Soraya Janmohamed on Milk and the Quran


Qur’an and Milk

There are 4 references in the Quran, 2 directly and 2 indirectly for milk. The direct ones are:

  1. And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, the (drink of) milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it.

Qur’an 16:66

The Qur’an clearly states that (‘cattle’s) milk is agreeable/good for humans to drink.

  1.  (Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear.

Qur’an 47:15

However, modern science paints a somewhat different picture, to that which is presented in the Quran so let’s try and understand why that might be.

There four key reasons why millions of people must be cautious by consuming milk and milk by-products:

1. Lactose Intolerance (or Maldigestion) . In some individuals the digestive system does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme to break down the complex lactose sugar into simpler sugars. Without this enzyme the lactose sugar ferments in the small intestine, producing gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance affects a large number of people worldwide. Lactose intolerance is more frequent among certain ethnic groups.  People who are naturally lactose intolerant: 20% of Caucasians and up to 90% of people of African and Asian descent. Also, as we grow older there is a decline in the level of production of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest milk sugar.

2. Milk Allergy. Some individuals have a true allergic reaction to one or more of milk’s proteins, such as casein or lactoglobulin. The resulting symptoms typically include swelling, itching, bronchospasm, hives, hypotension or shock, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

3. Casein Intolerance. This is when the immune system of the body produces IgA and IgG antibodies to casein, a milk protein. The groups of individuals avoiding casein are the people afflicted with autism.

4. Villous Atrophy.  For these people the casein milk protein causes the intestinal villi to flatten, much like it does when gluten is consumed by somebody that is intolerant to gluten.

So why is it that, on one hand Allah tells us He has produced cattle to give us milk that is agreeable to drink and on the other hand science is telling us 60-90% of us cannot tolerate it.

Here are some possible explanations:

  • Could it be linked to the way cattle are bred these days?  Milk cows are given growth hormones to increase their milk production and antibiotics to decrease infections. These contaminate the milk and the impact on the human body is not entirely known.  The term “organic” can be misleading. Organic milk may mean no hormones in one case and no antibiotics in another, or that the cows were fed organic grain.
  • Are the cows that produce milk for us truly grass fed like we see on the labels of our milk cartons? Farmers are known to fatten up their cows by giving them food items such as corn which make them less healthy. Cows fed exclusively grass will themselves be healthier and produce healthier milk.
  • The milk we find on our shelves has all gone through the process of pasteurisation, which is the process of heating milk at very high temperatures to destroy bacteria. Without this bacterium, the milk becomes harder to digest. A study focusing on children raised on a farm who drank fresh milk, showed decreased allergies due to exposure to high levels of bacteria

If we go back to the Quranic verse and look at the Arabic translation, it is ‘cattle’ not cow.  As in the West we are used to milk being predominately being produced by cows when we see this verse in the Quran we instinctively assume cow’s milk. However, if we look deeper into the science we can see that cow’s milk isn’t as good as we are led to believe and for some people actual causes damage.

Maybe in the Prophet’s time they bred camels and not cows.  Camel milk is easier to digest and compared to cow’s milk, camel milk has three times the vitamin C levels and ten times the iron content.  Camel milk is also a good source of proteins with potential antimicrobial and protective activities, which are not found commonly in cow milk.

Personally, I have always had a ‘sensitive’ disposition which the doctors like to call IBS and loved milk in my cereal.  I also used to get mouth ulcers on a very regular basis.  Over 2 years ago I gave up milk when I started my journey of eating clean and reducing the allergens and toxins I was putting in my body and my mouth ulcers stopped.  After a few months I lost the excess weight I wanted to lose and had regained my body and energy levels, I started re-introducing  milk as I was missing tea, and the odd cup was ok, but if I had tea with milk on a regular basis my mouth ulcers reappeared.    That’s how I discovered my mild lactose intolerance.


Soraya Janmohamed on Wheat and the Prophet’s diet

Over the last 2-3 years I have become a strong believer that wheat isn’t good for us for many reasons, which I will talk about in a bit but trying to convince others has always been a challenge. The difficulty stems from the fact that wheat has become a staple food in so many of our food items and is also used by the food industry as ‘a bulking agent’ to increase their ingredients as it is a cheap raw material. However, eating wheat especially in the form of white products such as bread or pasta is probably the worst form.

So why is this?

Wheat falls in the food group known as carbohydrates that once consumed trigger insulin, the hormone of fat storage. Some people carry fat in their buttocks or thighs, but most people store fat around their middle. This is known as visceral fat and unlike fat in other body parts it provokes inflammation, distorts insulin responses and abnormal metabolic signals to the rest of the body. The affects of wheat consumption go much deeper than that, as it effects almost every organ in your body. For many it causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and lethargic tendencies.

The trend towards reducing our fat intake has led us to increase our carbohydrate intake and as we turn to more ‘whole grain’ we have ended up having wheat in all our meals. For example we may have a wheat based cereal in the morning, followed by a sandwich at lunch, biscuits, cake or a ‘healthy chewy bar’ for snack and the pasta/bread in our evening meal. As the food industry started increasing the ‘healthy’ whole grain products they offered us at the same time our waistlines increased too!

Looking back in time 1 first explored the diets of my grandma’s generation, which was full of fresh vegetables, a selection of proteins and fats and a variety of grains including rice, besan or gram flour, barley, millet flour, and whole-wheat flour, which they used to make chapatis’, just to mention a few. However, as a generation they lived longer as wheat wasnt a staple item and they were generally healthy and not over-weight unless they had immigrated to the Western world and adopted more processed foods.

So then I decided to look further into what did the Prophet’s diet contain. The Quran is full of references of fresh fruits, vegetables, and water. But searching deeper I found 2 references that describes in great detail the Prophet’s food habits. The one I wanted to focus on was his grain intake.

It is mentioned in a reliable tradition that Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) said that he was asked by some people: “It is narrated that your great-grandfather (Prophet) never ate wheat bread to satiation?” He replied: “No, the fact is that he never ate wheat bread; he ate only barley bread and that too never to satiation.”

There is very little reference to why he ate barley bread but never ate wheat bread, which I am sure it is related to some of reasons listed above. The most important of all is the fact that wheat consumption has the ability to make you sleepy and quite lethargic which takes you away of both worshipping Allah and doing good deeds. The more I read into the habits of Prophet Muhammed I conclude that following in the sunnah (practices) has so much merit and science is only now discovering what was in the Quran and hadith’s (teachings) more than 1400 years ago. Rather than looking at today’s environment and trying to find an explaination in the Quran or the Sunnah, if we should start the other way round, and science should be able to provide us with the research behind the conduct and customs from 1400 years ago.

Soraya Janmohamed : Quran and the Body

The Quran reminds us that our bodies are an amanah, a trust from Allah, and so we have a duty to take care of our health.  Looking after our bodies will enable us to perform good deeds and also keep up with our religious obligations.  Remember the food we eat not only effects our body but also our nafs (soul), but what do we need to do to take care of ourselves?

Diet is extremely important in controlling diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart problems but actually eating well helps us lead a healthy life.  The saying, “you are what you eat”, holds very true, as our body reacts 100% to what we consume, and so if we consume unhealthy foods, your body will become unhealthy. You may not notice it initially, but the changes begin to occur inside and may surface many years later.

One of the philosophies that Islam is based upon is moderation and the Quran also encourages moderation in eating and drinking.  Allah says in Chapter 6, verse 141, “Eat and drink, but do not go to excess; He does not love people of excess”.

The Prophet himself would generally eat light and balanced meals.  The prophet taught us “a few morsels of food are enough for a person to keep his spine upright; but if you must eat more, then the most should be such that 1/3rd of his stomach is for food, 1/3rd of his stomach if for his drink and 1/3rd for air”.  When we are faced with delicious food do we using the 1/3 rd rule?

As communities when we get together there is an emphasis on eating, especially meat and fried foods.  There is hardly any fresh fruits and vegetables to complement our meals.  Every meal should be balanced from all the food groups.  Too much fatty foods can lead to cholesterol levels increasing in the blood which can lead to heart disease.  Another way we can become more healthy in by exercising.  Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) recommended swimming, archery and horse-riding as sports, but actually doing any exercise has multi-faceted benefits.  The obviously one being it helps reduce body fat, it improves your mood, it can aid stress relief and finally can boost concentration levels.  It is so important we encourage our children to be active from a young age, as habits formed early in life are more likely to stick.

Medical research has shown that people from south Asian communities have a higher risk of developing certain diseases.  Here are some statistics:

  • 6 times is the likelihood of British Asians to develop diabetes or heart disease over the general population.
  • 30% of British Muslims are considered to be in bad health, nearly double of the national average.

Previous studies on 1st generational Asians showed that the incidence of certain cancers were lower than the British White population, however, this is changing and recent statistics show that 2nd generational Asians are just as likely to develop cancer.  A large study in being carried out by Oxford University of 250,000 British Asians from ages 18-80 to understand the causes in the changes in the disease occurrence. One theory is that we have started adopting western lifestyle habits.

Think about your lifestyle, are you living a balanced life?  Do you live in moderation and follow the teachings of Islam?