Q&A (Fatwa)

#222: Can a Starving Person Cut Himself to Eat


“A man who is starving that have no food is allowed to consume pork and drink liquor to the extent necessary to save his life. In same way, is he allowed to cut one part of his body and eat it or is it allowed for another person to cut his own part of body and offer it to the starving man to eat in order to save him from hunger ?”



The Fuqahaa are at a consensus that it is not permissible for the one who is facing starvation and comes across a dead halal animal, pork and a dead human to eat either the pork or the dead human flesh. They hold a consensus on that.

The majority of them hold that in whatever situations, it is not permissible to eat the dead human. This is the Maaliki, the Dhaahiri and the majority Hanbali edicts.

Imaam Ash-Shaafi’i, the Ulamaa that follow his Usul, a minority Hanbali Ulamaa hold the permissibility of eating the dead human where there exists no alternative and death is certain.

Imaam Al-Qurtubi – rahimahullaah – said:

“If the one in a dire starving situation finds a dead Halaal animal, pork and human flesh, then he must eat the flesh of the Halaal animal because it is Halaal in that situation whereas pork and Human Flesh were never sanctioned. And to consume a Haram which is light is better than consuming a Haram which is severe. This is the limit for Ahkaam. It is not permissible to eat the flesh of a human being even if it will mean death. This is the statement of our Ulamaa (i.e. Maalikiyya). It is the same thing saod by Ahmad and Daawud. (Imaam) Ahmad made as evidence His – Alayhi As-Salaam – statement “The breaking of the bones of the dead human is like the breaking of it while it is alive”. And Ash-Shaafi’i says: it is okay to eat the flesh of humans but he must not kill a Dhimmi (Kaafir under protective covenant from the Muslims) because his blood is protected by Covenant. He must also not kill to eat a Muslim, nor a prisoner because that is another person’s wealth. But if it is a Harbi (an enemy Kaafir) or a Zaani that is married, it is permissible to kill and eat of him. Daawud (Az-Zaahiri) was stern and harsh in debunking Al-Muzani (Ash-Shaafi’is disciple) on this matter…”
Ref: ‘Al-Jaami’ Li Ahkaami Al-Qur’an’ 2/229

The Hanafis also hold the same view as the Maalikis. Ibn Aabidin mentioned this in his Haashiyatu Raddi Al-Muhtaar, and Al-Haskafi in his Raddu Al-Mukhtaar.

Within the Shafi’i madh’hab itself, there is a minority edict that holds the Maliki position. An-Nawawi mentioned this in Al-Majmu’ 9/47

As for the Shafi’is that permit it, the hold that it is not permissible to cut from your own body to give to another to eat nor is it permissible for you to ask someone else to cut for you from his own body. That is because it is not permissible in Islam to take the life of someone else simply to protect yours.

As for a person, taking from his own flesh such as the thighs to eat, then some of them permitted it with the condition that that in itself neither leads to death nor leads to a harm that is greater than the harm he was in originally.

However, we must realise that the evidences that the Malikis and the Dhahiris hold unto in this Matter is stronger and is the Correct Position.

And we want to caution ourselves that it is not always good for a student of Knowledge to imagine situations that, in real life situations did not happen, and then ask questions regarding to that. It is mentioned of Imaam Maalik and his students that they used to dislike that.

May Allaah Ta’aala grant us Tawfiq and Sadaad. Aameen!




Islamnode is a platform for the dissemination of sound Knowledge of Islam and an orientation of Muslims of the Sciences of the Din in accordance with the Pristine Knowledge taught by the Rasul – Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam – to the Companions – Ridwanullah ‘Alayhim – and understood by them, their Students and those who followed them of the earliest generations. We follow the Sunnah of the Rasul – Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam – and promote the Works of the Ulama of Sunnah from the first generation to date. Our goal is to propagate the Sciences of Islam, to disseminate the sound understanding of the Salaf and to enable the sound education of Muslims in this era.

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