#471: Eating Rabbit

Question:

Assalamualaikum w.b.t. What is the ruling of eating rabbits? Is it still considered halal even when it eats its own excrements? 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:

وَسَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا مِّنْهُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all from Him. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [1]

The above verse shows that Allah SWT has subjected everything that is in the heavens that consists of the sun, moon, and stars as well as everything on the earth that consists of animals (for food and transportation), plants, ships and others to benefit us all. All these blessings are from only Allah, He grants these matters to you as blessings and His gifts. Hence, only to Him, you should worship (obey) and never associate anything with Him. Indeed, what He has subjected for you are signs and proof which shows His Oneness, for those who reflect on the verses of Allah (signs of His Greatness) and arguments as well as proofs that they learn from. [2]

Definition of rabbit

According to the Fourth Edition Hall Dictionary, a rabbit is a flickering animal that resembles a cat but has longer ears, rabbits, turkeys, Oryctolagus spp. [3] Meanwhile, according to the World Encyclopedia, rabbits are small animals with soft fur, long ears and a short fluffy tail. Rabbits do not walk or run like other four-legged animals. Rabbits move by hopping using long hind legs and are stronger than the front legs. Rabbits also use their front legs when moving. The animal balances itself on its front legs like a human balancing his hands when playing frog jump. When chased by enemies, rabbits can jump up to 30 kilometres per hour. Many children keep rabbits as pets and many shops sell tame rabbits that are kept as pets. Rabbits belong to the family Leporidae. There are various types of rabbit species, such as European Rabbit, Pygmy Rabbit, swamp rabbit, volcanic rabbit, Amami rabbit, Bunyoro rabbit, Angora rabbit and others.

Rabbits live in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America and have been introduced around the world. For most species of rabbits, their nest in open ground and prairies that allow young rabbits to hide in bushes or the crevices of tall grass. Female rabbits can give birth to five cubs several times a year. For thousands of years, humans have hunted rabbits for meat and fur. Nowadays, most meat rabbits and fur rabbits are reared although there are still enthusiasts of the sport of shooting wild rabbit hunting. People can enjoy rabbit meat sold fresh or frozen. The leather is used to make fur-leather coats or as jewellery for cloth coats and hats. Leather can be cut and coloured to look like mink fur, beaver fur or other more valuable animal furs. A type of hard cloth known as felt is made by mixing rabbit fur with the fur of other animals.

The body of wild rabbits is covered with thick fur that is brownish or greyish. However, pet rabbit fur is usually black, brown, grey, white or a mixture of those colours. Adult wild rabbits grow up to 20 to 35 centimetres long and weigh 0.9 to 2.3 kilograms. Pet rabbits can grow about 20 centimetres longer and add up to 2.3 kilograms more. Most female rabbits are larger than male rabbits. Rabbits were once classified as rodents (biting animals). Like beavers, rats and other rodents, rabbits have chisel-like front teeth for biting. However, unlike mice and other rodents, rabbits have a pair of small teeth behind the upper front teeth. Pet rabbits eat grains such as barley, oats and wheat. Some even give carrots, beets, turnips, fresh cut clover or grass to rabbits. Dry grass can also be given at night to aid digestion and rabbits biting hard grass stalks help sharpen their continuously growing front teeth. [4]

In addition, rabbits will also eat their faeces as diet food. [5] This is because the rabbit’s digestive system is unable to extract all the nutrients from the food the first time it is digested. During the digestive process, soft pellets called cecotropes are formed. These contain valuable nutrients, such as protein and fibre. Rabbits feed on their cecotropes to extract these nutrients by digesting them a second time. [6]

The ruling of eating rabbits

Rabbit flesh is halal to be eaten according to the jumhur of scholars. [7] Imam al-Nawawi stated there isn’t any khilaf (differences of opinions) in this matter. [8] This is in accordance with a hadith narrated by Anas RA, he said:

أَنْفَجْنَا أَرْنَبًا وَنَحْنُ بِمَرِّ الظَّهْرَانِ، فَسَعَى القَوْمُ فَلَغِبُوا. فَأَخَذْتُهَا فَجِئْتُ بِهَا إِلَى أَبِي طَلْحَةَ. فَذَبَحَهَا فَبَعَثَ بِوَرِكَيْهَا – أَوْ قَالَ: بِفَخِذَيْهَا – إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَبِلَهَا

“Once we provoked a rabbit at Marr-az-Zahran. The people chased it till they got tired. Then I caught It and brought it to Abu Talha, who slaughtered it and then sent both its pelvic pieces (or legs) to the Prophet, and the Prophet (ﷺ) accepted the present.” [9]

Imam al-Nawawi when commenting on this hadith said, eating rabbits is halal according to Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, al-Syafi’I and Ahmad as well as all the scholars in general, except for what is cited by Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As and Ibn Abi Laila where both of them are of the opinion that it is makruh. JUmhur scholars argued presenting this hadith together with other similar hadiths and it is not sabit with a hadith any hadith that prohibit eating them. [10]

Furthermore, rabbits are considered good animals – not disgusting – do not have any fangs to hunt their prey and there isn’t any hadith that prohibits it. All of these reasons prove its permissibility to be eaten. Moreover, Sa’ad bin Abu Waqqas ate it. Likewise, scholars such as Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, ‘Ata’, Ibn al-Musayyib, al-Laith, Abu Thaur, and Ibn al-Munzir also give a relaxation on this matter – that is in terms of eating them. [11]

The ruling of eating rabbits that eat their own excrement

Whereas regarding this issue, we consider it to be related to the ruling of eating Jallalah animals. Jallalah animals are animals that ate najis or similar things that may consist of excrements and other disgusting matters. [12]

Some scholars are of the opinion that this animal is categorized as al-Jallalah where the majority of its food is najis, however, if the majority of its food is clean and not najis, then it isn’t categorized as al-Jallalah. Whilst some scholars state that there isn’t any condition of whether the animals feed is a lot or a little, but if the apparent smell from the flesh is the smell of najis and smelly or if the structure, colour, taste and smell of the flesh has changed. This is the opinion of Imam al-Nawawi. [13]

There is a narration from Ibn Umar R.Anhuma, where it is stated:

نَهَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَنْ أَكْلِ الْجَلَّالَةِ وَأَلْبَانِهَا

“God’s messenger prohibited eating the animal which feeds on filth or drinking its milk.” [14]

The literal meaning of the above hadith shows the restriction from the Prophet PBUH against eating the flesh of Jallalah animals and drinking their milk. However, scholars differed regarding the meaning of the restriction; does it show a prohibition or makruh tanzih. Regarding this matter, there are two opinions among the scholars of madhhab Syafi’I which are:

The first opinion, it is haram to eat the flesh and drink the milk of their milk for they are considered najis. This is the opinion of Abu Ishaq al-Marwazi, al-Qaffal, Imam al-Ghazali and al-Baghawi.

Second opinion, it is makruh tanzih. This is the opinion of Imam Nawawi, the majority of scholars in Iraq, agreed by al-Ruyani and other scholars (their final opinion). Imam al-Rafi’I said that this opinion is agreed upon (approved) by numerous scholars.

However, if the Jallalah animals are first quarantined after emitting najis smell, and fed with good food – not najis – until the smell ceased, it is no longer makruh. [15] This is in line with the Islamic legal maxim:

إِذَا زَالَتِ العَلَّةُ زَالَ الحُكْمُ

“When the ‘ilah no longer exists, then the ruling for it ceases.”

Conclusion

According to the above discussion and arguments, in our opinion rabbits are halal to be eaten and it is not makruh as stated by the jumhur of scholars following clear evidences that state its halal status.

As for rabbits that eat their own excrements, if it affects the flesh of the animal, then it is makruh and not haram, for it is a matter that comes afterwards (and isn’t permanent), the most it can do is changes the flesh of the animal. Hence, it doesn’t change its ruling to prohibited. Especially, jallalah animals of whose flesh has changed – because they were fed najis – can return to their original state by quarantining them and feeding them with clean food for a period of time, before slaughtering and eating them. Thus, at this time, it is no longer makruh.

May Allah SWT grant us all understanding in this religion. Ameen.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah al-Jathiyah: 13

[2] See al-Tafsir al-Muyassar, pg. 499.

[3] See https://prpm.dbp.gov.my/cari1?keyword=arnab. Accessed on 14th February 2022

[4] See Ensiklopedia Dunia, (Trans. DBP), 2/142-145.

[5] See https://www.thepatriots.asia/kenapa-arnab-memakan-tahi/. Accessed on 14th February 2022.

[6] See https://www.rabbitcaretips.com/why-do-rabbits-eat-their-own-poop/. Accessed on 14th February 2022.

[7] See al-Mausu‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 5/133.

[8] See al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/11.

[9] Narrated by al-Bukhari (5535); Muslim (1953)

[10] See al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim, 13/104-105.

[11] See al-Mausu‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 5/133.

[12] See Mu‘jam Lughah al-Fuqaha’, 1/165; Lisan al-‘Arab, 11/119; Sunan Abi Daud, 3/336.

[13] See Tuhfah al-Ahwazi, 5/447; al-Mu‘tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi‘i, 2/558; Mughni al-Muhtaj, 6/155; Fath al-Wahhab, 2/237; al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/28.

[14] Narrated by al-Tirmizi (1824); Abu Daud (3785)

[15] See al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/28;  Mughni al-Muhtaj, 6/155; al-Mu‘tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syaf ‘i, 2/559; Raudah al-Talibin, 3/278.

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