Why do Muslims abstain from pork?

The prohibition of pork in Islam is derived from the following verse of the Glorious Qur’an:

“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah.”

[Al-Qur'an 5:3]

Let us examine various aspects of this prohibition:

1. Prohibition in Earlier Scriptures

Islam is a culmination of the same monotheistic religion that was revealed to earlier prophets. Although the Glorious Qur’an is the only revelation that is extant in its original revealed text, some remnants of earlier revelations can be found in the Bible.

The Bible prohibits the consumption of pork, in the book of Leviticus

“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you”.

“Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch, they are unclean to you.”

[Leviticus 11:7-8]

Pork is also prohibited in the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy

“And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you. Ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcass.”

[Deuteronomy 14:8]

A similar prohibition is repeated in the Bible in the book of Isaiah chapter 65 verse 2-5.

2. The Nature of Pork

The main utility of pigs in the ecosystem is as scavengers. They live and thrive on muck, feces and dirt.

It could be argued that in developed countries, pigs are bred in very clean and hygienic conditions. Even in these hygienic conditions the pigs are kept together in sties, and so the chances of them consuming filth are very high.

3. Health Aspects

Research has shown correlation between pork consumption and several diseases. Eating pork can expose the individual to various helminthes (worms) like roundworm, pinworm and hookworm. One of the most dangerous of worms is Taenia Solium, which, in lay man’s terminology is called the pork tapeworm. It harbors in the intestine and is very long. Its ova i.e. eggs, enter the blood stream and can reach almost all the organs of the body. If it enters the brain it can cause memory loss. If it enters the heart it can cause heart attack, in the eye it can cause blindness, and in the liver it can cause liver damage. It can damage almost all the organs of the body.

A common misconception about pork is that if it is cooked well, these ova die. In a research project undertaken in America, it was found that out of twenty-four people suffering from Trichura Tichurasis (another worm commonly found in pork), twenty two had cooked the pork very well. This indicates that the ova present in the pork do not die under normal cooking temperature.

Pork has very little muscle building material and contains excess of fat. This fat gets deposited in the vessels and can cause hypertension and heart attack. It is not surprising that hypertension is a common ailment due to the prevalence of the consumption of pork.

Thus the prohibition of pork in Islam is a blessing.