By S. Adbdullah Tariq
Q. I have been quite drawn to Islam in the recent years. I wish to engage you in an intellectual discussion. I hope my queries are received in this light.
What is the concept of monotheism in Islam? Does not monotheism immediately raise the question God from whose point of view? “For example monkey’s idea of God will be quite different from that of cattle’s idea and so on, not to speak of the variety of viewpoints that exist among human beings?
I believe that the aforementioned question is quite relevant.
For example the god of goats, sheep etc. that are done to death in the name of sacrifice (on Idd etc.) would condemn all human beings to hell!!
Amit Agarwal ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ans. If there are gods from the point of view of animals, they will also condemn human beings to hell for enslaving the animals for their use. In the eyes of those gods it would not be justifiable to tie a cow to a nail for using her milk. They will not tolerate the use of oxen, donkeys, horses, camels and other animals for the benefit of mankind.
In your examples, you did not mention the gods of hills, rivers and other non-living things. Probably in your intellectual sub-conscious, you think that only living beings need God. In other words, God or gods are for those who have wisdom and intellect. On the basis of the arguments of your sub-conscious, it may be argued that if there were separate gods of all living beings, the God of humans, would have been greatest of them, being God to the most wise creatures.
Alternately, the God of human beings would alone have the right to be called THE ALMIGHTY. Ultimately, The Almighty among all beings will be One and no other god would have power to condemn the Almighty’s subjects to hell for whatever reason. Your line of thinking is not unique. Our God tells us that people in other ages have also been expressing surprise over oneness of God: “Has he (the prophet) made the gods (all) into One God? Verily this is a curious thing” (38:5) But the Qur’an especially invites intellectuals among men to use their wisdom: “This (Qur’an) is a Message for mankind in order that they may be warned thereby, and that they may know that He is the only one God and that men of wisdom may heed.” (14:52)
According to Islamic monotheism, God is He who has created not only human beings and animals but all universe. He alone, without a partner in His God-ship, is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of all His creation. Those who can think of gods from different points of view of different creation, actually do not believe in God at all. It is only their intellectual way of saying that instead of One God being the Creator, human beings have created a God for themselves.
The naturalists claim that every phenomenon in this universe can be ascribed to nature and its laws. A believer goes a step further. What is nature and who ordained its laws? The creator of nature and ordainer of its laws is our God. Besides nature comprises of matter and energy but there is something beyond nature and energy in life. The creation of bodies is attributed to nature but who created life and consciousness in bodies? Nature cannot explain life. Qur’an asks the disbelievers to reflect upon the phenomenon of life and death:
“How can you disbelieve in Allah? Don’t you realize that you were dead and He gave you life? Then He will give you death, then again will bring you to life (on the Day of resurrection) and then unto Him you will return”. (2:27)
There is a stage between the process of creation of man when a metaphysical thing or soul or consciousness is associated with the matter and energy of his body. When it is taken away he dies. Death is an undeniable phenomenon of life. Everyone who lives, dies. What is death? Is it merely a failure of machinery run by nature? Suppose a young and healthy man meets with an accident and encounters a head injury causing his death. The doctors diagnose the clotting of blood as the cause of death. They say if the operation has been performed a little earlier, the man could have been saved. What is the problem now? The machinery is new and healthy. Remove that clot now and replace all that which has deteriorated and start his heart beat by a pacifier. But it is beyond dispute that once dead, he can not be brought back to life in this world. The creator of this life, which no one else can create, is God.
When you look into a mirror you see only the body of Amit Agarwal. You have never seen the real Amit Agarwal who feels, enjoys and grieves through the medium of that body. The God of this universe who created Amit Agarwal shall one day take him away. God can not be seen through this material body. He can only be realized by a redeemed soul. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) told us: “One who realizes his own self shall ultimately realize his Lord”.
Realization of one’s own self can only be achieved through proper recognition of one’s relationship with his Lord, the relationship of a bondsman or woman who loves and submits with all his self to his or her Lord who created him/her with a purpose. Unless you know the purpose of your existence and your proper relationship with others of creation, you can not really understand the right of a human being over other creations. But before that I must discuss the subject of One God or many gods.
One God or Many Gods
We, as well as other beings are all a part of this universe.
As there can not be two presidents or Prime ministers of a country, two M.Ds or managers of a company or organization, there can not be more than one God of this universe. The God of men can not be different from the God of other creations of this universe. He condemns us to hell in this world if we ignore the laws laid down by him in the universe. The human habitats come to disasters when they disturb the ecological balance for their greed. Our God has instructed us:
“And the firmament, He raised high and He has set up the balance. In order that you may not transgress (due) balance. And observe the weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient. And the earth, He laid down for the creatures”. (55:7-10) Were there different gods for different creatures, they could never have maintained the due balance in the universe that is necessary for its existence. God of all universe declared: “ There is no god along with Him. Had there been many gods, each would have governed his creation and some would have tried to overcome others! Glorified is Allah above all that they attribute to him”. (23:91)
You have also mentioned the differences about one God among different groups of mankind. God says that all nations were guided and told of truth but people have distorted truth. Had not the creation of mankind been for a specific purpose, which demands the liberty of human’s actions, the differing groups would have been set right by force.
“Mankind were but one community. Had it not been for a Word that went forth before from your Lord, it would have been settled between them regarding what they differed”.
“Have they chosen earthly deities? And (can) these deities restore the dead to life? Had there been other gods in heaven and earth besides Allah, there would have been ruin in both. Glorified is Allah, the Lord of the Throne, above those (falsehood) they ascribe to Him. None shall question Him about His works but they shall be questioned. Have they chosen other gods beside Him? Say: ‘Bring your proof. Here is the Reminder (the Qur’an) for those with me and the reminder for those before me. But most of them know not the truth, so they are averse’. (21:21-24)
All the earlier scriptures, even in their interpolated form, testify to one God, as the Qur’an has claimed but man-made works have invented other gods and partners beside Him.
Purpose of Creation
I now come back to the purpose of creation. God of the universe is the greatest. But greatness is a relative word. Unless there are others who are lesser, there can not be a ‘greatest.’ Moreover, greatness would merely be a word if it is not recognized, or better still, realized in its possessor. For the realization of greatness of the Greatest, it was essential that there were others capable of realizing Him. So He created and the main target of His creation were beings of such intellect and wisdom that would be capable of realizing Him. Again, the recognition and realization would have no meaning unless those beings were granted the liberty of choice between the submission to and rejection of the truth. This leads us to the logical conclusion that the creation of human beings was the ultimate purpose of all creation. After the human beings were granted the liberty of choice, it would also be essential that those fulfilling their purpose of creation should be distinguished from those who fail. The earthly life is the testing ground before placing the worthy and unworthy in their respective abodes in the real and eternal life. The other beings in this world are to make possible the existence of the human. God created other living and non-living things so that each human being could survive for an appointed time till his transfer to the other world. So brother, our God is the same God who created animals and others for our benefit. He established and maintained a balance between all his creation. The balance is based on His divine laws, which are not to be transgressed. Man may tame and use the animals for his benefit as he may tame other forces of nature. Man’s diet has been destined as only the living beings but distinction has been made by the creator Himself between different living-beings according to their grades and class. The animals are superior to plants which can be sacrificed for them while plants and animals both can be sacrificed for man. Not all but only the prescribed and permitted animals can be sacrificed for man in a prescribed manner which includes thanking God for His permission.
The above was an intellectual discussion as you demanded.This is notwithstanding your onus to prove your conjecture that there are gods from animals point of view. But God who created man did not leave him alone to come out of darkness through mere intellectual conjectures and discussions. He sent exact guidance to mankind in all ages and places in their respective languages through His chosen ones, the prophets. Although the previous scriptures even in their present form, verify what I have described earlier, His last and unadulterated Word informed us: “It was not in sport that We created the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. Had it been Our will to find a pastime We could have found one near at hand if We were to do it”. (21:16-17)
“Do you not see how Allah has subjected to you all that the heavens and the earth contain and lavished on you both His visible and unseen favours? Yet some would argue about Allah without knowledge or guidance or illuminating scriptures”. (31:20)
“He has made the night and the day and the sun and the moon, subservient to you: the stars also serve you by His leave. Surely in this there are signs for men of understanding. And what He created for you in the earth, is of various hues: surely in this there is a sign for people who remember. It is He who has subjected to you the ocean, so that you may eat of its fish and bring up from it the ornaments with which to adorn your persons. And you see the ships ploughing their course through it. (All this He has created) that you may seek His bounty and render thanks to Him”. (16:12-14)
“It is Allah who provided you with cattle, that you may ride on some and eat of the flesh of others, many benefits you have from them, that you may satisfy through them a desire) in your hearts (of transporting goods to places). On them and on ships you are carried. And He reveals to you His signs (and proof of His oneness in all the above things). Which then of the signs (and proofs) of Allah do you deny”? (40:79-81)
Q. If a non-Muslim (may be an idol worshipper) slaughters one animal according to Islamic rules and regulations and offers the meat to a Muslim friend to eat, can a Muslim eat that meat?
Laique Khan ; Balasore
Ans. Lawfulness and unlawfulness of meat is not related to who slaughters the animal but the kind of animal and the procedure of its slaughter. Not only is there nothing in Qur’an and Sunnah against eating meat of a Halal animal slaughtered by a Mushrik (say a Hindu) who slaughters it following the Islamic conditions and procedure, there are traditions which indicate that it is permitted.
It is a well known principle of Islamic jurisprudence that all things are basically Mubah (permitted) except those which have been pronounced Haram in clear words by Qur’an or Sahih Hadith. Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qardhavi, in his famous work, ‘Al-Halal Wal-Haram Fil- Islam’, writes, “Therefore if Nasie-Sahih (the explicit Qur’anic injunction or correct Hadith) declaring something Haram, is not there or does not conclusively leads to its being Haram, even if a Za’eef (weak) narration is present, the basic Ibaahat (permission) will stand”. Sheikh has also quoted the following narrations in this regard.
“Whichever Allah in His Book has permitted are Halal, whichever He forbade are Haram and towards whichever He kept silence, are forgiven. So accept this Benevolence of His, as Allah does never forget by mistake. Then the Prophet (Pbuh) recited (the verse 64 of Surah Maryam): Your Lord does not forget”. (Al-Haakim Wal-bizar) Says Salman Farsi when the Prophet (Pbuh) was asked about ghee and cheese, he (instead of saying they were Halal, explained the principle and) said: Halal is that which Allah has permitted in His Book and Haram is that which Allah has forbidden in His Book. And those about which He kept silence are forgiven to you.” (Tirmizi ; Ibne Maja)
“The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Allah has ordained the Fara’idh (obligatory) so do not lose them. And He has fixed the Hudood (limits) so do not transgress them. He has declared some things as Haram so do not desecrate them. And there are things regarding which He intentionally remained silent. This is a Mercy unto you, so do not argue about them.” (Dare-Qutni)
So we observe that there is not much scope in Islamic Shariah for conjectures and deductions as far as Halal and Haram eatables are concerned. Qur’an has laid down the following general rule: “O mankind, eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth and do not walk in the Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy”. (2:168)
This general permission of clean and wholesome things being lawful deduces that the meat of all those animals are unlawful which are harmful for physical or spiritual well being of mankind. It includes the meat of those animals that have unclean, unhealthy, cunning, loathsome, brutal or beastly habits. Poisonous animals and insects also fall in the category of the unclean and harmful.
Qur’an has also conferred the right of declaring Halal and Haram to the Prophet (Pbuh) by Allah’s leave: “He will make good things lawful to them and prohibit all that is foul”. (7:157)
Accordingly the following were declared unlawful:
“The Prophet (Pbuh) has forbidden the Beasts having canines and the birds that eat with the help of their paws.” (Bukhari, Muslim) All Fishes and Seafood is Halal and there is no need to slaughter them.
“Lawful to you is the game of sea (or pond or river) and its food, a good food for you and for the travellers”. (5:96)
By seafood is meant all those animals that breathe inside water and can not survive outside water.
The range of Haram is very limited while all that is not Haram and is not unclean is for mankind to savour. What is unlawful was described in the following verse: “Say, I find nothing in what has been revealed to me that forbids men to eat of any food except carrion, running blood, and the flesh of swine, for these are unclean and what has been profanely slaughtered to gods other than Allah. But whoever is constrained to eat of any of these, not intending to sin and transgress, then your Lord is Forgiving, Merciful”. (6:145)
Four categories have been listed in the above verses:
1. The carrion (meat of dead animal)
2. Running blood. The traces of blood, which have remained in the vessels of slaughtered animals, do not make it unlawful.
3. The flesh of swine.
4. The meat of animal on which the name of gods and goddesses or any one other than Allah has been invoked.
The above four general categories were detailed into ten sub categories, vide the following order: “You are forbidden (to eat) that which dies of itself, blood and the flesh of swine; also any flesh dedicated to any other than Allah. You are forbidden the flesh of strangled (animals) and of those beaten or gored to death; of those killed by a fall or mangled by beasts of prey, unless you find it still alive and slaughter it; also of animals sacrificed on altars (of idols). (You are forbidden to seek division by the arrows (i.e. procured through gambling). That is a vicious practice”. (5:3)
The meat of all those animals, which do not fall into the banned categories detailed above, is Halal provided that they are properly slaughtered. An important condition of proper slaughtering is that Allah’s Name has been pronounced over it. The Qur’an ordained: “Do not eat of any flesh that has not been consecrated in the Name of Allah, for that is sin.” (6:121)
The Prophet (Pbuh) expounded: “Eat of that animal whose blood has been shed and the Name of Allah has been pronounced over it”. (Bukhari)
There is absolutely no binding that the person slaughtering should be a Muslim. Misunderstandings arise in some quarters that a Mushrik’s slaughter is Haram, as the Qur’an has specifically mentioned only the People of The Book among non-Muslims whose food is permitted: “The food of those to whom the Book was given is lawful to you”. (5:5)
It does not mean that the food of non-Muslims other than People of The Book is unlawful. It only means that like in the case of a Muslim, unless it is specifically known that the food offered by The People of The Book is Haram, there is no need of investigation before eating.
“Zuhri says that there is no harm in eating of the animal slaughtered by the Christians of Arabia. Do not eat if you are told that they devoted it to someone other than Allah at the time of slaughter. And if you do not hear any such thing then Allah has made it Halal, inspite of their disbelief being known. Same (injunction) is ascribed to (Hazrat) Ali. Hassan Basri and Ibrahim opine that there is no harm in slaughtering by a uncircumcised”. (Bukhari)
Some scholars have even gone to the length of declaring on account of the above verse that even if the animal was killed instead of being slaughtered by a person from The People of The Book, it is permitted. The majority of course does not conform to their view. We find in Hadith that the Prophet (Pbuh) declared as Haram only that meat of the animals sacrificed by the Mushriks, on which the names of their gods were invoked.
Narrated Abu Hurairah that Prophet (Pbuh) said ‘there is nothing (to make lawful) in Fara and Ateerah. The narrator says Fara was that first-born of the camel which was sacrificed at the altar of gods and Ateerah was a sacrifice offered in the month of Rajab (to gods)”. (Bukhari)
It implies that those animals were declared unlawful only because the names of gods were invoked over them, otherwise there would have been no harm in them.
There is also an indication that Mushriks used to send meat to Muslims and the Prophet (Pbuh) permitted it. “Said Aisha that some people came to the Prophet (Pbuh) and said: We are people to whom meat is sent and we are not aware that Name of Allah was pronounced over it. The Prophet (Pbuh) advised: Eat it after reciting Bismillah over it. (Hazrat) Ayesha told that this happened a little after the days of Kuf’r”. (Bukhari) Finally there is the general permission granted by the Word of God: “Eat then of such as has been consecrated in the Name of Allah, if you truly believe in His revelations. And why should you not eat out of that on which the Name of Allah is mentioned when He has already made plain to you what is forbidden, except when you are constrained”. (6:118-19)
Q. Once when I visited one of my non-Muslim friend’s house, I was served chicken and beef. Although I was reluctant to eat the food as I was not sure if it was Halal, I was in such a situation that I could not refuse to eat. As I have read in the Qur’an that a person who eats Haram food is a disbeliever, I was filled with remorse and deep anguish. Is it enough if I sincerely repent to Allah or should I perform some compensatory act?
(XXX ; Tamil Nadu)
Ans. However grave the sin, Allah is most likely to forgive if you repent sincerely, provided that:
(i) It is not Shirk (ascribing partners to Allah)
(ii) It is not an offence committed against another human being.
(iii) You strengthen your repentance through your deeds and strongly resolve not to commit that sin again.
The Lord has repeatedly reassured His servants through the likes of the following verses of His Word: “He that repents and makes amends by good deeds, truly returns to Allah.” (25:71)
Eating Haram food does not amount to disbelief. Verse 5:3 names the offence as ‘Fisq’ i.e. impiety or disobedience. However in your particular case it may also amount to concealment of truth vide the following verse.
“He has forbidden you carrion, blood and the flesh of swine for those that suppress any part of the Book Allah has revealed” (2:173-74), the expiation thereof is to make known the truth along with the repentance you have already felt. “Those that hide the clear proofs and the guidance We have revealed after We have proclaimed them in the Book, shall be cursed by Allah and shall be cursed by the cursors; except those that repent and mend their ways and make known the truth. Towards them I shall relent. I am the relenting one, the Merciful.” (2:159-60)
Your responsibility now is to go to your friend’s house where you had eaten Haram meat and tell him in a decent manner that Islam forbids that meat which has not been properly slaughtered and that over which the name of One God has not been pronounced. Believe me they will appreciate it when you tell them that Haram meat contains blood that nobody wants to eat even in cooked form. It is harmful and less tasty compared to the Halal meat. To reassure you, I might tell you that a number of my non-Muslim friends have made it a point to always purchase from a Halal meat shop after knowing its advantages over Haram meat.