In the previous chapter I clarified that for the sake of discussion we will stick to the mullah definition that haram means ‘forbidden’. In truth however this is not the case. In the Koran, haram does not mean forbidden. Perhaps ‘sanction’ is the best English word to capture the meaning of haram.
6:151 Say, "Come let me tell you what your Lord has really made HARAM for you (maahar-ramarabbukum), that you shall not set up idols besides Him, that you honor your parents, that you do not kill your children from fear of poverty - we provide for you and for them, that you must not commit gross indecencies, obvious or hidden, that you shall not kill any person,ALLAH has made life sanctioned (har-rama) - except in the course of justice. These are His commandments to you, that you may understand.
Arabic transliteration : qul ta’allau atloomaa HARAMA rabbukum alaykum alaa tushrikoobihi shay-an wabil waalidayni ihsaanan walaa taqtuloo awlaa-dakum min imlaaqin nahnu narzuqukum wa-iyyaahum walaa taqraboo al fawaahisha maa zahhara min hawa maabatana walaa taqtuloo al naffsa allatee HARAMA Allaahu illa bilhaqqi thaalikum wassa’akum bihi la’allakum ta’qiloon.
Note that in this verse,along with setting up idols besides Allah, killing your children, committing gross sins and killing people, honouring one’s parents is also listed as a “haram”.
Surely it cannot be a prohibition to honour your parents. Hence haram does not mean ‘prohibition’. The word ‘sanction’ suits the meaning of haram much better. Honouring your parents is something that is sanctioned - you should honour your parents.
The latter part of the verse also says that we should not kill humans because life is haram (walaataqtuloonaffsaallatee HARAMA). Certainly life is not “prohibited”. Again haram here means life is sanctioned.
Whether the word haram refers a positive sanction (something that must be done), a negative sanction (something that must be avoided) or something that needs to be handled in an appropriate manner depends upon the context of the verse.
Here is another verse which shows clearly that haram means “sanction” and not forbidden :
22:30 That (shall be so); and whoever respects the sacred ordinances (HARAM) of Allah, it is better for him with his Lord; and the cattle are made lawful for you, except that which is recited to you, therefore avoid the uncleanness of the idols and avoid false words (Shakir).
Note that in 22:30 the word HARAM is taken to mean ‘sacred ordinances’. Haram does not mean forbidden.
So 6:151 actually means the following :
“Say, "Come let me tell you what your Lord has really SANCTIONED for you (maa HARAMA rabbukum), that you shall not set up idols besides Him, that you honor your parents, that you do not kill your children from fear of poverty - we provide for you and for them, that you must not commit gross indecencies, obvious or hidden, that you shall not kill any person, ALLAH has sanctioned life (HARAMA) - except in the course of justice. These are His commandments to you, that you may understand."
6:151 has four negative and one positive sanction. If haram means forbidden, then the famous ‘Masjidil Haram’ in Mecca should become the ‘Forbidden Mosque’ – no one should enter it.To overcome this problem the mullahs again change the meaning of haram to “sacred” and call it the Sacred Mosque. Problem solved.
‘Masaajidilharam’ in the Koran refers to a ‘sanctioned submission’. We will discuss ‘masaajidil haram’ in Chapter 20 ‘No Pilgrimage To Mecca in Koran’.
So looking back at 5:3 :
5:3 "Sanctioned (haram) for you are dead animals, and blood and flesh of swine, and that which has been devoted to other than Allah….”
These foods are sanctioned (haram) indicating there are doubts about them and we need to properly handle or process thembefore consumption.
Here are some examples.
1. The English do have a habit of eating dead pheasant birds that have been ‘hung’ for days. But the birds need to be properly prepared prior to consumption. Inuits know how to bury seals, whales and other Arctic animals in the open and consume them for months.
2. It does not need science to tell us that uncoagulated blood may carry disease causing germs. But the British black pudding or blood sausage is actually pig’s blood that has been cooked in oatmeal. It has become part of the diet. Cooking the blood kills off bacteria.
3. Pork eaters say that without being cooked well the flesh of swine can cause worm infestation. However properly cooked pork is safe for their consumption. Pork has been consumed by human beings since 5000 BC or earlier. Pork is the most widely consumed meat making up over 38% of all meat eaten around the world. If pork was not “good for you” surely the human race would have stopped eating pork a long time ago.
Why is the meat of pigs (lahma al khinzir) sanctioned? The Koran explains:
6:145 Say: I do not find in that which has been revealed to me anything sanctioned (haram) 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 (rijsun) -- or that which is a transgression, devoted to other than Allah; but whoever is driven to necessity, not desiring nor exceeding the limit, then surely your Lord is Forgiving, Merciful (Shakir).
The flesh of swine is sanctioned because it is “unclean” or rajasa. This is the traditional translation by Shakir.
However in other places in the Koran, this same word rajasa is translated and also interpreted as ‘doubtful’. It is a very big difference between ‘doubtful’ and ‘unclean’. For example here are a string of translations of 9:125.
I. 1. But those in whose hearts is a disease, - it will add doubt to their doubt (rijsun ila rijsihim) and they will die in a state of Unbelief. Translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
2. 2. But as for those in whose hearts is a disease (of doubt, disbelief and hypocrisy), it will add suspicion and doubt to their suspicion, disbelief and doubt (rijsun ila rijsihim) and they die while they are disbelievers. Translator Hilali Khan.
III. 3. But as to those in whose hearts is a disease, it will add doubt to their doubt (rijsun ila rijsihim), and they shall die infidels. Translator Rodwell.
IV. 4. But unto those in whose hearts there is an infirmity, it will add [farther] doubt unto their [present] doubt (rijsun ila rijsihim); and they shall die in their infidelity. Translator George Sale.
i. Here is 10:100 which also mentions the word rajasa :
No No soul can believe, except by the will of God, and He will place doubt (rijsa) on those who will not understand. Translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
ii. It is not for any person to believe, except by the Leave of Allah, and He will put the wrath (rijsa) on those who are heedless. Translator Hilali Khan.
iii. And no soul can believe except by the permission of ALLAH. And HE causes HIS wrath (rijsa) to descend on those who would not use their judgment. Translator Sher Ali.
iv. No soul can believe except in accordance with GOD's will. For He places a curse (rijsa) upon those who refuse to understand. Translator Rashad Khalifa.
v. It is not for any soul to believe save by the leave of God; and He lays abomination (rijsa) upon those who have no understanding. Translator AJ Arberry.
vi. It is not for any person to believe save by the permission of God; He puts horror (rijsa) on those who have no sense. Translator Palmer.
vii. No soul can believe but by the permission of God: and he shall lay his wrath (rijsa) on those who will not understand. Translator Rodwell.
viii. No soul can believe, but by the permission of God: And he shall pour out [his] indignation (rijsa) on those who will not understand. Translator George Sale.
In Sura 10:100 none of these eight different translators of the Koran translates ‘rijsa’ as “unclean”. They translate rijsa as “doubt, wrath, curse, horror, indignation and abomination”. We have heard of the Abominable Snowman but no one says that he is unclean as well.
In the Bible pork is certainly stated as unclean and it is prohibited for consumption.
Prohibitions in the Hebrew Bible
And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. Leviticus 11:7-8
And the pig, because it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You shall neither eat of their flesh nor touch their carcass. Deuteronomy 14:8
And the sanction (haram) against food devoted to other than Allah is simply to mention the name of Allah over it.
6:118 You shall eat from that upon which Allah’s name has been pronounced, if you truly believe in His revelations.
It is obvious that no food is obviously prohibited in the Koran. This is also because the word “haram” does not even mean prohibited. On the other hand it will be much simpler for muslims to see what the Koran makes permissible (halal) for their consumption :
5:4 They ask you what is permissible (halal) for them. Say, "Halal for you are all good things, including what the dogs (mukallibeen) catch for you." You train them according to Allah's teachings. You may eat what they catch for you, and mention Allah’s name thereupon. You shall observe Allah. Allah is most efficient in reckoning.
If it is good for you then it is halal.
ALCHOHOL IS NOT PROHIBITED IN THE KORAN
A discussion of permissible food would not be complete without touching on alchohol. This discussion is shorter because nowhere in the Koran does it say that alchohol is prohibited. The word haram is not used anywhere in the Koran to describe alchohol. This is a simple fact. There is not one verse in the Koran which says that alchohol is haram.
The Koran advises us to avoid upholding our daily obligations when we are in a condition of being intoxicated. The Arabic words used are ‘wa antum sukaara’ which means ‘while you are intoxicated’.
4:43 “O you who believe, do not uphold your obligations while you are intoxicated (wa antum sukkaara), so that you know what you are saying..”
It is important to be always coherent and aware about what we say and do. Intoxication and incoherence can be caused by other than alchohol. Drugs, medicines, being overjoyed, under stress, anger or psychiatric disorder can all cause us to act incoherently. Under such circumstances we should not uphold our daily obligations. We should lay off or take a rest until we come back to our good senses. This is a simple and logical statement.
16:67 And of the fruits of date palms and grapes you produce from them intoxicants (sakaran) and good provisions (minhu wa rizkan hasanan). This should be proof for people who understand.
You produce from dates and grapes intoxicants and good provisions. There is no prohibition against intoxicants here. Instead they are listed as among good provisions (rizkan hasanan).
In the Koran other than sukkaara the word khamri is used for a reference to alchohol. Literally the word khamri means a cover – in this case something that can cover or befog the mind. Alchohol certainly can befog the mind.
2:219 They ask thee concerning wine (khamri) and gambling (maysiri). Say: "In them is great wrong, and some profit, for men; but the wrong is greater than the profit."
This is general advice that there is some good in wine and gambling but the bad outweighs the good. Again there is no outright prohibition of wine and gambling.
5:90 O you who believe, intoxicants (khamri) and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are dubious (rijsun), the works of satan you shall avoid them, that you may succeed.
5:91 Satan’s plan is to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants (khamri) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from your obligations: Will ye not then refrain?
Recall that khamri means something that covers. Khamri refers to all intoxicants including alchohol, drugs and any other substances that can befog the mind. Again there is no outright prohibition against the consumption of alchohol. This is general advice to avoid becoming intoxicated. The word haram is never used in the Koran with reference to consuming alchohol.