third call: eat of the good things
almighty allah says (what can be translated as): “o you who have believed, eat of the good things (only) which we have provided you, and give thanks to allah, in case he only is (the one) whom you do worship. surely he has prohibited for you only carrion (i.e. dead meat) and blood and the flesh of swine, and whatever has been acclaimed to other than allah. so, whoever is constrained, neither being inequitable nor aggressive, then no vice will be upon him; surely allah is ever-forgiving, ever-merciful.” (al-baqarah: 172-173)
polytheists and the population of the book (jews and christians) before islam were divided into groups and sects. as for polytheists from arabs prior to islam, they prohibited for themselves kinds of animals such as bahira1, sa’ibah2, wasilah3 and ham4 (all these animals were liberated in honor of idols as practiced by pagan arabs in the pre-islamic period). almighty allah says (what can be translated as): “in no way has allah appointed (anything) as a bahirah or a sa’ibah, or a wasilah or a ham; but the ones who have disbelieved fabricate against allah lies, and most of them do not consider. (al-maidah [the table]: 103)
the population of the book such as the jews prohibited kinds of food too, even though allah (awj)5 made all foods lawful for them as stated in the qur’an: “all food was rightly lawful to the seeds (or: sons) of israel) except what prohibited for himself even before the tawrah (the book revealed to musa: moses) was being sent down. say, “so come up with tawrah, then recite it, in case you are sincere.” (al-imran: 93)
also, it was very common for christians to prohibit themselves from good and nourishing food; they would not eat meat and butter while they were fasting, and they prohibited fish, milk and eggs in other kinds of fasting as well, many of them still follow this kind of food-deprivation.
these rules were set by their chiefs, there are no such commands in the torah and they were not quoted from jesus (peace be upon him). they have been thinking that reaching for allah and being closer to him cannot be achieved unless they torture the spirit and the flesh by abandoning pleasures. allah (swt)6 makes muslims a middle nation that gives the body its right and the spirit its right as well. it does not deprive the flesh, nor the spirit, they are both satisfied in a lawful good way. almighty allah allows muslims to eat from the good foods and he encourages them to thank him for the great blessings they receive. almighty allah says: “and thus we have made you a middle nation to be witnesses over mankind, and (for) the messenger to be a witness over you.” (al-baqrah: 143)
the all-merciful calls those who have believed (believers) with the quality that links them to him, namely belief in him, his messenger and the hereafter. this quality is what depicts them, it inspires them to receive the divine laws, the commands and the prohibitions. he (awj) reminds them of what he provides to them because he alone is the superb provider, he allows them to eat from all the good foods he provides, this is why he does not ban them from any good thing. if he (awj) bans them from any sort of thing, it is only because of its badness, not because he wants to deprive them or limit them as he is the one who sustains them from the beginning. he (awj) directs them to thank him and worship him alone without any associators, because he alone is the creator. he (swt) enlightens them that thanking him is an act of worship and obedience that he is content with from his servants. all this is explained in one verse in a few words: “o you who have believed, eat of the good things (only) which we have provided you, and give thanks to allah, in case he only is (the one) whom you do worship.” (al-baqarah: 172)
afterwards, almighty allah clarifies to people the prohibitions in food, he uses the word “only” to show that the prohibitions in food are limited and only prohibited for health reasons. he (swt) says: “surely he has prohibited for you only carrion (i.e. dead meat) and blood and the flesh of swine, and whatever has been acclaimed to other than allah…” (al-baqarah: 173) any sound person would not want to eat any sort of dead meat and also blood, it is also strengthened with what has been proven through modern science and medicine after a very long time of prohibiting such harmful things in the qur’an and torah. it was proven that microbes and harmful parasites replicate in dead animals and blood. yet, we don’t know yet if modern science has discovered all the harms of eating them, or there is more to discover so we don’t know for sure, maybe there are other reasons for prohibitions that we do not know yet.
as for the swine, some people still argue about it. it is evident enough that pigs are repulsive for any person who prefers cleanliness. it is a dirty animal and everybody knows that they eat dirt even if they were raised in a clean environment; it is innate and natural in this animal to seek garbage to eat.
almighty allah has prohibited the flesh of swine long time ago, but recently it was found out that a worm live in its flesh, blood and intestines (the tapeworm7 and its eggs). some people claim that modern methods of cooking have developed, so these worms and their eggs are not dangerous to humans, because the strong heat of cooking will kill them all. in an answer to this we will say, modern science took long centuries to find out about this parasite concealed in the flesh of swine, so how can we be absolutely sure that there are no other harms to humans in the flesh of swine that haven’t been discovered yet? the sharia that preceded modern science in discovering the harm in the flesh of swine deserves our trust for prohibiting something that was later found out to be unhealthy and dangerous. we should obey this sharia by avoiding the forbidden and following the lawful because these teachings are prescribed due to the grace of one ever-wise and ever-cognizant.
“and whatever has been acclaimed to other than allah” means whatever humans sacrifice or direct for the sake of anything other than almighty allah. it is forbidden and aimless, because it is acclaimed to other than allah (awj). it is forbidden because it contradicts with belief, purity, devotion, consciousness and monotheism. it is a spiritual impurity to resort to anything or anyone other than almighty allah. so, impurity is not only physical it is also spiritual. we have seen physical impurity or materialistic impurity in eating dead animals, blood and swine which are all forbidden, as for the spiritual or abstract impurity it is clarified in the verse, namely any animals or source of food acclaimed to other than allah.
in these verses, the relation between the forbidden and permissible on the one hand and the belief in the oneness of allah (monotheism) on the other hand is very clear and evident. the connection is strong and direct between believing in the one god and following his commands in avoiding the prohibitions and enjoying the permissions, and in all matters of sharia in general.
yet, islam also considers necessities by permitting prohibitions in case it is indispensable without transgression or inequity as stated in the verses: “so, whoever is constrained, neither being inequitable nor aggressive, then no vice will be upon him; surely allah is ever-forgiving, ever-merciful.” (al-baqarah: 173)
it is a general rule that applies to prohibitions in islam. when a person is in a situation where he/she cannot find the permissible to eat for example, he can eat something that is prohibited. when it is an urgent situation in which the life of the person is in danger or at stake, then he/she can eat the forbidden to stay alive without any transgression or inequity. opinions of scholars differ in terms of necessities, whether there is a qiyaas8 (analogy), which means applying this rule on all prohibitions, or it only applies to necessities that allah has prescribed as eligible or possible to be transgressed by whoever is constrained, yet it should be exceeded without being inequitable nor aggressive.
(1) bahira: a shecamel whose milk was spared for the idols and nobody was allowed to milk it.
(2) sa’ibah: a shecamel let loose for free pasture for their false gods, e.g. idols, etc., and nothing was allowed to be carried on it.
(3) wasilah: a shecamel set free for idols because it has given birth to a shecamel at its first delivery and then again gives birth to a shecamel at its second delivery.
(4) ham: a stallioncamel freed from work for their idols, after it had finished a number of copulations assigned for it.
(5) awj: aza-wa-jal [glorified and sublime be he].
(6) swt: subhanahu wa ta'ala [glorified and exalted be he]
(7) tapeworm:a parasitic flatworm that infests the intestinal tracts of humans and other vertebrates.
(8) qiyaas (analogy): literally, it means 'measuring', but technically it means analogy, which is one of the main sources of islamic law.