Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’ida Ayah 1 [Part 2]

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala further said,

 أُحِلَّتْ لَكُمْ بَهِيمَةُ الاٌّنْعَامِ إِلاَّ مَا يُتْلَى عَلَيْكُمْ غَيْرَ مُحِلِّى الصَّيْدِ وَأَنتُمْ حُرُمٌ 

“Lawful to you (for food) are all the beasts of cattle except that which will be announced to you (herein), game (also) being unlawful when you assume Ihram.”

The word an`am applies to camel, cow (ox), sheep and goat and bahimah to all kinds of grazing quadrupeds. The combination of the two words has made the meaning more comprehensive by including all the grazing quadrupeds that resemble those four contained in the word an’am.

It also implies that the carnivores that kill other animals for food are unlawful. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam made this explicit in a hadeeth declaring the carnivore unlawful. Likewise he also declared unlawful those birds that have claws and kill other animals for food or eat dead bodies

According to Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam prohibited the eating of the flesh of the carnivore and of the birds with claws. Other ahadeeth from several Companions also support the same.

The Logic of the Lawful

The word, al-an’am used in the text is the plural form of na’am [grazing livestock]. Eight kinds of domestic animals or cattle such as the camel, the cow, the buffalo, and the goat which have been described in Surah al-An’am are called the An’am. These animals have been made lawful for you. Al-uqud includes all kinds of contracts. One of these is the pledge Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has taken from His created beings that they would observe the restrictions of the lawful and the unlawful. The present sentence is referring to this particular pledge when it says that Allah has made the cattle for you and they can be eaten after having been slaughtered in accordance with the Islamic manner.

Thus believers have been exhorted to obey this command by staying within its limits. They should not take it upon themselves, as do the fire-worshipers and the idolators, to declare the slaughter of these animals as absolutely unlawful, for this is raising an objection against the wisdom of the Creator and certainly an open ingratitude for His blessing. Nor should they like some other meat-eating people who would, totally unfettered, go about eating all sorts of animals. Rather than do something like that, believers must eat from animals Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made lawful to eat under the law given by Him.

Similarly, they should abstain from animals which have been declared unlawful to eat. The reason is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Creator of the Universe. He knows the nature and properties of all animals and He is also aware of the effects they bring about when in the human body. He, in His grace, makes what is good and pure openly lawful for human consumption, things which leave no ill effects on physical health and moral strength.

Similarly, He forbids unclean and impure animals which are either harmful for human health or contribute metabolically into the generation of evil morals, therefore, there are a few things exempted from this general rule. These are as follows:

1. The first exemption is animals which have been declared unlawful in the Qur’an i.e. dead animal or the swine.

2. The other exemption is quadruped animals are lawful for you and wild game too. But in the state when you have entered into the garment of ihram with the intention of doing Hajj or Umran, hunting becomes a crime and sin. Stay away from it.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends this ayah by saying,

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَحْكُمُ مَا يُرِيدُ 

“Verily, Allah commands that which He wills.”

Living under the Authority and Wisdom of the Creator

Towards the end of the ayah, it was said Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ordains what He wills. Nobody has the right to ask questions or take exception in obeying it. This statement is perhaps indicative of an element of wisdom – that the permission given to human beings to slaughter and eat some animals is no act of injustice. The Creator and Master who has made all these life forms is also the One who has formulated, in His perfect wisdom and insight, the law that the lower form shall be the sustenance of the higher.

Allah has absolute authority to issue any decree He wills, and that the servants have no right at all to question it. Though all His Decrees and Commands are based on wisdom and are full of excellence, yet a Muslim, His servant, does not obey these just because they are proper and conducive to his good, but obeys them because they are commandments from his Sovereign. If He declares anything to be unlawful, it becomes unlawful for no other reason than that it has been made unlawful by Him.

Likewise if He makes anything lawful, it becomes lawful for no other reason than that its Owner and the Owner of everything permits His servants to use it. That is why the Qur’an establishes with full force the fundamental principle that the only basis which makes a thing lawful or unlawful is whether there is the permission of the Owner for its use or not. Likewise there is no other basis for the servant to consider a thing to be lawful or unlawful except that it is lawful if Allah makes it lawful and unlawful if He prohibits it.

[SOURCE: Tafseer ibn Katheer, Maroof-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani and Tafheem-ul-Qur’an by Maulana Maudoodi]

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