Whatever we eat and drink has a direct effect on our health; you must have heard the adage, you are what you eat’ – it’s quite true! That is why Islam has prescribed regulations about food and drink. It lays great emphasis on physical as well as moral health because both of these are equally important for a healthy society.
Body and Soul
The life of a man is a compound of body and soul. Anything which is harmful to the body hurts the soul as well. Consumption of swine-flesh reduces the feeling of shame and as such the standard of modesty. Those nations, which consume pork habitually, have a low standard of morality with the result that chastity and bashfulness are becoming a thing of the past in Europe today.
Qur’an and Bible Forbid Pork
The Holy Qur’an has prohibited swine-flesh. The Bible has also forbidden swine-flesh, but Christians disregarded this order and started consuming it. The Europeans now proclaim that pork is very powerful diet, rich in protein. Some of them further argue that since there is a great scarcity of foodstuff in the world and swine are available in abundant quantity, they should be consumed in the diet to overcome the food shortage.
A Wrong Notion
Another wrong notion about swine-flesh is that its consumption lengthens existence. On the contrary, people, who abstain from pork and liquor, have a longer span of life. The Muslims in Central Asia bear a testimony to this truth.
Islamic Teachings about Diet
However, in the consumption of flesh Muslims are required to be selective and distinguish between lawful (Halal) and unlawful (Haram). There are certain foods and drinks specified by Allah and His Messenger Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as forbidden. The prohibition of these foods and drinks is not by any means an illogical action or an unwarranted decree of Allah. It is the first and foremost a divine intervention in the best interest of man for own benefit. The sole purpose is to show man how to develop himself according to an upright course of life in order to be social and eventually of humanity at large.
The prohibition is based on the aim of the purification of one’s nature, because food, when consumed, doesn’t merely enter the stomach and intestines and become excreta. It is absorbed and metabolized into the system and circulated to all parts of the human body, including the brain, and this in no small way affects man’s nature.
Nature of Pigs
The pig is naturally lazy and indulgent; it is dirty, greedy and gluttonous. It dislikes sunlight and lacks the spirit and will to “fight.” It eats almost anything, be it human excreta or anything foul and unwholesome. Amongst all animal flesh, pork is the favored cradle of harmful germs. Pork also serves as a carrier of diseases to mankind. It is for this reason that its flesh is not suitable for consumption. Some people have argued that the “modern pig” reared in farms is given only clean food, therefore, its flesh should be consumable. The answer is that you may, feed the pig on clean, wholesome food but you can’t change its nature. It is still a pig. A pig is not a plant and you cannot change it by bud-grafting.
Medical Reports about Swine Flesh
Dr. E. Kazim M D in his article “Medical Aspects of Forbidden Foods in Islam” (July 1981 issue of Muslim Journal) has described diseases carried or caused by the flesh of the swine. He writes:
“The pig is the scavenger. It is an omnivorous animal. It eats everything. There are many diseases carried from swine to man, particularly parasite infestations. Lately, extensive research has been focused on senility-old age is characterized by hardening of an inner lining of the blood vessels of the heart, brain etc. a process called atherosclerosis. When clot forms, it results in coronary thrombosis or heart attack, cerebral thrombosis or stroke.
Different dietary factors are responsible for atherosclerosis. Gross atheroma may be produced in rabbit by feeding it with cholesterol, but when you add lard (derived from hog fat) to the cholesterol, the incidence of atheroma is increased and thus you would produce a coronary thrombosis and myocardial infarction.
Besides, lard contains 2800 units of vitamin D per 100 grams and no vitamin A at all, latterly vitamin D has been held responsible for atheroma, by causing increased absorption of calcium in the blood vessels…. Animals’ fats contain saturated fatty acids and these saturated fatty acids have been found to be one of the causes of atheroma in man. Medium fat bacon contains 25% proteins and 55% fat”
Dr. M Jaffer in an article in the Islamic Review (London) of January 1997 issue has listed 16 kinds of harmful germs, which have been discovered in pork in modern researchers and the diseases, which could be caused by them. The number of patients suffering from tapeworm disease is the highest in the world among pork eating nations. Other diseases attributed to pigs are caused by Trichinella aspirates and intestinal worms occupy first place among such nations too.
Dr. Glen Shepherd wrote the following on the dangers of eating pork in Washington Post (31 May 1952).
“One in six people in USA and Canada have germs in their muscles –- trichinosis 8 from eating pork infected with trichina worms. Many people so infected have no symptoms. Some die; some are reduced to permanent invalids.” He continued “No one is immune from the disease and there is no cure. Neither antibiotics nor drugs or vaccines affect these tiny deadly worms. Preventing infection is the real answer.”
That is why modern doctors advise three prohibitions during illness: no liquor, no pork and no smoking. But Muslims follow the divine law which is much higher than medical advice. The Glorious Qur’an says,
“So eat of the lawful and good food which Allah has provided for you, and thank the bounty of your Lord if it is Him you serve. He has forbidden for you only carrion and blood and swine-flesh and that which has been immolated in the name of any other than Allah: but he who is driven there too, neither craving nor transgressing, Lo! Then Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (16:114-115)
The above is the order from the Creator of the universe and Supreme Law-Giver. All Muslims are under the obligation to obey it. This is the plain and straightforward answer to those, who usually ask why Muslims abstain from eating pork. Nevertheless, there is no sin, if a Muslim is forced by famine or starvation to eat pork in order to save his life.