Amid Ebola scare which spreads in West Africa along with the coming celebrative blessed days of Islam’s Feast of Sacrifice, Muslims in West Africa are being warned against eating bush meat which is a direct source of Ebola virus.
Several governmental health organizations and Muslim scholars urged West Africans not to consume bush meat which is proved to be a main source of getting infected with the deadly Ebola virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local governments, as of September 25, 2014, the currently ongoing Ebola outbreak which started in December 2013 killed 3,159 people and resulted in about 6,808 suspected cases.
Out of five West African countries hit by the deadly virus, four countries are Muslim-dominated; Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and Senegal.
‘Eid Al-Adha, which will start this year on Saturday October 4, is the second feast in the Islamic Hijri Calendar. During this feast, Muslims who can afford it sacrifice a sheep, or other definite domesticated mammals recognized by Islamic Shari’ah. Muslims share out the meat among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third share.
Not any animal or mammal is allowed to be slaughtered and eaten according to Islamic Shari’ah. The sacrificed animal should be carefully chosen to meet certain health requirements and well-defined Islamic juristic aspects.
The majority of bush meat sources are not categorized as Islamically-approved sacrificing animals. Such bush meat of wild animals, including hoofed animals, primates and rodents – is often the main source of animal protein available to people in West Africa which conversely encompasses several Muslim countries.
According to WHO, “Ebola which is an animal disease is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.” Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the virus.
West Africans consume many animals that catch Ebola including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, rats, deer and fruit bat. The animals come from the wild and are captured and sold for sustenance where other sources of protein from domesticated animals are scarce or prohibitively expensive.
People of West Africa eat bush meat since thousands of years ago. And even where it is outlawed and frowned upon by conservationists who decry the killing of protected primates and other animals, and despite the fact that many West African countries are Muslim nations, you can still find it readily available in markets and on street corners.
Not only a Medical Battle But Cultural As Well
West African hunters arrested buying grilled bush meat.
One Guinean villager made it clear to the Guardian, “Life is not easy here in the village. Authorities and aid groups want to ban our traditions that we have observed for generations. Animal husbandry is not widespread here because bush meat is easily available. Banning bush meat means a new way of life, which is unrealistic.”
Hunters of bush meat can pose particularly acute dangers. Bites, scratches or contact with feces of bats, infected primates or other sick animals might transmit the disease.
Sick animals might be even more likely to end up in the traps of hunters because they are slower or might already be dead when they are found. Even in a dead but infected animal, the virus can survive — though only for so long.
Islam surely forbids eating dead animals even if the corpse was for an Islamically halal food to be consumed, a regulation which perfectly meets with health measures. Dead bodies in general might have passed away because of a certain illnesses, and dead bodies’ immune systems would cease to work making the corpse open for any infections.
The major Muslim West African country of Nigeria is cracking down on hunting bush meat and discourages the use of wild animals for entertainment to stave off the spread of Ebola.
But as the busy hunting season approaches at the end of the summer rains, some hunters say regardless of the risk, they will go back to work.
Islam doesn’t reject norms and traditions of other cultures at all unless they contradict with its basics and Shari’ah and one of these basics is the well-being and welfare of the individual and the society as well as nature.
It is scientifically evident that hunting and eating several types of bush meat threatens humanity through its Zoonotic diseases (animal-borne diseases), and that it poses threats to the biosphere’s fauna as well.
The Sultan of Sokoto in Nigeria, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, has warned Muslims faithful against the consumption of monkeys and bush meat to avoid contracting the deadly Ebola disease.
– All About Udhiyah: Rulings and Conditions.
The Monarch stated that since it was first confirmed medically that the disease was discovered in monkeys and fruit bats, it would be reasonable for Muslims to avoid eating such bush meat.
A statement on behalf of the Sultan by the JNI’s Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar, said that as confirmed by medical experts, the disease was first discovered in monkeys and contacted by those who eat monkeys and other sources of bush meat.
Alas, in Islam, eating of monkeys had already been discouraged (Makruh), according to many scholars of Islamic jurisprudence.
“Thus, we should continue to uphold this verdict as it also serves as a preventative measure.” He said Islam is a religion of cleanliness, adding that as reported in a sound Hadith, “Cleanliness is half of faith.”