Monday, 23 April 2007

Important Injunctions Relating To Food


This post will InshaAllah explain - what is lawful (Halal) and unlawful (Haram). This knowledge is among the most important in Deen. Knowing such rulings and injunctions is Fardhu 'Ain (personally obligatory for every Muslim).

Avoiding Doubtful Foods

Anas bin Malik RA relates that the Prophet Muhammad SAW found a date in his path, and said:

"But for fear that it was charity, I would have eaten it." (Riyadhus Salihin)

The above hadith shows that when a person doubts that something is permissible, he should not do it. The question arises, is refraining from it in such a case, is obligatory or recommended?- to which our illustrious Imams explicitly reply that it is the latter, because a thing is initially assumed to be permissible and fundamentally not blameworthy, as long as some prior reason for considering it unlawful is not known about it that one doubts has been removed.

For example, when one doubts that one of the conditions for valid slaughtering has been met, conditions which make a particular piece of meat lawful, the assumption is that it remains unlawful, since initially the animal was alive, a state in which it is unlawful to eat, while it only becomes lawful by a specific procedure, i.e. Islamic slaughtering, so that the meat does not become lawful except through certainty that it has been slaughtered. The case of meats is exceptional in this, since most other foods are initially permissible, and one assumes they remain so unless one is certain something has occurred which has made them unlawful.

In cases of doubt, only likely possibilities are taken into consideration, since it appears probable in the above hadith that dates for charity were present at the time.

As for remote possibilities, taking them into consideration only leads to a blameworthy extremism and departure from how the early Muslims were; for the Prophet Muhammad SAW was given some cheese and a cloak by members of a non-Muslim Arab tribe, and he ate the one and wore the other without considering whether they might have mixed the former with pork, or whether the wool came from a slaughtered or unslaughtered animal. Were one to take such possibilities into consideration, one would not find anything lawful on the face of the earth.

This is why the Ulama say:

"Complete certainty that something is lawful is only conceivable about rainwater falling from the sky into one's hand."

Let us be reminded too that the above statement is not an excuse for being lax in efforts to ensure pure eating habits.

Animals Lawful and Unlawful to Eat

It is permissible to eat the oryx, zebra, hyena, fox, rabbit, porcupine, daman (a Syrian rock badger), deer, ostrich, or horse.

It is unlawful to eat:

1. Any form of pork products;

2. Cats or disgusting small animals that creep or walk on the ground such as ants, flies, and the like. Disgusting being used here to exclude inoffensive ones such as the jerboa, locust, and hedgehog, which are small creeping animals, but are recognised as wholesome, and are pure;

3. Predatory animals that prey with fangs or tusks, such as the lion, lynx, leopard, wolf, bear, simians, and so forth - and this include elephants and weasels;

4. Those which hunt with talons (claws), such as the falcon, hawk, kite, or crow, except for the barnyard crow, which may be eaten;

5. The offspring of the cross between an animal permissible to eat and one not permissible to eat, such as a mule; which is a cross between one eatable i.e. the horse, and one uneatable i.e. the donkey.

6. It is permissible to eat any aquatic game (Sayd Al-Bahr) except frogs and crocodiles.

Other Substances Unlawful to Eat

It is unlawful to eat anything harmful, e.g. poison, glass, or earth. If something has been proven harmful, it is unlawful to consume, while if suspected to be harmful, it is offensive to. Such rulings are similar with cigarette smoking.

It is unlawful to eat anything impure; whether impure in itself, or because of being affected with something impure, as is the case with befouled milk, vinegar, or honey.

It is also unlawful to eat substances which are pure, but generally considered repulsive, such as saliva or semen.

If forced to eat from a unslaughtered dead animal, and this was done out of fear of losing one's life or fear of an illness growing worse, then one may eat enough only i.e. the necessary minimum to avert destruction - meaning enough to keep life from ending. One may not eat to repletion from a dead animal unless one believes that confining oneself to the survival minimum entails dangerous consequences, in which case it is obligatory to take the edge off one's hunger.

Should circumstances force one to choose between a dead animal and some permissible food belonging to someone else who is not present, one is obliged to eat of the dead animal. This ruling clearly explains the injunction of using other people's possessions only with their permission; and there are no excuses however, even at the edge of potential death due to lack of food.

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