Do food and Islam mix? #ebloa #Birdflu


With all the current concerns around the outbreak of Bird Flu h5n1 virus and Ebola, there is even greater urgency to make the world aware the importance of what the Quran say about what foods are permissible! Both virus, Ebola and the Bird Flu 


There are certain foodstuffs, which the Holy Quran has strictly prohibited.

But again, as in the case of cleanliness, the physical or hygienic aspect is blended with one related to subservience to Allah Almighty.  Thus before laying down the limitations regarding food, there is a reference in the beginning of chapter five of the Holy Quran, of the obligations to be fulfilled –

( 5:1 ) “ Oh ye who believe! Fulfil obligations.”

In our human and material world, we undertake mutual obligations.  We make a promise, we enter into a commercial or social contract, we enter into a contract of marriage etc.  We must faithfully fulfil all such obligations.  On the other hand there are obligations which arise from our relationship with Allah Almighty.  He created us and life itself is a marvellous gift.  He implanted in us the faculty of intellect and reasoning, memory, judgment and knowledge.   He made nature responsive to our needs.   He sent His messenger for the guidance of our conduct in individual and social life. All these gifts create corresponding obligations which we must fulfil.  The primary objective before the believers is the establishment of a social order based on the divine fundamental principles but there are certain symbols, laid down by the divine command for that social order, the sanctity of which must be observed.  This is an obligation:


(5:3 )  “Oh ye who believe! Violate not the sanctity of the symbols of God.”

These symbols are the manifest signs of the respect that we show towards the divine laws.  Disrespect to these symbols means disrespect to these laws, just as disrespect to a flag amounts to disrespect to the country it represents.  Respect for prohibition of certain articles of food by the Holy Quran is one such symbol.

It is a manifest sign that such and such a person belongs to the Quranic social order.  It is a symbol of recognition for Muslims.  That is how it forms a part of the social organisation of Islam.

The articles of food that are prohibited are as follows:

(5:3 )  “Forbidden to you ( for food ) are carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which is invoked the name of other than Allah:  that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a head-long fall, or is gored to death, that which has partly been eaten by a wild animal;  unless you are able to slaughter them ( the categories enumerated above ) in due form; that which is sacrificed on stone ( altars ); ( forbidden ) also is the division ( of meat ) by raffling with arrows, that is impiety.”

That prohibition as a part of Islamic social organisation is explained further in this verse.  So long as Islamic social order was not organised with its own community and its own laws, the non-believers had hoped to wean the believers from the new teaching.  Now, with the complete organisation of Islam, that hope was gone.  The verse describes further:

 “This day, those who disbelieve have become disappointed from you in the matter of Deen, yet fear them not but fear from going against my laws.  This day I have perfected your Deen for you, completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you

Islam as Deen ( a [the] way of life ).  But if any one is forced by hunger, with no inclination towards transgression, Allah is indeed often forgiving and provides nourishment within a specified pattern.”

At yet another place it is said:

( 2:173 ) “He hath only forbidden you carrion and blood and the flesh of swine and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah.  But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then he is guiltless.  In such instance the bad effects on your personality of eating prohibited articles of food shall be counteracted by your feelings of respect for the laws of Allah and your personality shall continue to receive nourishment.”

Above described are the prohibited articles of food, the consumption of which is proclaimed unlawful by the Quran.  The next question to arise is what is lawful as food?


( 5:4 )  “They ask thee what is lawful to them ( as food ).  Say: lawful unto you are all things ( besides those declared unlawful ) agreeable to your taste, sight and smell: and ( even ) what you have taught your trained hunting animals ( to catch ) in the in the manner directed to you by Allah: eat what they catch for you, but pronounce the name of Allah over it ( so that you may bear in mind that you arekeeping yourself within limits laid down by Allah ):  and fear the consequences of going against the commandments of Allah, for Allah is swift in taking account.”

The above verse states in clear terms what is ( ) unlawful and what is ( ) lawful, according to the divine command.  Yet there are people amongst the Orthodox Muslims who produce a long list of ( ) and ( ), in spite of the fact that there is absolutely no ambiguity in the proclamation of the Holy Quran that only carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which any name has been invoked besides that of Allah, are prohibited; this prohibition being symbolic of the Quranic social organisation.

It be no means follows that one may go on eating any dirty thing he comes across, other than these four categories.  The Quran has clarified this point by using the word

( ) in the verse 5:5 above, which means that you take only those things which are good, pure and nutritious from a health point of view; are agreeable to your sight, taste and smell and have an exhilarating effect on human personality.

The word ( ) needs further clarification.  The Quran says:


(8:69) "Eat the spoils of war that are ( ) lawful and ( ) good for you, so make use of them as you like and adhere to the laws of Allah who is Protector and who provides sustenance to the universe by process of slow, Gradual and ascending evolution."

Again it is said:

(2:168) "Oh ye people!  Eat of what grows from the earth lawful and good."

Again it is said:

(2:25) (16:14) (20:81) (2:172) (2:57))

"Eat of the good things We have provided for you."

Again it is said:

(5:87)  "Oh ye who believe!  Make not unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you.  But commit not excess, for Allah loveth not those givin to excess"

Again it is said:

 (7:157) "He ( Rassol ) allows them as lawful what is good and pure and prohibits them from what is bad and impure."

This clarifies the word 'Tayyibat as against 'Khabais'.

All the Rasools were ordained to eat all things good and pure.


(23:51) "Oh ye Rasools!  Enjoy all things good and pure for I am well acquainted with (all) that you do."

 'Tayyibat' are a reward for deeds. The Muslims are reminded:


(8:26) "Call to mind when you were a small (band), despised through the land and afraid that men might despoil and kidnap you;  But He provided a safe asylum for you, strengthened you with His aid and gave you good things for sustenance, that you might be grateful."  If any social order forbids 'Tayyibat', it is  surely not from Allah:


(7:32) “Say who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He has produced for his devotees and ‘tayyibat’ the wholesome articles of food, made available to human beings for sustenance by Allah.  In this world these things are available to both believers and non-believers, but in the hereafter they will only be available for those who believe.  Thus we make Our guidance clear to those who understand.”

It means that non-believers are allowed to make use of the gifts of Allah and the wholesome articles of food for their sustenance in this world, because this world is a place of trials, but in the hereafter, these shall be available only to the believers who have successfully passed through the trials.

To make one’s own list of lawful and unlawful means the non-observance of the symbols and the breaking up of the discipline as laid down by Allah for the Muslim Ummah.  It even amounts to belief in gods other than Allah, the All-mighty.  There is a Quranic verse, which states that Jews and Christians worship their priests and monks and give them an equal status with God:


(9:31) “They ( the Jews and the Christians ) take their priests and monks to be their lords, in derogation of God.”

In this respect when Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked “as to how can we call it a worship when the Jews and Christians do not bow down before their religious leaders?”  The Rasool explained it be saying, “when their religious leaders declared anything as forbidden, they took it as forbidden although it was not forbidden by the divine laws; and when their religious leaders declared anything permissible, they accept it as permissible even though it was forbidden by the divine laws.”  Thus the words in the above said verse mean the acceptance of the decisions of the priests instead of the laws of Allah and consider them to be above reproach.

 About the cattle the Quran says:

(6:119) “Why should you not eat that on which God’s name hath been pronounced, when He hath explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you – except under compulsion of necessity.  But many (who transgress the limits of ‘lawful’ and ‘unlawful’ as laid down by Allah) do mislead (others) by their own fancies, through lack of knowledge.  Thy ‘Rabb’ knoweth best those who transgress.”

Cattle provide the commonest source of animal food for human consumption.

About the cattle, the Quran says:

(6:142) “Of  the cattle, there are some (that are stout and are also used) for burden; there are others of low stature (which can only be used for meat). Eat what God has provided for you and follow not the baser sentiments for they are to you an avowed enemy.”

There is no merit in abstinence from things that are pleasing and lawful, although excess is objectionable. Amongst the earlier nations, Jews indulged in excess and the Christians indulged in abstinence and asceticism.  The Quran disapproves of both.  It does not allow either abstinence from foods that are made lawful, or indulgence in excess and breaking prohibitory limits.  Thus it is said:


(5:87-88)“Oh ye who believe!  Make not unlawful the pleasant things in life which Allah hath made lawful for you, but commit no excess:  for Allah loveth not those given to excess – eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and pleasing to taste and mind:  but be afraid of the consequences of going against the way of Allah, in Whom ye believe.:

The camels are amongst the symbols laid down by Allah.  Their slaughter at the time of Haj is a manifest sign of obedience to Allah Almighty.

Thus it is said:


(22:36-37) “The sacrificial camels We have made for you as among the symbols from God:  in them is much good for you : then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line-up (for sacrifice):   when they are down on their sides (after slaughter) eat ye thereof, and feed such as (beg not but) receive gifts with gratitude and such as beg with due humility:  thus have we made animals subject to you, that ye may be greatful – it is not their meat, nor their blood that reaches Allah:  it is your obedience to the laws of Allah that reaches Him.  He has thus made them subject to you so that you make the code of life, with which Allah has guided ye, reign supreme;  and proclaim the good news to all whose acts produce beauty and proportion in the society.”


Hygienic Value – Apart from being a part of Islamic Discipline, the hygienic value of the Quranic ‘Do’s and Dont’s’ regarding food is obvious.  The animals whose flesh is allowed to be eaten are slaughtered and bled in a regular way so that blood is allowed to flow out of the blood vessels;  because bloody meat and offal decompose more quickly especially especially in the hotter regions of the world.  It is known by experience, ven to the non-Muslims, that animals who die of natural death and the blood of slaughtered animals should be rejected as food by man as it is liable to carry disease disease germs.  But, of course, the other very important factor that disallows Muslims to reject such a food is that without first proclaiming the name of Allah, Who has allowed certain animals to be taken as food, nobody has got the right to take life even of an animal.  The animals killed by strangling or by direct blow from a head-long fallor those being gored to death and those partly eaten by animals are rejected for the same reason:  although they are allowed to be eaten if they are slaughtered, in due form, before death takes place.  Pig has been held to be a symbol of all that is unclean, even in the pre-Islamic era, such as by ancient Egyptians and by Jews.  Now-a-days we know that more parasitic diseases are transmitted by pig than by other slaughtered animals, especially tape-worm infestation.  Pork is a thing of hate among the Muslims to such an extent that even those Muslims, who are slack in observing other commandments in Islam, usually adhere strictly to the prohibition of pork:  although I know one such wretched Muslim who was as senior officer in the Indian Medical Service during the second World War, and later held high posts in the Government of Pakistan, not only used to eat pork in the company of British Officers, but he even objected to junior Muslim officers not taking it.  Otherwise the Muslim Officers on the service of British, during the World War, strictly kept up the Islamic discipline even under most adverse conditions.  They never  touched even the machine-cut frozen meat or bully beef which was supplied as tinned food ration in the front lines.

Gambling of all kinds is forbidden by the Quran.  A sort of lottery or raffle practiced by the pagan Arabs has been described in verse 2:219.  Division of meat in this way is forbidden here (verse 5:3) as it is a form of gambling.

In pleasures that are good and lawful the crime is excess.  It is ordained to use God’s gifts of all kinds with gratitude but excess is not approved by Allah.  On the one hand, excess in taking food is harmful to the one who commits it;  as it leads to ill-health and all sorts of digestive and metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes;  and to osteoarthtitis, and disease of heart and blood vessels leading to rise of blood pressure and other complications.  Such diseases make life miserable and often cut short the life span if an individual.  It has been the usual practice amongst the Muslims, especially those nearer to piety, to eat just short of what is required to appeasing hunger;  gluttony has been infrequent.  On the other hand, excess in eating is unjustified from a social point of view, as it amounts to usurping the right of those who do not get sufficient to eat.  

But whereas excess in taking food is considered undesirable, abstention from foods that are lawful is also forbidden.  That is why monasticism is alien to Islam.

With  regards to sacrificial animals, as stated already, the essence of sacrifice is the submission of one’s will to Allah.  No one should suppose that meat or blood is acceptable to one true God.  It was a pagan fancy that God could be appeased by blood sacrifice.  God only accepts the offerings of our heart and as a symbol of such offer some visible institution is necessary.  He has given us power over the brute creation and permitted us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name over the solemn act of taking life;  for without this solemn invocation we are apt to forget the sacredness of life.  By the invocation we are reminded that only the need of food, and not wanton cruelty, is our objective.



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