By Ahsan Qazi*
Although much of the global narrative on Islam has been defaming its tenets and rendering the religion as an archaic, violent, and whatever ill one could think of the religion, COVID-19 pandemic has presented itself as a key example for the world to see Islam in a different light than the Fox News, CNN, NPR, and BCC’s portrayal of Islam. Many Western networks’ discussion about Islam with so called “Islamic experts” is without actually inviting the scholars of Quran and Sunnah (the saying and actions of Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him) to truly explain the religion to laymen. As a result, the West and some nations around the globe continue to misinterpret Islam and its rulings, which are not just for Muslims but the entire mankind, should they choose to understand the religion and adhere to its principles. So how does COVID-19 pandemic and Islam’s prescribed ways, especially Islamic ruling on Halal (permissible) food related?
COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2 first emerged in Wuhan, China. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.” Although the exact source of virus and its precise location of emergence is still being investigated, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported “Environmental samples taken from this market in December 2019 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, further suggesting that the market in Wuhan City was the source of this outbreak or played a role in the initial amplification of the outbreak.”
Furthermore, the Humane Society of United States noted, “The strongest evidence of the virus’s origin points to a section of the Huanan open-air market where more than 75 species of stressed wildlife were stacked in wire cages and slaughtered on-site for buyers. “You almost couldn’t design a more perfect setting for the transmission of disease,” says Teresa Telecky, HSI vice president for wildlife. “Animals are crowded together, and you have all these fluids—blood, saliva, feces.” The live animals, edible and non-edible, the food being sold and eaten in Wuhan and similar markets alike, it brings attention to the idea that Islam’s legislations are with a meaning and a purpose, and if mankind had adhered to what the Creator (the One and Only, without any partners or associates) legislated, COVID-19 could have been preventable. This is what continues to be amiss in the West and some Asian countries that see Islam as a violent and an outdated religion whereas Islamic ruling, not just on Halal food but many other aspects of life stand the test of time because of its wisdom, backed by intellect and science.
In Islam, Allah commands those who have believe in Him as the sole Creator (One and Only, worthy of Worship alone), “O you who have believed, eat from good things which We have provided for you, and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (al Baqarah 2:172). In another verse of Quran, Allah commands, “Say: Have you seen what Allah has sent down to you for provision of which you have made [some] lawful and [some] unlawful? Say: Has Allah permitted you [to do so], or do you invent [something] about Allah” (Yoonas 10:59).
Islam prescribes a very defined legislation on food and commands its followers to eat what is considered pure and edible, food that human body is made to tolerate. Under Islamic jurisprudence, pure food is defined as being free from any filth or poison. Additionally, one of the Islamic legislations pertaining Halal food is that the animal is not killed by strangling or electric shock or drowning in water. Whether a Muslim or a non-Muslim who slaughters or kills an animal in inhumane way, it is impermissible for him to consume such animals.
The animals being sold at the Wuhan market and many alike contain animals that are impure and poisonous. The list of animals includes but are not limited to: Peacocks, Snakes, Crocodiles, Kangaroos, Squirrels, Snails, Foxes, Pheasants, Civet cats, Cicadas, Frogs, Centipedes, Hedgehogs, Bats, etc. All these types of wildlife are either poisonous or constrain certain bacteria that can cause serious sickness or death. Why did it take COVID-19 for the Chinese government and the world to realize that they must ban the sale of wildlife that is impure and an easy carrier of deadly viruses? In a world that has refused to learn about Islam and refused to look into principles on the permissibly of various matters that range from maintaining hygiene to eating pure types of food to enjoining good and forbidding all types of evil, the world would have benefitted quite a lot by learning from the Islamic jurisprudence on what Halal means.
With Halal food legislation clearly defined in the Quran, the final prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) also taught the very message to the mankind. Allah’s final Messenger, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) stated that, “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good. And verily Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods] and perform righteous deeds (40 Hadith, Nawawi, 10). Some of key benefits of Halal food include:
- Complete animal care, which entails keeping animals clean and fed
- Sick animals are considered impermissible for consumption and must be kept away from healthy animals
- Humane way of slaughtering the animal for consumption, requiring complete drainage of blood from the animal body
- Halal meat is healthier and less prone to contamination; hence, no bacteria growth
- Healthy and balanced consumption of meat, which means Halal meat supports the immune system and metabolic function because of its cleanliness
COVID-19 has resulted in 1.47M deaths, plunged the global economy into a recession, shut down all activities that we once considered normal—all because of poor decisions to eat impressible foods that people made permissible for themselves despite knowing how filthy and deadly the wild animals are for consumption. Islam, if its legislation were given a serious consideration and respect from the mindset of understanding it rather than attacking it with false propaganda, the world would not have to face such a dangerous pandemic today. As our society moves forward and ignores Islam and its wisdom in all aspects of the life, such pandemics and various other types of diseases will continue to spread. Islam legislates very practical solutions to resolving many matters of our life. It should not take pandemics and spread of fatal diseases to realize that certain wildlife has to be banned for consumption or certain acts or behaviors have to be stopped. Islam differs from other religion such that it calls for balance whereas other religions are on an extreme end of the spectrum, either calling for veganism or allowing for all types of food to be permissible. It is about time that world directs its attention to learning about Islam, thinking and believing that this religion does actually offer great practical solutions to many issues that our society faces either through its commandments.