To maintain a pure heart and a sound mind, to nourish an aspiring soul and a clean healthy body, special attention should be given to the diet on which man lives. And this is exactly what Islam does. Some superficial or self-deceived persons may imagine that food and drinking stuff has no direct or important effect on the general condition of the person who fills his stomach regularly. But this is certainly not the viewpoint of Islam which takes the matter in a most serious way. The general principle of Islam in this respect is this: All the things which are pure in themselves and good for man are lawful for diet as long as they are taken in moderate quantities. And all the things which are impure and bad or harmful are unlawful under all ordinary circumstances. There is always room and flexibility for exceptions to meet cases of absolute necessity (Qur’an, 7:157; see the section on Islamic Morals above).
Beyond this general principle, there are certain foods and drinks specified by God as forbidden. Among these are: meat of dead animals and birds, the flesh of swine and that of anything slaughtered with the invocation of any name other than that of God (2:173; 5:4). The drinks which Islam considers harmful and destructive to the human spirit and morality as well as to the physique and morale of man are included in the Qur’anic verse which forbids all intoxicants and all forms of gambling or games of chance (5:93-94).
The prohibition of these foods and drinks is not by any means an arbitrary action or a dictatorial decree of God. It is first and foremost a Divine intervention in the best interest of man and for his own sake. When the Qur’an describes these forbidden things as bad, impure and harmful, it has a vigilant eye on man’s morality and wisdom, on his health and wealth, on his piety and common behavior – all of which are invaluable assets in the estimation of Islam. The reasons behind this Divine intervention are numerous. They are of a nature intellectual and spiritual, moral and mental, physical and economical. And the sole purpose is to show man how to develop himself according to an upright course of life in order to be a healthy unit in the structure of the family, then of society, and eventually of humanity at large. Reliable medical doctors and social scientists should be able now to verify the benefits of these Islamic legislations.
Islam is as orthodox and uncompromising on the quality of the organic nourishment of man as it is on his spiritual soundness and intellectual growth. This point is brought to light by the fact that some dietary items are forbidden in kind, as mentioned above, and some in degree. The things which are lawful for the Muslim should be taken in moderate quantities without indulgence or excess (Qur’an, 7:31). After shunning all the forbidden items in kind and degree, the Muslim is invited by God to enjoy His gracious provisions and to experience gratitude to the Merciful Provider (2:168, 172; 5:90-91). (This partial repetion is meant to re-emphasize the point and may therefore be forgiven. In connection with the whole discussion, see the Concept of Morality above and also Ebrahim Kazim, M.D. “Medical Aspects of Forbidden Foods in Islam,” Al-Ittihad - The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada - 1391/1971, vol. 8, no 1, pp. 4-6. This article concludes with an excellent bibliography of medical and religious sources.)
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