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.