By: Allamah Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar Rizvi
Question: What is the teaching of Islam about pork?
Answer: Pig is absolutely unclean and eating its meat, and fat etc., as well as using its skin or any other parts is strictly forbidden. Allah has said in various places in the Holy Qur’an: “Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine . . .”(Qur’an, 5:3)
Question: I, being a Christian, have no difficulty in eating pork. I often wonder why Muslim brethren have not been allowed to enjoy this tasty food, as we Christians do?
Answer: This question is somewhat astonishing because, according to the Scriptures, even the Christians are not allowed to eat pork.
Question: How can you say this?
Answer: Well, let us see what the Bible says about pork: “And the swine,… . he is unclean to you. Of the flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you .” (Leviticus, 11:7-8). The same command is repeated in Deuteronomy, 14:8.
Rev. W. K. Lawther Clarke says in his Concise Bible Commentary commenting upon these passages: “The laws were inculcated and obeyed because they embodied God’s will”.
Dr. E. A. Widmer quotes in his article Pork, Man and Disease : “Pork although one of the most common articles of diet, is one of the most injurious. God did not prohibit the Hebrews from eating swine’s flesh merely to show His authority, but because it was not a proper article of food for man.”
Question: Well, these revelations are very interesting. Can you please, give some more references on this subject from Christians’ writings?
Answer: Yes, you may see the discourse under the word “Swine” in The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible which is very clear. Here is an extract from it: “The swine was a ceremonially unclean animal … It is dirty, does not refuse to eat offal and carrion, and the use of its flesh for food in hot countries is supposed to produce cutaneous disease. It was not raised by Arabs , and was regarded as unclean by Phoenicians, Ethiopians, and Egyptians … To the Jews swine’s flesh was abominable, the pig was the emblem of filth and coarseness . . . Yet pork found entrance to the idolatrous feasts of degenerate Hebrews (Isa. 65:4; 66:17).
In the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes the command to a Jew to offer or to taste swine’s flesh was used as a means of determining whether “he was loyal to the religion of his fathers or was willing to accept the worship favoured by his conquerors (I Macc. 1:47,50; II Macc. 6:18,21; 7:1,7). But many Jews affected Grecian manners, and John Hyrcanus found it advisable to issue an edict that no one should keep swine.
In the time of Christ one large herd of swine at least was pastured in the Decapelis (Mark 5:11,13), a region colonized by Greeks, among whom the swine was highly esteemed as an article of food. There is no reason to suppose that Jews owned either these pigs or those in the far country fed by the prodigal son (Luke 15:15).”
Similar statements may be found in almost all Bible dictionaries.
Question: Thank you very much. But I have just observed that all these quota-tions are from the Old Testament. They are binding upon the Jews. But we, the Christians, would like to know what was the teaching of Jesus Christ on this subject.
Answer: Well, I was coming to that point. You see, whatever the teaching of Old Testament, the same was the teaching of Jesus Christ. He says in clear words that the laws of the Old Testament were to be obeyed without any change: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one little shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men, so he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mat., 5:17-19).
Question: I remember reading this saying of the Gospel several times. Sometimes I wondered why Christ stressed this point in so many words?
Answer: It was because he knew that after his ascension some of his followers would denounce the Law. Jesus Christ himself obeyed the Law faithfully. It was only after his departure from this world that St. Paul, a forceful orator, and a member of “elite” circle of the society, who took to heart the Greek ‘advanced’ civilization (as many people now-a-days take pride in being ‘Westernized’) prevailed upon the illiterate and simple-minded Christians to abandon the Law. The fact that he himself had never met Jesus Christ, and those who opposed him were constant companions of Christ, is most revealing.
Jesus Christ corrected Pharisees’ misinterpretation of the Law. For example, his disciples in their hunger plucked the ears of corn on sabbath day. When the Pharisees objected, Jesus Christ replied, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mk., 2:27). But he never said anything against the Law, including the dietary laws.
St. Paul on the other hand denounced the Law, saying that “the Law worketh wrath; for where no law is, there no transgression.” (Rom., 4:15)
Question: This logic seems to me very convincing.
Answer: Well, if you are really convinced of this reasoning, then you should see to it that all legislatures are abolished, and all courts are closed. Thus there would be no criminal, because there would be no law to transgress!
Question: I don’t think any Christian government would be pleased with this suggestion. Let us forget it. But tell me how St. Paul abrogated the Law?
Answer: He claimed that, “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” (Rom., 14:14)
Question: Well, I think it settles the matter nicely.
Answer: No. On the contrary, it creates more problems than it solves. You see, if that is what Jesus Christ had intended to be the tenant of Christianity, why did he not declare so when he was with his disciples in this world? Why did he advocate the theory of unchangeability of Mosaic Law? Did St. Paul want the people to believe that Jesus Christ was not sincere in his pronouncements when he was with the people? We Muslims cannot believe it. As for the Christians, action speaks louder than words.
Question: I must admit that you have got a very strong point here. I now agree that according to the Original Christianity, pork was and will remain forbidden. But, frankly speaking, I do not find anything wrong with pork.
Answer: I hope that you are not one of those who think that aping the Western culture is the proof of enlightenment.
In directing the dietary principles of the children of Israel and, thereafter of the Muslims, God meant these rules to be a source of continued benefit to mankind. The transfer of certain disease, as modern medical research has substantiated, would be adequate justification for this ancient law.
By: Allamah Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar Rizvi