Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 173 [Part 1]
In the previous ayaat, we have been reading how Shaytan tricks mankind. He makes them do what is impermissible and prohibits them from the permissible. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us that the prohibited must remain prohibited and should never be treated as lawful. This ayah addresses an evil act done by the Mushrikeen [polytheists] – they ate carrion and slaughtered animals in a name other than that of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Also implied is the warning that it is an error to declare any animal, other than those specified, as unlawful.
The word harrama [حَرَّمَ] is from the root ha-ra-meem which means ‘to forbid, prevent or prohibit’. The innama [إِنَّمَا] before harrama is a restrictive particle, therefore, the sense of the ayah is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has forbidden only those things which have been mentioned later, other than which, nothing else is forbidden.
We must once more remind the readers that this was mentioned because the polytheists of Makkah declared things to be halal and haram on their own (based on their pagan beliefs). This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is prohibited and permissible in Islam.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala narrates that only four things are haram:
- Dead animal [maytata (مَيْتَةَ). The word maytata is from the root meem-wau-ta which means ‘to die, to pass away from the earthly life or lifeless’.]
- Blood [dama (دَّمَ)]
- The flesh of swine [lahmal khinzeer (لَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ)]
- An animal on which the name of anyone other than Allah has been called [وَمَآأُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ. The word uhilla [أُهِلَّ] is from the root ha-laam-laam. In Arabic, the word is used for making loud noise. The crescent of a moon is called Hilal. When people see the moon they shout and scream to inform others that the moon has been sighted. From the same root is the word tahleel, the pilgrimage say talbiyah (saying Labaik) in a loud voice. In the ayah, it means to call out the name of other than Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and dedicating something to it.]
The Dead Animal
In the English language, the dead animal is known as ‘carrion or carcass’. In Islamic terminology, however, it means an animal not slaughtered in accordance with the requirements of Shar’iah. If it dies its own death without having been slaughtered or is killed by choking, aggressive hitting, the goring of horns or by being partly eaten by a wild animal, it falls under the category of dead and remains haram.
A different rule applies to the sea-life, as mentioned in the Qur’an, “Lawful to you is (the pursuit of) watergame and its use for food,” [Al-Ma’idah 5: 96]. We learn that slaughtering sea-life is not a necessary condition. It is permissible even without slaughtering.
The Musnad, Al-Muwatta’ and the Sunan recorded the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said about the sea:
هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ والْحِلُّ مَيْتَتُه
“Its water is pure and its dead are permissible.”
Ash-Shafi’i, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Ad-Daraqutni reported that Ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
أُحِلَّ لَنَا مَيْتتَانِ وَدَمَانِ،السَّمَكُ وَالْجَرَادُ وَالْكَبِدُ وَالطِّحَال
“We have been allowed two dead things and two bloody things: fish and locusts; and liver and spleen.”
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani further elaborates: the fish and the locust are halal without slaughtering, even if they die their own death or get killed by somebody. However, fish that gets decomposed and starts floating on the surface is haram.
Similarly, an animal not within range of the hunter to slaughter can become halal without having been slaughtered if the hunter, after saying Bismillah, inflicts a wound on it by means of a sharp-edged weapon such as an arrow. Merely being wounded is not enough; it is necessary as a condition that it be wounded with some sharp-edged weapon.
Issue: According to Ash-Shafi’i and other scholars, milk and eggs that are inside dead (not slaughtered) animals are not pure, because they are part of the dead animal. In one narration from him, Malik said that they are pure themselves, but become impure because of their location. Similarly, there is a difference of opinion over the cheeses (made with the milk) of dead animals. The popular view of the scholars is that it is impure, although they mentioned the fact that the Companions ate from the cheeses made by the Magians (fire worshipers). Hence, Al-Qurtubi commented: “Since only a small part of the dead animal is mixed with it, then it is permissible, because a minute amount of impurity does not matter if it is mixed with a large amount of liquid.” Ibn Majah reported that Salman said that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was asked about butter, cheese and fur. He said:
الْحَلَالُ مَا أَحَلَّ اللهُ فِي كِتَابِهِ، وَالْحَرَامُ مَا حَرَّمَ اللهُ فِي كِتَابِهِ، وَمَا سَكَتَ عَنْهُ فَهُوَ مِمَّا عَفَا عَنْه
“The allowed is what Allah has allowed in His Book and the prohibited is what Allah has prohibited in His Book. What He has not mentioned is a part of what He has pardoned.”
Ruling about the Dead Animal
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes in Maarif-ul-Qur’an:
If an animal wounded by a gunshot dies before it could be slaughtered, it would be taken as an animal that dies from a fatal strike with a baton or rock. This has been called mawqudhah in Surah Al-Ma’idah ayah 3, and it becomes haram. However, if the animal is slaughtered before it dies, it would become halal.
Some Ulema [scholars] are of the opinion that the common bullet with a conical nose-top falls under the category of an arrow, but the view of the majority is that this too is not an arrow-like weapon, instead it bores the flesh and tears it apart by the force of the explosive mixture inside the bullet, otherwise, the weapon itself has no sharp edge which could inflict a wound on the animal. Therefore, an animal hunted with a bullet of this kind will not be permissible without slaughtering it.
In ayah 173, maitah or the dead animal has been declared haram in an absolute sense, therefore, everything about it is haram; eating its flesh, buying it or selling it, all included. The same command applies to all impurities. Their use, buying and selling, even deriving any benefit from them are all haram, so much so, that it is impermissible to voluntarily feed even an animal with carrion or anything else impure. However, should this be placed somewhere and be eaten by a dog or cat on its own that would then be permissible. What is not permissible is to feed them personally.
In this particular ayah the command declaring the dead animal as haram appears to be general which includes all parts of maitah. This has been clarified in another ayah Surah Al-Anaam ayah 145 which tells us that the eatable parts of the dead animal are forbidden. Therefore, the bones of the dead animal and the hair, which are not eatables, are clean and their use is permissible. In Surah An-Nahl ayah 80 the use of hair of such animals has been permitted in an absolute sense. The condition of slaughter is not there. Since the skin or hide of an animal carries impurities such as blood it is forbidden unless tanned. When tanned, it is permissible.
The fat of the dead animal and everything made with it is forbidden. There is no way they can be used. Even buying and selling them is forbidden.
Avoiding the use of soap made from animal fat is good precautionary practice. However, it is not easy to find out for sure that fat from dead animals has been used in a particular product, therefore, some leeway exists. Another reason for its permissibility is that some of the blessed Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum have ruled that the fat of the dead animal is forbidden as far as eating is concerned, while they have permitted its use externally, and therefore, have allowed its buying and selling.
Cheese made from milk contains an ingredient called infaha or rennet. It is a mucous membrane lining taken out from the stomachs of suckling lambs or kids. It is used to coagulate or curdle milk. If rennet is taken out of the stomach of an animal slaughtered in the name of Allah, there is no harm in using it. The meat, fat etc. of an Islamically slaughtered animal are permissible. But, in the event they are taken from the stomach of an animal slaughtered un-Islamically, there is difference of views among Muslim jurists. Imam Abu Hanifah and Malik consider it clean while Imam Abu Yusuf, Muhammad and Thawri and others cal it unclean and impure.
There is a strong likelihood that rennet from un-Islamically slaughtered animals is used in cheese made in non-Islamic countries, therefore, relying on the consensus of Muslim jurists, one must avoid using it. Some cheeses made in western countries have pork fat as one of their ingredients which, hopefully, can be seen on the wrapper or tin. All these are absolutely haram and impure.
The second thing forbidden in the ayah is blood. The word, dam meaning blood has been used here in the absolute sense, but in Surah Al-Anaam ayah 145, it has been subjected to a qualification that is musfoha ‘that which flows’. Therefore, the jurists agree that congealed blood such as, the kidney or spleen, are clean and permissible.
Since flowing blood is what is forbidden, the blood that remains on the flesh after slaughtering the animal is clean. The Muslim jurists, the blessed Companions and their successors and the Ummah in general agree on this.
As eating or drinking blood is forbidden, its external use is also forbidden. As the buying and selling and seeking any benefit from impurities is forbidden, the buying and selling of blood is forbidden and all income derived from it is also forbidden.
The Swine is forbidden
The third thing forbidden in this ayah is the flesh of the swine. It will be noted that it is the ‘flesh’ of swine which has been mentioned here as unlawful. In fact, all parts of the swine, the bones, the skin, the hair, the ligaments, are forbidden by the consensus of the Muslim community. The introduction of the word lahm [flesh] is to point out that the swine is not like other prohibited animals which can be purified by slaughtering, even if eating of them stays prohibited. The reason is that the flesh of the swine is absolutely impure and unlawful.
The Consecrated Animals
The fourth thing forbidden in this ayah is an animal dedicated to anyone other than Allah. this takes three known forms:
The slaughtering of an animal to seek the pleasure of anyone other than Allah and calling the name of that ‘anyone’ while slaughtering it, is unanimously forbidden with the consensus of the Muslim community. This animal is maitah – dead. It is not permissible to derive any benefit from any of its parts.
The slaughtering of an animal to seek the pleasure of anyone other than Allah, despite the fact that the animal was slaughtered by calling the name of Allah, is also forbidden in the Shar’iah. This is something a large number of (ignorant) Muslims do when they slaughter goats and sheep, even chicken to seek the pleasure of elders and leaders. And they do this by calling the name of Allah at the time of slaughter. The jurists agree that all such forms are haram and the animal slaughtered in this manner is a dead animal, a carcass.
The word ud’turra [اضْطُرَّ] is from the root word daud-ra-ra it means harm. It is a condition in which someone is told to do something in which he sees harm for himself.
The word baghin [بَاغٍ] is from the root word ba-ghayn-ya. it means ‘to desire something’.
The word ‘adin [عَادٍ] is from the root word ayn-dal-wau. It means ‘to pass by, overlook, transgress, turn aside’. From the same root is ‘udwaan.
The word ithma [إِثْمَ] is from the root word hamza-tha-meem and it means ‘to commit a crime/sin or lie’.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has prohibited eating the meat of swine, whether slaughtered or not, and this includes its fat, either because it is implied, or because the term lahm [لَحْم] includes that, or by analogy. Similarly prohibited are the offerings made to other than Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, that is what was slaughtered in a name other than His, be it for monuments, idols, divination, or the other practices of the time of jahiliyyah [ignorance].
Al-Qurtubi mentioned that ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha was asked about what non-Muslims slaughter for their feasts and then offer some of it as gifts for Muslims. She said, “Do not eat from what has been slaughtered for that day, (or feast) but eat from their vegetables.”
We learn that we cannot dedicate what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has provided us to someone else. We must only recite His Name before slaughtering an animal or eating food. Our hearts too should not conceal the real intention such as reciting Allah’s Name while slaughtering but dedicating it to a saint or
We also learn that not only should we stay away from the forbidden but also leave that which appears doubtful.
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