Camels

What about Camel Meat!

Often a proselytizer whose proofs have not been sufficient to convince their audience of the veracity of their religion is to attack one or more of the tenets of the religion of their audience. The Christians and Jews have naturally picked up on the fact that Muslims eat camels, whilst the Torah says that camel meat is an unclean meat just as much as pork is. They ask if Muslims eat camel meat and, when they are answered in the affirmative, enquire why Muslims criticize Christians for breaking the Law by eating pork when the Muslims do the same thing by eating camel.

There is, of course, a big difference. The Christians have no textual proof of their assertion that they are free of God’s restriction and ordinances, whereas the Muslims have a plethora of proofs.

I begin my defence in the Quran, where God has specifically told us we not only may eat camel meat, but should use the camel as a sacrificial animal. Restrictions on eating it, however, apply from the prophetic traditions. The first evidence that camel meat is permissible is indirect:

It is He Who produces gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for God loves not the wasters.

And of cattle (He created) beasts of burden and those which are fit for slaughter only; eat of what  God hath provided for you, and follow not the footsteps of Satan: for he is to you and avowed enemy. [Quran, 6:141-142]

Say: “I do not find in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden for an eater to eat of except that it be what has died of itself, or blood poured forth, or flesh of swine – for that surely is unclean – or that which is a transgression, other than God having been invoked on it; but whoever is driven to necessity, not desiring nor exceeding the limit, then surely your Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. [Quran, 6:145]

First of all, we are enjoined to eat what has been provided to us by God, which includes beasts of burden (camels), and then we are told specifically what is forbidden to eat – which does not include ‘beasts of burden’.

Later on in the Quran, camels are specifically mentioned as being a fit (desired) animal not simply to eat, but also for sacrifice and to be fed to the poor.

And the camels! We have made them of the signs of the religion of God for you. Therein you have much good. So mention the name of God over them when they are drawn up in lines. Then when they fall on their flanks (dead), eat thereof and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility. Thus have We made them subject unto you, that you may be grateful.

It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches God: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that you may glorify God for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right. [Quran, 22:36-37]

The restrictions on the Jews, even concerning meat consumption in some cases, they brought upon themselves (due to their obstinate disobedience). So some restrictions are for them alone.

For those who followed the Jewish Law, We forbade every (animal) with undivided hoof, and We forbade them that fat of the ox and the sheep, except what adheres to their backs or their entrails, or is mixed up with a bone: this in recompense for their wilful disobedience: for verily We are Truthful. [Quran, 6:146]

Given that the Quran makes the eating of camel meat legal, and God’s rules never change, perhaps the presence of the law against its consumption was brought upon the Jews by themselves or added to the law by their own desire.  If the Jewish Torah was to be the true unchangeable basis of God’s Law for all mankind, how is that possible. In fact, the Law for mankind was perfected before the Torah and it has been deduced as having its foundation on five laws given to Adam and two more given to Noah, which is now termed the Noachide, or Laws of Noah.

Omed Yashar, (his YouTube I.D.) is a Jew who claims not to reject Islam. However, as we will see below, he does reject some of the basic precepts of Islam. For example, he claims that Jews do not and have never worshipped Ezra, the scribe, or considered him to be a son of God, while Allah says,

“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!”  [Quran, 9:30]

Yet Omed Yashar himself says that “Sometimes we speak of people as being ‘sons of God’…” although he claims this is only metaphorical and refers to us as being creations of God. [Path of Abraham, Muslim Comments on Jews and Judaism]  Yet in Psalms we see David proclaiming,

I said, You are gods, And all of you sons of the Most High.” [Psalms, 82:6]

and Jesus refers to this passage when refuting the Pharisees concern with his being called “the son of God.” [John, 10:34]  Specifically, “the sons of the most High” refer to those in spiritual authority over Israel: Levites; priests and doctors of the Law, the scribes. In the case of the scribe, Ezra, his re-teaching and rewriting of the lost Torah after the return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile [Sacred Texts, Apocrypha: 2 Esdras Chapter 14]  also ushered in a change of policy. Under David and Solomon and up until the second exile, intermarriage with gentile subjects was commonplace and approved. Ezra, however, made such intermarriage illegal. Jew had to marry Jew in order to purify the tribes.

In the Quran, the next verse [Quran, 9:31]  refers to rabbis and monks being taken as ‘gods’ beside Allah. A Christian objected to the verse, saying we do not take our monks to be gods,” very much like Omed Yashar rejects taking the scribe Ezra as a son of God. The Prophet’s reply to the Christian was,

“Yes you do. They forbid what is approved and approve what is forbidden and you obey them in that.” [Jami’ At-Termidhi 5/44, 9. pp. 402. Darussalam 2007]

Secondly, in the Path of Abraham, Omed Yasher implies that the Torah is the authoritative guidance, even for mankind. He qualifies adherence of Gentiles to the Laws of Noah imposing two conditions. The first is that a gentile cannot act upon his prophet’s instruction if he instructs us to do

“religious practices which do not have basis in the Torah” as“this would violate prohibition of religious innovations, establishing of holy days, etc.”  [Path of Abraham, Religious Freedom & the Laws of Noah]

As a corollary to this condition is a second, which is

“not to establish any religious innovations, whether to cease from malakhoth on any day to make it for himself like a Sabbath, to create for himself a holy-day, or anything else:  One must remain subject to”the Seven Laws of Noah,“without adding or taking away from that Instruction.” [Path of Abraham, The Laws of Noah]

This is despite ‘allowing’ beliefs like “Jesus was born of a virgin” and “is the promised Messiah” and that “Muhammad was the greatest and final prophet.” [Path of Abraham, Religious Freedom & the Laws of Noah]

While the Quran acknowledges the status of the Torah as a measure between right and wrong (Al Furqan – attributed to Moses and Aaron) [Quran, 21:48]  it also gives itself the same status to the revelation received by Muhammad (Al Furqan – attributed to Muhammad) [Quran, 25:1]  and even reports that people disinclined to monotheism refer to both as sihraan tadhaahran (two works of sorcery, evidently) supporting one another. [Quran, 28:48]  It also says that the revelation sent down to Muhammad is Muhayminan (Dominant and Authoritative) [Quran, 5:48]  over the scriptures in the hands of the people of the Book (Jews and Christians).

At the same time, The Quran stipulates that the Torah was sent down to Moses (Not Noah or Abraham) as guidance to the Children of Israel for their inheritance,  [Quran, 40:53]  not for the Gentiles, and records that the Sabbath was made holy for them, [Quran, 4:154] rather than the Gentiles. It also records that dietary laws imposed upon the Children of Israel are partly influenced by what Israel forbade for himself  [Quran, 3:93] – ratified for the Israelites by God. Therefore the stipulations above come from rabbinic scholarship and interpretation from the oral Torah and Talmudic traditions, rather than from God. The Quran assigns another day for the Muslims to keep; Jumu’ah, or Friday, the “day of gathering.” Jumu’ah commemorates not the “day of rest” after the Creation, which the Jews were ordered to keep, but the day that man was created and sent down to earth from Paradise, the day that the first man, Adam, died, and the day that man will be recreated, resurrected and gathered for Judgment. [Sunan Ibn Majah, 2/5 79 pp.160-161. Darrusalam 2007]  It is not a day of rest, but a day of work – as God admonishes the people to stop trading for the Kutbah, or sermon, of the midday prayer and then gives them leave to disperse and take up their work after the prayer.  [Quran, 62:9-10]  Jumu’ah does not replace the Sabbath. At the same time, the Sabbath is not ordained on Muslims and other non-Israelites, except, perhaps, Christians who abandoned it in favor of Sunday as Bryan Huie argues. [Here a Little, There a little, Sabbath Vs. Sunday: Which Should We Keep?]

Because the Quran is Muhayaminan, it actually takes the Law of God back to the original, the Laws of Adam, Noah and Abraham, and the specific laws directed at the Israelites are now superseded by the system of the criterion (Al Furqan) which was revealed to Muhammad. The advent Judaism is still waiting for, of a prophet from their brethren like unto Moses, has already occurred. He was to tell them everything God, Who will put His words in his mouth, ordered him. And that is exactly what Muhammad, may Allah praise him, did, and whoever has not listened to God’s words, which he spoke in His name (Bishm Elah Ha Rachman wa Ha Rachem), will have to account for himself to God. [Deuteronomy, 18:18-19]

As was mentioned earlier, the possibility of the prohibition against camel meat actually originated from imperfect man rather than perfect God can be examined from reference to the text itself in Leviticus. For instance, is the classification of the camel as not having a split hoof correct? If a camel has a split hoof, then the text which says it has not must be man altered, as God makes no mistakes.

Clean and Unclean Food

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat:  You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.'” There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them.

The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. [Leviticus 11:1-4]

This first criterion is questionable. The definition which defines the type of animal a camel is follows:

TYLOPODA (Gr. for boss-footed, in reference to the cushion-like pads forming the soles of the feet), the scientific name of the section of ruminating artiodactyle ungulate mammals (see ARTIODACTYLA) now represented by the Old World camels (see CAMEL) and the South American Llamas (see LLAMA).

The limbs are long, but with only two digits (the third and fourth) developed on each, no traces of any of the others being present. The trapezoid and magnum of the carpus, and the cuboid and navicular of the tarsus are distinct. The two cannon-bones of each limb are confluent for the greater part of their length, though separated for a considerable distance at the lower end. Their lower articular surfaces, instead of being pulley-like, with deep ridges and grooves, as in other Artiodactyls, [Merriem-Webster Online Dictionary] are simple, rounded and smooth. The first phalanges are expanded at their lower ends, and the wide, depressed middle phalanges embedded in a broad coetaneous pad, forming the sole of the foot, on which the animal rests in walking instead of on the hoofs. The terminal phalanges are small and nodular, not flattened on their inner or opposed surfaces, and not completely encased in hoofs, but bearing nails on their upper surface only. [The 1911 Classic Encyclopaedia, Tylopoda]

So, not only is the foot split, but part of the leg too. Furthermore, they are identified belonging to the order of Artiodactyla, or hoofed mammals, and referred to as having hooves, even if they do not rest their whole weight on them. The second criterion is clear, however, and the biological dictionary supports the assertion.

The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. [Leviticus 11:5-6]

Co´ny

Noun 1. coney – any of several small ungulate mammals of Africa and Asia with rodent-like incisors and feet with hoof-like toes das, dassie, hyrax, coney Procavia Capensis, rock hyrax, rock rabbit – a hyrax that lives in rocky areas.

The foot is identified as, hoof-like, so it resembles a hoof, although it is not a hoof.

family Procaviidae, Procaviidae – includes all recent members of the order Hyracoidea. [Farlex. The Free Dictionary, Thesaurus]

The third criterion needs no further investigation, as it is agreed in the both Judaism and Islam. Yet we note, the pig does not chew the cud because, like a horse (which has a ‘single toe’ hoof ), it is not a ruminant. A camel (which has a split hoof) is.

And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. [Leviticus 11:7-8]

If this examination of the text satisfactorily casts doubt as to its authenticity as God’s word, are there any grounds in Islamic law that indicate that camel meat is impure in any way, needing ritual purification of the meat before a person can eat it, or purification of the person after he or she has eaten it? If so, it may have provided a causal basis for Jacob’s descendants to have classified it as impure for consumption.

In Islam, purity is imparted upon consumables by pronouncing God’s name over it, and the meat of an animal becomes pure if you kill it, either by slaughtering or hunting, in the name of Allah. So if the meat was impure in itself, merely killing it according to the Law would purify it. Therefore, if any restriction on eating it exists, it should be of the latter type. In other words, any restriction pertaining to camel meat concerns whether or not eating it breaks one’s state of ritual purity for acts of worship, such as the prayer (Tahárah), and therefore obligating the renewal of ablution (wudú’).  Concerning this question, there are several Legal religious verdicts (Fatáwa), and the following information is derived from Islam Q&A, a reliable inter-net site maintained by Shaykh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid. The question asked was because the Muslim questioner wanted to be sure he was not breaking any of God’s laws in his dietary habits. The references in the section below are as given in the verdict at Islam Q&A. There are four of the six main collections of narrations (hadiyths) mentioned: Muslim [Sahih Muslim], Termidhi [Jami’ At-Termidhi], Nasá’i [Sunan An-Nasá’i] and Abu Dawood [Sunan Abu Dawood].

Does eating camel meat break ritual purity?

According to the Islamic questions and answers site, the view the site considers most correct is that when one eats camel meat, whatever the sex or age of the camel or whether or not it is cooked or raw, one has to make ablution after doing so. The evidence used to support this opinion is from several reports from the companions of the prophet about what he taught. The first is the following, from Jábir:

The Prophet was asked, ‘Should I make ablutionafter eating camel meat?’

He said, ‘Yes.’

The person said: “Should I make ablutionafter eating mutton?”

He said, ‘If you wish.’ [Muslim]

Another companion, Al-Bará’, reported also that

The Messenger of God (may God praise him) was asked about eating camel meat.

He said, ‘Make ablutionafter eating it.’

When he was asked about mutton, and he said, ‘Do not make ablution.’ [Tirmidhi and Abu Dawúd]

According to the site, these two sayings make it clear that ablution after eating camel meat is obligatory, but is not necessary after eating mutton or lamb.

However, there is a contrary view, which considers ablution to be necessary only if the meat is not cooked, and extends to other uncooked meats, too. They also base their opinions on what the companions narrated.

They consider the rule to be abrogated by a narration from Jábir, who said that the last of the two final commands from the Messenger of God (may God praise him) was:

 ‘There was no need to make ablution after eating food that had been touched by fire.’  [Abu Dawúd 192; and Nisá’i 185]

Their argument is that the first two reports applied still applied only to uncooked meat, but once it is cooked, any meat that required ablution after eating it, is voided. However, the site argues, there is no evidence in this narration that the ‘food’ mentioned here includes camel meat, which is specifically indicated as needing ablution, or is in general reference to a practice that had developed without specific direction for any food, meat or otherwise. The proponents of ‘the correct’ view put forward what seems to me to be a spurious argument, saying that this narration does not refute the specific meaning of the authentic one quoted above from Muslim, nor did it abrogate anything from it because, when they asked whether they should make ablution after eating mutton, and the Messenger of God (may God praise him) had said, “if you wish.”  They also argue that if the Muslim narration was abrogated, the ruling on mutton would also be abrogated. I cannot quite see any problem with either of these positions, for the wording of the Abu Dawúd and Nasa’i narration implies that even if the earlier ruling still applied to meat that is eaten without being cooked, the later ruling abrogated what concerned cooked food.

The people who stick by the earlier ruling argue that “If you wish” indicates that their narrations must have come after the narration of Jábir, concluding that in cases of abrogation there must be evidence that what is being abrogated came first chronologically. Why exactly the saying “if you wish” makes the Muslim narration follow the Abu Dawúd and Nasa’i one, I am at loss to say. For, despite the fact they see no evidence here that the Abu Dawúd and Nasa’i succeeds the Muslim narration, that evidence is supplied by the former narration itself. First of all, one of the narrators of the first two reports in Muslim and Termidhi is the same person who reported the ‘abrogating’ narration of Abu Dawúd. Secondly, this narrator, Jábir, says about the latter that it was the second of his two last commands, which necessitates the Muslim and Termidhi narrations being before it.

Never the less, the site argues, the Abu Dawúd and Nasa’i narration is general in application, but the Muslim and Termidhi narrations about camel meat are more specific. According to matters of Law, a specific ruling takes precedence over a general one. Therefore, camel meat is excluded from the general ruling, which applies to other lawful meat. The fact that in the Muslim narration the person also asked about mutton makes it clear to the proponents of this view that the issue here is not whether the meat has been touched by fire for, if that were the case, then camel meat and mutton would be regarded in the same way.

Naturally, that would be the case. At the time the earlier ruling was made, however, perhaps fire was not an issue. But to the proponents of the second view, the abrogating one, fire did become an issue later. Like the abrogation prohibiting visiting graves was later reversed, so the prohibition of needing ablution after eating cooked camel meat could be, and was, abrogated by the later ruling.

Some people are inclined to argue that there was no clear order to purify oneself after eating camel meat in the first place. They say that what is meant by the phrase “make ablutionafter eating it” in the Muslim narration is to wash the hands and mouth, because camel meat has an unpleasant odour and is very greasy, unlike mutton. This interpretation is unlikely, because the apparent meaning here is ablution as prescribed in Law, not just in the linguistic sense of merely washing one’s hands and mouth. When the terminology of Law is used, it is obligatory to interpret it in accordance with the meanings of Law.

The opinion that camel meat needs no purification before or after eating it is also pressed by a group of people using three very shaky pieces of evidence. The first is a narration which is classed as weak by al-Bayhaqi and al-Dáraqutni (Islamic Scholars specializing in the chains of transmission, or sinád,  in hadiyths) due to three faults in the chain of narration. [Shaykh al-Albáni, in al-Silsilah al-Da’îfah]  In it, it is reported that the Messenger of God (may God praise him) said,

‘Ablution has to do with what comes out, not what goes in.’

Some of them also take as evidence a story that has no basis in any authentic narrations or elsewhere in reliable books of explanation and practice. [ibid.]  The story in question may be summed up as follows:

The Prophet was addressing the people one day, and one of them emitted an odor (i.e. passed wind), but he felt too shy to get up from among the people. He had also eaten camel meat, so the (may God praise him) said, covering for him,

‘Whoever has eaten camel meat, let him make ablution.’

So a group of people who had eaten camel meat got up and went and performed ablution.

It is therefore the opinion of Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid regarding this matter that the ruling on not performing ablution after eating anything that has been touched by fire has been abrogated, and so it is still obligatory to make ablution after eating camel meat. [Islam Q&A]

According to Al-Nawawi, (a  Muslim scholar from the 13th Century) the view of the following historical scholars is that ablution is necessary after eating camel meat, whether raw or cooked: Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Isháq ibn Ráhawayh, Yahyá ibn Yahyá, Abu Bakr ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Khuzaymah.  Al-Háfiz Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi was also of the opinion that eating camel meat breaks ritual purity. Among modern scholars, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azîz ibn Báz, Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymîn and Shaykh al-Albáni also said this. [ibid.]

However, it has to be said that the majority responded to this with the authentic narration of Jábir which reports that the last of the two commands from the Messenger of God was that there was no need to make ablution after eating lawful meat that had been touched by fire, the merits of which we discussed earlier. If the opinion that camel meat breaks ritual purity is true, it may have been the basis of including it among the prohibited meats in the Laws of the Israelites. If it is false, then its inclusion in the Law of Moses seems perverse, and perhaps one of the rules Jacob decreed on his descendants and himself. The Quran records that:

All the food was made lawful to the Children of Israel except what Israel forbade for himself before the Torah was sent down. [Quran 3:93] 

Conclusion

So the issue of camel meat being  fine things (good and legal) is moot, in Islam. We take the view that it is permissible to us from the explicit evidence in the Quran and authentic Narrations (ahadiyth  sahiha) from the companions of the Prophet, but, if it was forbidden for the Children of Israel, as the evidence in Leviticus suggests it was, it was made forbidden for them due to their rebellion and wilful disobedience, as stated in Quran, 6:146.

Read on: Quran & Sunnah

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