Why don't Muslims eat pork?

Summary

Islam is a religion that is simple and easy to follow. It prohibits a small number of foodstuffs, either because of the way that they are caught and prepared is contradictory to the laws and principles of Islam, or because the negative effects and potential harms of consuming them are greater than the benefits. Pork and pig derivatives, including ham and bacon, are one such forbidden food. The primary reason that Muslims refrain from eating pork is in submission to Almighty God, and in recognition that He knows what is best for His creation. However, we also know that pork has significant health risks, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why the Qur’an describes pork as impure:

“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 [an animal 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.” [The Qur’an al-An’aam 6:145]

Furthermore, it is not only Muslims who refrain from eating pork, with both Jews and some Christian denominations refraining from doing so, and the Old Testament describing pork as “unclean for you.”

Full Answer

The Muslim’s diet, like all other aspects of his or her life, is governed by divine law. Muslims (male and female) implement the commandments of Islam because the fundamental concept of Islam is submission to Allah, Almighty God, recognising that in His infinite knowledge, He knows what is best for His creation. This is a concept which is mentioned frequently in the Qur’an:

“Does He who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the All-Aware?” [The Qur’an: al-Mulk: 67:14]”:http://quran.com/67/14

“It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.” [The Qur’an: al-Ahzab: 33:36]

In practical terms, this means that Muslims have some limited restrictions on what they can eat. The general principle is that all types of food and drink are permissible, except for those which are specifically prohibited in the Qur’an and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The basic restrictions relating to food are mentioned in the following passage of the Qur’an:

“Forbidden to you [for food] are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that upon which a name other than Allah has been invoked; that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which has been [partly] eaten by a wild animal, unless you are able to slaughter it [before it dies]; and that which is sacrificed on stone (altars)” [The Qur’an: Al-Ma’idah 5:3]

This passage sets out the basic dietary laws with regard to food; prohibiting a Muslim from eating blood (with the exception of the small amount of blood which remains in the animal after draining), as well as prohibiting a Muslim from eating the meat of an animal found dead, animals that are killed by illegitimate methods, animals that are not sacrificed by mentioning Allah’s name over them, or which are slaughtered as part of rituals to other than Allah, and animals that have been killed by other animals, unless they can be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic teachings before they die. This passage also clearly prohibits the consumption of meat and other products derived from both wild and domestic pigs, including pork, bacon, and ham.

In another passage of the Qur’an, pork and pig derivatives are described as being impure:

“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 [an animal 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.” [The Qur’an al-An’aam 6:145]

The Arabic word rijs is used specifically to describe pork in the Qur’an. It means something that is impure, filthy, and unfit for consumption. The fact that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth describes pork in this way is enough of a justification for a Muslim to refrain from eating it.

We know that pork bears many health risks to its consumers, with a significant number of diseases and pathogens being found in various parts of the pig, such that a number of health professionals from non-Muslim and non-Jewish backgrounds advise against eating it. These include trichiniasis trikinisis, a parasitic disease caused by a kind of roundworm, as well as yersinia enterocolitica, which causes fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. The meat of pigs is also higher in toxins than other meats.

Pigs themselves have been plagued by a variety of hazardous infections and diseases, including Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, Nipah Virus, Porcine Endogenous Retrovirus, Hepatitis E, Swine Flu, Menangle Virus, and others, many of which have lead to infections in human beings.

It should be noted that these specific health concerns are simply mentioned to illustrate part of the wisdom behind the prohibition of pork; however, a Muslim refrains from eating pork in submission to Almighty God, and in recognition that The Creator knows what is best for His creation. Therefore, whether or not these risks can be mitigated by proper farming, storing, and cooking procedures, a Muslim will always refrain from eating it, demonstrating his or her submission to their Creator, and affirming that the laws of Allah are full of wisdom and represent the best for mankind. Furthermore, the laws of Islam are universal for every people, in every time and place. The risks associated with pork have been – and to a certain degree remain – significant for the majority of people in the world.

Muslims are not the only people who do not eat pork; Jews, as well as some Christian denominations, also consider pork forbidden. In the Bible, we find the following passage:

And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. [Bible: Leviticus Chapter 11 verse 7]

It is also important to note that from the practical nature of Islam is that Muslims are permitted to eat pork if they have no alternative, such as if they fear death or severe illness, but this is only permitted at times of necessity and to the extent required to preserve the person’s life and health.

In summary, Islam is a religion that is simple and easy to follow. It prohibits a small number of foodstuffs, either because of the way that they are caught and prepared is contradictory to the laws and principles of Islam, or because the negative effects and potential harms of consuming them are greater than the benefits. Pork and pig derivatives, including ham and bacon, are one such forbidden food. The primary reason that Muslims refrain from eating pork is in submission to Almighty God, and in recognition that He knows what is best for His creation. However, we also know that pork has significant health risks, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why the Qur’an describes pork as impure:

“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 [an animal 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.” [The Qur’an al-An’aam 6:145]

Furthermore, it is not only Muslims who refrain from eating pork, with both Jews and some Christian denominations refraining from doing so, and the Old Testament describing pork as “unclean for you.”