Question 418: Why is the eating on animals with canine teeth such as rabbit haram in Shia Fiqh? I found the ruling just not the explanation. What are the Haram Meats?
Answer 418: In general, haram meat creatures are divided into several categories:
- Sea Creatures: Fish that have scales are the only type of halal sea creatures. Other sea creatures and fish are haram.
- Land creatures are divided into two categories, wild and domestic:
Domestic Land Creatures:
Among all domestic land creatures; sheep, cow and camel are halal, but eating horse and donkey meat is makruh and the makruhness of horsemeat is less than other makruh meat. The rest of domestic land creatures such as dogs, cats, etc. are haram.
Wild Land Creatures:
Deer, cow and mountain goat and wild donkey are all halal and eating the meat of wild predatory animals that are predatory in essence, have strong and sharp nails, claws and fangs such as, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, or animals with less sharper fangs such as, foxes and hyenas as well as rabbits, even though they are not part of the predatory category, are considered haram. Also insects and reptiles, such as snakes, mice, lizards, hedgehogs, fleas, lice, etc.; the examples for which are uncountable, are all haram. Animals who have undergone maskh (metamorphosis) such as, elephants, monkeys, bears, etc. are haram as well and the reason why is a tradition narrated from the Prophet (A.S.).
- Birds: Halal meat birds have two indications, making anything else other than that haram:
- Birds that flap their wings more than they glide while flying are halal; but birds that glide and spread their wings more while flying in the air instead of flapping their wings are haram.
- Birds with a corp, gizzards and spurs at the back of their feet are halal. (Note: Birds with sharp claws such as eagles, hawks, falcons, etc. are haram.)
- Insects: All insects are haram. (Note: If a locust is caught by hand or any other means, it is halal after dying.)
Eating halal meat creatures is sometimes haram:
- If a creature has fed on a najis substance: An animal that has fed on human feces. However, eating najis substances other than human feces does not make it haram. An animal is considered haram for feeding on human feces when the sole thing it has fed on has been human feces and nothing else. (Note: An animal that feeds on a najis substance will be pure and halal to eat once it undergoes istibra’.)
- Being the object of intercourse by a human. In a tradition Imam Ali (A.S.) says: “Eating the meat of an animal that has been penetrated by a person is haram.”
- An animal that suckles the milk of a female pig to such an extent that its flesh and bones grow from it and gain strength is haram.
The impermissibility of eating rabbit meat
All divine rules are legislated because of the wisdom and important reasons that back them; some of those reasons being mentioned in hadiths while others being left to be comprehended and discovered by man himself. Of course, there are some cases that the mind has no way in, just like there are also cases that can’t be figured out today because man still hasn’t reached the necessary level of knowledge to do so, while there are chances that in the future he will be able to do so. Therefore we can conclude that the reasons to many rulings still aren’t clear to us, yet since we know that the entity legislating these rulings is all-wise, we are to abide by all of them.
As you know, the highest form of worship is to obey Allah (swt) because He is the lord, even if the reasons behind a specific ruling might not be clear to us. This is where our servitude to Him becomes completely manifest, because even those who don’t believe in Allah (swt) will certainly act according to rulings if they are aware of its reasons and how it is completely to their benefit, so acting according to rulings that one knows the reasons for isn’t a big deal, what is important is to act according to all of Allah’s (swt) rulings, regardless of the reasons behind them, or else one can dare say that there is no difference between the believer who observes rulings because of the reasons behind them and the disbelievers who do the same.
Rabbit meat is haram because of the hadiths that have reached us from the imams (as). In these hadiths it has been stated that eating rabbit meat is forbidden, and this is the reason why Islamic scholars have issued fatwas on its impermissibility. Three things can be concluded from these hadiths:
1- The rabbit is one of the animals that have undergone metamorphosis and that is why their meat is haram. The holy prophet of Islam (pbuh) has said: “The monkey, pig, dog, elephant, wolf, mouse, rabbit…are all animals that have undergone metamorphosis and eating them isn’t permissible.”
There are other hadiths from the imams with the same theme. It has been said by one of the great Shia scholars, the “Shahid Thani”(the Second Martyr): “What is meant by these hadith is that the people who underwent metamorphosis and transformed, took the shape of these animals, [not that all of these animals today are actually people who have transformed into them], because people who undergo metamorphosis [as a punishment by Allah (swt)] last no longer than three days, dying afterwards.”
The fact that the abovementioned were transformed into these animals, could be a signification that these animals have an inner impurity, or else what other reason could there be for choosing these animals? There are great chances that the reason for the meat of these animals being haram is their physical and/or spiritual impurities.
2- In other hadiths, it has been said that rabbit meat is haram because as with cats, rabbits have claws, and the meat of animals of prey [animals with claws] is haram.
3- In another hadith, Imam Ridha (as) says: “Since the rabbit has blood similar to that of women [which is discharged during menstruation], its meat is haram.”
In any case, the complete reasoning behind every ruling isn’t clear to us, and what has been mentioned in hadiths are only some of the reasons that might contribute to a ruling, yet since we know that Allah (swt) is the All-Wise and All-Knowing, we are sure that anything He orders us to do is to our benefit, and anything He prohibits us from doing is truly to our disadvantage and we must refrain from it.
 Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 137, book of foods and drinks, issue 2; al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi’, pg. 251; Sharayi’ al-Islam, pg. 169.
 Jawahir al-Kalām , vol. 36, 294.
 Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 594, the rulings on foods and drinks; Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 139, issue 8.
 Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 603.
 Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 593, issue 2622.
 Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 140, issue 15.
 Jawahir al-Kalām , vol. 36, pg. 271.
 Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 24, chapter 24 of the chapters on haram foods and drinks, hadith 2, pg. 160.
 Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 568, issue 2583.
 Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 601, issue 2632.
 Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 24, pg. 170, hadith 3.
 Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 69, issue 86.
 Sheikh Saduq, Man La Yahdhuruhul-Faqih, vol.3, pg.336.
 Shahid Thani, Al-Rawthatul-Bahiyyah, vol.5, pg.24.
 Sheikh Hurr Ameli, Wasailul-Shia, vol.24, pg.109.