Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Mai’dah Ayah 3 [Part 1]

The Animals that are Unlawful to Eat

In this ayah, a number of fundamental and subsidiary injunctions and rulings have been described. The first problem relates to lawful and unlawful animals. As for the animals whose meat is harmful for human beings – whether physically, for it may pose the danger of disease in the human body, or spiritually, for it may hold the danger of spoilage in human morals or its many emotional states – these the Qur’an has classed as evil declaring them to be unlawful. Then there are animals which have no physical or spiritual harmfulness, these the Qur’an has declared to be good, pure and lawful.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالْدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَآ أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ 

“Forbidden to you (for food) are: Al-Maytah (the dead animals), blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than Allah…”

The first prohibition in this ayah is that of dead animals. These refer to animals which die without having been slaughtered, either because of some sickness or because of their natural death. The meat of such dead animals is extremely harmful for human consumption, not simply medically, but spiritually as well.

However, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam has exempted fish and locust as reported in ahadeeth. Malik in his Muwatta, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah in their Sunan, Ibn Khuzaymah and Ibn Hibban in their saheehs, all recorded that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu anhu said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam was asked about seawater. He said,

هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ الْحِلُّ مَيْتَتُه

“Its water is pure and its dead are permissible.”

The second thing declared unlawful in this ayah is blood. The blood here means that which is flowing when you slaughter the animal. The blood that is attached to flesh, liver, and spleen is exempted from this prohibition.

The third thing declared unlawful is the flesh of swine. Lahm or flesh means the whole body of the swine which includes fat, ligaments, and everything else.

The fourth prohibition is that of an animal which has been invoked with a name other than that of Allah. And at the time slaughtering it as well, the act of invoking any name other than of Allah will amount to flagrant shirk. This animal thus slaughtered shall fall under the command of a dead animal with the consensus of Muslim jurists. This is what was done by the disbelievers of Arabia when they slaughtered animals invoking the name of their idols, or as some ignorant people would do when they would slaughter animals in the name of some saint. It is also possible that someone does invoke the name of Allah at the time of slaughtering but actually offers it for one other than Allah making that sacrifice for the pleasure of whatever that non-Allah is. If so, this too, according to the consensus of Muslim jurists, is unlawful.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then says,

وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَآ أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلاَّ مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ

“….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….”

The fifth category made unlawful is that of an animal which has been slaughtered to dead or which has choked itself to death while struggling out of some trap. Though the word munkhaniqah مُنْخَنِقَةُ [dead by strangulation] and mawqudhah مَوْقُوذَةُ [dead by blow] are included under the broad Qur’anic term of Maitah, but they have been mentioned here particularly because the people of jahiliyaah took them to be permissible.   

The sixth category of animals is Mawqudhah [dead by blow]. It means an animal which has been killed by some hard blow, the kind of blow that comes from being hit by a staff, rod or rock. Should an arrow strike and kill its game in a manner that the arrow does not hit it with the sharp arrow head but does end up killing it just the same from the force of the blow itself, then, this too will be counted as Mawqudhah and will as such be unlawful.

Adi ibn Hatim radhiAllahu anhu said to the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam, “There are times when I hunt with an arrow heavy in the middle. If the game is killed with this arrow, can I eat it?” He said, “If the animal has been killed by a blow from the heavy side of the arrow, it is included under Mawqudhah – do not eat it [and if it has been hit by the sharp-edged point and it has wounded the game, then you can eat it].” Al-Jassas has reported this narration in Ahkam-ul-Qur’an citing his own chain of authorties. Here, the condition is that the arrow should have been released from the bow after having said Bismillah.

The game killed by a gun bullet has also been ruled by Muslim jurists as included under the category of Mawqudhah and is therefore unlawful.

The seventh category is called al-Mutaraddiyah الْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ [killed by a fall]. It means that an animal which dies by falling from a mountain, mound or a high building, or which dies by falling into a well or some similar depth is also unlawful. Therefore, says a report from Abdullah ibn Masud radhiAllahu anhu: If you a see a game standing on top of a mountain and you shoot your arrow at it after reciting Bismillah and the hit of the arrow causes the game to fall down and die, then, do not eat it.

Here too, the probability exists that the animal did not die with a hit from the arrow. May be, it died from the shock of the fall – if so, it will be counted under the category of Mutaraddiyah [dead by a fall]. Similarly, if an arrow is shot at a bird and it falls down in water, its eating has also been prohibited for the same reason that probability exists that the hunted bird had died by drowning [al-Jassas].

The eighth category is that of an-Natihah نَّطِيحَةُ [dead by goring]. It refers to an animal which has died in some collision such as by bumping against a train or vehicle, or it has been gored by butting against another animal.

The ninth category is of an animal which died when torn apart by some beast.

[SOURCE: Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

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