By Arthur Weinreb
Gulf News reports the owners of the restaurant imposed the charge because wasting food and water goes against the teachings of Islam. According to Islamweb, both the Quran and Sunnah make it clear that avoiding waste is an important duty for Muslims.
“Do not be extravagant for Allah loves not the wasteful,” [Quran, 6:141]. “But waste not by excess for Allah loves not the wasters,” [Quran, 7:31]. And the website says the Prophet Muhammad avoided wasting food, going so far as to lick bits of food off of utensils.
The theory is that people who have little are grateful for what they have while those that have too much, and waste some of it, are ungrateful. Therefore wasting food, water, or other things is contrary to the principles and teachings of Islam.
Many people agree with what the restaurant is doing because the fine conforms to Islamic teachings. Some would like to see all restaurants in the Kingdom impose fines on those who do not finish all their food. A person was quoted in Albawaba as saying, “People should be made aware of the consequences of wasting food. In fact those who empty their plates should be offered a voucher for a free meal in the restaurant.”
But according to some letters to newspapers and postings on social media sites, not everyone agrees with the restaurant’s policies.
Some people quoted in Gulf News are reasoning in much the same way Chief Justice John Roberts did in the Obamacare case; it’s not a fine, it’s a tax. As such, it is a “religious tax” that cannot be properly levied by a restaurant.
Whether it is a tax or merely “like a tax”, it did not take some Saudis too long to come up with ways to get around it. One person said the restaurant should provide boxes and bags so that customers can take any uneaten food home with them. Another suggested any leftover food should be given to poor people who live in the area. Both these suggestions would eliminate any waste and the necessity of the added charge.
Others say it is a cynical ploy to gain publicity for the restaurant or simply a money grab by the owners.
Time will tell whether other Saudi restaurants will adopt the practice.