Bensen: Yeah. And, and seeking it, you know, I The way I see it, you know, I following that, that’s why it’s it this? You know, I don’t I don’t definitely don’t want to knock anybody who does it. You know, that’s, that’s fine. And all, but it does. It, it, you kind of detached from what’s actually, the, it’s odd to me to treat it as a general thing, because you’re eating food that came from somewhere, there’s a reality to where that food came from. And if you just say, Oh, it’s, you know, the foods of the People of the Book, it’s like, you could actually follow that food back to where it came from. Verify that or not, you know, that there’s, it’s not a general case. And I think seeking out good quality food, you have to be very specific.
I remember something you said years ago about a scholar you met in Yemen, who had said that? I think it was either in his youth or maybe in the time of his parents are the generation just passed that people people had eat when they would eat bread, they would they knew every single person who would touch that food before it came to them.
Dawood Yasin: And the thing is, it’s it’s, you know, what I think about Patrick in that is, is looks like we’re dealing with an industry that is that is prohibiting transparency. You know, so I’m like to meet, if that doesn’t set up a red flag for you. Right, then then that, I guess, is a major problem for me. Like, if you don’t want to allow people to come in and see. Now maybe you may claim that there is some sort of practices that you are doing, and other people, you don’t want them to mimic them, you don’t have a patent for it yet. Okay, perhaps that’s arguable on that side.
However, when you see that these same places that are are not only allowing transparency, and access are are being cited, then for violations of certain things, amount of chemicals that are released into water sources, because of the, or the byproduct of the of the of the animals waste, and it contains, you know, antibiotics, and it contains hormones and other things such as this, that that are finding their way into our waterways. Um, you know, I just, I’m gonna, I’m not going to align myself with that, like, that’s a major problem for me, and any steps that I can do to avoid that, that’s the path that I want to be moving towards. So like, okay, you want to take that, and that’s how you want to move, then, like, You showed me who you are, and I’m not going to subject myself to that,
Given also the history of, of with then within, you know, kind of these large corporations that are that are dealing with this that are seem to be, you know, accepting it as part of their fiscal planning that, you know, maybe if there’s a class action suit, then we’ll just deal with it, because we make, you know, X amount of money, so therefore, we can handle that financially, which means what, we’re okay if people are going to get sick, because we’ll just have to deal with it financially, less, that’s insane. And that’s what I’m kind of, I’ve seen enough to know that that’s what I don’t want a part of,
you know, the question, also, the thing that you said is that I feel with inside of the Muslim community, it’s like, what I hear a lot is like, brother, we have so many other things that are going on in our lives that are so important that we need to deal with right now. And so don’t make don’t make things difficult, you know, this conversation around me and other things. And I think really, what, in essence, I here for that is change is difficult to pick that conversation somewhere else right now. Because you can’t tell me that, you know, and I think collectively, we’ve done that, to a point where it seems like it is something which is peripheral, and no longer central in our tradition.
But if you go back, and you begin to look at the literature, commentaries within the Qur’an, obviously, the literature from hadith, and you look at the practitioners of it, that’s a whole nother thing, how did they pull this out and apply it to their lives, you will constantly see their emphasis on ensuring that the highest quality of food, you know, that they could ensure was entering their, their, their, their bodies.
Now, I’m not just talking only the quality of the food itself, but the manner in which food the manner in which people purchased their food, like what like, wealth. that was a big thing that came up in my studies was this idea of, of, of, or even, maybe we’ll begin to unpack that a little bit, but I just want to say that introducing this idea, I thought, really, I was going to nail it, I was going to find, you know, all this literature and in our tradition that that exists about, you know, ethics, and, you know, animal husbandry ethics, in, you know, in the humane treatment of animals,
and I didn’t, the majority of what I found, and I used for kind of, you know, tough sear, that are we’re, we’re pretty much accepted. But but but but most people both Sunni’s and ensuring Well, it talked about money, it talked about your money.
And I thought to myself, okay, that’s interesting, because now perhaps that was the issue that they had to deal with at the time, which I think we’re coming compound, we have that issue combined with the fact that this is some sort of like, you know, bad you laboratory experiment, that if, you know, scholars of pre modern times came in and saw this, they would say what we don’t like, Whoa, this isn’t what we were talking about, you know, because of the default is main pasture raised, the all of the things that you see right now that we’re trying to move back towards, and when you read books, that’s the default that they’re talking about.
And we haven’t even entered into that conversation, you know, like that.
So there’s like, well, it’s not in the literature. No, it’s not in the literature, because it doesn’t need to be in the literature. That was that’s that’s the thing that I find all the time. Very interesting.
Patrick Bensen: Yes, subhan’Allah. I mean, I know that in farming, I don’t know how. I mean, I guess I would say, when you’re handling animals, when you’re around animals and responsible for their care, like, it’s a little hard to not want the best for them. You know, that’s just a very natural thing. And certainly, I think that was the default in pretty much the entire world as far as, as far as I’ve understood it. You know, so and, and I would say, it’s, it’s strange, my experience being around, you know, animal processing and agriculture is that it’s very strange to see people in situations where animals are not treated well, it’s very disturbing. So it and it’s only possible, because, you know, these things are they happen out of our sight [[[, you know,]]] and then they come to us packet, just and oftentimes processed in a way that [[[, you know,]]] it just looks like some food that you recognize, and you don’t you don’t see the reality behind it.
Dawood Yasin: Yeah. Hide, that hides the type of transgressions that are carried out against those animals, right?
But now, that’s only if you’re a materialist, we, we are people of metaphysical causality, right? So there’s a whole nother level to this thing that we have to engage with, and concern ourselves with. And that’s what I’m saying, you know, I was reading something, today, I’m reading a text with our students on Mondays. He remembers on one of the, one of the early scholars, Shibly, I believe his name was he he said, he said, and just in terms of, of, of his talking about, you know, being full, and, and, and, and having kind of an empty stomach and engaging what he said was that, you know, I never found myself so willing to be admonished by others, except when I was in a state of hunger.
And I thought to myself, man, look where we are now! And I will be interesting to look at the correlation between obesity and when people like to see how like, like, like, you know, giving counsel to people stops! you know, another 100%, but I’m just saying, like, just interesting, and you begin to you begin to see these things, right? There’s a metaphysical reality to the fact that we are obese! And maybe it’s the fact that, you know, we won’t even listen to advice to people anymore.
Patrick Bensen: Yes, subhan’Allah, I think you also, when you mentioned the, you know, I’ve heard this as well that when people say, you know, this is a peripheral issue, there are more pressing issues that we we need to deal with, be you know, then good quality food. I’ve always responded to that, that there’s, it’s kind of a logic, it’s a logical fallacy to say that the food is a separate issue, because you’re talking about something that physically becomes you, on a material level, and then there are spiritual levels that we can only partly understand, you know, of that.
So, it would be like if your body is a house, it’s not like something that’s happening out, across the road somewhere is the food, it’s actually inside – whatever you’re doing with food totally pervades everything else that you do. And really colors it in ways that you can see and perceive, and in ways that you can’t.
Dawood Yasin: On that point, you know, here’s the thing, Patrick. What if we could begin to like, categorize like, we had buckets. Right, right. And we’re like, Okay, um, well, this city that we’re seeing, because we say there’s a periphery that like foods approval issue, and there are more pressing issues. Okay. Fair play?
Let’s unpack that, that. Are these pressing issues? Do they include like jealousy? include envy include anger? Do they include? You’re going right? Do they include these, like blameworthy character traits that are inside of the human being?
And then if so, how do we then say that our food like you said so beautifully, which becomes a part of us physically, and metaphysically, which is understood, right? Through our tradition, because when Allah says that a person, you know, is traveling and in the hadith, you know, in the pulse of Islam says, He raised his hands and he supplicate and he says, “Ya Rabb, ya Rabb,” and Allah responded by saying, his food is how awesome is drink is her arms clothing is how long? How can I answer him, when he’s in a state? What his supplication is promised by a lot to be accepted. Right? God is accepting the do the supplication of the traveler.
But now we’re saying there are conditions. So what if, on one level, we’re not even dealing with a cause that is the root or at the root of these pressing issues?
Patrick Bensen: Masha’Allah. Imam Dawood, I want to respect your time. But before we thank you so much, first of all, but I want to hear a little bit more about what’s next for this halal tayyib conference that I think I I saw the live stream on Friday, and I understand probably the rest of it was recorded. And there’s a there’s a journal coming out associated with it as well. I guess for you know, even before that, what are your goals for what do you what do you hope to accomplish? And where does it go from here?
Dawood Yasin: Yeah. So two things, thank you. And thank you for what you do and what you continue to do. And and, and also, I want to, I want to actually get today I want to head out and film a little bit, because I want to show people the work that’s happening here on the permaculture garden. We’ve got it, we’ve got a garden, we’re given two gifts, to to to get very generous gifts, we’ve got 35 tree of fruit bearing trees, orchard that’s going in on campus, then we have 22 raised beds that are going in and they’re these kind of honeycomb hexagons, that I think will be both aesthetically pleasing and will produce a lot of food. And I’d love to get you out because we were just received some information from the city of Berkeley that we can keep chickens up here as well, too. So we want to do honey and chicken, as well. So so both for four layers and four boilers as well.
But you know, what I’m thinking about in terms of, of of this is that it’s a vehicle to begin to have practical application of some of the concepts that we’re talking about here, have a kind of research on some things that we’re seeing inside of our community. And I know we have a common friend here Nuri Freelander, God bless him. He’s about to finish up his PhD at Harvard in this area and his work. And he started this website, which I know that you are now taking over and God bless you and your work here about Yon well, and I think it’s really beginning to get people to ask these questions of themselves consumption questions, production questions.
You know, and and look at these patterns of how were they done differently? How can we take those ideas, principles, universals love to see that we can do everything that people did, you know, in other times, but there are principles and universals I believe that with intentionality we can begin to examine them and implement them and I really think first on a micro level i i think i’m not you know, let’s see what does it look like if our if our houses of worship are producing food? What does that do to people?
Well, I’ve seen it you know, form communities here have some very diverse people you know, of providing for for for for people within the community in Oakland, some of the churches that are doing it here, synagogues that are doing it as well to I’ve been to a couple of panels, couple of groups that I’ve been a part of their Um, so I think that’s kind of where we’re at with the conference is more kind of bringing in academic and thought leaders in this area to kind of guide us in this conversation and then from there looking at ideas that we can can perhaps a work on in smaller chunks through the year and then as terms far as the journal is to be able to give people access to that information. And I just I think that as we begin to push this out further
Like one of the things that I think is really interesting here Patrick that I’m hopeful of is that you know, I think a lot of people are will choose to say well I’m just not going to eat me okay. And some of that happens perhaps because of ethical decision right. And and and you know, what I find is that the same things that you have a problem with in terms of how animal husbandry is happening how the actual slaughter happens you know don’t don’t put label of Islam on that I think couldn’t be any for further away from from Islamic practice so hopefully we can begin to educate people say look I’ve got issue with the same things that you have but I don’t think that Muslim
We’ve never been a people words to say well hey, I’m just not going to eat meat. But rather we look to change the problems that are inside of there too and then to me that’s when all boats the tide rises all boats equally you know because I also don’t want it to be some sort of elitist like you only have to have you know this type of income to be able to have this type of me and I do see a some places here in the Bay that that is not the case where it’s not only for people that are making X amount of money but people that are you know, buying hand hand you know slaughtered pasture raised goats for their for their for their, you know, whatever the Hurry, I guess or whatever that that the the goat curry curry it is that that people are eating internet means it’s not just Hey, I want a nice piece of rebuy, and I’ll pay $25 a pound for it. But like when people who are, you know, hard working, you know, nose to the grindstone are able to come in, and good meat is being is.
And that’s another thing we have to be very honest. And Dr. Mattson, you saw the keynote, she talked about that. It’s not only on the onus of the shopkeeper, because anyone who’s studied business one on one knows that, that that need customer need is going to drive the market. So if they’re feeling that, you know, no one’s going to buy this meat because they want it cheap. And I can only get a cheap quality meat as a result of that, that that’s what we’re going to get.
So it’s also on us to change, you know what we want. So that’s the hope, again, as I said that this conference, the journal, our space, and when people see, you know, we’re serving our students this food, we serve our students on dinner three nights a week on campus, here’s your chickens that you’re eating, here’s the honey that’s going on your bread, here’s some sourdough bread that we know where the ingredients came from, and you’re the kids that baked yet, here’s vegetables, here’s fruit that’s coming from there, here’s some protein that’s coming from from from our space is closing that circle, I think it’s pretty powerful.
Patrick Bensen: Is there a website set up for the conference yet? Or with you? How do people learn more?
Dawood Yasin: Yeah, that’s, you know, the call to action, right? We’re, we’re, I’m you know, at times like a pushing the rock up the hill and, you know, but but, but hopefully, we’ll get there, we’re just, we’re kind of going through cleaning it up, looking at the content that we have,
I would say one of the things that people are interested in this conversation is also at our PDC course that we have with release can June 23 of July six on campus here, it’s two weeks, I could send you you know, a link or something like that. That’s a great place to start.
But I think for right now we’re a little bit out in terms of the the launch. We don’t have a website but we’re going to it will have something on the Zaytuna site in and of itself, but then also we will be putting out some of the content from the from the from the conference, so we just asked people to please forgive us and bear with Bear Bear with us. And we’re hoping to have that stuff out there pretty pretty soon.
Patrick Bensen: Great. I’ll link to certainly the you know, whatever is available as of the time this goes live. Thank you so much. Great to talk to you.
Dawood Yasin: And welcome.
Patrick Bensen: I hope we can do it again soon. inshallah.
Dawood Yasin: Yeah, definitely. I’m telling you, I want to have you out man and teach us how to how to take care of chickens and, and and and do it right. And, you know, I was always impressed when I saw your operation in Massachusetts. And, and, and I know that you’ve done nothing but grow since that time. So so I’m really, I mean, I’d love to have to bring you out and maybe even do a weekend workshop with us, for the larger community as well to to try to talk about this, but it’s something I definitely will love. We’ll we’ll look forward to doing the future with you.
Patrick Bensen: I appreciate that insha’Allah for to it as well. Talk with you again soon, I hope.
Dawood Yasin: I mean, it’s not wanting to invest to your family man.
Patrick Bensen: Wa ‘alaykum as-salaam wa rahmatullah.