The word ‘Halal’ (حلال) is an Arabic word which literally means permissible. And in translation it is usually used as lawful/allowed/acceptable and it’s a term which is applied to all aspects of life and covers not only food and drink, but also all matters of daily life. The opposite is ‘Haram’ (حرام), which means unlawful/prohibited/forbidden or not allowed.
When used in relation to food or drink, it means that the food/drink is lawful, allowed or permissible for Muslims. The most common example of non-halal (or haram) food is pork. While pork is the only meat that cannot be eaten by Muslims at all (due to perceived hygienic concerns), foods other than pork can also be haraam. The criteria for non-pork items include its source, the cause of the animal’s death, and how it was processed.
Arabic is the language of Qur`an, a scripture revealed to the Prophet of Islam Prophet Mohammed (محمد بن عبد الله بن عبد المطلب) by the Almighty deity Allah (الله) to be followed in its entirety by Muslims.
Some Qur’anic References about Haram
The unlawful foods are specifically mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an, in the following verses:
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
۞ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ ۖ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked any other name besides Allah’s.” Al-Baqara 2:173
حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ وَأَن تَسْتَقْسِمُوا بِالْأَزْلَامِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ ۗ الْيَوْمَ يَئِسَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن دِينِكُمْ فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِ ۚ الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا ۚ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ فِي مَخْمَصَةٍ غَيْرَ مُتَجَانِفٍ لِّإِثْمٍ ۙ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“Forbidden unto you (for food) are: carrion and blood and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked the name other than Allah, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been gored to death, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by slaughter) and that which hath been immolated to idols and that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination.” Al-Maeda 5:3
Some Qur’anic References about Halal
Muslims are commanded by Allah in the Qur`an to eat only pure, wholesome and permissible food that is fit for human consumption. The Qur`an says:
۞ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الأَرْضِ حَلالاً طَيِّبًا وَلاَ تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُبِين
”O, ye men! Eat of what is in the earth lawful and wholesome and follow not the footsteps of Satan; for verily he is an open enemy to you.” Al-Baqara 2:168
۞ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِنْ كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
“O, ye who believe! Eat of good things. We have provided with and render thanks to Allah. If Him it is ye worship.” Al-Baqara 2:172
۞ وَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمْ اللَّهُ حَلالاً طَيِّبًا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي أَنْتُمْ بِهِ مُؤْمِنُونَ
“And eat of what Allah hath given you (for food) that which is lawful and wholesome, and fear Allah in whom ye believe.” Al-Maida 5:88
Even the food which could come to hand from captives of war, according to Qur`an has to be:
۞ فَكُلُوا مِمَّا غَنِمْتُمْ حَلالاً طَيِّبًا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
“Eat then of what ye acquired in war, of things (which be) lawful and good and fear Allah, verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, the Most merciful.” Al-Anfal 8:69
۞ قُلْ لاَ أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَى طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ فَمَنْ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلاَ عَادٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
Say, “I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure – or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah . But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], then indeed, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.” Al-Anam 6:145
On the authority of Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) who said, The Messenger of Allah ( (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) said,
“Allah, the Almighty is pure and accepts only that which is pure. Allah has commanded the faithful to do that which he commanded the messengers, and the Almighty has said, ‘O Messengers! Eat of the pure things, and do righteous actions’. And Allah the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the pure things wherewith we have provided you.”
Then he mentioned (the case of) a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty and who spreads out his hands to the sky (saying): O’ Lord! — While his food is unlawful, his drink unlawful, and he is nourished unlawfully, so how can his supplication be answered!” (Muslim)
For meat to be halal, the animals need to be cared for with compassion and consideration too. Muslims are actually commanded to eat food that is not just halal but Tayyib meaning pure and wholesome. Halal food is not a cuisine or a style of cooking in its own right. Therefore any cuisine or style (e.g. Italian, French, modern British, BBQ, etc.) can become halal provided it is cooked using halal ingredients and prepared in a halal manner.
Halal drinks cannot contain alcohol. Although a large variety of soft drinks and fruit juices are available, innovative drinks (especially premium quality) are sought after by Muslim consumers.
Consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants is prohibited according to the following guidance:
۞ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and games of chance, and idols and divining arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed.” Al-Maeda 5:9
۞ يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ ۖ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا ۗ وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say: in both these there is great sin and also (some) profit for men; but their sin is greater than their profit..” Al-Baqara 2:219
Between Halal and Haram is Mashbooh
Many consumers of halal foods believe that if prepared in the correct way, halal and tayyib (lawful and pure) foods can lead to health and well-being benefits too.
Most food and drinks are considered Halal unless they are stated clearly in the Qur’an (Holy book of Islam) and Hadith (Prophetic sayings) as forbidden or non-Halal. Whilst Halal and Haraam are clear, in between sometimes we find things that are unclear/doubtful/questionable, the Arabic word to describe this is ‘Mashbooh’ (مشبوه). Any food or drink for which one cannot be sure if it’s Halal or Haram due to insufficient information, unreliable evidence etc. is categorised as Mashbooh. One example of a Mashbooh product is Whey powder. Rennet is used in the manufacture of Whey Powder. Rennet can be derived from animal rennet as well as non-animal rennet. If rennet is produced from pigs or animals that are not slaughtered in strict accordance with the Islamic Shariah laws then such a product and any products \it will be classed as Haram. If the source of the rennet is not known then it will be classified as Mashbooh. According to the following Hadith, Muslims must not consume anything which is Mashbooh.
“Halal (Lawful) is clear and Haram (unlawful) is clear; in between the two are doubtful things, which people may not know whether they are Halal or Haram. One who avoids them in order to safeguard his religion and his honour is safe. Anyone who gets involved in these doubtful things may fall into the Haram (unlawful). This is similar to one who grazes his animals near a Hima*; it is quite likely that his animals will stray into it. Indeed , every King has a Hima and Hima for Allah is what He has prohibited” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
*Hima – the grounds reserved for animals belonging to the King which are prohibited for other animals
What is Tayyib?
The word ‘Tayyib’ or ‘Tayyaban’, translated as ‘good’, ‘pure’, ‘wholesome’, etc. means pure both in the physical and the moral sense and is strongly linked to halal food but appears to be over looked or not understood otherwise we should be seeing halal foodstuff at very high standards; nutritious, healthy, organic. Not containing ingredients likely to cause adverse health impacts when consumed in moderation. It is compulsory for Muslims to consume Halal and tayyaban consumables. Here the word Halal, will be used for all things consumable, used/applied.
What about Meat and Poultry
The food must come from a supplier that uses halal practices. Specifically, for meat and poultry, the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim, who must precede the slaughter by invoking the name of Allah, most commonly by saying “Bismillah” (“In the name of Allah”) and then three times Allah Hu Akbar. Then, the animal must be slaughtered with a sharp knife by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck (while the animal is conscious), causing the animal’s death without cutting the spinal cord. Lastly, the blood from the veins must be drained. This final step is performed because blood can harbor harmful bacteria, and also to ensure that there are no blood clots, thus keeping the entire body safe and clean to be eaten.
When an animal is slaughtered, the jugular vein is cut and the blood is allowed to drain from the animal. Remember, Muslims are prohibited from consuming animal blood.
Meat is the most strictly regulated of the food groups. Not only are blood, pork, and the meat of dead animals or those immolated to other than Allah strongly prohibited, it is also required that the Halal animals be slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Allah at the time of slaughter.
۞ فَكُلُوا مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كُنتُم بِآيَاتِهِ مُؤْمِنِينَ
“Eat of that over which the name of Allah hath been mentioned, if ye are believers in his revelations.” Al-Anaam 6:118
۞ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِسْقٌ ۗ وَإِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ لَيُوحُونَ إِلَىٰ أَوْلِيَائِهِمْ لِيُجَادِلُوكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ أَطَعْتُمُوهُمْ إِنَّكُمْ لَمُشْرِكُونَ
“And eat not of that whereon Allah’s name hath not been mentioned, for lo! It is abomination. Lo! The devils do inspire their friends to contend with you. But if ye obey them, ye will be in truth idolaters.” Al-Anam 6:121
Halal is One of the Most Humane Methods of Animal Slaughter. Muslims are taught through the Qu’ran that all animals should be treated with respect and well cared for. The goal is to slaughter the animal, limiting the amount of pain the animal will endure. It is forbidden to beat animals unnecessarily, to brand them on the face, or to allow them to fight each other for human entertainment. “They must not be mutilated while they are alive”.
۞ وَمَا مِن دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا طَائِرٍ يَطِيرُ بِجَنَاحَيْهِ إِلَّا أُمَمٌ أَمْثَالُكُم ۚ مَّا فَرَّطْنَا فِي الْكِتَابِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يُحْشَرُونَ
“There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are peoples like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book (of Our decrees). Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” Al-Anam 6:38
وَٱلۡأَرۡضَ وَضَعَهَا لِلۡأَنَامِ
“And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures”. Ar-Rahman 55:10
Muhammad is also reported to have said (Narrated by Ibn Omar and Abdallah bin Al-As):
“There is no man who kills (even) a sparrow or anything smaller, without its deserving it, but God will question him about it (on the judgment day),” and “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.”
The above verses remind us that animals are living creatures with feelings and connections to the larger spiritual and physical world. We must consider their lives as worthwhile and cherished.
Processed Foods, Cosmetics and Pharmaceuticals
Muslims must also ensure that all foods (particularly processed foods), as well as non-food items like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, are halal. Frequently, these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslims to eat or use on their bodies.
Halal foods are foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines. According to these guidelines gathered from the Qu’ran, Muslim followers cannot consume the following:
A variety of substances are considered as haraam (harmful) for humans to consume and, therefore, forbidden as per various Qur’anic verses:
- Pork [Quran 2:173]
- Blood [Quran 2:173]
- Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone other than “Allah”. All that has been dedicated or offered in sacrifice to an idolatrous altar or saint or a person considered to be “divine”[Quran 2:173] [Quran 5:3]
- Carrion (carcasses of dead animals) [Quran 2:173]
- An animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), savaged by a beast of prey (unless finished off by a human) [Quran 5:3]
- Food over which Allah’s name is not pronounced [Quran 6:121]
- Alcohol[Quran 5:90]
- These verses also have information regarding halal foods: [Quran 2:173, 5:5, and 6:118-119, 121].
Exception if there is no halal available
If there is absolutely no other food available and one is forced because there is no other choice, then a Muslim is permitted to eat non-halal food. Surah 2:173 states:
۞ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيۡڪُمُ ٱلۡمَيۡتَةَ وَٱلدَّمَ وَلَحۡمَ ٱلۡخِنزِيرِ وَمَآ أُهِلَّ بِهِۦ لِغَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِۖ فَمَنِ ٱضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٍ۬ وَلَا عَادٍ۬ فَلَآ إِثۡمَ عَلَيۡهِۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ
He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swineflesh, and that which hath been immolated to (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Al-Baqara 2:173
Attempts have been made to explain or justify some of the prohibitions based on scientific reasoning as follows:
- Carrion and dead animals are unfit for human consumption because the decaying process leads to the formation of chemicals which are harmful to humans
- Blood that is drained from the body contains harmful bacteria, products of metabolism, and toxins
- Swine serves as a vector for pathogenic worms to enter the human body. Infections by Trchinella spiralis and taenia solium are not uncommon. Fatty acids, composition of pork fat have been mentioned as incompatible with human fat and biochemical systems
- Intoxicants are considered harmful for the nervous system, affecting the census and human judgement leading to social and family problems and in many cases even death.
Although these explanations are sound, the underlying principle behind the prohibitions remains the above mentioned Divine orders.
Accordingly, Muslims are permitted all foods, pure and clean for consumption. Islamic Jurisprudence has derived certain principles from the Ahadeeth to determine whether a particular animal or bird is lawful or unlawful.
And Allah (SWT) knows Best!