There was just something about it that did not appeal to my sensibilities. I remember every Thanksgiving and every Christmas we would eat dinner at my Grandmother’s house.
Year in and year out she had a big, fat slab of ham on the dinner table. I never liked the look or smell of it. So, upon converting to Islam, giving up pork was not hard because I did not like it in the first place!
However, dealing with the reaction from my friends and family is what was the hard part. Any time we ate at a restaurant or ordered take-out I always asked the server as to whether what I ordered contained pork or not, which is common in the US. Pork is in so many things! Time and time again I got these crazy looks from everyone. They thought I was an alien for not eating pork. I remember once I met my cousin at a local restaurant and she had already ordered for us both. When the salad came it was covered with big chunks of cheese and salami bunched together on little toothpicks. I pushed it away and she just fumed at me, “Well, can’t you just pick it off?” to which I replied, “No, I can’t.”
One of the greatest misconceptions about Islam is just why exactly Muslims abstain from eating pork. Over the years, I have got the most outrageous inquiries. Some people think Muslims revere the pig as Hindus revere the cow, so they don’t want to eat something they hold in such high esteem! Others think that perhaps Muslims are being punished by God and are not allowed to eat pork. Someone even had the audacity to tell me that they thought the reason Muslims don’t eat pork is because it is a pink animal and Muslims are not allowed to eat things that are pink!
The real reason that Muslims do not eat pork is because we are forbidden to eat it in the Holy Quran:
He has only forbidden you carrion, blood and pork and what has been consecrated to other than Allah. But anyone who is forced to eat it -- without desiring it or going to excess in it -- commits no crime. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur'an, 2:173)
In the Quranic chapter, Al-Anaam (The Livestock), the reason is given:
“…or flesh of swine -- for that surely is unclean…” (Quran, 6:145)
So, the first reason why pork is forbidden in Islam is because the animal, itself, is unclean. The pig is the only known creature that wallows in and eats its own feces.
The second reason is due to the biological nature of the meat itself. Pork is one of the unhealthiest meats available to humans. It contains a higher level of antibodies, cholesterol and lipids than other animals do. Pork also contains a greater level of growth hormones than other meats, which causes the human body to become corpulent and that will eventually lead to noticeable deformations like morbid obesity and swelling of the limbs. Studies have shown that all of these components pose a risk to the health of humans. People with diets rich in pork and it derivatives not only suffer with obesity but also high cholesterol, increased risk of heart attacks and cancer.
The results of a high-pork diet cannot be denied and we can even see the effects with our own eyes. Humans who eat a lot of pork take on the physical characteristics of the pig. We’ve all seen movies where the ‘bad guy’ is a huge man with a massive body and pink tinged skin.
Or turn on CNN; for example, you can usually see interviews with people who have huge rolls of fat hanging from their chins and again the lightly tinged pink skin.
And as if it could not get any worse, pork also contains some creepy things like parasites, worms, bacteria and viral diseases.
There have been several cases where humans have had huge tapeworms growing inside of them as a result of eating poorly cooked pork.
Other types of worms in pork travel through the blood only to settle in the human heart, which can trigger a heart episode at any time.
In Islam, anything that is impure or harms a human’s health or wealth is categorically forbidden for the benefit of humans.
And pork fits into all of those categories. Muslims take exceptional measures to ensure that they avoid pork at all costs. However, corporations have also taken measures to hide what they put in their products. Several products, in the Middle East especially, now have ingredients with only the letter “E” and a corresponding number. Case in point, a pack of biscuits in my pantry has “…E322, E503, E102…” listed as part of its ingredients. So, as a consumer I have no idea what the biscuits contain unless I come home and search the Internet.
I am sure that friends and family will still wonder as to why I don’t eat pork even though I have explained it several times and provided support based on my religious beliefs. I simply cannot understand their outrage because even in the Bible pork is a forbidden food. “Do not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat… The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud, you are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.” (Deuteronomy 14:3-8)
With all the ill effects and diseases that are caused by eating pork, it is no wonder there are so many health crisis’s going on in so many countries. It really makes you stop and think about the old adage, “You are what you eat.”
Sumayyah Meehan is a Kuwait-based American writer who embraced Islam. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Given the accelerating spread of AMR and the long lead-in time to develop antibiotics, we can’t afford to continue overlooking the problem.