It is generally said now a days that in the market egg dealers sell tortoise/turtle eggs telling them as poultry eggs. Please elaborate whether these eggs are permissible for human consumption or are they forbidden.
It should be clearly understood that there are many things that have not been considered as eatable by man, in general. For instance, man generally does not consider dogs, cats, lions, tigers etc. as eatable meat. All these things, which have not been considered eatable by man, in general, should not be eaten. The general attitude of man towards these things shows that historically, there has been a general consensus in mankind that these things are serving humanity in some other way, they are not for the provision of meat, and therefore should not be eaten. The prophets of God (pbut) during their particular times have generally pointed out some of the obvious animals, which are not eatable (not through Shari`ah, but through the human nature). Being a part of man’s nature, it would, in my opinion, be in consonance with the directives of the Shari`ah to refrain from eating the flesh of the animals, which have generally not been considered as eatable by man.
The Islamic Shari`ah has given directions regarding only those animals, about which there was a greater likelihood of man making an error in deciding about its edibility or otherwise. That is, it is likely that man, without Divine guidance, may think of these things as eatable. The things which have clearly been mentioned as Haraam (prohibited) in the Islamic Shari`ah are: dead animals, flowing blood, flesh of swine and animals sacrificed in the name of other deities or sacrificed without taking God’s name. Only these four things are Haraam (prohibited) in Islam. The things prohibited in the narratives ascribed to the prophet (pbuh) are basically things, which do not fall under the category of edibles. These things have generally been considered non-eatable by human nature. The Prophet (pbuh) by pointing a few of these things out and directing his followers to refrain from eating these things, has in effect told us that the Shari`ah does not expressly prohibit these things because of the very fact that human nature has never considered these things as eatable. The Qur’an, as stated earlier, has only mentioned the things about which man was likely to make an error in deciding for himself regarding their edibility or otherwise. It is for this reason that the Qur’an says:
Say [O Prophet,]: I find nothing in what has been revealed to me that forbids any person from consuming any eatable [food] except ..
The words: “from consuming any eatable” clearly imply that the Quran is only giving directions about animals which have in certain times or places, rightly or wrongly, been considered eatable by man. The Qur’an has not even mentioned those animals, which by the implicit directions of human nature have generally been considered inedible.
In my opinion, tortoise falls in the same category of animals which have generally not been considered by man as eatable. Therefore, although it does not fall under the category of Haraam meat, it should not be eaten.
Another thing that needs to be stressed is that if, as you have stated, in place of poultry items, people sell tortoise eggs and meat in the market, it is the duty of the Government to take strict action against such people. The common man is not responsible for finding out for himself whether the eggs that are being sold to him as poultry items are really poultry items or not. In other words, I must not eat tortoise eggs or its flesh, knowingly. But if someone sells me such eggs or meat by wrongly declaring them to be poultry items, not letting me know about their reality, then the responsibility of eating an inedible item would fall on the shoulders of the seller, not on me.
22nd April 1998