Why Islam Forbids Pork?
By: Rashid Shamsi
(The Muslim World League Journal, Rajab 1420 - October 1999)
Food and drink have direct effect on our health. That is why Islam has
prescribed regulations about our food and drink. It lays great emphasis on our
physical as well as moral health, because both of these are equally important for
a healthy society. The abstention from eating pork is one of the steps taken by
Islam to practise hygiene and to attain purity of soul.
Islam, for the cultivation of inner faculties, insists upon the cleanliness
of body and the purification of soul through Salaat (prayers) Zikr (remembrance
of Allah) and other devotional duties. Islam teaches us how to attain the virtues
and how to give up bad habits because both good and bad grow in the man according
to his upbringing, education and environment.
A human being has natural desires: food, sleep and sex being the three primary
ones. He has also other natural emotions: sorrow, happiness, love, fear, disgust
and avarice etc. Islam doesn't recommend the complete abrogation of these impulses
but offers a method of controlling them through religious education and discipline.
The prohibition of eating pork in Islam is relevant in this context. There is
a saying in English that "a man becomes what he eats." According to physicians
and medical experts, pork is a harmful diet. Consumption of swine-flesh creates
lowliness in character and destroys moral and spiritual faculties in a man.
Body and Soul
The life of a man is a compound of body and soul. Anything, which is harmful
for the body, hurts the soul as well. Consumption of swine-flesh reduces the
feeling of shame and as such the standard of modesty. Those nations, which
consume pork habitually, have a low standard of morality with the result that
virginity, chastity and bashfulness are becoming a thing of the past in Europe
today. The number of unwed mothers is on the increase despite of the use of pills
and other contraceptives.
According to a report, 60 to 70% of girls in Sweden become mothers before
marriage. The formula of "skin to skin is no sin" is taking its toll but there
is hardly any feeling of shame or remorse over the end-result. Since the European
nations have become addicted to wine and pork, sexual freedom with all its
attendant evils has got ingrained in their culture. Consequently, homosexuality
has been legalized by the British Parliament.
The Holy Qur'an has prohibited the swine-flesh, hence the Muslims would not
dare touch it. The Bible has also forbidden swine-flesh, but Christians disregarded
this order and started consuming it. The Europeans now proclaim that pork is a
very powerful diet, rich in protein. Some of them further argue that since there
is a great scarcity of food-stuff in the world and swines are available in
abundant quantity, they should be consumed in the diet to overcome the food
shortage. If this argument is true, why don't they use dog's meat as dogs too are
available in abundance? The Europeans perhaps hate the mere mention of dog's meat
in the same way as the Muslims shun pork.
Another wrong notion about swine-flesh is that its consumption lengthens
life-span, although this is a pure myth and absurdity. On the contrary, people,
who abstain from pork and liquor, have a longer span of life. The Muslims in
Central Asia bear a testimony to this truth.
However, in the consumption of flesh Muslims are required to be selective and
to distinguish between Halaal (Lawful) and Haraam (Unlawful). This step leads
automatically to the deeper understanding of the need for the cultivation of a
pure human nature. As blood is virtually our life-stream and whatever we consume
ultimately affects the blood system, it is, therefore, necessary to exercise
choice in the selection of our food and drinks as part of the requirements
of the Shariah.
There are certain food and drinks specified by Allah, and His Messenger
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as forbidden. The prohibition of these food
and drinks is not by any means an arbitrary action or an unwarranted decree of
Allah. It is the first and foremost a divine intervention in the best interest of
man and for his own benefit.
The reasons behind the Divine intervention are numerous. They are of a nature
intellectual and spiritual, moral and mental, physical and economic. And the sole
purpose is to show man how to develop himself according to an upright course of
life in order to be a healthy unit in the structure of the family, then of society
and eventually of humanity at large.
Reliable medical doctors and social scientists are able to realize how those
food and drinks forbidden by Islam are harmful and destructive to the human spirit
and morality as well as to the physique and moral fibre of man and to verify the
benefits of Islamic legislations on the subjects.
The prohibition is based on the aim of the purification of one's nature,
because food, when consumed, doesn't merely enter the stomach and intestines and
become excreta. It is absorbed and metabolized into the system and circulated to
all parts of the human body, including the brain, and this in no small way
affects man's nature.
Take a look at the nature of the pig for example. The pig is naturally lazy
and indulgent in sex, it is dirty, greedy and gluttonous. It dislikes sunlight
and lacks the spirit and will to "fight." It eats almost anything, be it human
excreta or anything foul and unwholesome. Amongst all animal flesh, pork is the
favoured cradle of harmful germs. Pork also serves as a carrier of diseases to
mankind. It is for this reason that its flesh is not suitable for consumption.
Some people have argued that the "modern pig" reared in farms is given only
clean foods, therefore, its flesh should be consumable. The answer is that you
may feed the pig on clean, wholesome food, but you can't change its nature. It is
still a pig and will always stay so. A pig is not a plant and you cannot change
it by bud-grafting.
Dr. E. Kazim. M.D. in his article "Medical aspects of forbidden foods in
Islam" (July 1981 issue of Muslim Journal has described diseases carried or
caused by the flesh of the swine.
The pig is a scavenger. It is an omnivorous animal. It eats everything. There
are many diseases carried from swine to man, particularly parasite infestations.
Lately extensive research has been focused on senility-old age is characterized
by hardening of inner lining of the blood vessels of the heart, brain etc. a
process called atheroselerosis. When a clot forms, it results in coronary thrombosis
or a heart attack, cerebral thrombosis or stroke.
Different dietary factors are responsible for atheroselerosis. Gross atheroma
may be produced in rabbit by feeding it with cholesterol, but when you add lard
(derived from hog fat) to the cholesterol, the incidence of atheroma is increased
and thus you would produce coronary thrombosis, and myocardial infraction.
Besides, lard contains 2800 units of vitamin D per 100 grams and no vitamin A
at all. Lately vitamin D has been held responsible for atheroma, by causing
increased absorption of calcium in the blood vessels. In human beings, serum
cholesterol is not dependent on the intake of cholesterol in the diet, but
depends upon the proportion of animal fats in the diet, which elevates the beta-lipo
protein level in the blood. Animal fats contain saturated fatty acids and these
saturated fatty acids have been found to be as one of the causes of atheroma in
man. Medium fat bacon contains 25% proteins and 55% fat.
According to medical research, the fat content in pork is more than any other
meat (beef, mutton etc.) and it takes longer to digest. Dr. M Jaffer in an article
in the Islamic Review (London) of January 1997 issue has listed 16 kinds of
harmful germs, which have been discovered in pork in modern researches and the
diseases, which could be caused by them. The number of patients suffering from
tapeworm disease is the highest in the world among pork eating nations. Other
diseases attributed to pigs are caused by tri-chinelia spirates and intestinal
worms occupy first place among such nations too.
Dr. Glen Shepherd wrote the following on the dangers of eating pork in
Washington Post (31 May 1952).
"One in six people in USA and Canada have germs in their muscles - trichinosis
8 from eating pork infected with trichina worms. Many people who are infected
shows no symptoms. Most of those, who do have, recover slowly. Some die; some are
reduced to permanent invalids. All were careless pork caters".
He continued "No one is immune from the disease and there is no cure. Neither
antibiotics nor drugs or vaccines affect these tiny deadly worms. Preventing
infection is the real answer."
After reading the statement of Dr. Shepherd, one can realize that there is no
real guarantee of safety when eating pork that one would not be affected by
trichina worm. That is why modern doctors advise three prohibitions during
illness: no liquor, no pork and no smoking.
Muslims follow the divine law which is much higher than the medical advice.
The Glorious Qur'an says, "So eat of the lawful and good food which Allah has
provided for you, and thank the bounty of your Lord if it is Him you serve. He
has forbidden for you only carrion and blood and swine-flesh and that which
has been immolated in the name of any other than Allah; but he who is driven
thereto, neither craving nor transgressing, Lo! then Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (16:114-115)
The above is the order from the Creator of the universe and the Supreme
Law-Giver. All Muslims are under the obligation to obey it. This is a plain and
straightforward answer to those, who usually ask why Muslims abstain from eating
pork. Nevertheless, there is no sin, if a Muslims is forced by famine or
starvation to eat pork in order to save his life.