بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
Fat Forbidden for Jews
Allah Most High says:
وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ هَادُوا حَرَّمْنَا كُلَّ ذِي ظُفُرٍ ۖ وَمِنَ الْبَقَرِ وَالْغَنَمِ حَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ شُحُومَهُمَا إِلَّا مَا حَمَلَتْ ظُهُورُهُمَا أَوِ الْحَوَايَا أَوْ مَا اخْتَلَطَ بِعَظْمٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُم بِبَغْيِهِمْ ۖ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ۞
And to those who are Jews We forbade every (animal) with claws, and of the cows and the Ghanam (sheep and goats) We forbade to them their fat except what their backs carry or the intestines or what is joined with the bone. That is their recompense for their rebellion. And indeed We are truthful.
Some exegetes interpret the term Dhee Zufur as referring to anything that doesn’t have cloven hooves, such as the camel. This corresponds to what is written in the Torah (Leviticus 11:4, 26). But the Holy Quran asserts that the Jews were also forbidden from eating the fat of cows (cattle) and Ghanam, referring to sheep and goats. Furthermore, this Verse states that the reason the Jews are forbidden from eating the fat of cattle, sheep and goats is as a penalty for their rebelliousness.
Firstly, the Quran is alluding to what is written in the Torah: “Say to the Israelites: Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goats.” (Leviticus 7:23) “This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood” (Leviticus 3:17) “All the fat is the Lord’s” (Leviticus 3:16) According to the Torah, the fat of sacrificial animals (animals which may be sacrificed) is forbidden but the fat of non-sacrificial animals, such as deer, is not forbidden in Halacha (Jewish law). Hence the fat of all cattle, sheep and goats is forbidden for the Jews, even after the end of the sacrificial system, as a permanent commandment. The Holy Quran reinforces this prohibition upon the Jews, but explains the reason as being due to their rebelliousness. Unlike the other dietary prohibitions in the Torah, the prohibition of the fat of the sacrificial animals is not because of it being unclean. In fact, it is the choicest part of the animal, which is why it is burnt on the altar as an “aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 3:5). This is an answer to a Jewish objection that why has the Holy Quran declared the prohibition of fat from cattle, sheep and goats upon the Jews as a recompense for their rebelliousness. They should answer why else have they been prohibited from eating the fat of those animals when they are not used as an offering or sacrifice. The Torah says it is a “lasting ordinance” that applies to them “wherever they live” (Leviticus 3:17) and not only restricted to sacrifices at the Temple. The Verse of the Holy Quran also states that the fat carried on the ‘back’, ‘small intestines’ and joined to the bones is permitted. Though this may not be explicitly stated in the written Torah (it is implied in Leviticus 3:3-4), it was explained in the Oral Torah. For example, in the Mishneh Torah compiled by Maimonides in the 12th century CE:
שלשה חלבים הן שחייבין עליהן כרת:
חלב שעל הקרב ושעל שתי הכליות ושעל הכסלים אבל האליה מותרת באכילה לא נקראת חלב אלא לענין קרבן בלבד כמו
There are three types of forbidden fat for which one is liable for kerat: the fat on the digestive organs, on both kidneys, and on the flanks. The fat-tail, by contrast, is permitted to be eaten. It is called fat only with regard to the sacrifices (Ma’achalot Assurot 7:5)
חלב שהבשר חופה אותו מותר שעל הכסלים אסר הכתוב לא שבתוך הכסלים וכן חלב שעל הכליות נאסר ולא שבתוך הכליות
“Fat which is covered by meat is permitted. Scripture forbids ‘fat on the flanks,’ but not within the flanks. Similarly, ‘fat on the kidneys’ is forbidden, but not fat within the kidneys.” (Ma’achalot Assurot 7:7)
חלב הלב וחלב המעים הן הדקין המלופפין כולן מותרין והרי הם כשומן שהוא מותר חוץ
“The fat of the heart and the fat of all of the small intestines are permitted. They are considered like shuman which is permitted fat” (Ma’achalot Assurot 7:9)
Hence this distinction between Chelev and Shuman is what is being referred to in Surah 6:146. Some Jews, who do not accept the ‘Oral Torah’, such as the Karaites, forbid alyah (the ‘fat-tail’) while Rabbinic Jews who follow the ‘Oral Torah’ consider it permitted. The Holy Quran has endorsed the position of the Rabbinic Jews in this issue by stating that the fat on the “backs” and mixed with the “bone” referring to the tailbone, is permitted to them. In this way, the Holy Quran has endorsed the idea of an ‘Oral Torah’ that was revealed to Prophet Moses at Mount Sinai along with a ‘Written Torah’. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, being the similitude of Moses, stated:
أَلاَ إِنِّي أُوتِيتُ الْكِتَابَ وَمِثْلَهُ مَعَهُ
“I have been given the Book (Quran) and its Similitude with it” (Sunan Abi Dawud #4604)
Hence the inspired sayings and deeds from the Sunna of the Prophet ﷺ are the Mithl-al-Quran, granted to him along with the text of the Quran. It is only astray sects of Judaism like the Sadducees and now Karaites who rejected the ‘Oral Torah’ that was revealed to Prophet Moses at Mount Sinai, and likewise, from among this Umma, the misguided sects of Hadith-rejecters and so-called “Quraniyun” who reject the Mithl-al-Quran (Sunna). Jabir b. Abdullah (RA) narrates that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the utilization of the fat of Mayta (dead animals, carrion), such as for greasing boats or as oil to burn for lights, he prohibited that, and furthermore stated: May Allah curse the Jews, for Allah made the fat (of sacrificial animals) illegal for them, yet they melted the fat, sold it, and ate its price. (Bukhari). Likewise, Ibn Abbas (RA) narrates that once Umar b. al-Khattab (RA) was informed of a man named Samura who sold wine, so Umar cursed him and narrated the same Hadith from the Prophet (peace be upon him). Incidentally, the Hadith is a proof for the impurity of the fat of Mayta from animals which are otherwise Halal to eat if slaughtered properly. Their skins are also impure, but become pure through the process of tanning.