Islam, one of the world’s major religions, offers a holistic way of life to its followers. Like other Abrahamic religions, it has clear guidelines about permissible food and forbidden foods. A common misconception often encountered is the idea that Muslims refrain from eating pork only due to its being an “unclean animal.”
However, the reasons, both spiritual and scientific, are more profound than this.
In the quest to understand and explain this Islamic prohibition of Pork, we explore various facets from the Holy Quran, medical sciences, and history.
For both Muslims seeking to deepen their understanding of the wisdom behind our religious rulings and curious non-Muslims endeavoring to grasp the reasons for specific Islamic practices, it’s paramount that the information provided is comprehensive and clear.
Our aim is to bridge this knowledge gap and foster mutual respect and understanding. We sincerely hope this article shed light on your questions and illuminated the multifaceted reasons behind the Islamic prohibition of pork.
Religious Standpoint: The Quranic Proofs
The primary reason for the prohibition of pork in Islam stems from Allah’s commands in the Holy Quran.
In Suratul Al Baqara (verse 173), Suratul Al Maida (verse 3), and Suratul Al Anam (verse 145), the consumption of the “flesh of swine” is discussed, and forbidden. Pork is often mentioned along side carrion which is “dead meat” ie a dead carcass of an animal that you find in the wild which is already dead. This type of meat can carry a lot of diseases and health risks.
The mentioned Quran verses are below
Suratul Al Baqara (verse 173):
Arabic: “حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ ۖ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ”
Transliteration: “Ḥurrimat ʿalaikumu al-maytatu wa al-damu wa laḥmu al-khinzīri wa mā uḥilla bihi li ghairi Allāh. Faman iḍṭurra ghayra bāghin walā ʿādin falā ithma ʿalayh. Inn Allāh ghafoorur raḥīm.”
English: “He has forbidden you only the dead animals, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah. But if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”Surah Baqarah – Quran 2:173
Suratul Al Maida (verse 3):
Arabic: “حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ وَأَن تَسْتَقْسِمُوا بِالْأَزْلَامِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ ۗ الْيَوْمَ يَئِسَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن دِينِكُمْ فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِ ۚ الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا ۚ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ فِي مَخْمَصَةٍ غَيْرَ مُتَجَانِفٍ لِّإِثْمٍ ۙ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ”
Transliteration: “Ḥurrimat ʿalaikumu al-maytatu wa al-damu wa laḥmu al-khinzīri wa mā uḥilla bihi li ghairi Allāh wa al-munkhaniqatu wa al-mawqūzatu wa al-mutaraddiyatu wa al-naṭīḥatu wa mā akala al-sabuʿu illā mā dhakkaytum wa mā dhubiḥa ʿalā al-nuṣubi wa an tastaqsimū bi al-azlām. Dhālikum fisq. Alyawma ya’isa alladhīna kafarū min dīnikum falā takhshawhum wa khshawh. Alyawma akmaltu lakum dīnakum wa atmamtu ʿalaikum niʿmatī wa raḍītu lakumu al-Islāma dīnan. Faman iḍṭurra fī makhmaṣatin ghayra mutajanifin li ithmin fainna Allāha ghafoorun raḥīm.”
English: “Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a head-long fall, or by being gored to death; that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless you are able to slaughter it (in the name of Allah); that which is sacrificed on stone altars; (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”Surah Maeda Quran 5:3
Suratul Al Anam (verse 145):
Arabic: “قُل لَّا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَن يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَّسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ ۚ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ”
Transliteration: “Qul lā ajidu fī mā ūḥiya ilayya muḥarramān ʿalā ṭāʿimin yaṭʿamuhu illā an yakūna maytatan aw daman masfūḥan aw laḥma khinzīrin fa innahu rijṣun aw fisqan uhilla li ghairi Allāh bihi. Faman iḍṭurra ghayra bāghin walā ʿādin fainna rabbaka ghafoorun raḥīm.”
English: “Say, ‘I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure – or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], then indeed, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.'”Surah Al Anaam – Quran 6:145
Muslims believe that obeying these commands, even without any specific reason, leads to blessings in a person’s life. As the Quran is the book of guidance for all human beings, this directive is taken seriously by Muslims worldwide.
Historical Context in Other Religions
It’s worth noting that the prohibition of pork isn’t exclusive to Islam. The Jewish faith, in the Book of Leviticus and Book of Deuteronomy, has a similar prohibition, designating the pig as an unclean food due to its hoof structure and dietary habits.
The Book of Isaiah (Chapter 65) also references the eating of pork as a symbol of corruption.
6 Scientific Concerns About Eating Pork
Modern medical sciences have highlighted multiple reasons for abstaining from pork consumption. Below are 6 shocking reasons why eating pork can harm the body, and why Muslims stay away from this meat.
Pigs are considered one of the filthiest animals as they consume almost everything, including their own excrement. Their digestive system doesn’t eliminate toxins effectively, resulting in these toxins entering their flesh.
Taenia solium, commonly known as the pork tapeworm, can transfer to humans upon consumption. This parasite can cause taenia trichuriasis in the human body.
Excess of Fat
Pig meat contains a high level of fat, especially harmful LDL cholesterol. This can lead to various diseases, notably heart disease and heart attack.
A significant amount of uric acid in pork is another health concern. Uric acid can be detrimental to various organs of the body and may lead to gout or kidney stones.
Pigs’ Resilient Nature
Pigs have a robust immune system, meaning many of their diseases don’t kill them but stay in their system. The recent outbreak of swine flu in North America is a stark reminder of the health risks associated with pork consumption. Furthermore, the ova of various helminthes like roundworm, pinworm, and hookworm are commonly found in pigs, and normal cooking temperature doesn’t always kill these ova.
Harmful Effects on Human Body
According to research by Dr. Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg, pork consumption can cause diseases like cirrhosis, liver damage, and even memory loss.
The Social and Ethical Angle
Apart from health reasons, pigs have historically been seen as aggressive, especially wild pigs. The goring of horns or a violent blow from a wild animal like a boar can be fatal. Avoiding their meat may reduce the human desire for capturing and breeding such animals.
Alhamdulillah there are plenty of halal food types that we can enjoy for our daily needs. So for this reason, most Muslims don’t find it too hard to avoid pork, but if you are a Muslim who has been curious about pork then insha allah understanding the problems that the consumption of pork causes will help you stay strong and be thankful that the reasons Allah has made pig flesh and pork haram is for our own benefit, for the good of human health.
Types of Pork Meat to Avoid
Here’s a list of types of meat and terms related to pork that one might encounter on a menu. If you are not sure about the meat it is always worth asking to clarify, to avoid doubt and make sure you avoid what is haraam.
- Sausage (unless specified as a non-pork variety)
- Chorizo (unless specified as a non-pork variety)
- Pepperoni (often made from pork, but beef versions exist)
- Salami (pork varieties are common, though beef or other types may also be available)
- Pork loin
- Pork chops
- Pork belly
- Ribs (need to specify if they are pork ribs)
- Pork tenderloin
- Soppressata (often made with pork)
- Lard (pork fat)
- Cracklings or Pork rinds
- Guanciale (Italian cured pork cheek)
- Pâté (can be made from pork liver)
- Head cheese (not a cheese but a meat jelly often made from parts of the pig’s head)
- Andouille (a type of sausage, can be made of pork)
- Tasso ham
- Fatback (cut of meat from a pig’s back)
- Pork feet or trotters
- Chitterlings or chitlins (pig intestines)
- Pork liver
- Pork kidney
- Pigs’ ears
Remember, many dishes around the world use pork as an ingredient, even if it isn’t the primary meat. If you’re avoiding pork, always ask about ingredients, especially in dishes with sauces, broths, or stews.
Modern Production and Consumption
In western societies, various pork products are consumed widely. However, with the advancements in manufacturing process and hygienic conditions, some argue that modern techniques have made pork safer for human consumption. Yet, regardless whether some may argue that, the main reasons for abstaining from pork, both from a religious and scientific standpoint, still stand robustly.
Exceptions in Islam
Islamic laws provide some leeway in cases of dire necessity. If a person is faced with severe hunger, and is facing death, and there’s no other food except pork, it becomes permissible to consume it. However, it should be in the minimum quantity to satisfy hunger, and one should eat it invoking the name of Allah.
In conclusion, the prohibition of pork in Islam is not merely a whimsical command but has deep-rooted reasons encompassing faith, health, and ethics. The Holy Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) guide Muslims on this path. Whether it’s the harmful effects of uric acid, the dangers of the pork tapeworm, or the overarching guidance from Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, the decision to abstain from pork is multi-faceted.
As Muslims and human beings, it’s essential to approach topics with an open heart and mind, understanding the wisdom behind Allah’s commands, and making informed choices in life. With the available scientific evidence and religious directives, refraining from pork aligns with promoting good health and spiritual purity.