Thanks to Osman, Muezzin and Ansar for their contributions.
First of all - Muezzin, your reference to Pulp Fiction is wholly appropriate. For many youngsters in the West, that could have been the first time they heard about certain religious beliefs about food. Of course, it's also a thoroughly rockin' film.
On the issue of pork, Osman has provided the following:
format_quote Originally Posted by Osman
I'm interested in the part about animals being "slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allaah". In interpreting this verse, I'm torn between two interpretations: does this refer to the religious beliefs of those slaughtering the animals, or the specific slaughter method involved? So, if a Jewish person killed an animal according to Jewish methods, that would be OK, since the method is the same in Islam (I believe), but if a Christian did it, following different methods, that would be wrong?
By the mercy of Allaah and His kindness towards us, Allaah has permitted us to eat all good things, and He has not forbidden anything but those that are impure.
We do not doubt for an instant that the pig is a dirty and filthy animal, and that eating it is harmful to man. Moreover it lives on dirt and filth, and it is something that is off-putting to those of a sound nature who refuse to touch it, because eating it is either a cause or a sign of a person’s oddness.
The point about impurity seems to rest on two propositions:
1. The pig is a filthy animal, which lives in its own faeces etc.
2. Eating pork has been shown to be unhealthy, in that it a) makes you fat, since it clogs your arteries with cholesterol and other associated symptoms and b) contains impurities which can lead to various debilitations including the hosting of parasitic tapeworms.
With regard to 1., the pig is believed by biologists to be a relatively clean animal, since, unlike many other meat-providing animals, it is driven to bathe regularly. It is only when water is not available that it resorts to using its faeces.
For 2a), That is a risk people take when they eat chips, sweets and any number of other foods.
2b) I eat pork occasionally myself, and since it is part of a standard English breakfast, I know many others who do too, but it has to be said that ailments of the kind mentioned do not seem to be prevalent among these people.
I think there may be additional reasons for the prohibition on pork. Since pork "goes off" relatively quickly, and when it does the consequences are very harmful, in times when artificial preservatives were not available, a prohibition on it would have been very sensible, for the health of the community.
Also, since pigs cannot survive on grass, like other animals, they need water and shade where seeds can grow. These were not widely available in desert climates, where Hebraic religions developed, so any Arab farmer, for instance, who was keeping pigs would be setting himself up for ruin.
All these things make up a possible materialist explanation for the prohibition on pork. That's why I particularly appreciated the comment towards the end of the article that said roughly: even if none of these things were true, we would still not partake of pork, since it has been forbidden. Is this when it comes to being a matter of faith?
My big question is: has the prohibition on pork developed due to actual historical and biological circumstances, or does it show us that eating pork is wrong in another, religious, possibly moral way?
With regard to the blood prohibition, as I said my own personal taste is in agreement here, and Ansar's explanation, as usual, has given an informative view on the matter.
The quote from Al-Tabari seems to imply that there was, at some time, a difference in opinion between Jews and Muslims on the status of congealed blood - I was not aware of this. Am I right in thinking that Jewish kosher
methods of slaughter are halaal
Perhaps, again, there is a range of views within Islam on the matter, since I have seen Islamic scholars providing answers on both sides of the issue, some agreeing with Al-Tabari, and some saying that congealed blood retains harmful uric acid, and therefore should not be consumed; others saying that meat consumed in non-Muslim countries where halaal
food is not available, and possibly slaughtered using un-Islamic methods is, however, halaal
. Muslims I have known have had varying degrees of strictness when interpreting this particular issue, so am I right in thinking this variety of opinion exists as standard?
Thanks for all the replies so far; this, like many other issues in Islam, is something Westerners can usually only perceive on a surface level - I'm grateful for the chance to examine the details, with your help.