Halal Haribo Cola Breeze Muslim boys are supposed to be circumcised, but when is not specified. For most Muslims it is kind of coming of age right generally performed when a boy is six or seven, and is usually done at least before the onset of puberty. In a few Muslim communities it is done shortly before marriage.
Muslims circumcision ritually marks a boy’s prompt entrance the religious community. It is typically celebrated with a large party. Sometimes animist practices accompany the ritual.
Circumcision is pretty much universally practiced by Muslims even though the Shafi legal school is the only one that makes it obligatory. Circumcision was not mentioned in the Koran and Muslim tribe did not practice it but it has been practiced since early times by Muslims presumably to distinguish Muslims from Christians, Persians and Indians who did not practice it.
Websites and Resources: Islam.com islam.com ; islamicity.com ; Islam 101 islam101.net ; Islamic History Resources uga.edu/islam/history ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall/islam/islamsbook ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/islam ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; Islamic History friesian.com/islam ; Islam.com Timeline classicalislam.com ; Islamic Civilization cyberistan.org ; Muslim Heritage muslimheritage.com
Circumcission Foreskin Circumcision is the surgical removal of the double layer of skin and mucosal tissue covering the end of the penis, which is referred to as the foreskin or prepuce. The foreskin protects the penis and has a sensory and sexual role. In a hospital-performed circumcision, an infant’s legs and arms are restrained in a special chair; the penile area is cleaned and an anesthesia is injected into the end of the penis; a clamp or plastic ring is s attached to the penis; and the foreskin is cut away. The entire procedure takes about 15 minutes. Afterwards, petroleum jelly is applied to the wound and the penis is wrapped in gauze and heals in between a week and 10 days.
Jews also practice circumcision but Christians traditionally did not (although many Christians are now circumcised in Western countries for “health” reasons). Circumcision among Jews is performed eight days after birth.
The common medical rationale for circumcisions was that it reduced the risk of urinary tract infection, penile cancer, cervical cancer in sex partner and the transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases—but there is little evidence to support this except with sexually-transmitted diseases. From a hygienic point of view, circumcision was encouraged to keep the penis free of smegma—a substances comprised of dead cells, bacteria and anti-bacterial agent now as lysosyme. Cleaning away smegma can easily be achieved by pulling back the foreskin..
History of Circumcision
The removal of the foreskin is a custom found in many cultures and was practiced by a host of ancient Semitic tribes. It is believed to have originally been a sort of male menstrual rite performed on pubescent boys dressed as girls, symbolizing a willingness to give up his virility to God. The reference to the use of a "sharpened stone” by Moses's wife Zipporah to circumcise her son suggest that it is a custom that predates the invention of metal. The ancient Greeks rejected circumcision as a violent tribal customs.
Map of Male Circumcision Prevalence at Country Level
In the late 19th-century a Victoria-era doctor described the male foreskin as a “source of serious mischief” and linked it to excessive masturbation and in severe cases “masturbatory sanity.” He promoted circumcision as a cure for excessive masturbation and other maladies associated with it. For a long time the procedure was performed without anesthesia because it was believed that babies had no sensation of pain.
Circumcision has been widely practiced on the United States since then 19th century when it was though the procedure would reduce disease and cut down on masturbation, which was blamed for a number of health problems at that time, including kidney disease, gout and rheumatism. The procedure remained routine until the 1980s when medical organization said there was no medical reason for circumcision.
By one estimate 80 percent of the world’s male population has not been circumcised, including most French, Dutch, Germans, Chinese, Russians, Japanese and Scandinavians. Outside of religion, circumcision is a procedure that is commonly not done in Europe but is still done in the United States less so than before. In the 1960s, about 90 percent of newborn males had their foreskin removed, now only about half do. Circumcision has been mostly abandoned in Britain.
Halal shop in Xian, China In recent years whether or not to circumcise an infant has become a moral and ethical issue. Critics of the practice say that is it unethical to perform such an operation on a child before they have a chance to weigh in the issue. It turns out the foreskin is packed with nerve endings and it protects and lubricates the head of the penis, maintaining its sensitivity sort of like an eyelid does. Supporters of circumcision point to its health beneifts. Recent research from Uganda, for example, indicates that circumcision reduces the chance of catching HIV/AIDS by 50 percent and significantly reduces the chances of getting other sexually transmitted diseases.
Halal and Muslim Food
Halal (“untainted”) meat eaten by Muslims is essentially the same as kosher meat, except that animal is slaughtered while facing Mecca while the butcher says Allah's name. The Koran states: "Forbidden to you (as food) are carrion and blood and swine-flesh, and that which has been dedicated to any other God, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which has been killed by (the goring of) horns, and that which has been devoured except that which you make lawful (by killing it while it is still alive), and that which has been immolated to idols."
Halal Detainee Food Under halal, an animal is hung upside down in a slaughterhouse and a halal, butcher, with his head covered, slits the animal’s throat with a knife while saying the prayer “ Bismallah Alluha akbar ” (“Thank you God is Great”). The blood is drained as the animal bleeds to death. Hoisting up the animal speeds up the bleeding process. Kosher-killed animals are also hung and have their blood drained,
In Britain many animals killed by the halal method are given a preliminary nonlethal stun to control them and reduce the processing time. One butcher in Manchester told the Independent: “Non-stun slaughter is a much lengthier process. Animals have to be put on cranes, which is time consuming. It can take a week to kill 500 lambs. But if stunning is adjusted to a lower level—such that the animal would recover fully if it were not killed immediately afterwards—then that is halal, so long a the man who slaughters is a devote Muslim who says each time the prayer.” Many Muslims object to the practice of stunning. They are also outraged by Muslim chicken abattoirs than kill 7,000 birds an hour with whirling blades and taped prayers.
Many butchers in India and other South Asia countries are Muslims because Hindu and Buddhists consider butchering as dirty, distasteful and cosmically and religiously uncool.
Attacks on Halal and Kosher Slaughters
Halal McDonalds In 2003, animal rights group called for a ban on kosher and halal method, citing it as cruel to the animals that are slaughtered. One animal rights activist told the Independent: “Scientific evidence shows that animals that have their throats cut while they are fully conscious can suffer terribly over relatively lengthy periods as they bleed to death.” According to a report on the practice: “After the cut has been made, the animal must remain restrained until it is bled out before being released, shackled and hoisted.”
Martin Potter, the leader of a British animal rights group, argues that animals should be stunned either before they are killed or immediately afterwards. He wrote in The Independent: “Modern stunning instruments in the hands of highly skilled slaughters can render an animal unconscious immediately. We therefore, have the ability to give this animals a quick and painless death. Slaughter by Jewish and Muslim methods involves cutting the throat with a very sharp knife without any form of prior stunning...This method can result in cattle taking as long as two minutes to become insensible...The cut across the neck lead to very significant pain and distress before the insensibility supervenes.”
Muslim and Jewish groups have united to fight the ban on the basis of freedom of religion. They make the argument that stunning can be as cruel or more cruel then cutting; that the prosed use of stunning defies their religious laws by leading to the retention of blood in the meat; and say the Nazi evoked similar arguments against kosher slaughter in the 1930s.
A halal butcher in London told the Independent: “I believe it is our right as Muslims to eat a halal meat, which is an essential part of Islam. I have taken part in the slaughter of poultry in the past so I know it is a quick and efficient method, not cruel at all.” A member of the Muslim Council of Britain said, “Scientific tests have shown that when an animal is stunned, small blood vessel repture, leaving meat tainted with blood which is full of germs, bacteria and waste material.”
Muslims and Pork
Qibbla Halal sliced turkey salami Muslims and Jews (and some Christians) are forbidden from eating pork. The Jewish and Christian God spoke out twice against eating pork in the Old Testament (in Genesis and again in Leviticus), denouncing the pig as an unclean animal that "pollutes if it is tasted or touched." Allah delivered essentially the same message to Mohammed in the 7th century, but revoked the Biblical taboo on eating camel flesh.
Pork is the only food that the Koran specifically forbids Moslems to eat. The Koran states: "Forbidden to you (as food) are carrion and blood and swine-flesh.” By contrast Jews are forbidden by the Bible from the eating of birds, four-footed beats with "paws" (wildcats, lions, foxes, wolves, dogs and cats), water dwellers with scales or fins (eels, shellfish, whales, dolphins, sturgeons, lampreys, and catfish), "all winged insects that go upon all fours" (with the exception of locusts, crickets and grasshoppers "which leap upon the earth"), "camel, rock badger and hare" and animals that "chew the cud" but are not "cloven footed" (pigs).
Muslims are supposed to watch out for alcohol and gelatin made from pork fat in their food with the same vigilance of vegetarians who scan packaging labels for signs of lard. Vanilla, wine vinegar, cider and perfume are supposed to be avoided because they all contain alcohol. Gelatine made from pork fat is found in marshmallows, cream pies, cake fillings, candies and commercial yoghurt. Some devout Muslims scrap the icing off of cupcakes and cake lest the be contaminated with lard.
Eating pork is for the most part forbidden but if you are crossing the desert and no other food is available it is alright to eat it.
History of Muslims and Pork
In the fifth and forth millennia B.C. in Mesopotamia, 30 percent of bones excavated in Tell Asmar (2800-2700 BC) belonged to pigs. Pork was eaten in Ur in pre-Dynastic times. After 2400 B.C. it had become taboo. In Egypt, pigs were eaten, but there was prejudice against pork associated with Seti, the God of Evil.
In an attempt to explain why pork was forbidden, the 12th century Jewish-Muslim physician Maimonides wrote pig flesh "has a bad and damaging effect upon the body." But he didn't offer any specifics. In the 19th century, the discovery that trichinosis was caused from eating undercooked pork was offered as evidence to back up Maimonides assertion.
Why Is Pork Forbidden?
Halal meat store Pigs are by far the most efficient protein and fat producing animal domesticated by man. They converts grains and tubers into high-grade fats and proteins more effectively than other animals. Almost 25 percent of the food by weight fed to pig is converted to meat, compared to 14 percent for chicken, 13 percent for sheep and 6.5 percent for cattle. In addition females produce litters that average eight piglets after a four gestation period. The piglets in turn can be fattened up to a 400 pound hog in six months.
Why is pork forbidden then? Scholars have generally argued that pork was forbidden because pigs have traditionally been regarded as dirty animals because they eat excrement and wallow in mud produced from their own urine and are associated with trichinosis, a disease is caused by the quarter-inch-long trichina worm, a kind of roundworm which digs into the muscles and produces cysts that can be fatal.
Columbia anthropologist Marvin Harris has said something else must be involved. "Hungry cows will eat human excrement with gusto," he wrote. "Dogs and chickens do the same thing without getting anyone very upset...The pig is a vector of human disease, but so are other domestic animals freely consumed by Moslems and Jews. For example, undercooked beef is a source of parasites, notably tapeworms, which can reach a length of sixteen to twenty feet within a man's intestines." Cattle, sheep and goats are sources of anthrax, brucellosis and other human diseases.
Pork Taboo and the Environment
Halal shop sign on Rue de Patay, Paris Harris offers a natural and environmental explanation for the prohibition of pork. Pigs, he argued, were originally primarily tubor-eating forest and swamp creatures that had difficulty living in the deserts of the Middle East because they don't sweat and therefore can't cool themselves. Their habit of rolling around in urine and excrement is a way to keep cool. Pigs also have difficulty living in arid regions because they can not subsist off of grass alone, they are difficult to herd over long distances, and they don't produce milk.
When pigs were first domesticated there were vast forest areas in what is now Turkey and the Middle East. Ten thousand years ago, Harris argues, there was enough water and shade to support small number of pigs, but as the population in the Middle East grew, deforestation degraded the environments best suited for pigs. As a result pigs became a luxury that most people couldn't afford, their dirty behavior increased in the hot conditions and the taboo against the animal developed.
Unlike other domesticated animals, pigs are prized as source of meat and little else. They can't be ridden, milked or used to pull or carry things.
Ancient Palestine Wine Press Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. A lot of Muslims drink but they are either very secretive about it and just do it occasionally. In Muslim countries that have alcohol prohibitions alcoholic drinks are generally available at hotels with Western customers. Alcoholic drinks have traditionally been supplied by the Christian community.
Even though most Arabs are Muslims who don't drink, they gave us the word alcohol. Al kohl is Arabic for "a powder for painting the eyelids." Kohl had been used since ancient times as an eyeliner. Later it came to mean exotic substance.
Also, ironically, Arabs developed the technology of distillation—a way of making the alcohol content in beverages higher—and introduced it to Europe in Middle Ages.
Alcohol and the Koran
The Koran explicitly prohibits wine made from grape juice but does not mention other fermented drinks. But by saying wine is an analogy for all alcoholic drinks the prohibition on wine can be extended to all alcoholic drinks.
Mohammed said: "Do not drink wine; for it is the root of all evil; abstain from vice; and when pestilence shall pervade mankind, and you shall be amongst them; and cherish your children." He also said: "he is not a good Muslim who committeth adultery or getteth drunk, who stealeth, or plunderth, or who embezzeleth; beware, beware."
Muslims are supposed to avoid perfumes, foods and medicines with alcohol. Women are supposed to be especially careful about entering a mosque wearing perfume.
Even in places where there is extreme poverty you don't see many alcoholics or drug addicts because the religions ban on alcohol and drugs.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Arab News, Jeddah; Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong; A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Also articles in National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011