#371: Eating Dhab (Mastigure)

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. Are dhabs halal to be eaten and are they the same as lizards we commonly find in Malaysia? Thank you.

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

We start with the statement of Allah SWT:

وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ

“And makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil,” [1]

This verse shows that everything that is made permissible is good and considered acceptable according to the norm, except if there is other evidence that states that it is prohibited. Likewise, anything that is prohibited is everything that is considered filthy and disgusting naturally such as carcass and blood and the people who eat it are considered fasiq. In other words, everything that is considered filthy naturally by mankind is prohibited because it is a cause of disease. Hence, anything that is harmful is originally prohibited. Thus, anything that is naturally filthy is originally prohibited except when there is evidence stating otherwise. [2]

Definition of dhab

In Arabic it is called Dhab (ضَبّ) or its scientific name Uromastyx aegyptia is a type of lizard found in the desert. Scientifically it is classified in the lizard family. They can be found everywhere in the Middle East including Egypt, Libya, Palestine and others. They usually live in dry and rocky areas.

Dhab reproduces by laying eggs and has thick scaly skin. In addition, it is a type of herbivorous animal, it eats vegetables that are high in water content as well as legumes as a source of protein. He spends a lot of time in the holes he digs to hide or between rocks that are safe for him to take refuge. [3]

Kamaluddin al-Damiri mentioned that Dhab is a terrestrial animal as it is commonly known among the Arab community-and it resembles a lizard (الوَرَلُ). His nickname is Abu Hisl (أَبُو حِسْلٍ) and his plural words are Dhibab (ضِبَابٌ) and Adub (أَضُبٌّ), as are the words Kaff (كَفّ) and Akuff (أَكُفّ). While the female Dhab is called as Dhabbah (ضَبَّةٌ). There is an Arabic proverb that says – to describe their reluctance to do something -:

لَا أَفْعَلُهُ حَتَّى يَرِدَ الضَّبُّ

“I won’t do it except if Dhab came – to water.”

The reason is Dhab never approaches water. Ibn Khalawaih stated that Dhab doesn’t drink water and can live for 700 years or more. It is said that it urinates once every 40 days and its teeth will never fall off. It is also said that its teeth are only in a row and aren’t divided. [4]

Furthermore, al-Qalyubi stated that dhab is an animal similar to lizards (الوَرَلُ), It can live up to around seven hundred years. It doesn’t drink water and only urinates once every 40 days. Moreover, female and male dhab has two sex organs. [5]

The differences between dhab and other lizards

If analyzed, there are clear differences between dhab and the lizards we know in Malaysia. In Arabic, the lizards we find in Malaysia is called waral (الوَرَلُ) while in English they are called Monitor lizard. The lizard we usually know has a long neck, tail and strong claws. In contrast to the dhab which has a large tail and has a thick scaly skin. In addition, lizards fall into the category of predators that cannot be tamed, in contrast to dhabs which are considered tame animals. Similarly, dhab belongs to the category of herbivorous animals that eat plants and vegetables while most lizards belong to the category of carnivores and predators. It eats eggs, smaller reptiles, fish, birds, insects, and small mammals, [6] so much so that dhab becomes food for it. [7]

Furthermore, dhab is considered by Arabs as a good animal and it is praised as stated by Ahmad ‘Umairah in his hasyiah. [8] While according to al-Damiri, lizards are ruled prohibited, for it is categorized as creeping animals and scholars didn’t exempt them like dhab, porcupine and weasel. Among the evidences that strengthen its prohibition – and it is considered filthy unlike dhab – is that it can defeat a snake and eats it. Moreover, it can even drive a snake away from its hole and then make the hole its home. Furthermore, a lizard’s grip is stronger than a dhab’s. [9]

Hence, it is clear to us that dhab and lizard – the ones we normally see – are two different animals.

The ruling of eating dhab

Basically, the jumhur of scholars are of the opinion that dhab is permissible and it is not makruh to be eaten. This is the opinion of madhhab al-Syafi‘i, Malik and Ahmad. While scholars of madhhab Abu Hanifah state that it is makruh. [10]

There are numerous hadiths that show the permissibility of eating dhab. Among them is a hadith from Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma:


أَنَّ أُمَّ حُفَيْدٍ بِنْتَ الحَارِثِ بْنِ حَزْنٍ – خَالَةَ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ – أَهْدَتْ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ سَمْنًا وَأَقِطًا وَأَضُبًّا. فَدَعَا بِهِنَّ، فَأُكِلْنَ عَلَى مَائِدَتِهِ، وَتَرَكَهُنَّ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَالْمُسْتَقْذِرِ لَهُنَّ. وَلَوْ كُنَّ حَرَامًا مَا أُكِلْنَ عَلَى مَائِدَةِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَلاَ أَمَرَ بِأَكْلِهِنَّ

“Um Hufaid bint Al-Harith bin Hazn (Ibn Abbas’ aunt), presented to the Prophet (ﷺ) butter, dried yoghurt and mastigures. The Prophet (ﷺ) invited the people to those mastigures and they were eaten on his dining sheet, but the Prophet (ﷺ) did not eat of it, as if he disliked it. Nevertheless. if it was unlawful to eat that, the people would not have eaten it on the dining sheet of the Prophet (ﷺ) nor would he have ordered that they be eaten.” [11]

Likewise, a similar incident was mentioned in a hadith from Khalid bin al-Walid, he said:


أُتِيَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِضَبٍّ مَشْوِيٍّ. فَأَهْوَى إِلَيْهِ لِيَأْكُلَ. فَقِيلَ لَهُ: إِنَّهُ ضَبٌّ. فَأَمْسَكَ يَدَهُ. فَقَالَ خَالِدٌ: أَحَرَامٌ هُوَ؟ قَالَ: «لاَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ لاَ يَكُونُ بِأَرْضِ قَوْمِي، فَأَجِدُنِي أَعَافُهُ». فَأَكَلَ خَالِدٌ وَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَنْظُرُ

“A roasted mastigure was brought to the Prophet (ﷺ) who stretched his hand towards it to eat it. But it was said to him, “It is a mastigure.” So, he withdrew his hand. Khalid asked, “Is it unlawful to eat?” the Prophet said, “No, but it is not found in the land of my people and that is why I do not like eating it.” So, Khalid started eating (it) while Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was looking at him.” [12]

In another hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas, he said:


دَخَلْتُ أَنَا وَخَالِدُ بْنُ الْوَلِيدِ، مَعَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَيْتَ مَيْمُونَةَ، فَأُتِيَ بِضَبٍّ مَحْنُوذٍ، فَأَهْوَى إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِيَدِهِ، فَقَالَ بَعْضُ النِّسْوَةِ اللَّاتِي فِي بَيْتِ مَيْمُونَةَ: أَخْبِرُوا رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِمَا يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ، فَرَفَعَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَدَهُ، فَقُلْتُ: أَحَرَامٌ هُوَ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ؟ قَالَ: لَا، وَلَكِنَّهُ لَمْ يَكُنْ بِأَرْضِ قَوْمِي فَأَجِدُنِي أَعَافُهُ، قَالَ خَالِدٌ: فَاجْتَرَرْتُهُ فَأَكَلْتُهُ وَرَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَنْظُرُ

“I and Khalid b. Walid went to the apartment of Maimuna along with Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), and there was presented to him a roasted lizard. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) stretched his hand towards It, whereupon some of the women who had been in the house of Maimuna said: Inform Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) what he intends to eat. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) lifted his hand. I said: Messenger of Allah, is it forbidden? He said: No. It is not found in the land of my people, and I feel that I have no liking for it. Khalid said: I then chewed and ate it, while, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was looking (at me).” [13]

Imam al-Nawawi stated that the Muslim ummah has agreed that eating dhab is permissible and isn’t makruh except for what is cited from scholars of madhhab Abu Hanifah who ruled it makruh. Likewise, al-Qadhi ‘Iyadh also cited that there are scholars who ruled it prohibited. Subsequently, Imam al-Nawawi said that in his opinion the conclusion of the ruling – of the opinion that rule it prohibited – is not true and even if it is true, it can be argued over with evidences and previous ijma’. [14]

Conclusion

According to the above discussion and arguments, in our opinion, eating mastigure meat is permissible and isn’t makruh following the opinion of the majority of scholars. The reason is Rasullullah PBUH didn’t restrict his companions from eating dhab even when he himself disliked it.

May Allah SWT grant us all a clear understanding in religion. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah al-A‘raf : 157

[2] See Mafatih al-Ghaib, 15/381.

[3] See https://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhab. Accessed on 22nd January 2022. Also see https://www.bharian.com.my/berita/nasional/2021/02/786434/ustaz-azhar-kini-penternak-dhab. Accessed on 22nd January 2022.

[4] See Hayah al-Hayawan al-Kubra, Pub. Dar al-Basya’ir, 2/703.

[5] See Hasyiata Qalyubi wa ‘Umairah, 4/259.

[6] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monitor_lizard. Accessed on 26th January 2022. Also see https://barrobahr.com/a/ حيوان-الضب-أهم-المعلومات-عنه-والفرق-بينه-وبين-الورل. Accessed on 26th January 2022.

[7] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNNPH-2iWQg, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POYXNJ4sVXs. Accessed on 26th January 2022.

[8] See Hasyiata Qalyubi wa ‘Umairah, 4/259.

[9] See Hayah al-Hayawan al-Kubra, Pub. DKI, 2/542.

[10] See Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/12.

[11] Narrated by al-Bukhari (5389)

[12] Narrated by al-Bukhari (5400)

[13] Narrated by Muslim (1945)

[14] See al-Minhaj Syarah Sahih Muslim, 13/97-99.

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