Food Regulations

(Halal & Haram)

Rules and regulations regarding permitted or lawful (Halal) food and forbidden or unlawful (Haram) food have been laid down by Allah in Qur’an’s verses: 2(168), 2(172-173), 5(1), 5(3-5), 5(16), 5(87-88), 5(90-91), 6(118-119), 6(121), 6(145), 16(114-116), 22(28), 22(30), 22(34). Only Allah has the right and the authority to declare an eatable thing as Halal (lawful) or Haram (unlawful). No human being has any authority to do so. However, a Prophet can do so if authorized by Allah through inspiration or revelation. So Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has not only expounded the law of Halal and Haram but has also declared certain animals Halal or Haram in his Traditions. Let us have a glance at some verses of the Qur’an and some Traditions of Muhammad (PBUH) before we present the regulations regarding the permitted and the forbidden food items for a Muslim.

Verses of the Qur’an

1)     Verse 2(168) lays down the basic rule regarding Halam or permitted food. It says: O mankind! “Eat of that which is lawful and clean in the earth.” So all lawful, clean and wholesome food has been permitted for consumption. This rule has been repeated or clarified in many other verses like 2(172), 5(4), 5(87-88), 16(114).               

2)     Verse 2(173) lays down the basic rule regarding Haram (forbidden, unlawful) food. It says: “He (Allah) has forbidden you to eat dead meat (carrion), blood (that is flowing), swine-flesh (pork) and that which has been slaughtered (or immolated) to (the name of) any other than Allah; but whoso is forced (to take such things) by absolute necessity, without will-full disobedience and without transgressing due limits, then there is no sin for him. Certainly, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” This rule has been repeated in these words or in a little different words in verses 5(3), 6(145), 16(115).

3)     Verse 5(1) permits taking of all four-legged animals as lawful food except those animals which have been specifically prohibited. But it prohibits hunting during Hajj when you are in pilgrim’s dress. However, hunting on sea (like fish) is allowed in pilgrims’ dress (5:96).

4)     Verse 5(3) forbids, besides repeating the four things declared Haram by verse 2(173), the following animals: (a) those which have been strangled to death, (b) those killed by a violent blow, (c) those which died through falling from height, and (d) those killed by the goring of horns, and (e) those which have been partly eaten by wild animals save that which you make lawful by slaughtering it (before its death), and (f) those which are sacrificed on alters.

5)     Food of the People of Scripture (the Christians and the Jews) is lawful (Halal). It is allowed by verse 5(5) to the Muslims.

6)     Strong drinks (drinking of wine) and other intoxicants (which come under Khamr) have been prohibited (verses 5:90-91)

7)     Verse 6(121) forbids taking of that on which Allah’s name has not been mentioned and declares it a great sin, an abomination.

8)     Verses 22(28, 30, 34) tell how to sacrifice animals in the name of Allah during Hajj and declare their meat as Halal (lawful).

Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

1)     Jaber reported that the Messenger of Allah made unlawful (that is) on the day of Khaiber the domestic asses, meat of mules, every beast of prey having a fang and every bird having a talon.   (Tirmizi (Rare))

2)     Khalid-bin-Walid reported that the Messenger of Allah prohibited the eating of the meat of horses, mules and asses.   (Abu Daud, Nisai)

3)     Abu Waqad Laisi reported that the Prophet came to Madinah and they had liking for humps of camels and for cuttings of the tails of sheep. He said: What is taken off from animals while they are alive is a dead thing. It shall not be eaten.   (Tirmizi, Abu Daud)

4)     Ibn Omar reported that the messenger of Allah said: Two dead things and two bloods have been made lawful for us: The dead things are fishes and locusts, and the blood are liver and spleen.   (Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Darqutni)

5)     Abu Zubair reported from Jaber who said that the messenger of Allah said: Eat what the sea throws up (fish) and is left by the tide, and don’t eat what dies therein and floats.   (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

6)     Jaber reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There is no animal in sea which Allah has not but made pure for the children of Adam.   (Darqutni)

7)     Ibn Omar reported that the Messenger of Allah prohibited the eating of filthy animals and their milk.   (Tirmizi)

8)     Abdur Rahman-bin-Shibl reported that the Prophet prohibited the eating of the meat of lizards.   (Abu Daud)

9)     Jaber reported that the Prophet prohibited the eating of cats and taking its price.   (Abu Daud, Tirmizi)

10)  Abu Musa reported: I saw the Messenger of Allah eating fowls.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

11)  Ibn Aufa reported: We fought along with the Messenger of Allah on seven expeditions and ate locusts with him.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

12)  Safinah reported: I ate with the Messenger of Allah the meat of a bustard (bird).   (Abu Daud)

Rules and regulations

            All pure, clean, wholesome food is lawful (Halal) for a Muslim including sea-food and meat of animals slaughtered in the name of Allah and also food of the People of the Scripture except those which have been specifically prohibited. Clean and wholesome things are those which are generally eaten by the people and which are conducive for health.

            Following items of food have been forbidden by the Qur’an and the Sunnah:

1.      Meat of all those animals and birds which die of themselves without being slaughtered in the name of Allah. These include animals strangled to death, or beaten to death or killed by a fall or attacked by horns and killed, or torn to death by beasts.

2.      Blood (flowing)

3.      Swine-flesh. (Pork, Lord)

4.      Food on which Allah’s name is not taken or meat of even lawful animal which is not slaughtered in the name of Allah, or which is slaughtered in the name of other than Allah.

5.      Everything which is offered to idols.

6.      All beasts and birds of prey i.e. all quadrupeds that seize prey with teeth such as lions, tigers, leopards, jackals, etc, and all birds such as hawks, kites, crows, raven, etc. which attack with claws.

7.      All unclean things repugnant to health and morality. These include dogs, cats, mules, horses, asses, lizards.

8.      Wine and all other intoxicants.

9.      Hunting on land during pilgrimage when in Pilgrim’s dress.

            Principle of necessity, however, makes temporarily an unlawful thing lawful. However this principle can be applied only where there is real necessity and not merely an excuse. For example if someone is dying of hunger and he has nothing to save his life except a dead animal or swine-flesh to eat, then he can take it. Similarly a sick person can take alcohol or wine provided a doctor certifies that he would die if he is not instantly given that. According to the Qur’an, following two conditions should be kept in view while making use of a haram thing:

(a)   That it should not be taken with a view to rebel against Allah or to break the law of Allah, and

(b)   That it should be taken only in a minimum possible quantity just with a view to save life.

Criticism answered

The Qur’an has declared swine flesh as Haram (unlawful), has prescribed a special way of killing (slaughtering) the animals for food, and has permitted the believers to eat the food of the People of the Scripture (the Jews and the Christians). Since these things irritate the minds of many people, an explanation is necessary.

1.      Swine-flesh (pork) has been declared with so much emphasis as Haram that the Qur’an has enjoined its followers at least four times not to eat it. It is also haram for the Jews and the Christians as the Bible has declared it so. Although no reason for declaring it haram’ has been assigned by the Qur’an, but declaring it haram’ has been justified by the doctors and the modern scientists. According to them, it increases fat and cholesterol in the body of the person who eats it and it causes at least seventy diseases as mentioned by Dr. Zakir Naik in his book. More-over it is a dirty animal which eats filth and stool. It is also an indecent animal which indulges in group sex. And if there is any truth in the principle that what you eat, it effects your morals, then it may cause lewdness and immorality in its eater.

2.      The method of slaughtering an animal in the name of Allah prescribed by Islam is that the main artery at the throat of the animal is cut with a knife and the animal is left to die. This method is considered very cruel by the critics of Islam. According to them, it causes much pain and the animal gives up life with intense pangs of pain.

However, modern medical science has belied this allegation. The Prophet (PBUH) has enjoined his followers to use very sharp knife. When the main artery is cut with a sharp knife, the flow of blood to the brain instantly ceases which stops the working of the nerves which cause the feeling of pain. On the other hand, this method of slaughtering brings many benefits. The blood flows out of the body and it does not freeze or absorb in the meat as it is likely to be in the case when the animal is killed by a violent blow. According to the doctors, the blood which remains in the meat contains poisonous germs and bacteria which cause many diseases. So by the use of Islamic method of slaughtering animals one is safe from many diseases which are likely to be caused by remaining the blood in the meat. Moreover, the shelf-life of the meat also increases as the meat which is free of harmful blood remains fresh and usable for a longer period.    

3.      The Qur’an has declared the food of the Jews and the Christians as ‘halal’ for the followers of Islam and it has attached no conditions or stipulations with this permission. However, the Muslim jurists say that their food is ‘halal’ for Muslims only when it does not contain any haram thing like pork and wine and when the animal is slaughtered in the name of Allah in the way prescribed by their religion for them.

4.      Another objection which is raised against Islam, especially by the non-eaters of meat like Hindus and Jains is that eating of meat makes the Muslims violent and militant. This objection is obviously absurd that the eating of meat changes the temperament of a people. Moreover the Muslims eat gentle animals like cow and sheep which are fed upon land produce such as fodder, vegetables and plants. They are not permitted to eat those animals which eat meat. Therefore, there is no likelihood of the Muslims becoming violent due to eating of meat.


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