Muzaffar Iqbal

Blood is the fluid that circulates in the blood vessels of vertebrates, delivers nutrients and oxygen to all cells, and transports waste matter away from other tissues. According to most lexicographers, dam (pl. dimāʾ), the Arabic noun for blood, is from the root d-m-y; others consider it to be from the root d-m-w (Azharī, Tahdhīb; Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ; Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān; Rāghib, Mufradāt sub d-m-y). The Qurʾān mentions blood ten times in seven contexts:

i.          The blood of cattle that does not mix with milk (Q 16:66): And surely in the cattle there is a lesson for you: We provide you to drink of that which is in their bellies—between [yet to be excreted] excretions and blood—as pure milk, palatable to the drinkers. “This is a reminder of the blessing of Allah” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr). Ibn Kathīr (701-774/1301-1373) calls it “a proof of the Power, Wisdom, Benefaction, and Mercy of their Creator… food consumed by animals reaches their stomach, blood goes to the veins, milk to the udder, urine to the bladder, and feces to the place of excretion—none intermixing with another after their [initial] separation” (Tafsīr; see Animals).

ii.       Blood of the sacrificial animals (Q 22:37): It is not their flesh nor their blood that reaches Allah, but what reaches Him is reverence from you; thus has He made them subservient unto you, that you might glorify Allah for having guided you; and give glad tidings to the virtuous. The real purpose of sacrifice is the magnification of the rites and boundaries of Allah and seeking His countenance (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr), for Allah Most High does not need anything as He “is Independent (al-Ghanī) of all creatures. In the Age of Ignorance people used to smear the blood of the sacrificed animals on the Kaʿba and some Muslims wanted to do the same, whereupon this verse was revealed” (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr; see Hajj; Jāhiliyya; Sacrifice).

iii.     In four verses (Q 2:173; 5:3; 6:145; 16:115) blood is declared unlawful (ḥarām) for human consumption along with certain other foods (see Food and Drink; Lawful and Unlawful). Q 6:145 further specifies that it is the “blood spilled” (dam masfūḥ) that is unlawful. By the consensus of the exegetes and jurists, remnants of blood in the arteries or congealed in the meat after the animal has been ritually slaughtered and bled are not unlawful (cf. Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Qurṭubī, sub Q 2:173 and Q 6:145; Jaṣṣāṣ, Aḥkām, taḥrīm al-dam; Ibn Rushd, Bidāya 1:467). When the Companion-exegete Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), Allah be well-pleased with him, was asked about eating the spleen (al-ṭiḥāl); he said, “Eat it.” His interlocutor replied, “but it is blood!” whereupon he explained, “Only the blood that pours forth has been declared unlawful for you” (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr, sub Q 6:145). ʿĀʾisha (7bh-57/623-677), Allah be well-pleased with her, also distinguished between the unlawful blood that pours forth from a slaughtered animal and the lawful blood that remains inside its body and ʿIkrima (d. 107/725) said, had it not been for Q 6:145, Muslim and Jewish dietary practices would have been identical in this respect (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr).

iv.     The blood that was a lie: The blood smeared on the tunic of Yūsuf by his brothers to deceive their father and to convince him that a wolf had devoured him while they were playing: And they brought forth his tunic with the blood that was a lie (bi-damin kadhib). He said, “Nay, your souls have seduced you in this matter. Beautiful patience! And Allah is the One Whose help is sought against that which you describe” (Q 12:18). The noun kadhib is glossed as makdhūb (“mendacious”) (Farāʾ, Maʿanī; Māturīdī, Tāwīlāt) and explained as a metaphor (Naḥḥās, Iʿrāb) and a hyperbole (Wāḥīdī, Basīṭ). It was the blood of a lamb or a goat; for if a wolf had eaten him, his tunic would have been torn (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; see Yūsuf, upon him peace).

v.        Blood as one of the five punishments sent against Pharaoh and his people (Q 7:133): So We sent against them the flood and the locusts, and the lice and the frogs and the blood as clear signs, but they remained arrogant; they were criminals. Ibn ʿAbbās said, “Allah sent blood against them; their rivers and wells transformed into [rivers and wells of] blood. They complained to Firʿawn about the overwhelming power of blood. He said, “Woe unto you, you are bewitched.” They said, “we find no water in vessels, wells, or rivers that does not taste like fresh blood.” Firʿawn said: ‘O, Mūsā, supplicate to your Lord for us so that He removes the blood from us.’ He [the Exalted] removed it, nevertheless they did not fulfill their promise” (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr, sub Q 7:133). The punishment was only for the people of Firʿawn; it did not affect the Children of Isrāʾīl. When they drew water, it remained pure. The people of Firʿawn suffered for seven days and many died (Samarqandī, Tafsīr). 

vi.     Bloodshed mentioned in the inquiry of the angels, when informed of the Divine plan to place humans as successor on earth (Q 2:30): “Will You place therein such as will spread corruption and shed blood (yasfiku al-dimāʾ), while we hymn Your praise and sanctify You?” The inquiry of the angels was to seek out Divine wisdom and secret behind this new creation (Ṭabarī; Qurṭubī; Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīrs; see Ādam, upon him peace; Bloodshed; Corruption).

vii.  Prohibition of bloodshed as part of the covenant established by Allah with the Children of Isrāʾīl(Q 2:84) (see Bloodshed; Covenant).

By scholarly consensus, blood is pure (ṭāhir) when inside the body and impure (najis) when it comes out of the body (al-Qarāfī, Anwār al-burūq 2:119-121) (see Menstruation; Ritual Purity and Impurity). The buying and selling of blood is unlawful (al-Marghīnānī, Hidāya 3:42; Ibn Qudāma, Mughnī 4:192) and the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace “prohibited taking money for blood (nahā ʿan thaman al-dam)” (Bukhārī, Libās, bāb al-wāshima). Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (773-853/1372-1449) explains that “the intended meaning [of this hadith] is the prohibition of selling blood, similarly [prohibited is] the selling of carrion and the flesh of swine; [these are] prohibited by the consensus [of scholars]” (Fatḥ, qawluhu bāb thaman al-kalb). Another proof for unlawfulness of selling and buying of blood is the general rule which does not sanction commerce in impure things—as the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, “When Allah makes the consumption of something unlawful for a people, He also makes the price taken in exchange for it unlawful” (Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, Ijāra, fī thaman al-khamr wal-mayta; cf. al-Nawawī, al-Majmūʿ 9:225).

Blood transfusion (naql al-dam) and blood donation (al-tabarruʿ bi-l-dam) are, however, not unlawful (ʿAbduh et al., al-Fatāwā al-Islāmiyya 10:3702-3715; Gangohī, Fatāwā Maḥmūdiyya 27:320-322; al-Qaṭṭān, “al-Ijtihād al-fiqhī lil-tabarruʿ bil-dam wa-naqlih” p. 55; Shafīʿ, Ālāt-i jadīda p. 179-181, 580); rather, both are meritorious since they help to preserve life (Shinqīṭī, Aḥkām al-jirāḥa, p. 580) which is one of the five higher objectives (al-maqāṣid al-khamsat al-kubrā) of the Sacred Law: preservation of Religion, life, lineage, wealth, and intellect (al-Shāṭibī, al-Muwāfaqāt p. 222; cf. Āmidī, Iḥkām, 3:274; Rāzī, Maḥṣūl, 5:160;  Qarāfī, Nafāʾis, 4:1932).




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See also

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