Saturday, 23 March 2019

Hindu Practice of Gomutra (Drinking Cow Urine)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على اشرف الانبياء والمرسلين
والعاقبة للمتقين

For some time now it has been my intention to produce an academic criticism of Hinduism, particularly its most widespread and traditional conception, i.e., the Sanatan Dharm. A little over a century ago, the reformist Arya Samaj movement was at the forefront of challenging Islam. But it’s time came and went, and today it is an insignificant sect of little consequence. The field is now occupied by a more politically oriented assault on Islam represented by the forces of Hindutva such as the RSS and others. There can be no denying that social and political relations between Hindus and Muslims are at an all time low. It was only a matter of time before majoritarian democracy yielded an extremely bigoted and toxic political atmosphere in the “secular” and “diverse” Republic of India. This is because the underlying Hindu resentment toward Islam and the Muslims was finally given satisfactory expression of unabashed demagoguery. From the Hindu perspective, one can appreciate several grievances. Islamic empires subjugated the Hindu homeland one after the other. First came the Arabs with Muhammad bin Qasim’s conquest of Sindh. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. The subsequent Turkic, Turco-Mongol and Afghan invasions and conquests of north and central India has deeply affected the psyche of the Hindu in associating Islam with the humiliation of his nation. Again, this is the Hindu narrative and psychology that we must at least try to understand and appreciate even if it is a distortion. In fact, this narrative has been manufactured in order for Hindus to be given a single national consciousness, a relatively modern idea since such a unified Hindu national consciousness simply did not exist before the arrival of British colonialism. Another grievance in the collective mind of Hindu political consciousness is the partition of their homeland and the creation of Pakistan. This too is the consequence of Islam’s presence in their country–an unbridgeable divide that finally manifested in the vivisection of “Mother India”. In summary, an academic analysis of Hinduism vis-a-vis Islam cannot avoid the prevailing socio-political subtext of fragile Hindu-Muslim relations in contemporary India.

The experiential and ritualistic aspect of folk and popular Hinduism overshadows its textual, philosophical and academic faces. The cult of cow-worship has gone to such irrational heights that it is now common for Muslims to be publicly lynched in many parts of India on mere suspicion of transporting cattle for slaughter or having beef in their possession. Another facet of the cult of cow-worship is gaumutra, i.e., the drinking of cow’s urine for spiritual and medical benefit. It should be noted that this isn’t something obscure that one digs up out of desperation to ridicule Hinduism with. The practice of drinking cow’s urine is quite prevalent in India among devout Hindus who take Ayurvedic medicine seriously. According to Hindu mythology, this tradition of medicine was introduced by the “deity” Dhanvantari, one of the avatars of Visnu. One of these medical treatments is known as Panchagavya – a mixture of cow urine, dung, and milk, which is believed to be, among other things, a cure for cancer. But what may seem as laughable pseudoscience to the rest of us is taken quite seriously – quite religiously – by devout Hindus who really believe that there is blessing and benefit in consuming cow urine and dung, and actually practice what they believe. This being the real picture of Hinduism as practiced by hundreds of millions of Hindus, it should be quite understandable why it would be concerning to ignore it in favor of a purely academic discussion on differences of abstract theology and metaphysics between Hinduism and Islam.

Hindu apologists will undoubtedly point to the alleged Islamic prescription of drinking camel’s urine, but they should know that they are grasping at straws in desperation to counter the criticism of gaumutra. But it points to the fact that such Hindus are at least somewhat embarrassed and in a state of unease with an aspect of their religion that they are meant to embrace unapologetically with confidence and pride. As for the allegation of drinking camel’s urine, my simple and straightforward response is that it has no sanction in Islam. The Hadith in which drinking of camel’s urine has been mentioned is not a general prescription for all Muslims to practice, unlike the case of gaumutra in Ayurvedic medicine. Therefore, the phenomenon of drinking camel’s urine is non-existent in the Muslim world. It is at the most a theoretical debate concerning the true purport and interpretation of the Hadith which I shall be glad to delve into now.

Firstly, the most widespread and established school of law in Islam is the Hanafi one which I too am generally an adherent of. In this school the urine and stool of مأكول اللحم animals (animals that are halal or fit for consumption in Islamic law) is najas (impure) like that of haram animals. It is strictly forbidden in Islamic law to consume that which is impure. The proof for this position is the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
اسْتَنْزِهُوا مِنَ الْبَوْلِ
“Avoid urine”

Because this is a general prohibition, it is the legal evidence for our school that all urine is impure and must be carefully avoided. True, some other schools of law regard the urine and dung of clean or halal animals as being pure, but that is not a prescription to consume it.

At four different places in the holy Qur’an, Allah Most High instructs us to eat that which is
حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا
“Lawful, clean”

This is the general command in the Qur’an which is the basis for prohibiting the consumption of what would otherwise be a tediously long list of unlawful and impure food and drink that no doubt includes a prohibition of consuming any urine or dung. The context of the Hadith of sayyidina Anas bin Malik regarding camel’s urine makes it quite clear that it was not a general prescription, but a specific prescription to a group of eighty individuals from the tribe of Ukl that had come from Uraina and settled in Madina. Furthermore, they were not instructed to drink any camel urine, but the urine and milk of a specific flock of camels. Finally, it must be emphasized that those who drank the camel urine were indeed cured of their ailment but became apostates. They not only robbed the camels but cruelly butchered the innocent shepherd. To derive from this Hadith that Islam has unrestrictedly and unconditionally allowed the drinking of camel’s urine is a serious folly. The truth is that this was a one off incident and prescription restricted to a certain group of people in a certain time and place. It is by no means a universal medical prescription in Islam, unlike the Hindu practice of gaumutra. The vast majority of qualified and licensed Islamic scholars and jurists, past and present, declare drinking camel’s urine strictly forbidden. Can the same be said for the majority of Hindu pundits, swamis, gurus, sadhus, etc. regarding drinking of cow’s urine?

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