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The Islamic Bulletin

Issue 9

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The Islamic Bulletin

Issue 9

The Prohibition of Eating What is Dead

and its Wisdom

The first thing mentioned in the verses concerning prohibited foods

is the flesh of “dead animals,” that is, the beast or fowl which dies

of natural causes, without being slaughtered or hunted by men.

There are obvious reasons for this prohibition:

a) Eating the flesh of a dead animal is repugnant to civilized taste

and is considered by thinking people in all societies to be contrary to

human dignity. We also observe that all people possessing a divinely

revealed scripture have prohibited it and that they do not eat the

flesh of an animal unless it is slaughtered. However, the methods

of slaughter may vary.

b) In whatever he does, the Muslim acts with a set purpose and

intention; he does not use a thing nor reap its benefit without di-

recting his intention,aim, and effort toward it. The significance of

slaughtering, which is to take the life of the animal in order to use

it as food, is to remove the slaughtered animal from the category

of “dead animals.” Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala does not desire that

man should eat of what he did not intend or think of eating, as is

the case with the dead animal; conversely, slaughtering an animal

or hunting it as game both require an intention followed by effort

and subsequent action.

c) If the animal died a natural death, it is quite likely that it died of

some acute or chronic disease, through eating a poisonous plant,

or other similar causes; hence eating its flesh would probably be

harmful. The same is that case when the cause of death is old age

or starvation.

d) By prohibiting the flesh of a dead animal to human beings, Allah

in His Mercy provides source of food to animals and birds, who, in

the words of the Qur’an, constitute an ummah (nation) like them-

selves. The truth of this is demonstrated by the fact that carcasses

of animals lying out in the open are devoured by birds and animals.

e) This prohibition encourages the owner to guard it from disease

and malnutrition lest it die and be wasted. Accordingly, in the case

of disease, he will be quick to seek a cure for it or will hasten to

slaughter the animal.

And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever

good Ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with

Allah: For Allah sees well all that ye do. (Quran 2:110)

Salat, usually translated into English as “prayer”, is one of the five

pillars of Islam. The other four pillars are the Declaration of Faith

(Shahadah), charity (Zakah), fasting (Sawm), and the pilgrimage to

Mecca (Hajj). Salat should be performed five times a day: daybreak

(Fajr), noon (Zuhr), mid-afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and eve-

ning (Isha). These periods also conveniently correspond with man’s

daily routine activities: rising, noon break, after work, dinner, and

sleep. One could ask, why have prayers been described for Mus-

lims five times a day? Would not once or twice, or whenever one

happens to feel like it, be sufficient? In answering these questions,

it must first be pointed out that Islamic prayers (salat are somewhat

different from “prayer” as used in Christian sense, although personal

supplication and glorification of God (known as du’a) are also a

very important part of the Muslim’s worship in addition to salat.

Actually, the word “worship” conveys the meaning of salat much

more accurately than “prayer”. Keeping all this in mind, we can

now proceed to answer the above question of “why?”

Salat is a multi-dimensional act of worship. Performing it regularly

serves as a repeated reminder to the Muslim during the day and

night of his relationship with his Creator and his place in the total

scheme of reality. Its regular observance is a vital centering process

that helps keep one properly oriented to the truth and reality of

one’s role in life as a servant of Allah (God) amid the constant dis-

tractions of mind and soul that we encounter in the material world

(dunya). The remembrance of Allah and his glorification for a brief,

concentrated period of prayer in the midst of one’s daily activities

keeps this perspecitve always clear and intact.

True, there is for thee by day prolonged occupation with ordi-

nary duties: But keep in remembrance the name of thy Lord and

devote thyself to Him wholeheartedly. (Quran 73:8-9)

Thus faith becomes an effective force in his life, and he keeps away

from greed and evil or unjust deeds. To this effect, God commands:

Establish regular prayer: for prayer restrains from shameful and

evil deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in

life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.

(Quran 29:45)

Everyone has to turn to God and submit his will to Him with sin-

cerity-which prevents him from committing vile or bad deeds. If

one’s prayer does not include this concept, it is rejected. Salat is

essentially a form of ritual worship of God that consists of recitations

from the Holy Quran. It should always be borne in mind that God

does not need man’s prayer, because He is free of all needs. He

is only interested in our prosperity and well-being in every sense.

Some of the benefits of prayer are that it strengthens the belief in

the Existence of God and transmits this belief into the innermost

recesses of man’s heart, it purifies the heart and develops the mind,

cultivates the conscience and comforts the soul, and also fosters

the good and decent elements in man, suppresses the evil and

indecent inclinations.

Salat always begins with the call to prayer (adhan). The power of the

adhan on one who hears it is indescribably moving. The personal

experience that Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon,

reportedly had with it suggests only the slightest hint of the scope

of its spiritual power and effect. It has been reported that when he

was on the moon, he heard a strange sound that he could not place

within his vast scientific training and experience. Some years later,

while walking through the streets of a town in Cairo, he heard the

same sound again. In anxious anticipation, he inquired what the

unusual sound was. He was told that it was the adhan, the Muslim

call to prayer. According to this story, this awakening of spiritual

insight in him resulted in his conversion to Islam.

In Salat, the recitations are always recited in Arabic, the sacred lan-

guage of the Quran. However, a new convert to Islam who does not

know Arabic may recite verses in translation in one’s own language

until one is able to memorize at least two short passages in Arabic.

Mastery of such a task is its own spiritually transforming reward.

The positions of “salat” consist of standing, bowing, prostrating and

sitting. These physical acts are symbolic of the spiritual states of

submission, humility and adoration of Allah Most High with one’s

entire body and soul. In performing them, one’s heart is filled with

the love of Allah, the recognition of one’s worldly existence and

Allah’s infinite greatness and beneficence.

The self-discipline that is needed to perform salat regularly and

at proper times reaffirms the human beings total dependence on

his Creator and his position as His servant. Salat is the complete

expression of man’s voluntary submission to Him. It is to be per-

formed with strict concentration, attention and presence of heart,

not simply as a mechanical, verbal and physical exercise.

So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers.

(Quran 107:4-5)

A Muslim is required to pray at the prescribed times wherever

he may be - but it is preferable and more meritorious to pray in

congregation with his fellow-Muslims if possible. In such congre-

gational prayer, in which Muslims stand in straight rows, shoulder

to shoulder as one body united in worship of Allah, the elements

of discipline, orderliness, brotherhood, equality and solidarity are

very strongly exemplified. Non-Muslims observing Muslims praying

in congregation for the first time are often very moved by this sight

of universal harmony and submission to the will of Allah.

Because of all these aspects, Salat is the principal means by which

the Muslim keeps his life in proper perspective, having always

before his mind, the limited, finite nature of this world’s life, with

all its allurement and involvements, pleasures and pains, and the

certainty of death and the Hereafter, attempting to maintain a sense

of balance and proportion between the needs and claims of this

world and the next. Through worship at regular, fixed intervals,

marking the periods and divisions of the day, the individual volun-

tarily affirms the relationship existing between himself and Allah

amid his involvement with his worldly affairs:

In the houses in which Allah is exalted and in which His name

is remembered there are people who glorify Him at morning

and evening - men whom neither merchandise nor trade takes

away from the remembrance of Allah and constancy in salat and

payment of zakat, who fear a Day when the hearts and the sight

will be overturned; that Allah may reward them with the best

for what they have done and create the reward from them out

His bounty, for Allah provides for those whom He wills without

measure. (Quran 25:35-38)

A Muslim always ends his salat with a call for peace: “Assalum

‘alaikum wa rahmatullah”. (“Peace be upon you and the Mercy

of Allah”).

To state it simply, prayer must exist, for without it Islam can not

stand. Abdullah ibn Oart related that the Prophet (PBUH), said,

“The first act about which a person will be accountable for on the

Day of Judgment will be prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his

acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be

evil.” (At-Tabarani.)

It is the last thing that the Prophet (PBUH) recommended to his

nation before he died, saying, “Prayer, prayer and what your right

hand possesses.”

Fatimah’s Tasbih

Ali (R.A.A.) once said to one of his pupils: ‘Shall I tell you the story

of Fatimah (R.A.), the dearest and the most loved daughter of the

Prophet (PBUH)?”

When the pupil replied in the affirmative, he said: “Fatimah (R.A.)

used to grind the grain herself, which caused corns on her hands. She

carried water for the house in a leather bag, which left a mark on her

breast. She cleaned the house herself, which made her clothes dirty.

Once some war-captives were brought to Madinah; I said to her,

‘Go to the Prophet (PBUH) and request him for an assistant to help

you in your housework.’ She went to him, but found many people

around him. As she was very modest, she could not be bold enough

to request the Prophet (PBUH) in the presence of other people.”

The next day the Prophet (PBUH) came to our house and said,

“Fatimah! What made you come to me yesterday?” She felt shy

and kept quiet. I said, “O, Prophet of Allah! Fatimah has developed

calluses on both her hands and breast, on account of grinding and

carrying water. She is constantly busy in cleaning the house and

in other domestic jobs, causing her to remain dirty. I informed her

about the captives and advised her to go to you and make a request

for a servant. It has also been reported that Fatimah (R.A.) made

a request, “I and Ali own only one bedding and that also is a skin

of a goat. We use it in the morning to put the feed of the camel.”

The Prophet (S.A.W.) said,

“Fatimah! Be patient. The Prophet Moses (A.S.) and his wife owned

only one bedding, which was the cloak of Moses. Fear Allah; acquire

Taqwa--(the fear that arises out of love. When we love Allah so

much that we become very God conscious and we want to please

Him all the time) and keep doing your service to Allah and attend

to your domestic jobs. When you go to bed, recite ‘Subhanallah’

33 times, ‘Alhamdulillah’ 33 times, and ‘Allahu akbar’ 33 times. You

will find this more helpful than an assistant.”

Fatimah (R.A.) remarked, “I am happy with what Allah and His

Prophet (PBUH) would be pleased.”