#465: Eating Sago Worm – Mulong Worm

Question:

Assalamualaikum w.b.t. What is the ruling of eating sago worm or also known as mulong worm. Thank you.

 

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam w.b.t.,

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 Last Day.

We begin with the statement of Allah SWT:

قُل لَّا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَن يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَّسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ

Say, “I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it is a dead animal or blood spilt out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure – or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah.” [1]

Likewise, Allah SWT also states:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ ۖ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ

“They ask you, [O Muhammad], what has been made lawful for them. Say, “Lawful for you are [all] good foods,” [2]

The above verse generally shows that Allah ‘Azza wa Jalla made halal all good foods for us. Thus, anything that is good is permissible to be eaten, while everything that is filthy and disgusting is prohibited for us from eating them. The determination of whether a certain food is good or disgusting – if there is no evidence explaining this – is according to the natural feeling and assumptions of the Arabs because the Quran was revealed to them – that is it was revealed in their language. [3]

Definition of sago worm

Sago worms are larvae derived from a type of beetle that lives in sago stems, sago trees, mulong trees or rotten pantu trees. It is usually in the stem of old trees that have fallen and rotted. When in the inside of a rotting tree, there will be larvae that come from the beetle’s eggs. Then the larvae will later turn into young worms and grow into adult worms. The part of the sago tree is filled with flour which is the food of sago worms. Sago worms have white bodies and brown heads. The body of the sago worm looks fat and plump. Usually, the size reaches three to four centimetres. This mulong or sago worm is known by various titles according to race in Sarawak. The Melanau call it Si’et, the Ibans call it Tinduh while the mulong worms are called Sikot among the Bidayuh community. [4]

The scientific name of this caterpillar is Rhynchophorus ferrugineus or also known as red palm weevil. [5] It is usually eaten raw after being cleaned or cooked locally. The Kadazan Dusun people fry these caterpillars until crisp and serve them with hot rice or used them as a snack in the ceremony. Meanwhile, the people of Maluku and Kamoro in Papua burn these worms like satay. [6]

According to research conducted by Nirmala IR, MSc, and colleagues, sago caterpillars contain protein, carbohydrates, omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, as well as amino acids. Although there has been no more in-depth research on the benefits of sago caterpillars, based on its nutrition there are several benefits that may be obtained, including:

  • Build muscles. This is because sago caterpillars are high in protein. Protein is an important component that plays a role in building and repairing cells and tissues of the body, such as bones, muscles, and skin.
  • Prevent various diseases. Sago worms contain a variety of good fatty acids, such as oleic acid, omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9. The fatty acid content is believed to reduce inflammation in the body, thereby reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, asthma, and rheumatism. Fatty acids are also widely used as supplements to reduce high triglyceride levels that cause heart disease.
  • Improves mood and sports performance. Sago worms contain various types of amino acids, such as isoleucine, leucine, histidine, and phenylalanine. These amino acids help produce serotonin, a brain chemical that can improve your mood and sleep cycle. In addition, these fatty acids can also restore damaged muscles more quickly and reduce muscle pain after exercise.

The ruling of eating sago worm

Sago worm is included as a type of worm. Hence, in answering this question, we present the opinions of scholars on the ruling of eating worms.

Basically, in madhhab Syafi’I, it is prohibited to eat worms except for worms that are inside cheese, vinegar, peas, fruits and others from food, where the worms originated from pure ingredients. Imam al-Nawawi said that there are three opinions of Shafiite scholars regarding the halal status of worms and the first opinion states that it is halal. While for the second opinion, it is prohibited. Whereas the third opinion states that it is halal to be eaten with the food that it originates from, not separately. [7]

The ruling of eating sago worm

Sago worm is included as a type of worm. Thus, to answer this question, we present the opinion of scholars regarding eating sago worms.

Basically, in madhhab Syafi’I, the ruling of eating worms is prohibited except for the worms found in cheese, vinegar, green beans, fruits and other types of food, where the worms originate from these pure matters. Imam al-Nawawi stated that there are three opinions among Syafi’e scholars regarding the halal status of worms, the first states it is halal to be eaten. The second opinion states that it is prohibited to be eaten. While the third opinion states that it is halal to be eaten together with the food it originates from not separate from it because it is prohibited to be eaten separately. [8]

Furthermore, al-Khatib al-Syirbini also stated that according to the strong opinion in madhhab Syafi’I, it is halal to eat a worm that originates from foods such as vinegar, cheese, fruits and can only be eaten together. The same ruling applies when it dies – in the food – which means it is halal to be eaten according to the strong opinion. The reason is there is difficult to separate them. Some later scholars liken meat that has worms in it with fruits – with worms in them. According to this ‘illah if it is possible to separate them such as the worm and the apple, then it is prohibited to eat them together. Ibn Syahbah said that this is the apparent opinion, that is when it is difficult to differentiate them.

Furthermore, not included in the word “مَعَهُ” (eating the worm together with the food) for the case of eating the worm separately. The reason is it is haram because of the najis status of its carcass and that it is disgusting. Likewise, – it is prohibited – if the worm is removed and placed in a different place as stated by al-Bulqini, or if the worm moves itself to another place, and then returns to its nest (in the fruit) after one could actually keep the fruit safe from the worm as discussed by some contemporary scholars. The second opinion states that it is an absolute permissibility because the worm is considered to be a part of the fruit. Whereas, the third opinion said that it is an absolute prohibition for the worm to be considered a carcass. [9]

Moreover, the Sarawak State Mufti Department (JMNS) also stated that in Islam it is haram and prohibited to eat sago worm (mulong worm) because it is considered disgusting. In categorizing whether something is disgusting or filthy, the jurists considered the local uruf of the community. Since Malaysians consider and categorize worms as disgusting (khabis) animals and filthy, it also includes Mulong worm. [10]

Conclusion

According to the above discussion and arguments, in our opinion, sago worm (mulong worm) is prohibited to be eaten because it is considered disgusting following the opinion of scholars from madhhab Syafi’i. This opinion is in line with the decision issued by the Sarawak State Mufti Department dated: 20th November 2014.

Islam encourages its followers to eat halal and good foods according to Allah SWT’s statement:

وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ

“And makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil,” [11]

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

Wallahu a’lam.

 

[1] Surah al-An‘am: 145

[2] Surah Ma’idah: 4

[3] See https://aliftaa.jo/Research.aspx?ResearchId=16#_edn18.

[4] See https://food.detik.com/info-kuliner/d-5230291/5-fakta-ulat-sagu-kuliner-ekstrem-yang-kaya-nutrisi. See juga https://www.iloveborneo.my/cerita-menarik-dari-borneo/benarkah-makanan-eksotik-borneo-ulat-mulong-haram-dimakan/. Accessed on 10th February 2022.

[5] See https://hellosehat.com/sehat/informasi-kesehatan/manfaat-makan-ulat-sagu/. Accessed on 10th February 2022.

[6] See https://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulat_rumbia. Diakses pada 10 Februari 2022.

[7] See article written by Aprinda Puji and proofread by Dr. Yusra Firdaus. https://hellosehat.com/sehat/informasi-kesehatan/manfaat-makan-ulat-sagu/. Accessed on 10th February 2022.

[8] See Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/15.

[9] See Mughni al-Muhtaj, 6/99.

[10] See https://muftinegeri.sarawak.gov.my/modules/web/pages.php?mod=news&sub=news_view&nid=156. Accessed on 10th February 2022.

[11] Surah al-A‘raf: 157

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