The "Lahm" (flesh) of the Pig

Prohibited for you is the carrion, blood, the 'lahm' (flesh) of the
pig and what has been dedicated to other than God.


In order to understand the law contained in any Quranic verse, it is essential to uphold the direct and literal meaning of God's words. Often, readers of the Quran have ignored the simple meaning of words and instead, consulted various books of interpretation which usually destroy the simple meaning, replacing it with a far fetched meaning, one that is not suggested nor implied by the words used in the verse. To justify this alteration of God's words, these interpreters claim that the Quran is not easy to understand, and that only they are able to decipher its mysteries!

Needless to say, this claim is in total contradiction to God's description of the Quran as a clear and easy to understand Book:

A.L.R. These are the signs of the clear Book. 12:1

We have made it (the Quran) easy to understand and in your own tongue so that you may take heed. 44:58

It is the purpose of this paper to point out the correct meaning of the Quranic prohibition regarding the pig. Does the prohibition cover all the pig or only the meat of the pig?

The wording of two of the items prohibited in 5:3 gives us valuable guidelines to the correct meaning. The two items are the "carrion" and the "flesh of the pig".

The above words confirm that anything from a dead animal is prohibited and not just the meat, this is because God said "carrion" which literally means any part of an animal found dead. God did not say 'the meat of the carrion', thus the whole body of the dead animal is prohibited.

In contrast, God deliberately said "lahm al-khinzeer" (the flesh of the pig), and not just 'the pig'. God could have said, 'the carrion and the pig', this would have covered all the body of carrion and all the body of the pig. Why then did God only specify the "lahm" of the pig? This deliberate singling out of the "lahm" means that only that part of the pig is prohibited, not the whole pig.

The next stage in our analysis of 5:3 is to determine exactly what the meaning of the word "lahm" is in the light of the Quran. The common understanding of this word is that it means meat, but is this the Quranic meaning of this word? To answer this question we need to study various verses where the word "lahm" is used. The following verse is of particular significance:

Then We created from the tiny drop of semen an aalaqah (that which clings), then We created from the aalaqah a mudghah, then We created from the mudghah bones, then We covered the bones with 'lahm' (flesh), then We produced him as another creation. So blessed be God, the best of creators. 23:14

The words in 23:14 describe the various stages of development of the human foetus up to the stage of becoming a full creature. We read that after the bones are created they are covered with "lahm". This indicates that the word "lahm" is used for everything that covers the bones and not just the meat. This would include meat, fat, tendons, cartilages veins and arteries and so on. It would thus be appropriate to understand the word "lahm" to mean flesh.

In the following verse we read how the word "lahm" is also used for what we eat from the sea:

And it is Him who ordained the sea so that you would eat tender 'lahm' (flesh) from it and to extract from it jewellery which you wear. 16:14

This is of particular interest since the largest majority of the catch of the sea that we eat, such as fish, which are mostly cartilaginous, sh
rimps, shell fish and crustaceans have no bones at all. Thus the choice of the word "lahm" is accurate to describe what we eat from the sea.

The deduction we get from the above analysis is that everything that covers the bones in the pig is prohibited. This includes the fat of the pig (lard), cartilages, tendons, but not the bone or bone marrow.

The prohibition of only parts of certain animals is not unfamiliar in the Quran. We read in 6:146 that God had prohibited for the Jews some of the fat of certain animals but not the whole animal:

For those who are Jewish We prohibited all that have claws, and of the cows and sheep We prohibited their fat, except that which is carried on their backs, or the entrails, or what is mixed with bones. That was a punishment for their transgressions; We are truthful. 6:146

In concept, prohibitions are means through which God the Creator tests the obedience of the human being. What was prohibited to one people may be lawful for another, as we have witnessed in the Quran. This indicates that the item of prohibition is not always prohibited for an inherent reason within the item itself. Since God prohibited the fat of some animals for the Jews but made it lawful as per the Quranic law, this can only mean that there is no physical harm in the fat itself. Following from that, God could have created a world without pigs and without alcohol and drugs, but God created these items and placed the laws of prohibitions so as to test the human being and his obedience to His Maker.