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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Food

 

7.  Fanged Beasts, Birds with Talons, Donkeys and Other Prohibited Animals

 

from the Holy Qur’an, major hadith collections

and Islamic jurisprudence

 

 

Fanged Beasts, Birds with Talons, Donkeys and Other Prohibited Animals

From Islamic Source Documents: Qur’an and Hadith

 

As stated in the general discussion of forbidden foods, the Qur’an says that only four types of foods can be prohibited: dead meat, blood, swine and food over which a name other than that of Allah (God) has been invoked.[1] (Dead meat is meat from an animal that died other than by proper intentional slaughter or hunting.) Other passages in the Qur’an explicitly forbid adding to these prohibitions.[2] Nevertheless, there are hadiths that record that Muhammad prohibited the consumption of meat from other animals including fanged beasts,[3] birds with talons[4] and donkeys (also called domestic asses)[5].

 

One hadith says that the prohibition of donkey meat occurred in the year in which Battle of Khaibar was fought[6] and many recorded hadiths specify that it was on the actual day of that battle[7]. The donkeys whose meat is prohibited are specifically called domestic donkeys in the English translation of one hadith.[8] Similarly, another hadith states that meat from wild asses (the same species as donkeys, but not domesticated) was explicitly permitted for consumption on the day of the battle of Khaibar.[9]

 

One hadith[10] questions the ban on donkey meat on the grounds that the Qur’an[11] limits the meat prohibitions to carrion, swine, blood and food over which a name other than Allah's has been invoked. Some hadiths say that there was disagreement as to whether Muhammad was making the prohibition against eating donkey meat a matter of law, which is valid forever, or whether the ban was only meant to apply at that specific time, either because twenty percent had not been paid on it to the to the state treasury[12] (as is required for the spoils of war[13]) or because he did not want to kill the useful beasts of burden[14]. The Qur’an, in fact, makes a clear distinction between animals that are meant to carry loads and those that are to be eaten,[15] though it also says that beasts of burden, such as camels, are not forbidden for eating.[16]

 

It is stated that Muhammad banned meat of donkeys because they eat filth[17] and because their meat is loathsome and impure[18] and even an evil of Satan's doing.[19] (Editor’s note: These would all be reasons for concluding that the ban was permanent). While Muhammad forbade eating the meat of both male and female donkeys, there was no information concerning whether the drinking of milk of female donkeys was permitted.[20] Horse meat was eaten by Muhammad's companions during his lifetime[21] and it was explicitly permitted by Muhammad on the day of Battle of Khaibar.[22]

 

 

Fanged Beasts, Birds with Talons, Donkeys and Other Prohibited Animals

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller

 

It is forbidden to eat the flesh of four-legged animals that attack and eat other animals, but there is disagreement among scholars* concerning which animals are included in this ban.[23] Abu Hanifa says that all carnivores are prohibited, including cats, elephants, hyenas and gerbils.[24] (Editor's note:  Elephants are not actually carnivores; they eat only plant material. The gerbil is described as the yarbu, a rodent that moves with halting steps, like a goat.[25]) According to The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, al-Shafi‛i says that only animals that attack humans are included in the prohibition, such as lions, leopards and wolves, while it is permitted to eat hyena and fox.[26]

 

Al-Shafi‛s Risala makes it clear in one passage[27] that eating the meat of fanged beasts is prohibited, while other mentions of fanged beasts[28] are less direct in indicating that conclusion (at least in the English translation). Muhammad’s admonition recorded in the hadiths not to eat fanged animals or birds with talons is reflected in Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) which states that it is unlawful to eat “predatory animals that prey with fangs or tusks, such as the lion, lynx, leopard, wolf, bear, simians, and so forth”[29] and lists specific prohibited birds that use talons to hunt, including the falcon, hawk, kite and crow, but excluding the barnyard crow, which is permissible to eat[30].

 

There is disagreement about horse meat, with al-Shafi‛i permitting its consumption but Malik and Abu Hanifa prohibiting it.[31] Scholars generally agree that eating meat from (domestic) donkeys is prohibited while there is disagreement about whether eating meat from mules is prohibited.[32] In discussing the prohibition against eating meat from the offspring of a permitted and a non-permitted animal, Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) gives the example of the mule as an animal whose meat is prohibited on this basis.[33] Since a mule is the offspring of a horse, which is permitted by the Shafi‛i, and a donkey, which is not (as pointed out by a 19th century commentator in this section of the translation of Reliance of the Traveller) this mention of the mule makes it clear that Muhammad's prohibition against eating donkeys is considered to be permanently applicable by Reliance of the Traveller.

 

Al-Shafi‛i said that it is prohibited to eat the five animals that are to be killed when in a state of ihram for pilgrimage, namely, ravens, kites, scorpions, mice, and vicious dogs.[34] (Editor’s note: Elsewhere The Distinguished Jurist's Primer uses the word crow rather than raven, and rat rather than mouse, in listing these animals.[35]) According to others, including Malik and Abu Hanifa, the requirement to kill these species does not imply that they are forbidden for eating.[36] Al-Shafi‛i prohibits eating or benefiting from (such as selling) all dogs, based on the filthiness** of the saliva of dogs, which al-Shafi‛i generalizes to conclude that the whole animal is unclean.[37]

 

Al-Shafi‛i[38] and his school[39] also prohibit the eating of cats and disgusting animals that creep or walk on the ground, including lobsters, frogs, turtles and insects like ants and flies. Some other scholars say that they are legally permissible for eating even though they are disgusting.[40]

 

Most scholars agree with Malik that water animals with names of prohibited land animals are forbidden for eating. For example, the word for porpoise means swine of the water, so its consumption is prohibited.[41]

________________

 

*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

 

** “Filth” is explained at Food and Animal Materials that are Filth.

 

§The more general term sharia is often used loosely to mean the specific derived laws of fiqh, such as those summarized here.

 

________________

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 14, 2016

 

Home – Laws of Religion, Judaism and Islam

 

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Table of Contents – Food Laws of Islam

 

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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

 



[1] QR 2:173, QR 5:3, QR 6:145, QR 16:115

[2] QR 5:87‑88, QR 6:143‑145, QR10:59, QR 16:114‑116

[3] BK 7:67:435o (USC) or 435 (ebook), BK 7:67:438, BK 7:71:672, ML 21:4748, ML 21:4749, ML 21:4750, ML 21:4751, ML 21:4752‑4753, ML 21:4754‑4755

[4] ML 21:4752‑4753, ML 21:4754‑4755

[5] BK 3:43:657, BK 4:52:234, BK 4:53:383, BK 5:59:491, BK 5:59:509, BK 5:59:510, BK 5:59:511, BK 5:59:526, BK 5:59:527, BK 5:59:528, BK 5:59:529, BK 5:59:530, BK 5:59:531, BK 5:59:532, BK 5:59:535, BK 5:59:536, BK 7:62:50, BK 7:67:405, BK 7:67:429, BK 7:67:430, BK 7:67:431, BK 7:67:432, BK 7:67:433, BK 7:67:434, BK 7:67:435(USC), BK 7:67:436, BK 8:73:169, BK 8:75:343, BK 9:86:91, ML 8:3263-3264, ML 8:3265, ML 8:3266, ML 8:3267, ML 19:4440, ML 21:4763-4764, ML 21:4765, ML 21:4766, ML 21:4767, ML 21:4768, ML 21:4769, ML 21:4770, ML 21:4771, ML 21:4772, ML 21:4773, ML 21:4774, ML 21:4775-4776, ML 21:4777, ML 21:4778, ML 21:4779, ML 21:4780

[6] BK 7:67:432

[7] BK 3:43:657, BK 4:52:234, BK 4:53:383, BK 5:59:509, BK 5:59:510, BK 5:59:526, BK 5:59:527, BK 5:59:528, BK 5:59:530, BK 5:59:531, BK 5:59:535, BK 5:59:536, BK 7:62:50, BK 7:67:405, BK 7:67:429, BK 7:67:430, BK 7:67:433, BK 8:73:169, BK 8:75:343, BK 9:86:91, ML 8:3263‑3264, ML 8:3265, ML 8:3266, ML 8:3267, ML 19:4440, ML 21:4763‑4764, ML 21:4767, ML 21:4768, ML 21:4769, ML 21:4771, ML 21:4774, ML 21:4775‑4776, ML 21:4777, ML 21:4778, ML 21:4779, ML 21:4780

[8] BK 7:67:405

[9] ML 21:4780

[10] BK 7:67:437

[11] QR 2:173, QR 5:3, QR 6:145, QR 16:115

[12] BK 4:53:383, BK 5:59:531, ML 21:4768, ML 21:4769

[13] QR 8:41

[14] BK 5:59:536, ML 21:4774

[15] QR 6:142

[16] QR 6:143-145

[17] BK 5:59:531

[18] BK5:59:510, BK 7:76:436, ML 21:4778

[19] ML 21:4777

[20] BK 7:71:672

[21] BK 7:67:418, BK 7:67:419, BK 7:67:420, BK 7:67:428, ML 21:4781-4782

[22] BK 5:59:530, BK 7:67:429, BK 7:67:433, ML 21:4779

[23] DJP 17.1.1 (Volume 1, pages 567-569)

[24] DJP 17.1.1 (Volume 1, pages 567-569)

[25] DJP 9.3.2 (Volume 1 pages 424-433) page 429

[26] DJP 17.1.1 (Volume 1, pages 567-569)

[27] SR 217 (page 190-191)

[28] SR 161 (pages 170-171), SR 211-213 (pages 189-190)

[29] RT j16.3 (3) (page 362)

[30] RT j16.3 (4) (page 362)

[31] DJP 17.1.2 (Volume 1, pages 569-570)

[32] DJP 17.1.2 (Volume 1, pages 569-570)

[33] RT j16.3 (5) (pages 362-363)

[34] DJP 17.1.3 (Volume 1, pages 570-575)

[35] DJP 9.3.2 (Volume 1, pages 424-433) page 431

[36] DJP 17.1.3 (Volume 1, pages 570-575)

[37] DJP 17.1.1 (Volume 1, pages 567-569)

[38] DJP 17.1.3 (Volume 1, pages 570-575)

[39] RT j16.3 (2) (page 362)

[40] DJP 17.1.3 (Volume 1, pages 570-575)

[41] DJP 17.1.3 (Volume 1, pages 570-575)