SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The answers given by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani regarding the animals and related products are as follows.
Question: Is eating crabs and lobsters halal (allowed according to Islam) or haram (forbidden according to Islam)?
Ayatollah Sistani: It is haram
Question: Is the oil of haram-meat animals like snake, tiger or similar, najes (unclean according to Islam)?
Ayatollah Sistani: If the animal has no jumping blood, its oil is clean. For these types of animals, the use of non-meat products is allowed.
Question: Birds excrements (halal-meat, haram-meat, meat-eater, non-meat eater, with or without claws) are clean or najis?
Ayatollah Sistani: The excrements of all of them are clean.
Question: Are the meats of locusts and rabbits halal?
Ayatollah Sistani: The locust meat is halal. The rabbit meat and all of its kinds are haram.
Question: Is the excrements of crow najis?
Ayatollah Sistani: It is clean.
Question: Is selling pig meat to non-believers allowed?
Ayatollah Sistani: The selling is not allowed.
Question: Is the excrements of parrot najis?
Ayatollah Sistani: It is clean.
Question: Is rearing frogs for export to other countries allowed?
Ayatollah Sistani: The export to non-believing countries is allowed.
Question: Are the hunting dogs najis?
Ayatollah Sistani: Yes, they are najis. Touching them with moisture present makes the hand najis.
Question: Does walking of a dog on the snow, make the snow Najis?
Ayatollah Sistani: If the amount of snow that is walked on is touched by the wetness of the dog’s feet, that amount of snow is najis.
Question: Is the nejasat from a dry dog is equal to a wet dog?
Ayatollah Sistani: If it is dry it is not najis unless the contact point is wet.
Question: To find out about a haram-meat bird, must it have all the signs?
Ayatollah Sistani: If it has one of the signs, is sufficient.
Question: Are the excrements of parrot, rabbit and squirrel clean?
Ayatollah Sistani: The excrements of parrot are clean but the other two are najis.
Question: What are the rules regarding training and keeping cats and rabbits at home? Do their hairs make the prayers (namaz) void (batel)?
Ayatollah Sistani: It is not forbidden and it does not render the prayers void.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Researchers in southern Russia have unearthed remains of a rare mammoth species. Citing local villagers’ accounts of previous bone finds, they suspect that an entire graveyard of prehistoric creatures is waiting to be found at the site.
The bones were found encased in clay near a river confluence close to the village of Verkhny Kurp in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic of the Caucasus Mountains. They likely belonged to the southern mammoth (mammuthus meridionalis), a species that lived in Europe and Central Asia between 2.6 and 0.7 million years ago.
The archeological find was made after a river bank collapsed, said researcher Viktor Kotlyarov, who studied the remains. One of the unearthed tusks remains intact thanks to its clay encasing. A meter-long fragment of another one was dragged down, exposed and quickly reduced to pieces before it could be preserved, although scientists had time to take pictures.
“It’s quite probable that we have not a single skeleton there but an entire graveyard,” he added, saying that local villagers reported finding huge bones in the past, including ribs, teeth and vertebrae.
“Some villagers used vertebrae as stools at home,” the researcher added.
Southern mammoths stood up to four meters tall, making them one of the biggest species of proboscidea that ever lived. It’s not clear whether it had fur like its smaller and better-known northern cousin, the woolly mammoth.
The earliest near-complete skeleton of a southern mammoth was discovered in Italy, and now exhibited at Paris’ National Museum of Natural History. Six other sets of bones are known to date, including three stored in Russia, two in Italy and one in Serbia. Some museums also have individual bones of southern mammoth among their exhibits.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Before embarking on the answer to this question, it must be noted that the answer provided below is based on the school of Transcendent Theosophy, i.e., Sadrian philosophy. In this light, the answer will be expounded under two main headings and several subtopics.
Under the first heading, “The Existence of Spirit in Animals”, the following topics will be examined:
1. In all philosophical discussions pertaining to the question of the spirit, animal spirit is always enumerated as an indubitable instance of spirit. However, obviously the various forms of spirit possess their own peculiarities which distinguish them from one another.
2. What comprises the essence of an animal is its animal spirit, and to imagine the animal without an animal spirit would be to downgrade it to the lower degree of existence—i.e., vegetable existence.
3. In several animals, such as the honey bee, the spider, etc., the signs of an indwelling spirit are clearly noticeable.
4. Scholars provide various sorts of evidence for the existence of animal spirit—among them: the presential knowledge of animals of their own essences, the role that will plays in animal behaviour, the resurrection of animal spirits in the Hereafter.
5. The fact that animals can comprehend imaginal and immaterial forms and the performance by them of varying dissimilar actions.
The topics covered in the second heading, “The Difference between the Animal and the Human Spirit”, are as follows:
1. Human nature is different from animal nature. The material components of the human body are relatively finer and more perfect.
2. Human spirit also differs from animal spirit in many respects; including the human capacity to communicate by employing letters, words, thoughts, etc., and the human psychological variations—such as laughter, weeping, etc.—in response to different external phenomena.
3. The existence of art, industry, and human innovation display clearly the superiority of the human soul as they have no place in the realm of animals.
4. The essential difference of the human soul from the animal soul is that the former is intellectual while the latter is imaginal.
5. In addition, the sole pursuit of the animal soul is the gratification of the corporeal needs while the scope of human soul, in terms of its conceptual and practical aspects, stretches to the farthest reaches of existence.
This question will be considered in the light of Sadrian philosophy, i.e., Transcendent Theosophy. In the numerous works by Mulla Sadra and the subsequent philosophers who espoused his philosophy, there are numerous allusions and in some cases detailed expositions of the question in hand in the chapters dealing with the topics of soul, Resurrection, knowledge, and comprehension. The material prepared for this question will be presented under two main headings and five shorter sections. The essay will then end with the topic of the difference between the human soul and the animal soul.
The Existence of Spirit in Animals
The Animal Soul as One of the Instances of Spirit in Existence
In philosophical inquiries into the topic of the soul, where the soul is defined, it is commonly divided into three classes: vegetable soul, animal soul, and human soul. Despite the fact that each one of these classes possesses its own peculiarities which distinguish it from its counterparts, they all share a common reality and essence. The soul is a spiritual and immaterial existent which incorporates spiritual faculties, whether it be the intellectual soul, the imaginal soul, or the vegetable soul.
The Creation of the Animal Spirit as One of the Phases of the Origination of the Realm of Materiality
Mulla Sadra is among those thinkers who hold that the origination of material existents was carried out in stages, starting from the simplest and advancing to the stage of the most perfect elements. In some of these stages, the mere combination of material ingredients was not enough and thus the addition of an immaterial element to the composition was called for, so as to satisfy the requirements of that particular order of creation. One such stage was the creation of the animal. The spirit that was infused in the composition to bring about the animal existence is termed the “animal spirit”.
Hence, not only does the animal possess a soul, furthermore it owes its essence to that soul. The addition of the soul to the material ingredients is a requirement of the order of the realm of materiality. And the same case applies to the realms of the human being and the vegetable. The immaterial spirit or soul is what distinguishes some material entities from others. In the inanimate, the lack of such a spirit is what makes their nature, while in others the possession thereof makes them what they are. And among the animate, it is the variation in the degrees of the spirit that sets them apart in differing levels of existence. The vegetable soul lies at the bottom while the human spirit enjoys the apex and the animal spirit the median seat.
The Outward Manifestations of the Soul in the Animal
The appearance of certain traits in various animals—such as the building of the hexagonal hive by the honeybee, the weaving of the delicate web by the spider, the monkey’s and the parrot’s mimicking the human being, the cleverness of the horse, the authority of the lion, the faithfulness of the dog, the deceptiveness of the crow, etc.—are, in the view of Mulla Sadra, evidence of the existence of a limited intelligence which indicates the presence of a soul in the animal. The character traits of some of these animals are so complex as to render them very close to the level of the human being.
Scientific Indications Corroborating the Existence of an Animal Spirit
All animals possess an imaginal soul that is similar to the human imaginal soul. The animal spirit is at the level of imaginal immateriality, which is the intermediate level between the realm of the sensible and the realm of Intellection. The zenith of animal existence is the imaginal existence, hence accommodating the imaginal soul. It is due to this degree of immateriality and spiritual potency that it possesses presential self-knowledge, for no inanimate object can ever have self-knowledge.
According to Mulla Sadra, all actions in the cosmos derive from will. This is so even in the case of the vegetable and the inanimate, with the difference that in their case the will in question is that of the higher intellects and spirits. That is, the inanimate and the vegetable are involuntarily the means of the realization of the higher wills. But in the case of the animal and the human being, the prerequisites for the actualization of an action that falls in the scope of their volition must be realized by themselves, and it is for this reason that the actions of animals and human beings are unpredictable while those attributed to the inanimate and the vegetable are monotonous. The source where animal action originates is the imaginal and the conjectural faculty while in the human being it is the practical intellect. Imagination, speculation, intellection, will, etc., are all manifestations of a soul and as such are the traits that distinguish the creature possessed of a spirit from that which lacks it.
In addition to the worldly effects of the soul, one can also point to the issues of eschatology and the Resurrection of the body and soul of all animate creatures possessed of a soul. For this reason, all the philosophers who have dealt with the question of eschatology have designated a part to the subject of the resurrection of animal souls, its conditions, and other relevant details.
Proofs for the Existence of Spirit in the Animal
The animal is undoubtedly endowed with a spirit, i.e., an immaterial aspect, for it possesses the imaginal faculty which is capable of comprehending ghosts and imaginal forms. These things are not sensorially tangible and hence are not inhabitants of the material world. Therefore, the imaginal faculty, which is the receptacle for the comprehension of these immaterial existents, is also not sensorially tangible and as such is not corporeal. For, every material existent occupies a certain material location. This also holds true of the dependents of that material existent. This is while the imaginal forms and ghosts comprehended by the imaginal faculty do not occupy a certain material location, and so it follows that the imaginal faculty, which is the receptacle for their impressions, also lacks material location and hence is not corporeal.
Moreover, the variety of the actions performed by the animals does not only corroborate the existence of a soul in them but can also stand as a cogent argument for substantiating this claim. For the effects derived from material existents and inanimate objects are immutably monotonous and repetitious. Thus, when the state of an existent is so unpredictable as to make it difficult to even catch two identical actions from the same agent due to it altering its reactions based on varying external and internal circumstances—in such a case, reason rules that there must be some other immaterial factor involved.
The Difference between the Animal Soul and the Human Soul
It was pointed out that from the perspective of philosophy, the existentiation of the material realm was a progressive process carried out in various stages, each more complex than the preceding stage. In this light, although the material constitution of the animal was a finer composition in comparison to that of the vegetable, which qualified it for receiving the animal soul, yet it still needed to be perfected further in order to accommodate the human spirit so as to bring about the human being, the being which had been selected as the dominant creature capable of utilizing all other creatures in his service, as he was the goal and end of creation.
Although the human being in a strictly logical categorization is from the same material as that which constitutes the animal, the thing that makes it unique is so profound that if, by way of analogy, all the rest of the animals were set on one side of a scale and the human being on the opposite, he would definitely weigh heavier. The human being is capable of speech and as such is able to communicate his thoughts and intentions with fellow human beings in the form of letters and words, which can be formed into innumerable permutations and combinations. But the capacity of animals like the parrot in manipulating words is limited and confined to mimicking and is devoid of any thought. Also the communication of certain animals in the form of sounds and signals—like the honey bee, the ant, etc.—which has been scientifically observed, is a fixed method not capable of change during the course of their lives. But in the case of the human being, although initially learning many of his language skills by way of imitation, eventually every individual comes to possess a distinct method of communication.
The psychological impressions that the human being receives from the environment and thephysiological and psychological states that result thereof—such as amazement and laughter in response to rare but pleasing events, grief and weeping in response to adverse circumstances, shamefulness following unbecoming conduct, and anxiety and hope vis-à-vis the past, the present, andthe future—and the planning and decisions that the human being makes based on these states are unique qualities. And although the ant’s performance in storing food can be considered as a sort of forethought, it is nevertheless an instinctual and involuntary behaviour, for it is always done in the same manner and in the same timeframe. This is in contrast to the human being whose seemingly passive psychological states—such as laughter, weeping, etc.—are absolutely voluntary and thus are manageable in special circumstances and through prudence.
Craftsmanship, art, industry, innovation, and, in the words of Mulla Sadra, “the amazing practical innovations” that have flourished in the course of human history, and the fact that man has single-handedly changed the face of the world and has either manipulated all the elements of this world or is on the verge thereof is proof of the inimitable spiritual superiority of the human being, for not even a slight fraction of this sort of activity has appeared in the animal realm. The entire lifespan of an animal is occupied merely by roaming about in pursuit of the dictates of its imaginal and conjectural faculties.
The animal’s imaginal and conjectural planning revolve around its personal or specific benefit. In keeping itself safe from various dangers and securing water and food and satisfying its sexual appetite, it is, on the one hand, safeguarding its individual interests and, on the other hand, contributing to the survival of its species. It is for this reason that the animal soul is referred to as “the imaginal soul”. The summit of the imaginal soul is the beginning point for the human soul. The animal can advance only up to the point where the human domain begins. In other words the final reaches of the realm of the imaginal soul is just the beginning of the domain of the intellect; it is the threshold through which one enters into the human realm, to which there is no conceivable end. It is the intellect that defines the human being. Hence, those who do not take advantage of their intellects remain at the level of thebeast.
Through the theoretical intellect, the human being is able to comprehend immaterial concepts andthereby to transform his ignorance to knowledge. The human being draws a mental image of all that he encounters by the senses. It then uses these concepts to form another set of concepts which are more universal and abstract. The latter concepts enhance the mind’s innovative capabilities. The human mind uses the latter concepts to arrive at various sorts of rules, judgments, and arguments and by juxtaposing them in a systematized fashion produces systematic thought, philosophy, and the sciences. If the human being persists in this endeavour, every new day will expand the horizon of his cognition until he passes from the human domain—which is the admixture of body and soul, of corporeal needs and intellectual faculties—to the domain of pure intellection, where he is united with the Madonna Intelligenza at which stage he finds the whole world realized within the scope of his knowledge.
The genuine human being makes his practical intellect—which derives its directives from the knowledge acquired by the theoretical intellect—the guide of his conduct. The theoretical and practical intellects have limitless power in both the material and the spiritual directions. The human being has succeeded in obtaining knowledge previously not even imaginable, thereby reshaping his surrounding world. The innermost reality of the world is just as much accessible to him, this being demonstrated by those who have attained to human perfection. By the light of their esoteric knowledge—which can best be referred to as ‘irfan—they have traversed the path to Divine proximity. That is, they have conquered the visible realm, the Realm of Intellection, the Supreme Dominion, and the Domain of Invincibility, thereby ascending to the zenith of human perfection.
The interesting point is that these two paths of infinite possibilities, i.e., the paths of exoteric and esoteric knowledge, are in no way at odds. To the contrary, the more one studies the worldly phenomena, given that he be fair and unbiased, the better he acknowledges the profundity of this world and the greatness of its creator. Likewise, he who has traversed the path of ‘Irfan understands all the more acutely the necessity of studying the worldly phenomena so as to better admire the majesty of the Creator.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Scientists have created a genetically modified milk that lacks a key protein involved in triggering allergies — an impressive technical feat that won plaudits in the biotechnology world.
But the development, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn't likely to lead soon to less-allergenic milk. The process for getting government approval to sell food derived from genetically engineered animals appears to be a hopeless logjam.
A salmon with designer DNA has been in regulatory limbo since the Food and Drug Administration concluded that the fish appeared to be safe and without environmental risk two years ago. The company behind the fish, AquaBounty Technologies, is still waiting for the final regulatory steps and a sign-off from the FDA.
A herd of so-called enviropigs engineered to digest plant phosphorus more efficiently — cutting feed costs as well as levels of polluting phosphorus in their manure — was euthanized this year because of funding difficulties and public wariness about genetically modified organisms. Cell and semen samples have been banked in cold storage until the regulatory climate and societal attitudes improve, according to the Canadian scientist who was in charge of the project.
Goats that produce a protein in their milk that can help fight diarrhea in young children are being moved from California to Brazil for commercial development in what some scientists see as a more biotechnology-friendly locale.
Scientists are working on a range of products in various stages of development, including virus-resistant chickens, meat with healthier fat and mastitis-resistant dairy cows that would require fewer antibiotics.
But the slow pace of progress on AquaBounty's application has had a chilling effect on animal biotech efforts — which are conducted in academic laboratories and small companies, not by the multinational corporations that develop genetically modified plants. Efforts have been foundering for lack of funding, or moving overseas.
AquaBounty Technologies has enough money to survive until the end of January, said Ronald Stotish, president and chief ex
In frustration, more than 50 scientists and biotechnology leaders sent a letter to President Obama last month asking him to urge the FDA to move forward on the AquaBounty salmon decision.
"There is much more at stake here than just a fish," the scientists wrote.
UC Davis animal geneticist James Murray was one of those who signed the letter. He has engineered goats to produce the human protein lysozyme in their milk, which helps shape the bacterial flora in the gut and improve gastrointestinal health. Should his goats or someone else's transgenic animals come before the FDA, "we need them to make a decision," he said. "We need the political process to allow the science-based regulatory process to work."
Murray said he had arranged to move his transgenic goats to Brazil for development there because he saw no opportunity for regulatory approval or funding in the United States in the near future.
The new study on hypoallergenic cow milk was conducted at AgResearch in Hamilton, New Zealand, a government-owned research institution. Scientists genetically engineered cow cells to suppress the gene for a protein in whey — called beta-lactoglobulin, or BLG — that is present in cow milk but not in human milk.
Beyond creating milk that was less likely to cause allergies, the scientists wanted to understand the function of BLG in milk, an extremely complicated fluid packed with proteins, fats and sugars.
To remove the protein, the scientists engineered cow cells to make tiny RNA molecules that would interfere with the activity of the BLG gene, effectively silencing it. Then they used cloning technology to create a female calf from the genetically modified cells. Analysis of a small amount of milk obtained from the calf through hormonal induction found no traces of BLG.
For reasons the scientists do not understand, the milk contains elevated levels of a group of other proteins called casein, which also can trigger an allergic reaction. But that could be helpful for cheese-making, they said.
The calf is now about 11 months old, and the scientists intend to breed it next year so they can analyze the milk more extensively, said study coauthor Stefan Wagner, an animal geneticist at AgResearch. Among other things, they plan to see how it differs from conventional cow milk and test its allergy-reducing potential in mice, he said.
Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, said he doubted the milk in the study would help his patients. Though it's true that many children can't tolerate BLG, they usually are allergic to a variety of milk proteins, including casein. The higher casein therefore presents "probably the worst-case scenario for most of our patients," he said.
Even if the milk were further modified, the regulatory barriers and societal discomfort may present bigger challenges.
Though the public routinely consumes processed foods made with genetically modified corn and soybeans, the idea of eating products from transgenic animals will be tougher for consumers to accept, said Gregory Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"People feel different about eating animals than they do about crops, and when you're talking about cows and milk — milk is something we give our children," said Jaffe, who was on an advisory committee that reviewed safety data for the AquaBounty salmon in 2010 and saw no cause for alarm based on the data he reviewed then.
Indeed, many animal geneticists said they suspected the regulatory stalling on the AquaBounty case had more to do with politics than an inefficient or overly fastidious FDA.
Politicians have repeatedly attempted to block approval of the genetically modified salmon, they noted. Some scientists say they suspect the roadblock is higher up in the Department of Health and Human Services or even the White House.
"We believe that the FDA has done its thing and that they believe the product is approvable, and that the process has been corrupted by political interference beyond the FDA," said Stotish, the AquaBounty chief executive.
FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky said in an email that the company's "application is still pending, and we do not have any information on a timeline." An environmental assessment is being conducted, she said.
The only FDA-approved transgenic animal product is an anti-clotting drug called ATryn, which is extracted from the milk of genetically modified goats. The drug, made by GTC Biotherapeutics Inc. of Framingham, Mass., is selling well, and the company plans to develop other lines of goats and rabbits to make milk-based drugs for patients with hemophilia, autoimmune diseases and cancers, GTC President Yann Echelard said.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Britain's Health Protection Agency has published an early genetic sequence of the new respiratory virus related to SARS that shows it is most closely linked to bat viruses, and scientists say camels, sheep or goats might end up being implicated too.
So far, there are no signs the virus will be as deadly as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed hundreds of people, mostly in Asia, in a 2003 global outbreak.
In Geneva, WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters Friday that so far the signs are that the virus is "not easily transmitted from person to person" — but analyses are ongoing.
Global health officials suspect two victims from the Middle East may have caught it from animals.
"It's a logical possibility to consider any animals present in the region in large numbers," said Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Biologists now need to go into the area and take samples from any animals they can get their hands on, including camels and goats," he said.
Baric said it was crucial to find out how widespread the virus is in animals and what kind of contact might be risky for people.
Baric suggested bats might be spreading the virus directly to humans since the two confirmed infections happened months apart. "If there was an established transmission pattern from other animals, we probably would have seen a lot more cases," he said.
The World Health Organization said it is considering the possibility the new coronavirus sickened humans after direct contact with animals. The agency is now working with experts in the Middle East to figure out how the two confirmed cases got infected but could not share details until the investigation was finished.
One patient was a Saudi Arabian man who died several months ago while the other is a Qatari national who travelled to Saudi Arabia before falling ill and is currently in critical but stable condition in a London hospital.
Earlier this week, WHO issued a global alert asking doctors to be on guard for any potential cases of the new respiratory virus, which also causes kidney failure.
Saudi officials have already warned that next month's annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, which brings millions to Saudi Arabia from all around the world, could allow the virus to spread. As a precautionary measure, they are advising pilgrims to keep their hands clean and wear masks in crowded places.
Experts said knowing where a virus comes from provides clues on how to stop it.
"This means we could prevent the fire before it starts instead of rushing towards it with fire trucks and water hoses afterwards," said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.
Osterholm said it was possible bats had simply passed on the virus from other animals and that there could be a complicated transmission chain that ultimately ended in humans.
Viruses reproduce as they infect animals and people, giving them more chances to evolve into a deadlier version.
"We don't know enough about coronaviruses to predict which mutations might make them more lethal or transmissible," Osterholm said. "But you don't want to tempt genetic fate with microbes because you're bound to lose most times."— www.shafaqna.com/English