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Dr. Zaghloul El-Naggar
 

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The Prohibition of Carrion, Blood, the Flesh of Swine, and that which has been Acclaimed to Other than Allah

 

Allah says in the Qur’an what can be translated as:

“He has forbidden you only Al-Maitah (meat of a dead animal), blood, the flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols or on which Allah's Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, and not transgressing – then, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

(Surat An-Nahl (The Bees):115).

 

This ayah (verse) is found in the beginning of the last tenth of Surat An-Nahl, which is a Makkan surah with 128 ayat.  It is named Surat An-Nahl (Bees) because it embraces an ayah in which Allah SWT describes that He has gifted the female bee with the ability to gather nectar from the flowers, digest it, and make from it the sweet syrup we call honey.  That syrup is described as coming from the bee’s belly as a drink of different colors, wherein is a cure for mankind. 

 

The theme of this surah revolves around two ideas: Islamic creed, and the importance of good manners.  These are two pillars of the great religion that Allah SWT revealed in stages on His Prophets and Messengers, until He completed the religion with the final revelation that came with the seal of all Prophets and Messengers, Prophet Muhammad son of Abdullah SAWS.  In the surah’s discussion of Islamic creed, the reader is called to reflect upon many of Allah’s Signs, Creations and Miracles in the universe presented in a strong scientific manner that exhibits both comprehensiveness and parsimony.  One such example is in the verse number 115 of the surah.

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Scientific Miracles in Ayah 115 of Surat An-Nahl

 

1.  The Prohibition of Carrion

 

The death of an animal before its slaughter could be due to its infliction with a certain disease or virus.  It could also be due to old age.  In truth, these two reasons are sufficient to prohibit this type of meat.  In addition, when an animal is dead without being properly slaughtered allowing its blood to drain from the body, then the blood will instead become trapped in the body.  This is a serious problem because blood carries body wastes including carbon dioxide, urea, uric acid, microorganisms, parasites, and the products of food assimilation and metabolism that are transported via the veins and arteries and their tributaries in the animals body. Most of these substances have a potential to rot and decay if trapped in the body, especially if the body has been left for a period long enough to allow the start of its decay.  From this additional reason we see further wisdom and logic behind the divine prohibition of carrion. 

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2.  The Prohibition of Blood

 

Blood is this dark red liquid which consists of a mixture of different cells.  The red blood cells form 45% of the blood volume (4 to 6 million per mm3) which contain high concentrations of hemoglobin that is responsible for carrying and delivering oxygen to the body’s cells.  Blood also contains white blood cells which defend the body against invasion by microorganisms and parasites that inflict diseases.  The blood also contains platelets that form a platelet plug at the site of a wound or hemorrhage in order to allow the blood to clot.  These latter two types of cells each constitute less than 1% of the blood volume.  The rest of the blood, 54%, consists of plasma.  Plasma is mostly water, and about 7% proteins (such as albumin, globulin, antibodies, carrier proteins, fat, vitamins, hormones, and sodium, calcium, potassium, iron, nickel, chlorine, and bicarbonate ions).  Blood also carries toxic nitrogenous wastes produced by the cells, such as ammonia, urea, and uric acid, to be excreted by the kidney as urine.  This is in addition to the various free and dissolved gases in the blood’s plasma, and the live or dead viruses, bacteria, and parasites, as well as broken blood cells.  The heart pumps blood carrying beneficial substances such as oxygen and nutrients to the body cells. 

 

All this reveals that blood can transmit serious diseases such as the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or HIV, which is still considered an untreatable and fatal disease.

 

Furthermore, there is the lymph which flows in the tributaries of the lymphatic ducts that eventually merge with the large blood vessels near the heart. These lymphatic vessels absorb the proteins that escape from the blood vessels and those in the intercellular tissues and matrix and return them to the blood stream at the right time, thus maintaining the chemical homeostasis that is vital for any living creature.  This is one of the most important roles of the lymphatic system.  The lymph itself is comprised of plasma, and some of the substances dissolved in it, as well as white blood cells and lymphocytes.  Lymphocytes are considered one of the body’s key defense players against disease.  In addition, there are also the lymph nodes, which are masses of lymphoid tissue located along the lymphatic vessels or existing independently such as the tonsils, the pharyngeal lymph nodes, the gastrointestinal lymph nodes, the thymus gland, and the spleen.  The primary role of the lymphatic glands is to defend the body since they possess such a large number of lymphocytes.  These glands work as filters to the gases and liquids that enter the body by selecting the impurities such as dust, viruses, bacteria, etc and storing them in the gland until antibodies are secreted to destroy them. 

 

Among the roles of blood in the liver, is the extraction of the amino group, NH2, released from the amino acids.  This process results in nitrogenous wastes, such as the ones discussed above, which the blood takes and carries to the kidneys for excretion.  Thus, the excretory system, which includes the kidneys, together with the blood, help achieve the chemical balance of the body by excreting the waste products of metabolism. 

 

As can be seen from the description above, the blood that is drained during the proper slaughter of an animal contains many bodily wastes, besides some of the dangerous substances it is already composed of.  If these substances and wastes were to stay trapped in the animal’s body, they would clot with the blood that was on its way to the excretory organs.  After clotting, they would begin to rot and decay, which would result in yet another set of complicated poisons and harmful chemical products.  In addition to the bodily wastes contained in blood, we also mentioned that blood carries some viruses, bacteria, and parasites.  Thus, we see the divine wisdom and logic behind the prohibition of blood.  However, we note that eating the liver or spleen of an animal that has been slaughtered according to Islamic traditions is allowed in Islam.  This is based on the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), “We have been granted permission to eat two carrions and two bloods: the two carrions are fish and locusts, the two bloods are liver and spleen” (Narrated by Ahmed, ibn Majjeh, Baihaqi by way of Ibn Omar from the prophet SAWS)

 

3.  The Prohibition of the Flesh of Swine

 

The Qur'an describes the swine as a abomination in more than one location (Surat Al-Baqara (The cow): 173 " He has forbidden you only the Maitah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols, on which Allâh’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.",

 Al-Ma'idah (The Table spread with Food):3 " Forbidden to you (for food) are: Al-Maitah (the dead animals - cattle - beast not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which Allâh’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering, (that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allâh, or has been slaughtered for idols) and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns - and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal - unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death) - and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on An-Nusub [1] (stone-altars). (Forbidden) also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision; (all) that is Fisqun (disobedience of Allâh and sin). This day, those who disbelieved have given up all hope of your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islâm as your religion. But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above mentioned meats), then surely, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.",

 Al-An'am (The Cattale):145 " Say (O Muhammad Pbuh): "I find not in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be Maitah (a dead animal) or blood poured forth (by slaughtering or the like), or the flesh of swine (pork); for that surely is impure or impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols, or on which Allâh’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But whosoever is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits; (for him) certainly, your Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

An-Nahl (The Bees): 115 " He has forbidden you only Al-Maitah (meat of a dead animal), blood, the flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols or on which Allâh’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, and not transgressing, - then, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

 

 In fact, the word used by Allah in the Qur'an to describe the swine is a very strong word that embodies such meanings as filthiness, ugliness, dirtiness, and sin.  It is such a strong description to describe the swine because of its lazy, greedy, and filthy habits.  Swine feeds on almost anything whether it is plants, animals, garbage, rotten meat, and even its own waste and the waste of other animals.  This filthy diet is one of the reasons why the swine is responsible for transporting a number of serious diseases to man.

 

The swine is a placental mammal with split hooves that carry an even number of toes (four in the case of the swine) and are therefore known as the toed ungulates or even artiodactyla. Toed ungulates existed on earth 50 million years ago from the beginning of the modern life era (early Eocene Epoch) until today.  However, the swine is different from the rest of the animals in this group because of its filthy diet and the fact that it is non ruminatingþ.  The swine, like all other mammals, gives birth to babies.  It is ugly in appearance, and appears like a large mass with small legs.  Its body is stout and covered by thick skin and coarse bristles. It has long snouts and strong canines.

 

Swine include domestic and wild types all belonging to the families Suidae and Tayassuidae. The male swine is called a boar, while the female is called a sow.  The adult swine is known as hog, or “haloof” in Arabic, a term used to describe all filth, evil, and selfishness.  In English, the word swine is used to refer to all types of pigs, male or female, domestic or wild, young or adult.  It is also used to refer to people who are evil at heart, greedy in charity, and filthy in appearance, or to describe a woman who is mean, of evil character, and who has no morality or virtues.  Swine have been domesticated 11,000 years ago, and today more than 400 breeds are known.

 

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