Rafed English

Shiah and the Nature of Foodstuffs

Animals: There are three kinds of animals - animals of the land, animals of the sea and animals of the air.

It has just been pointed out that, in general, the only animals of the sea which are lawful are those which have scales. The eggs of such fish are also lawful.

Of land animals, only a few species can be lawful - the camel, the cow, the sheep or goat, the wild cow or buffalo, the mountain sheep or goat, the gazelle, the deer. The meat of horses, mules and donkeys is not approved of (makruh). Animals which eat najis substances, such as excrement, become haram, but they can be purified by "istibra'" (keeping it away from najis eatables for a specific period).

All kinds of carinvourous animals are unlawful. Rabbits, foxes, badgers and mongooses are all unlawful.

Insects, reptiles and amphibians like worms, snails, cockroaches, scorpions, wasps, bees, snakes, frogs etc. are all forbidden; only the locust can be eaten.

Among birds, those which feed on flesh such as hawks and eagles, are completely forbidden. Apart from this, the Prophet (s.a.w.) prescribed three signs in three conditions for the identification of lawful birds:

1) if the birds are in the air, the pause in the movement of their wings, i.e. their gliding, should be less than their flapping;

2) if they are on the ground, the spurs on their claws should be visible;

3) when the bird is slaughtered, it must be found to have a crop and/or a gizzard.

Bats and peacocks are forbidden. The kind of crow which eats herbage is lawful, but the kind which eats carrion is forbidden.

Besides animals, there are other things which are forbidden to eat or drink. They can be classed under four headings:

1) everything which is impure (najis) is unlawful (haram);
2) every kind of food (eatable or drinkable) which has been taken illegally is haram.
3)every kind of food (eatable or drinkable) which has deleterious effects is haram.
4) every kind of food (eatable or drinkable) which seems repulsive is haram.

Of liquids, one of the most impure is urine, but even more than that is wine (any kind of alocholic beverage), and in Imamiyah fiqh, the unalwfulness and impurity of wine is more strongly emphasized than in any other school. The traditions that have come down to us from our Imams on this subject are enough to frighten one off them forever. Distillers and fermenters of alcoholic drinks, stockists, merchants and drinkers, all are cursed, and wine has been called in fiqh "ummu 'l-khaba'ith" (the mother of all evils). Some traditions say it is forbidden to sit at a table on which alcoholic drinks have been laid, probably so as to encourage people to obstain therefrom so that their bad effects may be limited.

Today, expert secientists have confirmed by chemical tests that wine is a very destructive and harmful thing. Islam warned against alcohol thirteen hundred years ago. Today, even those who do not obstain for religious reasons do so for reasons of health. The shari'ah of Muhammad (s.a.w.) cannot be over praised, those who neglect it do so to their own disadvantage and peril.

Adopted from the book: "The Origin of the Shi'ite Islam and its Principles (Asl ash-Shi'ah wa Usuluh" by: "Allamah Kashiful Ghita"

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