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Halal Vs Haram

Since the ancient time there Always has been disputes among the nation and followers of various faith and religion in the matter of eating and drinking habits, and what is lawful and what is unlawful for them. Especially in regard to food of animal origin.

Whereas there is not much disagreement in the product made from vegetable origin. Islam does not prohibit any vegetarian product except the one which has fermented, whether it is made from grapes, dates, barley or any other vegetarian sources, as long as it remains unfermented. However, with regard to foods derived from animal sources nations always have widely differing views and opinions.

There are groups like Brahmins and some philosophers etc. who are completely relying on vegetarian diets, and they made unlawful for themselves slaughtering of animals and eating them. Those who insist on being pure vegetarian, they argue that killing of animals is a violation of their right, and it is ruthless to kill them to feed ourselves. As they are living beings like us, and they should not be deprived of their right to live in this world. According to ideological vegetarians, all life is sacred. This belief can lead to absurdities such as allowing mosquitoes to spread malaria, rats to spread the plague, pests like white ants to destroy your home furniture or vipers to run loose on one's premises.

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Among the people possessing divine religion such as Jews Allah SWT forbade many land and marine animals to them, as it has been mentioned in Torah in details, and Quran also has recalled some of them which had been made unlawful to them, it says:

"And to the Jews We forbade every animal with claws, and of oxen and sheep We have forbidden them their fat, except what is carried on their backs or entrails or what is connected to the bone, thus we recompensed them for their rebellious acts, and verily we are truthful". (6:146)

This was applicable to the Jews, and Christians were supposed to follow these prohibitions since the New Testament declares that Jesus did not come to abolish the law of Torah but to accomplish it. However, the Christians made things lawful which were prohibited in Torah without being abrogated in Injeel or scriptures revealed to Jesus PBUH. They followed the teachings of Paul who declared all foods and drinks lawful except the flesh of those animals which have been sacrificed to idols. Likewise, chiristians also permitted pork to themselves, despite the fact that the Torah prohibits till these days.

This was the state of the world in relation to the eating of food at the advent of Islam. At one extreme every kind of meat was permitted and at the other, all meat was prohibited. Then Allah addressed all human beings saying:

“O mankind! Eat of what is permissible and good on earth, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan; truly he is an open adversary to you”. (2:168) Here Allah SWT is addressing the entire human being, and advising them to eat good foods which have been provided for them, and do not follow the ways of Satan that led some of you to forbid what Allah made lawful. Moreover Quran says:

“O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be thankful to Allah if it is He alone whom you worship. Indeed, what He has forbidden to you is the flesh of dead animals and blood and the flesh of swine, and that which has been sacrificed to anyone other than Allah. But if one is compelled by necessity, neither craving (it) nor transgressing, there is no sin on him; indeed, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”. (2:172-173)

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A proven principal of Islamic Shariah

A general principle of the Islamic Shari'ah is that it is haram for the Muslim to eat or drink anything which may cause his death, either quickly or gradually, such as poisons, or substances which are injurious to health or harmful to his body. For the Muslim is not entirely his own master; he is also an asset to his religion and his ummah (the Muslim nation), and his life, health, wealth, and all that Allah has bestowed upon him are a trust with him which he is not permitted to diminish. Allah swt says:

And do not kill yourselves; indeed, Allah is ever Merciful to you. (4:29)

He also says: And do not be cast into ruin by your own hands.... (2:195)

And His Messenger (peace be on him) said: "Do not harm yourself or others.'' (Ahmad & Ibn Majah.)

As an application of this principle, we may say that if it is proved that the use of tobacco is injurious to health, it is haram, especially for a person whose physician has advised him to stop smoking. Even if it is not injurious to health, it is still a waste of money, spent neither for religious nor for the secular benefit, and this is enough evidence to become haram, Allah says, "...But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the devils…" {Surah al-Israa?17:26-27} And in an authentic hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that: "Allah hates for you three things: gossiping, begging, and wasting money." (Bukhari)

This becomes the more serious when the money is otherwise needed for the sustenance of oneself or one's family. We see in our society that people who have got used to it, they give it more priority over the need of their family, and because of this, sometimes the family goes through financial constraint. This is a total waste of money and destruction of health, which Islam would not allow under any circumstance. In more recent times, as the dangers of tobacco use have come to be proven beyond any doubt, scholars have become more unanimous in pronouncing tobacco use clearly Haraam (forbidden). They now use the strongest terms to condemn this habit.

Usage of Prohibited Foods and Substances for Medical purposes

People frequently ask the question that whether or not some of the unlawful food and substances can be used for medical purposes, there is a difference of opinion among jurists. Some do not consider medicine to fall under the category of a compelling necessity (Iztirar) like food, and in support of their position they cite the hadith: "Verily Allah did not provide a cure for you in what He has prohibited to you." (Bukhari)

Whereas others consider the need for the medicine is equal to that of food, as both of them equally play an important role to preserve our life. In support of their view that the prohibited foods and substances may be used for medical purposes, they cite the hadith in which the prophet saw permitted 'Abd al-Rahman bin 'Awf and al-Zubair bin al-'Awwam to wear silk because they were suffering from scabies. (Bukhari)

And also the hadith that "Some people of 'Ukl or 'Uraina tribe came to Medina and its climate did not suit them. So the Prophet PBUH ordered them to go to the herd of (Milch) camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). (Bukhari)

This latter view is closer to the spirit of Islam which, in all its legislation and teachings, is concerned with the preservation of human life. However, taking medicine containing some of the haram substances is permissible only under the following conditions:

  1. The patient's life is endangered if he does not take this medicine
  2. No alternative or substitute medication made from entirely halal sources is available
  3. The medication is prescribed by a physician who is knowledgeable and expert