Let me preface this article with a very definitive statement; I shall steadfastly observe one Quranic injunction; I will not eat swineflesh. Even though modern food technologies have created synthetic bacon, artificial ham, soya bean pork and a whole range of non-pork pork products, I will never even eat them; so firm is my resolve. I may have violated some other religious bans but eating swineflesh, even in its ersatz version, shall always remain a No-no for me. This said, I am reasonably certain that, in my very many sojourns to ‘pig eating’ lands, I have had ‘third party’ contact with the animal. I have inhaled the acrid fumes of sizzling lard, I have eaten off plates that would have earlier been used to serve pork, I most likely would have come in contact with pigskin leather. I might even have encountered a hungry mouth that had earlier nibbled on pork chops and sipped wine to boot…………..…. Enough said; you get the drift. Now read on.
Surely there are far worse things that could have been prohibited. Why is ‘not eating swine’ such a crucial imperative for His creation that it merits specific mention, not once, not twice, but four times in the Holy Book. When it comes to the dietary restrictions for his Followers, why does He very specifically forbid three things and three things only; carrion, blood and swine?
To my mind, carrion and blood are both understandable, it is the third, swine, which gives cause for reflection. My questioning mind must wonder. Was the eating of swineflesh very much in vogue prior to Moses? Was the Holy Land flush with pigs? Highly unlikely because pigs are omnivores (they eat animals and plants both) and have historically lived in farmland and forests where they can forage for food easily. The biblical lands were mostly desert; I don’t think that the swine population was so high that it required us to be cautioned in such stringent terms.
Surely there are other, more foul, more damaging ‘foods’ that could have been warned against. Feces could have been a contender for inclusion. In terms of disgusting and damaging stuff, it definitely ranks high. It could have easily taken third place. But NO. It went to Swine.
The ban is unambiguous, unequivocal. It is also pertinent to note that the Almighty imposes the ban during the 55th revelation chronologically. However, when the Holy Book is compiled this ban is placed up front and, right at the outset He clearly states the reason for the ban. Swineflesh is unclean. The ban is then repeated three more times.
Order of Revelation 55 [6.145] Say: I do not find in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden 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—
But the question remains; why swine; why the pig? Why not the many other unclean things that we consume? We eat many things that are actually quite disgusting to begin with but we clean them and then devour them with relish. We eat many poisonous things after eliminating the danger they present. Why could He not simply direct us to clean the unclean before consumption? After all, pig is protein; it is food; a source of nourishment and, let’s face it, there are many malnourished Muslims (and a few Jews also) worldwide. But no, He has not allowed any leeway; even if you cleanse it, boil it, fry it, zap it with microwaves, irradiate it; you simply cannot eat it. It is forbidden to eat swine.
Why, for example, does He not prohibit mushrooms? Or indeed, the deadly blowfish. Why would the Japanese even begin to desire eating ‘fugu’? There are innumerable deadly killers in the plant and animal world that can harm us, destroy us. Why is He not overly concerned if we eat some of the many fauna and flora that He has made injurious to our health? Why not warn us of them? Why, interestingly, is cannibalism not forbidden? Why swine? Why the pig? There has to be a more profound reason for the ban and as one seeks answers, one is confronted with a very uncomfortable but logical thought.
Is the reason for the ban something totally different? Has the ban been imposed, not for the welfare of the human but instead for the safety of the pig? After all, the pig is also His creation and is already quite disadvantaged. (‘Pigface’ is not really a term of endearment). Man is indeed his finest creation but is also the most brutal, the most enthusiastic omnivore of all species; he will kill for no reason, he will devour anything; his appetite, indeed lust, for flesh is truly remarkable. Could the ban be a form of protectionism for the beast? Does God love pigs?
It is stated by those who study these things that the world pig population, both wild and domesticated is about the same as the human population. It is also said that the pigs share some human attributes. They are intelligent, caring and sociable. Some of their body parts have uncanny similarity with those of humans. Unlike humans, pigs do not kill each other; there is no known instance of any pig community developing any weapons of mass destruction; trying to wipe everything off the face of the earth. Humans can act as pigs; indeed they often do. There is, however, no recorded instance of any pig acting like a human.
Could pigs be an evolved species? It is food for thought. Might as well be. It certainly isn’t food for the body.