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What did the prophet (saw) mean when he said meat did not decay prior to the Jews?

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The 'Law of Decay' and meat-spoiling bacterial organisms existed even before Bani Israel.

So what does this Hadith mean?

لَوْلاَ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ لَمْ يَخْنَزِ اللَّحْمُ

The Prophet (saw) said: "Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay."(Bukhari 3399)

The scholars say meat did not decay before Bani Israel because people generally did not store meat - they just ate fresh meat. Bani Israel started this habit of hoarding meat and the meat obviously decayed - following the natural laws of nature. Since then, people have continued this practice of hoarding meat, and meat keeps going bad because we continue this practice, which Bani Israel started. If Bani Israel hadn’t started this practice, meat wouldn’t have decayed - it would have been eaten while fresh.

Al-Sa'di wrote:

كان الناس قبل ذلك يأكلون اللحم طرياً ولا يدخرونه، فلما حصل ادخاره من بني إسرائيل؛ كانوا أول من سنَّ للناس هذا الأمر
لما وقع بنو إسرائيل في ادخاره؛ وقع الناس فيه بعدهم
"Before [Bani Israel], people used to eat fresh meat and did not have the habit of storing meat. Bani Israel were the first to introduce this practice among the people and other nations followed them in this habit [which resulted in their meat getting decayed]." (Majmu' Mu'allafat al-Shaikh Sa'di 21/53)

It does not mean that meat could not decay before Bani Israel. Al-Iraqi said:

فقال الحافظ العراقي في طرح التثريب في شرح التقريب (ج7/ص63): (يحتمل أن التغير كان قديما قبل وجود بني إسرائيل
"The existence of meat decay most likely existed before the existence of Bani Israel." (Tarh al-tathrib fi Sharh al-Taqrib 7/63)

It also does not rule out that some other extinct civilisations may have also practiced this habit before Bani Israel started (introduced) this practiced in the Middle East.


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