What is 'Impure' (Najes) in Islam?
Having clean clothes and a clean body are paramount concerns when it comes to the subject of hygiene. Even some animals groom themselves or others in their group.
The subject of cleanliness is taken a step further, in Islam, and the Muslim follows a set of rules concerning the very personal conditions in his or her life; mainly those things he or she eats.
Therefore, if and when the Muslim should come in contact with any of these animals or substances, they must observe the rules governing impure (najes) and pure (taher), especially before they prepare to say their daily prayers.
According to Muslim beliefs, impure things are divided into eleven categories:
1) urine 2) feces 3) sperm 4) corpse 5) blood
6) dog 7) pig 8) unbelievers 9) liquor 10) wine
11) the sweat of those who eat impure things
The blood, urine and feces of humans and every animal that eats meat is impure.
Perhaps it can even be said that it is self-explanatory why urine, feces, sperm, a dead body and blood are impure. In the human kingdom, these have particular offensive natures, not to mention the presence of bacteria in them.
For example, when an animal such as the cow; an edible source of meat, has been stunned with a stunning gun to make it ready to be butchered, it will be considered forbidden, because the blood remains in the animal.
Animals, such as sheep, cows, camels, goats, chickens, turkeys, etc., being slaughtered for human consumption, are prepared in the Islamic way by a Muslim first giving the animal some water, and turning its head toward Mecca. Then, "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful" (in Arabic: Bism illah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim) is recited and the throat cut with a sharp knife just to the spinal cord. When the flowing blood has stopped running from the throat, thereafter the head being removed, the animal is considered Halal (ritually pure to eat).
Let us, now, move on to detailing the reasons why dogs, pigs, unbelievers, liquor, wine, and the sweat of those who eat impure things are impure.
Dogs, by their very nature are hunters, eat carrion, and blood even if they are domesticated. When allowed to run free, they will eat dead animals if they find them. They are not particular about where they leave their excrement and have been known to even relieve themselves on human legs.
The canine, also, suffers from various diseases, such as; distemper, rabies, hepatitis, various bacterial infections, as well as, parasites, like; worms, fleas, ticks, and lice.
They can be trained as guards or loyal companions, and there is no doubt that they display a certain degree of intelligence and feelings, but these characteristics do not change their nature, which keeps them in the category of impure animals.
Cats also become infected with fleas, mites, worms, upper respiratory infections, feline infectious enteritis, and leukaemia virus. So, it is really not a good idea to keep any animal inside the house where humans reside and prepare their food for consumption.
Most of us are not in the habit of eating dogs, but the point we want to make, here, is that dogs are impure animals and should not be kept inside the homes of humans. If, for some reason, they eat food from the dish of humans, the amount of food from the place where they touched (and a little more) should be discarded.
Now, we will consider the case of the pig. Not only does the pig, at times, suffer from cholera, swine fever, undulant fever, blackleg, worms, and various parasites, it has the very ugly habit of eating the excrement of other animals. In addition to this, it wallows in its own urine and feces.
The following information will bring to light some reasons why the pig is not only impure (najes), but also forbidden (haram) to eat, in all three religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
"He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that of which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah
..." (Holy Qur'an 2:173).
Likewise, Holy Qur'an 6:145,16:115, and 5:4.
The pig has been studied by Muslim biochemists and some quite interesting facts have been discovered.
First, the fat is incorporated into the meat and it is not separated from it in most parts of the animal.
It has been found that fats of edible animals follow a pattern of unsaturated fatty acids, whereas, pork follows the pattern of saturated fatty acids. This means that if a person eats the flesh of herbivorous animals, the fat of the latter is hydrolyzed in the small intestine after being emulsified by bile salts. They will be absorbed, resynthesized as human fat, and be deposited in the adipose tissues as human fat.
Pancreatic lipase (PL) cannot hydrolyze, easily, the fat of carnivorous animals. Consequently, the molecules of these animals will be emulsified and absorbed as animal fat. They will be deposited in the adipose tissues of the human body as animal fat not as human fat. Pork fat (lard) behaves the same as the fat of the carnivorous animals.
Therefore, it can be understood that food products containing lard, are considered impure and forbidden. Conscientious people will cut, from their menus, even foods as delicious as ready-made cookie preparations containing lard.
The parasites that effect the pig, namely, hook worms, round worms, and bacteria like, paragonimus, clonorchis senesis and erysipelothrix rhnsiphathiae, can settle down in some of the vital organs of the human body as the brain, eyes, heart, lungs, muscles and liver.
Dr. El-Fangary reports that many people who eat carnivorous animals tend to be vicious, lack humane attitudes towards other people, are ready to kill others without reason, and some even eat the meat of other humans.
Now, we arrive, in our discussion, to unbelievers, meaning, those who do not believe in Allah (the Creator) or follow any of the laws set forth for believers.
It is clearly understood that if a person does not follow a way, he or she cannot be considered as one of the group traveling that path. This state can be due to the fact that the person belligerently refuses to follow, or that the person does not have enough information to make a correct judgment about his condition and choose the way, himself.
Whichever the case may be, a human being who does not eat or drink pure foods, keeps impure animals in his home, involves himself in abhorrent activities, and the like, must be considered impure, himself, until the time that it becomes apparent that he follows the laws for purity.
Likewise, the sweat of anyone who is considered impure, according to the rules of purity, by way of reasoning is, also, regarded as impure.
The water of the body, after we exert ourselves, comes through little pores in the skin, to the outside of our bodies, in the form of sweat. This water carries with it impurities of the processes in the body. When we eat or drink or take drugs, and then sweat, residue of these substances come out with the water. Therefore, it only stands to reason, that if a person eats or drinks anything impure, after the filtering process, these will come out in the sweat.
We, then, conclude that the wet hands of an impure person, even though the original source of the wetness is not impure, are impure and anything he or she touches then, becomes impure.
This leads us to understand that the milk bottles, fruit, or vegetables in the supermarket, or foods in the restaurant which are handled by the wet hands of an impure person are najes and must be washed or discarded, as the case may be.
All alcoholic beverages are next on our list. As a general rule, everything intoxicant or narcotic is definitely injurious to human health. They undermine physical and mental fitness, as well.
Their natural origin, such as grapes, are made impure when altered and mixed with other substances and can produce very detrimental side effects in humans. The extra ingredients corrupt the nature of the original to the extent of destroying its identity.
Liquor contains ethanol, a colorless volatile flammable liquid (C2H5OH) which is the intoxicating agent in liquors and is, also, used as a solvent in cleaners.
Making any item pure requires rinsing the impure item with water, and pure, running water is the best. The sun is, also, a source to use in purifying.
Humans can become pure by following the rules of purity and accepting the belief in the Creator, Allah.
Islam has, then, in more than one way, exhorted people to the cleanliness of utensils, clothing, body, hair, teeth, drinking water, water used for ablution and bathing, dwellings, streets, public places, food and everything in human use.