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Why is donkey and dog meat considered forbidden?


Thank you for your question.

The Qur’an is quite clear and indeed emphatic on this point. All I can offer is the reasons why scholars have said that we shouldn’t eat other things, in addition to those mentioned in this verse.

From the things that the prophet Muhammad said in his lifetime we can see that the saliva of dogs was regarded as a filthy substance that should be avoided and which required extreme care to wash off. The prophet instructed people to wash plates licked by dogs with water many times as well as with dry sand (or dust) before they could be reused. Dogs were treated as filthy because of this. Eating anything that is filthy is regarded as wrong. It endangers our health.

However, with today’s knowledge we might be able to define our terms more precisely than simply “filthy”. We can recognize that a dog’s saliva can be a very dangerous substance and that it is the main route for humans to become infected with many diseases such as rabies. But this is not always so since we can often take measures to protect individual dogs and ourselves from such diseases. In this way, there are varying degrees of filth in creatures and substances with some more infectious than others. We have an obligation to look after our health and to keep away from that which endangers it.

As for donkeys, as far as I know this is based on one of two possible reasons both of which are dependent on circumstances. The first is where people needed the donkeys for transporting equipment and people, and in such circumstances they were instructed to not eat the donkeys. This is clearly just a pragmatic temporary ban.

The second refers to not eating animals that have been living in effect as part of the family. This means that when we have a domesticated animal living among us, then it would be a violation of our implied agreement with that animal to kill it and eat it.

The specific hadith concerning donkey meat usually referred to is:

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 234:
Narrated Anas:

The Prophet reached Khaibar in the morning, while the people were coming out carrying their spades over their shoulders. When they saw him they said, “This is Muhammad and his army! Muhammad and his army!” So, they took refuge in the fort. The Prophet raised both his hands and said, “Allahu Akbar, Khaibar is ruined, for when we approach a nation (i.e. enemy to fight) then miserable is the morning of the warned ones.” Then we found some donkeys which we (killed and) cooked: The announcer of the Prophet announced: “Allah and His Apostle forbid you to eat donkey’s meat.” So, all the pots including their contents were turned upside down.

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