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Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 173

173. " Verily, He has forbidden you only carrion, blood, swineflesh, and whatever has other (name) than Allah's been invoked upon it. But whoever is forced (by necessity) , not desiring nor transgressing, no sin shall be on him; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."


Following the previous subject, this verse states that certain edible things are lawful to eat, and we should not prohibit the lawful things of Allah to ourselves opinionatedly and because of some vain imaginations. Yet, Allah has forbidden us carrion, blood, swineflesh or the flesh of any animal slaughtered invoking the name of anybody else other than God, as it says:

" Verily, He has forbidden you only carrion, blood, swineflesh, and whatever has other (name) than Allah's been invoked upon it. ..." There are some logical and acceptable reasons cited for this Divine law of prohibition, of course. For example, it is narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) who said:

" No one obtains anything from carrion but weakness of his body, decrease of his strength, and cease of his offspring. And, the consumer of carrion dies not but by a sudden death. Those who consume blood (as food stuff) become hard-hearted. ..." 25 According to some hygienical advice, the flesh of swine is the carrier of two kinds of microbes called tapeworms and trichina. (The latter is a very small nematode worm trichinella, whose larvae infest the intestines and voluntary muscles of man, pigs etc., causing trichinosis).

Today, it is forbidden to use swineflesh even in some Eastern countries. In former divine religions, such as the religion of the Jews, the flesh of swine has been held in great detestation. In the Bible, the sinners are also likened to swine. There is an exception, of course, where the term /q­ayrabaq­in/ denotes not for enjoyment but forced by unavoidable necessity, and term / 'adin / means without any intention to revolt against the prescribed laws of Allah or not exceeding the bare limits of the actual want or the bare necessity. If anybody under circumstances beyond his control or forced by necessity, to save his life, takes such things, it will not be a sin upon him.

"...But whoever is forced (by necessity) , not desiring nor transgressing, no sin shall be on him; ..." This permission is because of the Mercy and Grace of Allah, as the verse itself says:

"...surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

It is cited in Tafsir-i-Nur-uth-Thaqalayn in an expressive tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) who said: " Whoever is forced (to eat) carrion or blood, or swineflesh and he avoids eating something of it until he dies, then he is an infidel." 26


1. Islam has paid full attention to the problem of food-stuffs. It has frequently warned Muslims against the putrid, harmful, and unlawful food. The prohibition of swineflesh, carrion and blood is found in four occurrences in the Qur'an. The Messages of this prohibition were preached two times in Medina and two times in Mecca.

2. Considering Allah, and invoking His name at the time of slaughtering animals, is necessary. This is to warn us to know and be aware that everything belongs to Allah and therefore, none of our deeds should be done out of the circle of theism. 3. Islam is a complete and an easy religion. It stops in no circumstance. Every ritual duty or religious prohibition can be changed when there is emergency.

4. No one must misuse the necessary circumstances in this respect.

General Conclusion

Here in this verse, and in the similar other verses of the Qur'an, is laid down the principle of the Islamic law to be observed under normal conditions and the law of exception for the state of emergency. The things forbidden under normal conditions may be permissible in the emergency. The spirit of the law to be observed in both the cases is the sense of obedience, and sticking to the prescribed limits. Under no circumstances any revolt against any law is allowed.


25. Wasa'il-ush-Shi'ah, vol. 16, p. 310

26. Tafsir-i-Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol. 1, p. 155

Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"

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