allah says in the qur’an what can be translated as:
“he has forbidden you only al-maitah (meat of a dead animal), blood, the flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than allah (or has been slaughtered for idols or on which allah's name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). but if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, and not transgressing – then, allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful.”
(surat an-nahl (the bees):115).
this ayah (verse) is found in the beginning of the last tenth of surat an-nahl, which is a makkan surah with 128 ayat. it is named surat an-nahl (bees) because it embraces an ayah in which allah swt describes that he has gifted the female bee with the ability to gather nectar from the flowers, digest it, and make from it the sweet syrup we call honey. that syrup is described as coming from the bee’s belly as a drink of different colors, wherein is a cure for mankind.
the theme of this surah revolves around two ideas: islamic creed, and the importance of good manners. these are two pillars of the great religion that allah swt revealed in stages on his prophets and messengers, until he completed the religion with the final revelation that came with the seal of all prophets and messengers, prophet muhammad son of abdullah saws. in the surah’s discussion of islamic creed, the reader is called to reflect upon many of allah’s signs, creations and miracles in the universe presented in a strong scientific manner that exhibits both comprehensiveness and parsimony. one such example is in the verse number 115 of the surah.
scientific miracles in ayah 115 of surat an-nahl
1. the prohibition of carrion
the death of an animal before its slaughter could be due to its infliction with a certain disease or virus. it could also be due to old age. in truth, these two reasons are sufficient to prohibit this type of meat. in addition, when an animal is dead without being properly slaughtered allowing its blood to drain from the body, then the blood will instead become trapped in the body. this is a serious problem because blood carries body wastes including carbon dioxide, urea, uric acid, microorganisms, parasites, and the products of food assimilation and metabolism that are transported via the veins and arteries and their tributaries in the animals body. most of these substances have a potential to rot and decay if trapped in the body, especially if the body has been left for a period long enough to allow the start of its decay. from this additional reason we see further wisdom and logic behind the divine prohibition of carrion.
2. the prohibition of blood
blood is this dark red liquid which consists of a mixture of different cells. the red blood cells form 45% of the blood volume (4 to 6 million per mm3) which contain high concentrations of hemoglobin that is responsible for carrying and delivering oxygen to the body’s cells. blood also contains white blood cells which defend the body against invasion by microorganisms and parasites that inflict diseases. the blood also contains platelets that form a platelet plug at the site of a wound or hemorrhage in order to allow the blood to clot. these latter two types of cells each constitute less than 1% of the blood volume. the rest of the blood, 54%, consists of plasma. plasma is mostly water, and about 7% proteins (such as albumin, globulin, antibodies, carrier proteins, fat, vitamins, hormones, and sodium, calcium, potassium, iron, nickel, chlorine, and bicarbonate ions). blood also carries toxic nitrogenous wastes produced by the cells, such as ammonia, urea, and uric acid, to be excreted by the kidney as urine. this is in addition to the various free and dissolved gases in the blood’s plasma, and the live or dead viruses, bacteria, and parasites, as well as broken blood cells. the heart pumps blood carrying beneficial substances such as oxygen and nutrients to the body cells.
all this reveals that blood can transmit serious diseases such as the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or hiv, which is still considered an untreatable and fatal disease.
furthermore, there is the lymph which flows in the tributaries of the lymphatic ducts that eventually merge with the large blood vessels near the heart. these lymphatic vessels absorb the proteins that escape from the blood vessels and those in the intercellular tissues and matrix and return them to the blood stream at the right time, thus maintaining the chemical homeostasis that is vital for any living creature. this is one of the most important roles of the lymphatic system. the lymph itself is comprised of plasma, and some of the substances dissolved in it, as well as white blood cells and lymphocytes. lymphocytes are considered one of the body’s key defense players against disease. in addition, there are also the lymph nodes, which are masses of lymphoid tissue located along the lymphatic vessels or existing independently such as the tonsils, the pharyngeal lymph nodes, the gastrointestinal lymph nodes, the thymus gland, and the spleen. the primary role of the lymphatic glands is to defend the body since they possess such a large number of lymphocytes. these glands work as filters to the gases and liquids that enter the body by selecting the impurities such as dust, viruses, bacteria, etc and storing them in the gland until antibodies are secreted to destroy them.
among the roles of blood in the liver, is the extraction of the amino group, nh2, released from the amino acids. this process results in nitrogenous wastes, such as the ones discussed above, which the blood takes and carries to the kidneys for excretion. thus, the excretory system, which includes the kidneys, together with the blood, help achieve the chemical balance of the body by excreting the waste products of metabolism.
as can be seen from the description above, the blood that is drained during the proper slaughter of an animal contains many bodily wastes, besides some of the dangerous substances it is already composed of. if these substances and wastes were to stay trapped in the animal’s body, they would clot with the blood that was on its way to the excretory organs. after clotting, they would begin to rot and decay, which would result in yet another set of complicated poisons and harmful chemical products. in addition to the bodily wastes contained in blood, we also mentioned that blood carries some viruses, bacteria, and parasites. thus, we see the divine wisdom and logic behind the prohibition of blood. however, we note that eating the liver or spleen of an animal that has been slaughtered according to islamic traditions is allowed in islam. this is based on the hadith of prophet muhammad (saws), “we have been granted permission to eat two carrions and two bloods: the two carrions are fish and locusts, the two bloods are liver and spleen” (narrated by ahmed, ibn majjeh, baihaqi by way of ibn omar from the prophet saws)
3. the prohibition of the flesh of swine
the qur'an describes the swine as a abomination in more than one location (surat al-baqara (the cow): 173 " he has forbidden you only the maitah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols, on which allâh’s name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). but if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. truly, allâh is oft-forgiving, most merciful.",
al-ma'idah (the table spread with food):3 " forbidden to you (for food) are: al-maitah (the dead animals - cattle - beast not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which allâh’s name has not been mentioned while slaughtering, (that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than allâh, or has been slaughtered for idols) 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 - 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 use arrows seeking luck or decision; (all) that is fisqun (disobedience of allâh and sin). this day, those who disbelieved have given up all hope of your religion; so fear them not, but fear me. this day, i have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you islâm as your religion. but as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above mentioned meats), then surely, allâh is oft-forgiving, most merciful.",
al-an'am (the cattale):145 " say (o muhammad pbuh): "i find not in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be maitah (a dead animal) or blood poured forth (by slaughtering or the like), or the flesh of swine (pork); for that surely is impure or impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols, or on which allâh’s name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). but whosoever is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits; (for him) certainly, your lord is oft-forgiving, most merciful."
an-nahl (the bees): 115 " he has forbidden you only al-maitah (meat of a dead animal), blood, the flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols or on which allâh’s name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). but if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, and not transgressing, - then, allâh is oft-forgiving, most merciful."
in fact, the word used by allah in the qur'an to describe the swine is a very strong word that embodies such meanings as filthiness, ugliness, dirtiness, and sin. it is such a strong description to describe the swine because of its lazy, greedy, and filthy habits. swine feeds on almost anything whether it is plants, animals, garbage, rotten meat, and even its own waste and the waste of other animals. this filthy diet is one of the reasons why the swine is responsible for transporting a number of serious diseases to man.
the swine is a placental mammal with split hooves that carry an even number of toes (four in the case of the swine) and are therefore known as the toed ungulates or even artiodactyla. toed ungulates existed on earth 50 million years ago from the beginning of the modern life era (early eocene epoch) until today. however, the swine is different from the rest of the animals in this group because of its filthy diet and the fact that it is non ruminatingþ. the swine, like all other mammals, gives birth to babies. it is ugly in appearance, and appears like a large mass with small legs. its body is stout and covered by thick skin and coarse bristles. it has long snouts and strong canines.
swine include domestic and wild types all belonging to the families suidae and tayassuidae. the male swine is called a boar, while the female is called a sow. the adult swine is known as hog, or “haloof” in arabic, a term used to describe all filth, evil, and selfishness. in english, the word swine is used to refer to all types of pigs, male or female, domestic or wild, young or adult. it is also used to refer to people who are evil at heart, greedy in charity, and filthy in appearance, or to describe a woman who is mean, of evil character, and who has no morality or virtues. swine have been domesticated 11,000 years ago, and today more than 400 breeds are known.
due to the swine’s clear filthiness, and its habit to eat anything, it is thus very susceptible to disease, such as swine erysipelas (which is caused by certain bacteria which can be transmitted to humans), swine fever also known as hog cholera (caused by a virus found in dead, rotten bodies), swine vesicular disease which is similar to the well-known foot and mouth disease (which can be caused by a virus found in dead, rotten bodies or garbage, and which can be transmitted to humans if they eat swine meat or grease), among others. this is in addition to various bacteria, viruses, parasites, and germs, that exist in swine flesh and cause infectious diseases in humans, and a number of carcinogenic agents, many of which pose a deadly threat to the human body. among the most dangerous causes of disease in swine are the following:
a) trichina worms, which are a type of nematoda (also known as round worms). an example of a trichina worm is the trichinella spiralis, which is among one of the most harmful parasites known to man. trichinella spiralis causes rheumatic pains, inflammation and swelling of the muscles and later fibrosis – a condition known as trichinellosis. trichinosis occurs when the larvae spread to the muscles in the body. the end result could mean a permanent handicap and lack of ability to move, and then death due to spread of infection to the brain, the spinal cord, and the meninges. it is of utmost importance to note that the consumption of swine meat is the main, if not the sole, source of this serious disease in humans.
b) the taenia solium, also known as the pork tape worm is the cause of a number of health conditions in humans, such as anemia, disturbances in the digestive system, colics, diarrhea, vomiting, severe depression, psychosis, and in severe cases it even causes epileptic fits and seizures. the most dangerous fact about this worm is that its larvae reach the blood stream and spread to vital organs such as the brain, heart, liver, lungs, or spinal cord. there, a larva becomes encysted and grows, thus causing pressure on the organ. this eventually leads to death of the patient after a prolonged period of suffering.
c) round worms such as the ascaris, hook worms, and schistosoma japonicum. the latter causes severe hemorrhage which then leads to anemia. if it reaches the brain or spinal cord, it causes complete paralysis followed by death. some of the bacteria found in garbage and rotten animal meat that the swine feeds on is the cause of diseases such as brucellosis, erysipelas, and foot gangrene. these are just a few examples of the long list of worms, germs, and bacteria that cause fatal diseases including laryngitis, tuberculosis,þ cholera, typhoid, pulmonary hemorrhage, and hepatomegaly (liver enlargement).
d) balantidium coli causes balantidiasis presenting mainly as bloody diarrhea, tenesmus and abdominal cramps (dysentery). infection with balantidium coli can only come from the consumption of swine or the involvement in raising, slaughtering, or skin-stripping this animal.
e) flat worms which cause diseases in the intestines, the stomach, the lungs, or the liver. the swine can spread these worms in the environment and to those who eat its meat.
in addition to this list of worms that can cause diseases in humans, swine meat is also difficult to digest because it has high concentrations of fat compared to other animal meat. moreover, swine fat is more saturated than any other animal fat, which is one of the reasons why it can cause gallbladder stones, biliary obstruction, arteriosclerosis and heart and circulatory system disease. this highly saturated swine fat can not be easily transformed into fat emulsion by the pancreatic juice and thus it is difficult to be absorbed. thus, the fat is forced to storage in its original form, as is, with all the harmful substances it contains. it is important to note that most muslim scholars consider the term lahm al-khenzeer (the flesh of swine) used in the ayah as inclusive of swine meat and fat.
moreover, swine meat rots faster than any other meat. it also has a stinky smell. the strange thing is that satan not only succeeded in convincing non- muslims to eat the prohibited swine meat with all its harmful contents, but also he went so far as to convince them to eat its blood and fat in the form of black sausages. black sausages are the swine’s intestines filled with its blood and fat, and because the sausages contain blood, therefore combines more than one prohibited food.
4. the prohibition of that which has been acclaimed to other than allah
in the jahiliyya (the pre-islamic period), when the polytheists wanted to slaughter as an immolation to their idols, they would cry out loud the idol’s name at the time of slaughter. this is called ihlal in arabic and means acclaim. this word was originally used to describe the cry given on first seeing the helal (crescent), and then was absolutely used for any cry given at surprise. thereafter, the word ihlal was used to describe any immolation whether or not the name of the idol was mentioned, and was cried out loud or whispered. it was even extended to include any slaughter whether or not for the sake of immolation. allah swt says in the qur’an what can be translated as "…and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than allâh…" (surat an-nahl (the bees):115). this ayah of surat an-nahl is thus referring to the prohibition of that which has been acclaimed i.e. slaughtered to other than allah. in fact, allah swt repeatedly mentions, in various other ayahs of the qur’an, the importance of saying his name at every slaughter. the following are translations of some:
- “…but pronounce the name of allâh over it, and fear allâh. verily, allâh is swift in reckoning."” (surat al-mâidah (the table):4).
- “so eat of that (meat) on which allah's name has been pronounced (while slaughtering the animal), if you are believers in his ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.). and why should you not eat of that (meat) on which allah's name has been pronounced (at the time of slaughtering the animal), while he has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you, except under compulsion of necessity?...” (surat al-an'âm (the cattle):118-119).
- “and the budn (cows, oxen, or camels driven to be offered as sacrifices by the pilgrims at the sanctuary of makkah), we have made them for you as among the symbols of allah; wherein you have much good. so mention the name of allah over them when they are drawn up in lines (for sacrifice).” (surat al-hajj (the pilgrimage):36).
in a research project coordinated at several universities in syria, twenty prominent physicians, vets, pharmacists and scientists found that saying bismillah allahu akbar (in the name of allah, allah is the greatest) at the slaughter of an animal sterilizes and disinfects the animal’s body contrary to cases where allah’s name is not mentioned at the time of slaughter. dr. khaled halawa, the spokesman for this group of researchers, explains that several repeated experiments over a research period of three years showed that the tissues of the animals that did not have allah’s name mentioned at their slaughter were congested with blood, and were colonized with some types of bacteria as streptococci, e. coli, and others. on the other hand, the meat of the animal that had been slaughtered with the mention of bismillah allah akbar was pure and clean, and completely drained of all blood and germs.
dr. foad ne’ma, professor of veterinary at the university of damascus, sheds light on this phenomenon by explaining that the animal that is slaughtered after the deceleration of bismillah allahu akbar, goes through a series of strong trembles, which is what, causes the blood to drain so well. miraculously, this strong tremble is not exhibited in animals that are slaughtered without the mention of allah’s name. thus, although allowing the blood to drain in the process of a good slaughter rids the animal of most of its blood with all its harmful substances, it does not rid it of all of it. dr. nabil al-shereef, ex-dean of the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at the university of damascus, explains in detail the systematized approach the researchers used in their study before reaching these astonishing results.
based on this brief discussion, we see the clear wisdom and logic behind the prohibition of carrion, blood, swine flesh, and that which has been acclaimed to other than allah. the facts presented are so miraculous that if this was the only scientific miracle in the qur’an, then it would have been enough evidence that this book contains the words of allah (swt), the creator, revealed to prophet muhammad saws the seal of his prophets and messengers. this is another sign that it is he swt who preserved his book in the original arabic language it was revealed in - word for word, letter for letter - for the past fourteen centuries and more, and that it is he swt who will continue to preserve the qur’an until allah swt inherits the earth and all that is living on it to the end of all time. this ayah of surat an-nahl (the bees) is evidence that these words could not be the words of prophet muhammad saws, but are in fact a divine revelation from allah swt. prayers and blessings be upon our prophet muhammad saws, his kin and companions and all who follow his right way and call with his invocation until the day of judgment.