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Halal and Haram

Halal and Haram



The Basic Principle

The basic underlying purpose and direction of all the directives of the Islamic Shari`ah[1] is the purification and cleansing of the human mind, body and soul. It is with this basic stress in its general directives that the Shari`ah also requires man to keep in perspective the criterion of the 'good' and the 'bad'; the 'fit' and the 'unfit'; the 'clean' and the 'unclean' in his selection of what may and may not to be eaten. The Qur'an (Al-Maaidah 5: 4) says:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتُ‌ۙ

All things suitable [for eating] have been permitted to you.

Thus, the stipulation of the criterion of the 'suitable' and the 'unsuitable' is the basic guidance of the Shari`ah regarding the lawful and the prohibited in edibles[2]. The Shari`ah has generally considered this basic guidance to be sufficient for man. In fact, this is the reason why the Shari`ah has not felt the need to give an exhaustive list of what is suitable for eating and what is not, as man's natural inclinations and instincts generally have correctly guided him in making the decision. History bears witness to the fact that man has generally not felt attracted toward serving the flesh of wild and carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain insects[3] on his table. He has generally considered his horses, mules and dogs to be of domestic utility for him, rather than to serve his hunger. He has also remained absolutely clear about the 'unsuitability' of his own defecations and those of other living things. The same has also generally been the case of all such things that intoxicate him and affect his consciousness and his faculty of reasoning and understanding. As stated earlier, it is for this reason that the Shari`ah, after giving this basic guidance regarding the lawful and the prohibited in edibles, has not felt the need to give an exhaustive list of what man should and should not eat. The prohibition of canines, birds of prey[4], such animals that due to their habit of eating filth develop a kind of stench in them[5] and mules[6] etc. that has been reported in some narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) are, in fact, an explanation of this natural inclination and instinct of man. The prohibition of liquor and intoxicants also falls in the same category. At the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, when people repeatedly inquired about liquor, pointing out to some of its advantages, the Qur'an adamantly declared that the sin involved in drinking liquor far exceeds any of its advantages[7].  Then, later on, in Surah Al-Maaidah, the Qur'an emphatically declared that drinking liquor, due to its potentially negative consequences is an ungodly and a satanic deed, which, under all circumstances, therefore, must be avoided. The Qur'an (Al-Maaidah 5: 90) says:

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا ٱلۡخَمۡرُ وَٱلۡمَيۡسِرُ وَٱلۡأَنصَابُ وَٱلۡأَزۡلَـٰمُ رِجۡسٌ۬ مِّنۡ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيۡطَـٰنِ فَٱجۡتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُفۡلِحُونَ

O you, who believe, liquor, gambling, animals slaughtered at shrines and food distributed by gambling through arrows are all unclean, satanic deeds, therefore refrain from them, so that you may be successful [in the test of this life].

All these directives of the Qur'an and those mentioned in narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) are, basically, a reference to and a reminder of these natural instincts and inclinations of man. There, indeed, have been scattered instances where a particular society has ignored these natural instincts and inclinations and has deviated from them. Nevertheless, on the whole man has, generally, quite strictly conformed to these instincts and inclinations, in choosing between what should and should not be eaten. It is for this reason that the Shari`ah has not gone into the, already conformed with, details of what a man may and may not eat, and has, therefore, restricted its guidance to the few instances in which man could have confused right from wrong, had he taken a decision in the light, merely, of his natural instincts and inclinations. For example, being an omnivorous animal, should pig be grouped with the eatable grazing animals or the uneatable carnivorous animals? All animals are killed before being eaten. What if an animal dies a natural death? Should it now be grouped with the 'edibles' or the 'inedibles'? Should blood - being a part of an animal's body - be grouped with the edible parts of its body - like meat, fat, bones etc. - or inedible parts - like the residual defecation in its stomach? Does it make any difference that the animal is slaughtered without pronouncing God's name upon it or even if it is slaughtered for any other deity besides God? Man, it is obvious, could not have answered these questions, with any degree of certainty, without God's guidance, in this regard. Thus, for the guidance of man, God has given clear answers regarding these four items (i.e. flesh of swine, flesh of dead animals, flowing blood and animals slaughtered for other deities) and has grouped each of them with the inedible group of things. In fact, a close look at the directives of the Shari`ah shows that it has restricted its directives to these four items, about which man was not in a position to take a decision on his own, regarding whether these items should be grouped with the eatable things or the uneatable things. The Qur'an, in Al-An`aam 6: 145, says:

قُل لَّآ أَجِدُ فِى مَآ أُوحِىَ إِلَىَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ۬ يَطۡعَمُهُ ۥۤ
إِلَّآ أَن يَكُونَ مَيۡتَةً أَوۡ دَمً۬ا مَّسۡفُوحًا أَوۡ لَحۡمَ خِنزِيرٍ۬ فَإِنَّهُ ۥ
رِجۡسٌ أَوۡ فِسۡقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِ بِهِۦ‌ۚ فَمَنِ
ٱضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٍ۬ وَلَا عَادٍ۬ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

Say [O prophet]: 'In what has been revealed to me, I find nothing prohibited from the things that a person eats, except carrion, flowing blood, the flesh of swine - because these are all unclean things - or any flesh that has been sacrilegiously consecrated for anything other than God'. Nevertheless, whoever is driven by necessity, intending neither to sin nor to transgress, will find your Lord very Forgiving, Eternal in mercy.

At another instance (Al-Baqarah 2: 173), the Qur'an says:

إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيۡڪُمُ ٱلۡمَيۡتَةَ وَٱلدَّمَ وَلَحۡمَ ٱلۡخِنزِيرِ وَمَآ أُهِلَّ بِهِۦ لِغَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ
فَمَنِ ٱضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٍ۬ وَلَا عَادٍ۬ فَلَآ إِثۡمَ عَلَيۡهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ

Only carrion, blood, flesh of swine and that which is consecrated for anything other than God is prohibited for you. Even, in these things, whoever is driven by necessity, intending neither sin nor transgression, there shall be no sin upon him. Indeed God is extremely Forgiving, Eternal in mercy.

Exactly the same directive has once again been repeated in Al-Nahl 16: 115, with hardly any alteration in words. Notice the limiting style in all these instances. In the first case, the words "In what has been revealed to me, I find nothing prohibited from the things that a person eats, except..."[8], while in the second verse, the opening word "only..."[9] has clearly restricted the prohibitions prescribed by God, in the case of edibles, to the mentioned four items only.

The above explanation completely sums up the basic directives of the Shari`ah with regard to edibles. To avoid any confusion, there are, however, some explanations, clarifications and extensions of these basic directives, also given in the Qur'an. These clarifications and extensions are explained in the following paragraphs:

Extensions/Limitations of the Prohibition of Carrion

a) Animals that Die in an Accident or due to an Injury

As is clear from the above explanation, carrion - flesh of dead animals - was clearly prohibited by the Qur'an. Nevertheless, there could still have remained some doubt regarding whether this prohibition applies only to animals that die a natural death or would it also extend to animals that die because of an accident or an injury caused by other animals or by a fall etc. The Qur'an, in Al-Maaidah 5: 3 completely clarified the situation and removed all doubts that could have existed in this regard. It declared:

حُرِّمَتۡ عَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلۡمَيۡتَةُ وَٱلدَّمُ وَلَحۡمُ ٱلۡخِنزِيرِ وَمَآ أُهِلَّ لِغَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِ بِهِۦ وَٱلۡمُنۡخَنِقَةُ وَٱلۡمَوۡقُوذَةُ وَٱلۡمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَٱلنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَآ أَكَلَ ٱلسَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيۡتُمۡ

Carrion, blood, flesh of swine and that which is consecrated for anything other than God has been made unlawful for you. And [this includes animals] which die due to strangulation, due to an injury, due to a fall and due to being gored by [the horn of] another animal and those, which have been [partly] eaten by a wild animal - [all these are included in carrion,] except those [which are found alive and which] you properly slaughter.

Thus, according to the Qur'an, a dead animal, whatever may have been the cause of its death, must not be eaten.

b) Parts Cut-off from Living Animals

The prohibition regarding carrion will also apply to any part cut-off from a living animal, and, therefore, the cut-off part shall not be considered as eatable. At the time of Hijrah[10], the people of Medinah used to cut off the humps of their camels and the fat in the tails of their rams for eating. When this practice was brought to the notice of the Prophet (pbuh), he did not approve of the practice. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:

 Whatever is cut-off from a living animal is [to be considered as] carrion. (Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Sayd)

c) Regarding Dead Fish and Locusts

The word used in the Arabic language for carrion or the flesh of dead animals is ٱلۡمَيۡتَةُ (Maetah). In the Arabic language, the usage of this word is, traditionally, restricted. The word, for instance, is not used for dead fish or dead locusts.

Thus, Al-Zamakhshariy, the acknowledged linguist of the Arabic language, writes:

The word [for carrion] has been used [in the Qur'an] in its generally held connotation [rather than a literal connotation]. Notice, when someone says: "He ate 'Maetah' [i.e. carrion]", this does not bring to mind someone eating a dead fish or a dead locust, just as when one says: 'He drank blood', this would not bring to mind someone eating liver or the spleen. Thus, it is precisely on the basis of the generally held connotations of words that Muslim jurists have said that if a person has vowed to avoid meat, but later on eats fish, his vow shall not be rendered broken, even though [in a literal sense] he has, in fact, eaten meat. (Al-Kashaaf, Vol. 1, Pg. 215)

It is precisely on this basis that the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:

Two animals even when dead and two kinds of blood are allowed for you to eat. As for the two animals that you can eat if they are dead, they are fish and locusts. As for the two bloods, they are liver and the spleen. (Ibn Maajah, Kitaab al-At`imah)

This is precisely what the words: "Its [i.e. the sea's] dead are allowable for eating" ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) imply. The "dead of the sea" in this narrative ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) is used for such fish of the sea, which were generally not construed by the word "Maetah" in the Arabic language, even though from a purely literal or a legal perspective, the word would apply to all dead animals.

d) "Tazkiyyah" - An Essential Condition

The words: "except those [among these animals, which] you properly slaughter", at the end of the referred part of the cited verse of Al-Maaidah 5: 3 clearly evidence the fact that it is only the method of 'proper slaughtering' of all such animals which need to be slaughtered for eating that renders such animals fit for eating. This proper slaughtering of an animal in the Arabic language is called "Tazkiyyah".

In the Arabic language, the term Tazkiyyah of an animal connotes draining of the blood from the animal through the infliction of an injury with a sharp-edged instrument, in such a way that the animal dies primarily due to loss of blood. In this manner, the body of the animal and its meat is completely relieved of the "uncleanness" of the blood. The two methods generally followed for attaining Tazkiyyah of an animal are known as "Zibh" or "Nah'r". The former is generally used for the "Tazkiyyah" of  animals like goats, sheep, cows, hens etc., while the latter is generally used in the case of animals like camels. In "Zibh", an incision is made across the throat of the animal in such a way that its trachea (windpipe) and esophagus or the trachea and the jugular veins are severed. In "Nah'r", on the other hand, the trachea of the animal is pierced with a sharp-pointed spear-like instrument in such a way that it results in a gushing discharge of the blood and, in some time, renders the animal lifeless.

However, if due to any reason, it is not possible to adopt any of these two methods of attaining "Tazkiyyah", then it would suffice to use any other method of inflicting such an injury to the animal, which drains it of its blood. Once, when one of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) asked him regarding what method of "Tazkiyyah" should one employ in a situation where he does not have a knife, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

Inflict an injury, which drains it of its blood, by whatever instrument you may and pronounce God's name upon it. (Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Dhuhaayaa)

Animals killed by arrows, gunshots or any other method should also be considered in the light of the above explanation. Moreover, if a trained hunting animal - like trained hounds or hunting birds - while retrieving the prey, injures and kills it, it would still be considered allowed for eating and shall not be considered carrion[11]. The Qur'an has clarified the issue in Al-Maaidah 5: 4. The Qur'an says:

يَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ مَاذَآ أُحِلَّ لَهُمۡ‌ۖ قُلۡ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتُ‌ۙ وَمَا عَلَّمۡتُم
مِّنَ ٱلۡجَوَارِحِ مُكَلِّبِينَ تُعَلِّمُونَہُنَّ مِمَّا عَلَّمَكُمُ ٱللَّهُ‌ۖ
فَكُلُواْ مِمَّآ أَمۡسَكۡنَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَٱذۡكُرُواْ ٱسۡمَ
ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡهِ‌ۖ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ سَرِيعُ ٱلۡحِسَابِ

They ask you regarding what they are allowed to eat. Say: 'All suitable things are allowed for you and also that which your hunting animals, whom you have taught of the knowledge that God gave you, [hunt for you]. Thus, eat of that which they have held back for you [without eating from it] and pronounce God's name on this. Fear God [and obey His commandments, for] indeed God is swift in reckoning.

As is clear from the style and the context of the verse - especially the preceding verse in which the Qur'an had already prohibited all animals that die due to being attacked and [partly] eaten by a wild animal (except if they are found alive and slaughtered in the proper way) - that this verse is a response to the questions asked regarding the position of such a hunted animal, which is killed or which dies due to an injury or a wound that it may have suffered while being retrieved by a properly trained hunting animal. The Qur'an, in response to this question, has declared that when the prey is killed or fatally injured by a properly trained hunting animal, it may be eaten. This actually implies that, according to the Qur'an, such a killing or injuring by a properly trained hunting animal is a substitute for other methods of attaining "Tazkiyyah" of the prey. However, in such a case, the Qur'an has qualified the permission with the condition that the trained hunting animal must not have eaten from the prey and should have held it back for its master. The words: "which they have held back for you" clearly point toward the stated condition. The Prophet (pbuh) has clarified this condition, which was inherent in the referred verse as follows:

When you let your dog loose on a prey, pronounce God's name at that time. If you find that the prey is still alive, then pronounce God's name upon it, while slaughtering it, while if you find that the dog has killed it, but has not eaten any part of it, then you can eat it, because this is what it has held back for you. However, if you find that the dog has partly eaten it, then you should not eat it, for this is what it has held back for itself. And if you find other dogs with your dog, and you find that the dogs have killed the prey, even though they have not eaten from it, you should not eat it, for you cannot be sure which of the dogs may have killed it.

Limitations on the Prohibition of Blood

Blood, as is clear from all the cited verses of the Qur'an is also included in the list of prohibitions of the Shari`ah. The Qur'an, in one of the verses cited above (Al-An`aam 6: 145), has also clarified that it is only the flowing blood, which has been prohibited. The words دَمً۬ا مَّسۡفُوحًا (i.e. flowing or flown blood) clearly point to this fact. The phrase 'flowing/flown blood' is used in its generally implied and construed connotation. According to this connotation, liver and spleen are not included in blood, even though they may, in fact, be composed mainly of blood. Furthermore, any static blood that may remain in the veins of the animal would also not be included in the stated prohibition.

Extensions of 'Consecrations for Other Deities'

The last among the four prohibitions mentioned in the Qur'an are those animals, which have been consecrated for anything besides God. It is quite clear from the cited verse of Al-An`aam[12] that the first three prohibitions of the Shari`ah - i.e. flesh of dead animals or carrion, flesh of swine and blood - are prohibited for their inherent physical uncleanness. However, in contrast to the first three prohibitions, the fourth prohibition is not because of any inherent uncleanness in the animal, but because of the disobedience and the sinfulness of the person sacrificing the animal. The Qur'an has referred to such consecrations of animals for other deities as being a 'clear disobedience' or 'sacrilegious act' because of the obvious polytheistic spirit involved in such wrongful consecrations. Such an action is, obviously, an evidence of the uncleanness of the beliefs of the person sacrificing the animal. Thus, in other words, this prohibition, in contrast to the first three prohibitions of the Qur'an, entails a spiritual rather than a physical uncleanness, which is, in fact, the case of the former three prohibitions. It is also quite predictable that any other spiritual uncleanness of a related kind in an animal or its meat should also render the animal equally prohibited as does its consecration for other, imaginary, deities. Thus, as an extension of the prohibition of an animal that has been consecrated for other deities, the Qur'an has mentioned a few things, which entail the same kind of spiritual uncleanness.

a) Slaughtering at Shrines & Food Won through Games of Wager

The Qur'an (Al-Maaidah 5: 3) says:

وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى ٱلنُّصُبِ وَأَن تَسۡتَقۡسِمُواْ بِٱلۡأَزۡلَـٰمِ‌ۚ ذَٲلِكُمۡ فِسۡقٌ‌ۗ

And also [prohibited are] those animals slaughtered at shrines and also that [food,] which is distributed by [gambling through] arrows, for these entail extreme disobedience.

As a predictable custom of polytheistic cultures, the Arabs had a number of shrines and altars for their deities where they used to slaughter animals, which according to their beliefs, won them the pleasures and the goodwill of these false deities. Due to the same spiritual uncleanness in such sacrifices as is found in animals consecrated for deities other than the One God, the Qur'an has grouped the two together and has placed them both in the list of prohibitions. The reference to the prohibition of animals slaughtered at shrines, after already having mentioned the prohibition of those which are slaughtered in the names of deities other than the One God is a clear evidence of the fact that the mere placement of the slaughter ritual at a shrine or an altar, renders such animals unfit for eating[13].

The latter part of the verse[14] refers to a common cultural tradition of the Arabs in which they would gamble on a slaughtered camel and distribute its meat through raffle using arrows. The Qur'an had already condemned and prohibited all gains from gambling and wager, and because the meat distributed through raffling was clearly a gain from wager, it was rendered unfit for eating. Furthermore, because of the spiritual, rather than the physical nature of uncleanness in such meat, it is placed with the meat of animals consecrated for deities other than God and those slaughtered at shrines and altars.

b) Slaughtering Without the Pronouncement of God's Name

If an animal is not slaughtered in God's name, even though it is not consecrated for other deities, it would still be grouped with the meat of animals consecrated for other deities and those slaughtered at shrines and altars. The Qur'an has termed refusal to take God's name on animals as "a grave disobedience" and "a sacrilegious act"[15] and has thus grouped it with consecrating animals for deities other than God and with sacrificing animals at shrines and altars.

The Qur'an, in Al-An`aam 6: 121, declares:

وَلَا تَأۡڪُلُواْ مِمَّا لَمۡ يُذۡكَرِ ٱسۡمُ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡهِ وَإِنَّهُ ۥ لَفِسۡقٌ۬‌ۗ وَإِنَّ ٱلشَّيَـٰطِينَ
لَيُوحُونَ إِلَىٰٓ أَوۡلِيَآٮِٕهِمۡ لِيُجَـٰدِلُوكُمۡ‌ۖ وَإِنۡ أَطَعۡتُمُوهُمۡ إِنَّكُمۡ لَمُشۡرِكُونَ

And do not eat of that upon [the slaughter of] which God's name has not been pronounced, for that, indeed, is a grave disobedience. And these devils inspire their partners to debate with you, and if you [O people,] were to follow them, you would then, indeed, be polytheists.

Pronouncing God's name, while sacrificing animals, implies the acknowledgement of God's blessings, submission to His directives and being grateful and thankful toward Him. Obviously, no one other than God deserves to be included in this declaration; and a refusal to pronounce His name is clearly ingratitude and thanklessness toward Him. This pronouncement further implies the fact that life - even that of an animal - is sacred and sanctified. Our pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughter implies that it is only with God's permission and His approval that we are depriving a living thing of its life. Seen from this perspective, refusal to take God's name at the time of slaughter or adding names of false deities with that of God at this time is not only a sign of disrespect toward the life that is being taken but also toward the sole source of all life - the One God. Finally, this pronouncement is also a sign of consecration of all life for the Sole Being that deserves this consecration. Slaughter, as is well known, has always been a part of worship rituals and a show of extreme reverence and salutations. Thus, the pronouncement of God's name - and only His name - is a declaration to the effect that all salutations, all reverence and all worship is owed only to Him, Who is the sole source of all the blessings that we have been bestowed with.

If the pronouncement of God's name is such an essential element in the slaughter ritual that its absence renders the animal prohibited in the Shari`ah, then, one might ask, what would be the position of an animal on the slaughter of which the pronouncement of God's name has unintentionally been missed. The referred verse of Al-An`aam, if closely examined, provides a clear answer to this question, as well. Those who know the Arabic language can easily appreciate that due to the word "Lum" the phrase مِمَّا لَمۡ يُذۡكَرِ ٱسۡمُ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡهِ (mimma Lum yuzkarismallah `alaiyhe)[16] is no longer merely a simple negative clause. On the contrary, the word "Lum" has added a certain kind of stress in the negative aspect of this clause. Thus, now the phrase: مِمَّا لَمۡ يُذۡكَرِ ٱسۡمُ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡهِ (mimma Lum yuzkarismallah `alaiyhe) would apply only to those animals upon the slaughter of which God's name has intentionally not been pronounced or such pronouncement has been refused. In other words, the stated prohibition would not apply to a case where the pronouncement of God's name has, unintentionally, been missed.

Moreover, another question that may arise in one's mind relates to a situation of doubt. What should one do, if one is not certain whether God's name has been pronounced on an animal or not? In such a situation, if the slaughterer is a Muslim or ascribes to any such other creed which considers the pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughter to be essential - as was the case of the Ahl e Kitaab (the Jews and the Christians) in the Arabian Peninsula, at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an and is still, generally, the case with the Jews and some Christians - then the meat would be eaten on the confidence that such a person would have pronounced God's name on his slaughter. Muslim, in his compilation of narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), reports:

According to Ayesha (ra) people from amongst the Bedouins would bring us meat. We used to be unsure whether they had pronounced God's name on such meat or not. The Prophet (pbuh), [when asked about such meat] said: 'Pronounce God's name upon the meat [as a Muslim should on every food] and eat it'.

On the contrary, if the slaughterer ascribes to a creed, which does not consider the pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughtering an animal to be essential, then, obviously, it would no longer be a matter of doubt regarding whether or not God's name was pronounced on the animal. In such a case, a Muslim, because of the clear directives of the Shari`ah, should consider the meat prohibited for eating[17].

c) Slaughter of the Polytheists and non-adherents to Creeds Based on the Teachings of a Prophet

To be grouped with the allowable animals, the animal should be slaughtered by a person, who believes in One God, does not ascribe false partners to Him and is an adherent and follower of any one of the known creeds that are based on the teachings of a true prophet of God. Thus, besides the animals slaughtered by the Muslims, the Qur'an has restricted the permission of edible meat to that of the animals slaughtered by the Ahl e Kitaab (i.e. the people of the Book - the Jews and the Christians). The Qur'an, in Al-Maaidah 5: 5, declares:

ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتُ‌ۖ وَطَعَامُ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ حِلٌّ۬ لَّكُمۡ وَطَعَامُكُمۡ حِلٌّ۬ لَّهُمۡ‌ۖ

Now, all suitable things have been rendered fit for you to eat and also the food of the people of the book is fit for you to eat and your food is fit for them.

It is quite clear that the factors, which make the Ahl e Kitaab distinct from other creeds and similar to the Muslims - due to which only their food, contrary to the other's, has been rendered fit for the Muslims - are: 1) belief in God; 2) strict restraint from knowingly ascribing partners to God; and 3) ascribing to a creed that is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God[18]. Thus, it logically follows that the absence of any of those factors, the presence of which in the Ahl e Kitaab qualifies their food as allowable for Muslims, shall render the food prohibited for Muslims. In other words, an animal slaughtered by a person, who:

  • does not believe in God; or
  • ascribes partners to the One God; or
  • is not an adherent to a creed that is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God

shall be grouped with those animals that entail a grave spiritual uncleanness and is, thus, prohibited for eating.

An Exception Regarding the Prohibitions

The aforementioned list of prohibitions is to be strictly followed under all circumstances. The only exception is where a person is forced by necessity into benefiting from any of the stated prohibitions. The Qur'an has, generally, referred to this exception in the following words (Al-Baqarah 2: 173):

فَمَنِ ٱضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٍ۬ وَلَا عَادٍ۬ فَلَآ إِثۡمَ عَلَيۡهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ

Nevertheless, whoever [eats of these things], due to being driven by necessity, intending neither sin nor transgression, there shall be no sin upon him. Indeed God is extremely Forgiving, Eternal in mercy.

The same words have been repeated in Al-Nahl 16: 115. However, in Al-Maaidah 5: 3, the Qur'an has altered the words by adding a slight clarification of the phrase 'driven by necessity'. The related part of Al-Maaidah 5: 3 reads as:

فَمَنِ ٱضۡطُرَّ فِى مَخۡمَصَةٍ غَيۡرَ مُتَجَانِفٍ۬ لِّإِثۡمٍ۬‌ۙ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

Then, whoever, being forced by hunger [eats of these things], without the inclination toward sin, then indeed God is very forgiving, eternal in mercy.

As is clear from the style and the words of this exception to the rules regarding the prohibitions, it refers to a situation where a person is forced to save his life by eating something which is clearly prohibited by the Shari`ah. However, even under such circumstances where a person is forced to take advantage of any of the express prohibitions of the Shari`ah, he should do so with dislike and abhorrence, rather than with the inclination of his heart. This is what the words 'intending neither sin nor transgression' and 'without the inclination toward sin' imply in the two cited verses, respectively. The permission to take advantage of the express prohibitions of the Shari`ah, in the presence of these words, should be purely with the spirit to save one's life, which obviously implies that it should be restricted to the quantity necessary to save one's life and it should, under no circumstances, exceed this limit.

The Prohibition Applies only to Eating

As the related verses of the Qur'an clearly imply, the prohibition of all the stated items is only with reference to their consumption as edibles. All these things can be used for purposes other than consumption as edibles. This is also reported in one of the sayings ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). The narrative has been reported as: The slave-girl of Maimoonah (ra) was given a goat in charity. The goat died. The Prophet (pbuh) passed by the goat and said: 'Why did you not skin it, so that you may have tanned its skin and benefited from it?' They replied: 'It is carrion'. The Prophet (pbuh) said: 'It is only prohibited for eating.'

The Law at a Glance

The following section summarizes the directives of the Shari`ah relating to the lawful and the prohibited in edibles:

  • The basic guiding principle in considering an item prohibited/lawful for eating is that all things suitable for eating are permitted, while those, which are not suitable for eating should be refrained from. Man, through his natural instincts and inclinations, has generally taken the correct decision and is therefore not in need for an exhaustive list of items that he may or may not use as edible. Canines, birds of prey, such animals that due to their habit of eating filth develop a kind of stench in them, mules, horses, liquor and other intoxicants etc. belong to the category of things that man has generally not considered suitable for eating;
  • As a guidance regarding the things, which man may have mistaken as eatable, the Shari`ah has prohibited:

1.      Carrion or the flesh of dead animals;

2.      Blood;

3.      Flesh of swine; and

4.      Anything consecrated for other deities.

  • Some explanations given by the Shari`ah regarding the prohibition of carrion include:

1.      All animals that die in an accident or due to an injury shall be grouped with carrion;

2.      Parts cut off from a living animal shall be grouped with carrion;

3.      Dead fish and locusts shall not be grouped with carrion and can, therefore, be eaten;

4.      'Tazkiyyah' or the proper bleeding of an animal is an essential requirement for it to be considered allowable. Any animal that is killed without the fulfillment of the condition of 'Tazkiyyah' shall be grouped with carrion.

5.      The animals that are retrieved by trained hounds, hunting birds or any other species trained for the purpose are allowed for eating, even if the animal is injured or killed by the retrieving hound or bird etc.

  • The prohibition of blood does not apply to:

1.      Any static residual blood in the veins of a slaughtered animal; and

2.      The liver and the spleen.

  • Some details given by the Shari`ah, regarding the prohibition of animals consecrated for other deities, include:

1.      Animals slaughtered at shrines and altars are also prohibited;

2.      Animals, on the slaughter of which God's name is intentionally not pronounced are also prohibited; and

3.      Animals slaughtered by polytheists and non-adherents to any creed, which is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God are also prohibited;

  • Any food earned through prohibited means (like stealing, gambling etc.) is prohibited;
  • If a person is driven by hunger, he may eat of any of these prohibited items to save his life. However, in so doing, the person should neither be inclined toward crossing the limits set by God, nor toward taking more than what is necessary to save his life;
  • All the listed items are prohibited only for use as edibles. Their parts may be brought under any other use, except as edibles.

Outline of the Mosaic Law

An outline of the Mosaic Law relating to edibles follows:

1- The basic Criterion

Deuteronomy 14: 3 prohibits all abhorrent  and unclean things for eating. The Bible says:

You shall not eat any abhorrent thing (Deuteronomy 14: 3)

The Encyclopedia Judaica has explained this aspect of the Mosaic Dietary Laws in the following words:

The Bible classifies those animals permitted for consumption as tahor ("clean"), and those prohibited as tame ("unclean"). The distinction is traced to the wording of Noah's instructions. "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, each with his mate; and of the beasts that are not clean, two (and two), each with his mate" (Gen. 7:2). The criterion seems to have been the animal's sacrificial suitability, rather than pagan taboos. (Judaism Practice, Dietary Laws, Animals, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

Then, further elaborating the application of the same criterion on birds, the Encyclopedia writes:

Leviticus 11:13-19 lists 20 "unclean" birds, and Deuteronomy 14:12-18 enumerates 21. From these two lists, the rabbis compiled a total of 24 "unclean" birds (Hul. 63a-b). All birds of prey are forbidden, such as the vulture, the osprey, the kite, the falcon, the raven, and the hawk. The Bible does not list "clean" birds. (Judaism Practice, Dietary Laws, Birds, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

Adam Clarke, while explaining Genesis 7: 2 writes:

So we find the distinction between clean and unclean animals existed long before the Mosaic law. This distinction seems to have been originally designed to mark those animals which were proper for sacrifice and food, from those that were not. See Leviticus 11. (Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, CD, Complete Christian Collection, Packard Technologies, 1999)

2- Carrion

The Bible says:

You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. (Deuteronomy 14: 21)

Then again, in Leviticus, the Bible says:

He shall not eat an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, becoming unclean by it; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 22:8)

The 'Jamieson, Faussett & Brown commentary on the Old Testament', while explaining Leviticus 22: 8, says:

The feelings of nature revolt against such food. It might have been left to the discretion of the Hebrews, who it may be supposed (like the people of all civilized nations) would have abstained from the use of it without any positive interdict. But an express precept was necessary to show them that whatever died naturally or from disease, was prohibited to them by the operation of that law which forbade them the use of any meat with its blood. (Jamieson, Faussett & Brown's commentary on the Old Testament, CD version, Master Christian Library - Version 8, Ages Corporation)

"Nevelah[19]" or "Nebelah", in the Jewish law implies animals that have died for reasons other than the ritual slaughter. The Encyclopedia Judaica writes:

NEVELAH descriptive noun for any animal, bird, or creature which has died as a result of any process other than valid ritual slaughter (shehitah).

The Pentateuch forbids the consumption of such meat... (Judaism Practice, Nevelah, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

It is clear from the cited part of the Encyclopedia that according to the Jewish law, all animals that die without the process of 'valid ritual slaughtering' are 'nevelah' and therefore prohibited for eating. However, fish and locusts can be eaten even without the 'valid ritual slaughter'. The Talmud says:

Cattle are [in a forbidden state until] rendered permitted by slaughtering... Fish, on the other hand, are [always in a permitted state, for they are] permitted by the mere taking up... (Talmud, Mas. Chullin 67b, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

The Talmud further elaborates:

The blood of fish and locust may deliberately be eaten! (Talmud, Mas. K'rithoth 21b, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

It is further clarified in a footnote to a Mishna[20]:

For the purpose of elucidation, this Rabbinic ruling must be cited: carrion, whether of wild animals, clean or unclean cattle, imparts uncleanness by contact and carrying. The carrion of a clean bird has but the one uncleanness ? that when there is an olive's bulk thereof in the eater's gullet (v. Toh. I, 1). The carrion of an unclean bird, of fish, clean and unclean, and of locusts, have no uncleanness at all. (Footnote on Mishna - Mas. Uktzin Chapter 3, Mishna 3, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

Regarding fish, the Encyclopedia Judaica writes:

In Jewish tradition only fish that have scales and fins are permitted for consumption. They need not be slaughtered ritually (shehitah) and their blood is not prohibited. (Fish and Fishing, Fish in the Halakhah, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

Parts cut off from living animals are also considered prohibited in the Jewish law. The Talmud reads:

"Our Rabbis taught: 'But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat' (Genesis IX, 4), this prohibits flesh cut from the living animal. R. Hanina b. Gamaliel said: It also prohibits blood drawn from a living animal." (Talmud, Mas. Sanhedrin 59a, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

Furthermore, like "Tazkiyyah" in the Islamic Shari`ah, "Koshering" - i.e. removing all possible blood from the slaughtered animal - is an essential element for considering the animal allowable for eating. The Judaica writes:

The prohibition against the consumption of blood (Lev. 7:26-27; 17:10-14) is the basis for the process of koshering meat. The purpose of the process is to draw out and drain the meat of non-veinal blood, before it is cooked. The blood can be removed either by salting the meat, or by roasting it over an open flame. (Judaism Practice, Dietary Laws, Koshering, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

3- Blood

The Bible says:

... you shall eat no kind of blood, whether it is of bird or of beast, in any of your dwellings. (Leviticus 7: 26)

Then again:

However you may slaughter animals and eat their meat in all your gates, to your heart's desire, according to the blessing of the Lord, your God which he has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as they do of the gazelle and the deer. Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it upon the earth like water. (Deuteronomy 12: 15 - 16)

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica:

In the Bible there is an absolute prohibition on the consumption of blood. The blood of an animal must be drained before the flesh may be eaten (Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-14; Deut. 12:15-16, 20-24). (Judaism Practice, Blood, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

Consumption of blood, as is clear from the Encyclopedia, is considered a punishable crime, in Judaism. The Encyclopedia writes:

The prohibition of blood enjoined in the Bible is defined by the Talmud as referring to the blood of cattle, beasts, and fowl, and prescribes the punishment of karet[21] for the consumption of the minimum amount of the volume of an olive (Ker. 5:1). The blood for which one is so liable is "the blood with which the soul emerges," i.e., the lifeblood, but not the blood which oozes out subsequently, or blood in the meat. Blood of all other creatures, fish, locusts, and human blood, is permitted according to the rabbinical interpretations of biblical law, although according to one source (Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu Rabbah, 15) human blood is equally forbidden by the Bible. (Judaism Practice, Blood, Blood in Halakhah, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

It is, in fact, the severity of the crime involved in eating blood that a complex process of completely draining the blood from an animal is adopted to ensure that no sin is involved in eating of the slaughtered animal. Explaining this process of Koshering (i.e. draining the blood from the animal), the Encyclopedia Judaica writes:

The prohibition against the consumption of blood (Lev. 7:26-27; 17:10-14) is the basis for the process of koshering meat. The purpose of the process is to draw out and drain the meat of non-veinal blood, before it is cooked. The blood can be removed either by salting the meat, or by roasting it over an open flame.

The salting process is begun by fully immersing the meat and bones in clean, cold water (in a vessel used exclusively for this purpose), for 30 minutes. The purpose of this operation is to open the pores, and remove any blood on the surface, thus enabling the salt to draw the blood out of the softened fibers of the meat. The meat is then laid out on a special grooved or perforated board, which is slanted, in order to allow the blood to flow down. It is then sprinkled with salt. The salt should be of medium texture; neither fine (which melts away), nor coarse (which falls off). Poultry should be opened and must be salted inside and out. The meat is then left to stand, for one hour, after which it is washed two or three times in cold water. In an emergency, i.e., when the meat is intended for a sick person or when time is short on the eve of Sabbath, the periods of immersion and salting may be reduced to 15 and 30 minutes respectively.

The salting process cannot be used if more than 72 hours have elapsed since the time of the shehitah. Such meat can only be koshered by roasting over an open flame, a process which is considered to be more effective in removing the blood than salting. It is, however, customary to salt the meat a little, even if it is to be roasted over an open flame.

Before koshering, the vein which runs along the front groove of the neck must be removed or cut in several places. The heart, too, is cut in several places and the tip is cut off so that the blood may drain. The gizzard is cut open and cleaned before koshering. Salting is not considered effective enough to kosher the liver, which is full of blood. It is therefore, sprinkled with salt, cut across or pierced several times, and placed on or under an open flame, until it changes color, or a crust forms. (Judaism Practice, Dietary Laws, Koshering, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

4- Flesh of Swine

The Bible says:

... and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. (Leviticus 11: 7)

Adam Clarke, while explaining Leviticus 11: 7 writes:

And the swine [chazir], one of the most gluttonous, libidinous, and filthy quadrupeds in the universe; and, because of these qualities, sacred to the Venus of the Greeks and Romans, and the Friga of our Saxon ancestors; and perhaps on these accounts forbidden, as well as on account of its flesh being strong and difficult to digest, affording a very gross kind of aliment, apt to produce cutaneous, scorbutic, and scrofulous disorders, especially in hot climates. (Notes on Leviticus 11: 7, Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, Power BibleCD, Ver. 2.5, Online Bible Inc.)

According to John Wesley's Notes on the Old and the New Testaments:

the swine - It is a filthy, foul-feeding animal, and it lacks one of the natural provisions for purifying the system, "it cheweth not the cud"; in hot climates indulgence in swine's flesh is particularly liable to produce leprosy, scurvy, and various cutaneous eruptions. It was therefore strictly avoided by the Israelites. Its prohibition was further necessary to prevent their adopting many of the grossest idolatries practised by neighboring nations. (Notes on Leviticus 11: 7, John Wesley's notes on the Old and the New Testaments, Power BibleCD, Ver. 2.5, Online Bible Inc.)

5- Consecrations for Other Deities

The Bible says:

Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction. (Exodus 22: 20)

It says in the Talmud:

Mishnah. That which is slaughtered by a gentile[22] is Nebelah and defiles by carrying. (Talmud Mas. Chullin 13a, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

While explaining the cited part of the Mishnah, the Talmud says:

"And defiles by carrying". Is not this obvious? Since it is nebelah [it follows that] it defiles by carrying! Raba answered: This is the interpretation. This animal defiles by carrying, but there is another [similar] case where the animal even defiles [men and utensils that are] in the same tent. Which is that? It is the case of an animal slaughtered as a sacrifice to idols. This then is in accordance with the view held by R. Judah b. Bathyra. (Talmud Mas. Chullin 13b, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

It might be of interest to note that the prohibition of blood, carrion and animals consecrated to idols is also mentioned in the New Testament. Acts 15: 20 says:

but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.

1Corinthians 10: 28 reads as:

But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake.

Thus, the prohibition of blood, carrion and animals consecrated for idols was also maintained and honored by all the Christian creeds until the 8th Century. According to John Wesley's Notes on the Old and the New Testaments:

Blood - The eating of which was never permitted the children of God from the beginning of the world.  Nothing can be clearer than this.  For, 1. From Adam to Noah no man ate flesh at all; consequently no man then ate blood. 2. When God allowed Noah and his posterity to eat flesh, he absolutely forbade them to eat blood; and accordingly this, with the other six precepts of Noah, was delivered down from Noah to Moses. 3. God renewed this prohibition by Moses, which was not repealed from the time of Moses till Christ came. 4. Neither after his coming did any presume to repeal this decree of the Holy Ghost, till it seemed good to the bishop of Rome so to do, about the middle of the eighth century. 5. From that time those Churches which acknowledged his authority held the eating of blood to be an indifferent thing.  But, 6. In all those Churches which never did acknowledge the bishop of Rome's authority, it never was allowed to eat blood; nor is it allowed at this day.  This is the plain fact; let men reason as plausibly as they please on one side or the other. (Notes on Acts 15: 29, John Wesley's notes on the Old and the New Testaments, Power BibleCD, Ver. 2.5, Online Bible Inc.)

According to the People's New Testament Commentary:

That they abstain from the pollutions of idols. Four items are mentioned, which are all embraced in the apostolic letter as things forbidden. They were four common customs of the Gentile world, and matters on which there should be a clear understanding. The first does not mean only to refrain from worshiping idols, or eating meat offered in idol sacrifice, but from all the pollutions of the system of idolatry. Licentiousness and drunkenness received a sanction from religion. See Lecky's European Morals, chapter V., and Conybeare and Howson's Paul, chapter IV.

From fornication. Chastity was the exception instead of the rule among Gentiles at this period.

From things strangled. Because in strangling the blood was retained in the flesh.

From blood. The use of blood was prohibited by the Mosaic law (Le 17:14; De 12:16,23), and for wise reasons this prohibition was extended to Gentiles. The Roman epicures were wont to drown fowls in wine and then use the flesh. It was a common thing to drink wine mingled with blood. The only way to strike at these savage practices was to prohibit its use.

(Notes on Acts 15: 20, People's New Testament Commentary, Power BibleCD, Ver. 2.5, Online Bible Inc.)

As far as the pronouncement of God's name before slaughtering the animal is concerned, there is sufficient evidence to believe that it is a regular practice of the Jewish community, even though the exact words of the particular benediction offered at the time of slaughter could not be found. As a principle, benefiting from all good things in life must be preceded by a blessing. The Encyclopedia of Judaism says:

Pronouncing this benediction [reference is to Grace Before Meals] accords with the rabbinic view that "it is forbidden and sacrilegious for anyone to enjoy [the good things] of this world without a blessing (Ber. 35a), and that failure to recite a benediction over food is tantamount to "defrauding the Almighty" (Tosef. Ber. 4.1) (The Encyclopedia of Judaism, Grace Before Meals, Davka Corporation)

The Encyclopedia Judaica says:

The act of shehitah [i.e. ritual slaughter] is preceded by a benediction. (Judaism Practice, Shehitah, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

The same information is also given in the Encyclopedia of Judaism:

The shohet [i.e. the person performing the shehitah] pronounces a special blessing before slaughtering, and one blessing suffices for the slaughter of many animals at one time. (The Encyclopedia of Judaism, Shehitah, Davka Corporation)

The above information, combined with the fact that all Jewish blessings and benedictions, as a rule, must entail God's name[23], should suffice as evidence to the fact that one of the elements in the ritual slaughter to be valid, according to the Jewish Law, is the pronouncement of God's name before the actual act of slaughtering.

6- The Stated Prohibitions may be Used for Purposes Other than Eating

There seems to be some difference of opinion among the Talmudic scholars regarding deriving benefits, other than eating, from nevelah[24] and other prohibited items. The Talmud says:

On the view of R. Meir who maintained,[to] a ger[25] and a heathen alike, both selling and giving are permitted, it is well: since a verse is required to permit benefit from a nebelah, it follows that all other things forbidden in the Torah are forbidden in respect of both eating and [general] benefit. But according to R. Judah, who maintained, it comes from [the purpose of teaching that] the words are as they are written, whence does he know that all [other] things forbidden in the Torah are forbidden in respect of benefit? He deduces it from, [ye shall not eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field;] ye shall cast it to the dogs: 'it' you may cast to dogs, but you may not cast to dogs all [other] things forbidden in the Torah. And R. Meir? ? [He interprets:] 'it' you may cast to dogs, but you may not cast to dogs hullin killed in the Temple Court. And the other? ? [Benefit from] hullin killed in the Temple Court is not [forbidden] by Scriptural law. (Talmud Mas. Pesachim 21b - 22a, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

This difference of opinion is further elaborated  in the following part of the Talmud:

Shall we say that it is dependent on Tannaim[26]? [And the fat of that which dieth of itself, and the fat of that which is torn of beasts.] may be used for all service [: but ye shall in no wise eat of it]. Why is 'for all service' stated? For I might think, for the service of the Most High let it be permitted, but for secular service let it be forbidden; therefore it is stated, 'for all service': this is the view of R. Jose the Galilean. R. Akiba said: For I might think, for secular service let it be clean, [but] for service of the Most High let it be unclean; therefore it is stated, 'for all service'. Now R. Jose the Galilean [holds] that in respect of uncleanness and cleanness a verse is not required, a verse being required only in respect of what is forbidden and what is permitted. While R. Akiba [maintains]: [in respect of] what is forbidden and what is permitted no verse is required, a verse being required only in respect of uncleanness and cleanness. Surely then they differ in this, [viz..]: R. Jose the Galilean holds, ye shall not eat' connotes both a prohibition of eating and a prohibition of benefit, and when the verse comes to permit nebelah, it comes in respect of benefit. While R. Akiba holds: it connotes a prohibition of eating, [but] does not connote a prohibition of benefit, and for what [purpose] does the verse come? In respect of uncleanness and cleanness! No: all hold that 'ye shall not eat' connotes both a prohibition of eating and a prohibition of benefit, but here they differ in this: R. Jose the Galilean holds, when nebelah was permitted, it [alone] was permitted, [whereas] its fat [heleb] and its sinew were not permitted, and [therefore] for what purpose is the verse required? It is in respect of permission for use. But R. Akiba holds: when nebelah was permitted, its fat [heleb] and its sinew too were permitted; hence for what purpose is the verse necessary? It is in respect of uncleanness and cleanness. (Talmud Mas. Pesachim 22a - 23b, Soncino Talmud, version II, CD version, Davka Corporation and Judaica Press Inc.)

However, the following verse of the Bible seems to clearly permit such usage:

Also the fat of an animal which dies and the fat of an animal torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but you must certainly not eat it. (Leviticus 7: 24)

The Christian Creed

The position of the Christian creed, with reference to the Mosaic Law was no different from the Jews themselves. Jesus (pbuh) in his legendary 'Sermon on the Mount' declares:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 17 - 19)

This express confirmation of the Mosaic Law and the commandments entailed in the Books of the Prophets, combined with the fact that Jesus (pbuh) did not, at any time during his ministry, expressly direct his disciples to disregard any of the teachings entailed in these books, is a sufficient evidence for us to believe that by default the Christians were, in fact, supposed to adhere to all the prohibitions mentioned in the Mosaic Law. It is precisely for this reason that Jesus (pbuh) did not bring a new Shari`ah regarding edibles.

Thus, whatever has been explained in the foregoing section regarding the Jewish Dietary Laws, applies to the Christian as well[27].

Regarding the Additional Restrictions of the Judaic Law

Besides the aforementioned similarities in the Islamic Shari`ah and the Mosaic Law regarding what may or may not be used for eating, there were certain additional restrictions imposed by the earlier Law. It is beyond the scope of this article to enumerate all these additional restrictions regarding edibles, yet to get an idea about these restrictions, one may only look at the law relating to the act of slaughter (Shehitah).

The Judaica writes:

Specific regulations govern the method by which an animal must be slaughtered before it is permitted. So complex and minute are the regulations, that the slaughter must be carried out by a carefully trained and licensed shohet. It is his duty both to slaughter the animal, and to carry out an examination (bedikah). Should a defect be found in some of the organs, such as the brain, the windpipe, the esophagus, the heart, the lungs, or the intestines, the animal is terefah, and forbidden for consumption. Defects are normally classified under eight categories (Hul. 43a): nekuvah, perforated organ walls; pesukah, split pipes; netulah, missing limbs; haserah, missing or defective organs; keru'ah, torn walls or membrane covers or organs; derusah, a poisonous substance introduced into the body, when mauled by a wild animal; nefulah, shattering by a fall; shevurah, broken or fractured bones. It is assumed in the Talmud that any of these defects would lead to the death of the animal within one year (Hul. 3:1; see below). Only if the animal has none of these injuries, is it pronounced kasher.[28]

Then again, with the prohibition of nevelah - flesh of a dead animal - animals that have suffered an injury which can cause death - within a specific time (generally, one year) - even though the animal has not yet died, renders the animal unfit for eating. The Judaica writes:

It is forbidden to eat either a nevelah (an animal that dies a natural death, or that has been killed by any method other than shehitah; Deut. 14:21), and a terefah (an animal that has been torn by a wild beast; Ex. 22:30). The term terefah is also applied to an animal suffering from an injury which may lead within a specific time to its death (see above). Such an animal is absolutely prohibited for consumption. The Talmud (Hul. Chap. 3) describes over 70 such injuries and lesions (see also Sh. Ar., YD 29-60; Maim. Yad, Shehitah, 10:9), which Maimonides describes as "the limit" and which, he says "must not be increased even though it should be found by scientific investigation that other injuries are dangerous to the life of the animal" (Maim. Yad, ibid., 10:12), or diminished "even if it should appear by scientific investigation that some are not fatal; one must go only by what the sages have enumerated" (Maim. Yad, ibid., 10:13).

All these restrictions were removed in the final Shari`ah. It was, in fact, the removal of such restrictions, which the Qur'an (Al-Aa`raaf 7: 157) has referred to in the following words:

ٱلَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ ٱلرَّسُولَ ٱلنَّبِىَّ ٱلۡأُمِّىَّ ٱلَّذِى يَجِدُونَهُ ۥ مَكۡتُوبًا عِندَهُمۡ فِى ٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةِ وَٱلۡإِنجِيلِ يَأۡمُرُهُم بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَيَنۡہَٮٰهُمۡ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنڪَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيۡهِمُ ٱلۡخَبَـٰٓٮِٕثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنۡهُمۡ إِصۡرَهُمۡ وَٱلۡأَغۡلَـٰلَ ٱلَّتِى كَانَتۡ عَلَيۡهِمۡ‌ۚ فَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ بِهِۦ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَٱتَّبَعُواْ ٱلنُّورَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ ۥۤ‌ۙ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ

[The true believers are they] who are following the messenger - the Unlettered Prophet - whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel. He enjoins righteousness upon them and forbids them from evil. He makes suitable things lawful to them and prohibits all that is unsuitable. He relieves them of their burdens and of the shackles that had weighed upon them. Thus, those who have believed in him and have honored him and have aided him and have followed the light sent down with him, are the ones that shall indeed triumph.


[1] The divine law entailed in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).

[2] At another instance while reminding His favor on the Ahl e Kitaab, which was inherent in the advent of the last Prophet (pbuh), God declares:

He [i.e. the Prophet (pbuh)] allows them the suitable and prohibits for them the unsuitable and removes the burdens and the shackles that have remained upon them [in the past]. (Al-Aa`raaf: 7: 157)

[3] Like lions, tigers, elephants, eagles, vultures, crows, snakes, scorpions etc.

[4] As reported in Muslim, Kitaab al-Sayed.

[5] Al-Nasaaiy, Kitaab al-Dhuhaaya. Such animals are termed as "Jallaalah" in the Arabic language.

[6] Bukhari, Kitaab al-Zabaaih.

[7] Al-Baqarah 2: 219.

[8] This is an exact translation of the Arabic words used in the referred verse

[9] The Arabic word used in this verse is the same word is also used in the begining of Al-Nahl 16: 115.

[10] i.e. the migration of the Prophet (pbuh) from Mekkah to Medinah.

[11] However, if the prey dies not because of any injury inflicted by the hound, but due merely to fear or due to any other reason, it would then be considered carrion and should, therefore, not be eaten. Likewise, if the prey is still alive when retrieved, it would then, obviously, have to be slaughtered in the prescribed manner.

[12] 6: 145, Say [O prophet]: 'In what has been revealed to me, I find nothing prohibited from the things that a person eats, except carrion, flowing blood, the flesh of swine - because these are all unclean things - or any flesh that has been sacrilegiously consecrated for anything other than God. Nevertheless, whoever is driven by necessity, intending neither to sin nor to transgress, will find your Lord very Forgiving, Eternal in mercy'.

[13] Had the prohibition in such cases also been restricted to those animals, which are slaughtered in the name of deities other than God, there was, obviously, no need to mention these separately, after mentioning the prohibition of animals sacrificed in the name of other deities.

[14] that [food,] which is distributed by [gambling through] arrows.

[15] In the same way, as it had previously termed the act of consecrating animals for other deities, performing the slaughter ritual at shrines and altars and of gambling on an animal's meat.

[16] "... [any part] of that upon [the slaughter of] which God's name has not been pronounced".

[17] Some people are of the view that even if it is known, with certainty, that God's name has not been pronounced on the animal, a Muslim may eat of it after pronouncing God's name upon its meat. The cited verse of Al-An`aam does not support this view. The verse clearly directs the Muslims to refrain from eating any part of an animal upon which God's name has not been mentioned. The words of the verse clearly imply that God's name should be pronounced at the time of the slaughter of the animal. If such is not the case and if God's name has, intentionally, not been pronounced at the time of the slaughter, then the verse strictly prohibits a Muslim from eating any part of such an animal. No one, who knows the Arabic language can take the verse as directing the Muslims that if God's name has not been pronounced at the time of slaughter, they should, then, pronounce it, before eating its meat.

[18] As shall be shown later in this article, this particular quality of the Ahl e Kitaab - i.e. their ascription to a creed, which is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God - also creates remarkable similarities in the directives regarding what should and should not be considered fit for eating. This seems to be one of the basic reasons in allowing the food of the Ahl e Kitaab.

[19] Hebrew, lit: "Carcass".

[20] The oldest authoritative postbiblical collection and codification of Jewish oral laws, systematically compiled by numerous scholars over a period of about two centuries. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Mishna)

[21] The halakhah explains karet as premature death (Sifra, Emor, 14:4), and a baraita (MK 28a; TJ, Bik. 2:1, 64b) more explicitly as: "death at the age of 50," but some amoraim hold that it refers to "death between the ages of 50 and 60." (Judaism Practice, Karet, Encyclopedia Judaica CD, version 1, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd.)

[22] This, obviously, implies that animals slaughtered by idolators are considered prohibited for eating as well.

[23] The Encyclopedia of Judaism writes:

Of the different blessing patterns that have survived, one short form opens with the "Blessed are You, O Lord" wording, another short form incorporates it is its conclusion, while a third and longer form uses it at both the beginning and the end. In accordance with a rule laid down by the sages (Ber. 12a, 40b), no statutory benediction may exclude the mention of God's name (the Tetragrammaton YHVH pronounced "Adonai") and of His kingship. (The Encyclopedia of Judaism, Benedictions, Davka Corporation)

[24] Carcass.

[25] i.e. a stranger, a non-Jew.

[26] i.e. 'teachers'.

[27] However, one may ask that even if the Christians were supposed to follow the Mosaic Laws, the fact remains that they had actually given up adherence to these laws from a very early period; under these circumstances, why has the Qur'an not criticized the Christians for their lack of adherence to the Mosaic Laws, if it was wrong to do so.

The 'Nasaara' (i.e. the Nazarenes), the Christian sect in the Arabian Peninsula had not given up adherence to the Mosaic Laws. Had that been the case, the Qur'an most certainly would have criticized them for it. The Nazarenes were a Syrian Judeo-Christian sect. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

"Although they [the Nazarenes] accepted the divinity of Christ and his supernatural birth, the Nazarenes also maintained strict observance of Jewish laws and customs, a practice that had been dropped by the majority of Jewish Christians. They used a version of the Gospel in Aramaic called the Gospel According to the Hebrews, or the Gospel of the Nazarenes."

There is also some evidence to suggest that the Nazarene creed also ascribed to the belief of the divinity of Mary (Hadhrat Maryam) - a belief criticized by the Qur'an, not ascribed to by the Pauline Christians.  The following is a note on the Gospel of the Hebrews posted on one of the internet sites giving information about the canonical and apocryphal books in the (http://www.comdac.com/~trowbridge/gosheb.htm):

c. 70-150 C.E.

It is both odd and unfortunate that no copies of any of the so-called "Judeo-Christian" gospels have survived antiquity, though the texts, kept by early Christians who maintained deep-seated Jewish beliefs, were often quoted by Christian writers throughout the first five centuries. These short citations are our only windows through which we might study the traditions of the communities that used them.

The Gospel of the Hebrews is the most often quoted of the Judeo-Christian gospels, though it must be noted that at least two other texts (Ebionites and Nazoreans) were referred to by the same title, and we can only make educated guesses as to which gospel each fragment was derived from. At least eight early writers had either referenced or cited from Hebrews, each offering their own interpretations and assessment of validity. From these we know the date of composition is no later than mid-second century, possibly much earlier. It was said to have been written in Hebrew, though much of its theology parallels Egyptian tradition.

The gospel shows no direct dependence upon the canonical gospels, though it shares a verse with the Gospel of Thomas (GosThom 2). Among the most unique traditions is the depiction of Mary, like the Johannine logos, as divine - in fact, that she was the incarnation of Michael, who was the personification of the Holy Spirit. Also, Jesus first appears to his brother James following the resurrection. Since James the Just was traditionally held to have founded the church at Jerusalem, it is no surprise that the Hebrew gospel elevates his authority by making him the first to witness the risen Christ.

Reference to the Nazarene Judeo-Christian sect in the writings of the earlier Christians is generally in a tone of great disgust and hatred. As a representative of these writings, we present below an excerpt of one of St. Augustine's letters. He writes:

In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, 'born of, the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. (Early Church Fathers, The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers - Series One, Volume 1 - The Confessions and Letters of Augustine, Letter 75, (AD 404), Complete Christian Collection, Packard Technologies, 1999)

[28] Any defect found even in the knife with which the animal has been slaughtered, renders the animal unfit for eating.

 

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