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 reveals: Are food choices made based on education or available money?

“Poor people are easy to identify because so many are obese.” So says Anna Soubry, the Tory public health minister.

Is it really poverty that makes us over-weight or is it due to the lack of proper education on good eating. Thinking back to my childhood, I don’t remember learning formally at a young age what foods were ‘good’ and which ones were ‘bad’. My knowledge came from my mum. Our relationship with food starts at home. Once we begin to be weaned we experience so many different tastes; sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and hopefully across the whole range. I was very fortunate that my mum didn’t work and, also due to the limited availability of ‘baby’ food, I was exposed to freshly cooked home foods. I became a good eater. As a grew up and I was exposed to friends, media and trips to the supermarket and my eating habits changed. But , now as an adult I am really conscious of eating well and even with my children there is a balanced approach between home cooked and packaged foods; actually more than balanced as we rarely have take-aways or ready prepared meals, so my scales must be faulty!!!

Bad eating habits are not a result of poverty but due to either ignorance or lack of education from a young age, so bad habits become ingrained and passed down from generation to generation

I was looking through the Quran as I wanted to see what can I learn from the teachings of Allah, and I came across some verses in Chapter 5 (verse 87-88) Allah says;

87: O you who believe! do not forbid (yourselves) the good things which Allah has made lawful for you and do not exceed the limits; surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits

88: And eat of the lawful and good (things) that Allah has given you, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, in whom you believe

So Allah wants us to eat the good things he has made lawful and told us not to exceed our limits and it clearly says Allah does not like those you exceed their limits. Over-indulgence is clearly not supported here!

Referring back to the Quran I started tracking down which foods are mentioned as good for us and list is probably not so surprising as it contains so many fresh items like Halal meat, water, fruits and vegetables, such as apples, figs, olives, melons. All the foods are fresh and unprocessed and can be eaten usually directly from the ground. The Quran clearly mentions that these foods have healing properties too. With so much emphasis on fresh food why are we so ‘hooked’ on the package processed goods. Is it because its cheaper sometimes? Is it due to the convenience of it – ‘buy’, ‘rip open’ and ‘eat’? Or are we seduced by the buy one , get one free offers which we normally find on the convenience foods more than the fresh ones

If we want our children to be healthy we need to teach them from a young age and follow the teachings of the Quran as there is so much merit it that.

Over the next few weeks I will be picking 1-2 food items mentioned in the Quran and looking at both what the Quran says and what modern scientific research says too.

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