Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Mai’dah Ayah 3 [Part 2]

The Animals that are Unlawful to Eat

After describing the unlawfulness of these nine categories, an exception has been mentioned. It was said,

إِلاَّ مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ وَأَنْ تَسْتَقْسِمُواْ بِالاٌّزْلاَمِ ذَلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ

“….unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death) – and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on An-Nusub (stone altars). (Forbidden) also is to make decisions with Al-Azlam (arrows) (all) that is Fisq (disobedience and sin).” 

It means if you find any of these animals alive and you slaughter it properly, then, it becomes lawful – eating it is permissible.

This exemption cannot be applied to the first four categories, because in Maitah [carrion] and Dum [blood] the very possibility does not exist; and as for Khinzeer [swine] and what falls under what has been invoked upon with a name other than that of Allah, they are unlawful in themselves – slaughtering or not slaughtering them is equally irrelevant.

So it means should the animal be found alive under all these circumstances with commonly discernible signs of life, and slaughtered with the name of Allah while in the same condition, then, it is lawful – whether dead by strangulation, dead by blow, dead by a fall, dead by goring or that which a beast has eaten. Any of these slaughtered while sensing signs of life in it shall become lawful.

Under the tenth category, an animal which has been slaughtered at an altar is unlawful. The altar refers to slabs of rocks placed around the Ka’abah which the people of jahiliyyah took as objects of worship and they would bring animals near the altars and sacrifice them dedicated to these rock slabs. They thought it was worship. The people of jahiliyyah used to eat all these kinds of animals. The Qur’an declared all of them to be unlawful.

The eleventh practice declared unlawful in this ayah is the determining of shares with arrows al-istiqsam bi al-azlan. The Arabic word, al-azlan used in the ayah is the plural of zalam. This was an arrow used to determine shares during the days of jahiliyyah. They were seven in number. One would have ‘yes’ and the other would have ‘no’ or some similar words written on them. These arrows were kept in the custody of the keeper of the Ka’abah.

When someone wanted his fortune told or wished to find out whether doing something in the future will be beneficial or harmful, they would go to the keeper of the Ka’abah, present money gift to him in anticipation of his service, who would, then take out these arrows from the quiver one by one. If the arrow so drawn turned out to be the one with the word ‘yes’ on it, they thought that doing what they wanted to do was beneficial and if the arrow drawn had a ‘no’ on it, they drew the conclusion that they should not do what they wanted to do. The reason why this has been mentioned in the context of unlawful animals is that small groups of pagan Arabs used to have a joint slaughter of a camel or some other animal but, rather than divide up shares from the meat to all participants in accordance with the number of shares originally subscribed to, they would decide it by drawing these arrows.

Obviously, by doing that someone would remain totally deprived, someone else would get too much and there would be someone getting less than what was his right. Therefore, the unlawfulness of this procedure was explained along with the unlawfulness of animals.

Ulema say that all methods used to divine future happenings or to find out what is ghayb whether divination through numbers, palm-reading or the taking of omen –  fall under the command of ‘determining shares with arrows’.

The Arabic terms for ‘determining shares with arrows’ is sometimes used for Qimar or gambling as well wherein rights are determined by the methods of lots or lottery. This too is haram on the authority of Qur’an which prohibits it under gambling.

After explaining the unlawfulness of determining shares with arrows tafseer al-Mazhari has particularly pointed out that the Qur’anic statement:ذَلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ [this is sin] meaning that this method of divination or determining of shares is an act of sin which leads people astray.

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

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