“Haram” is derived from the Arabic word “Hurum” which means “impermissible”. Thus “haram” means that the thing under discussion is Islamically impermissible. (For example, pork is haram for consumption.)
Conversely, “halal”, being the opposite of haram, means “permissible”.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُواْ مِمَّا فِي الأَرْضِ حَلاَلاً طَيِّباً وَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ
إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
O you mankind! Eat of what is on earth, Lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of the devil, for he is to you an avowed enemy.
The Halal and Haram of Food for Muslims
إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللّهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلاَ عَادٍ فَلا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيم
He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that (any food, meat or not) which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, or transgressing due limits; then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful. (Qur’an 2:173)
Forbidden are ONLY:
- Dead meat/animals.
- Flesh/meat of the pig. From 2:259, 16:14, 22:37 we understand that لَحْمَ refers to the flesh of the animal, not the bones or blood. As bones are not edible and as blood is to be avoided, this means that we should not eat anything from the pig.
- (Running/flowing) Blood.
- Any food that is dedicated to any other than Allah (before, during or after slaughter if it is an animal).
- Note that this is not the same as saying that any food which is not dedicated to Allah is forbidden. There are three possibilities in this situation: –
- The food is dedicated to Allah (by mentioning His name on it). This is the best/recommended way.
- The food is not dedicated to anything.
iii. The food is dedicated to other than Allah. This is totally forbidden.
- Had Allah stated “and any food which is not dedicated to Allah”, then it would imply that if the name of Allah is not taken in dedication (for example at slaughter for animals), then it would be haram.
- We must again note here that it is ANY food and not just meat that is referred to here, Allah is not short of words. What is being talked of here is the act of dedication of any food to anyone other than Allah.
That is it, these are the 4 categories, and there are no other categories. Hence anything else that appears in the Qur’an is a subcategory to these.
حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالْدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلاَّ مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ وَأَن تَسْتَقْسِمُواْ بِالأَزْلاَمِ ذَلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ الْيَوْمَ يَئِسَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِن دِينِكُمْ فَلاَ تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِ الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ فِي مَخْمَصَةٍ غَيْرَ مُتَجَانِفٍ لِّإِثْمٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Forbidden for you are carrion, blood and pork, and what has been dedicated to other than Allah, and animals which have been strangled, and animals which have been killed by a blow, and animals which have fallen to their death, and animals which have been gored, and animals which wild beasts have eaten–except those you are able to slaughter properly–and animals which have been sacrificed on altars, and deciding things by means of divining arrows–that is deviance. Today those who disbelieve have despaired of overcoming your religion. So do not be afraid of them but be afraid of Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you and completed My blessing upon you and I am pleased with Islam as a religion for you. But if anyone is forced by hunger, not intending any wrongdoing, Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur’an 5:3)
Forbidden are animals that:
- Are strangled to death.
- Are Beaten/Struck until they are dead, refers generally (though not limited to) to a powerful strike to the head.
- Have fallen (or are thrown) from a height (to their death).
- Are gored (to death).
- Eaten (partially) by other animals, except if they can be properly slaughtered before dying.
1-4 are under the category of carrion (dead animal(s)) and its different forms. So this verse expands upon the term (الْمَيْتَةُ) by adding information on how the animal may have died. However, if dead animals are generically forbidden, then what is the purpose behind mentioning the specific categories above? Simple, none of these mentioned methods or their equivalents can be used in any part of its slaughter. Beating/striking, strangling, throwing from a height or goring an animal to death makes it forbidden to eat.
يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَمَا عَلَّمْتُم مِّنَ الْجَوَارِحِ مُكَلِّبِينَ تُعَلِّمُونَهُنَّ مِمَّا عَلَّمَكُمُ اللّهُ فَكُلُواْ مِمَّا أَمْسَكْنَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَاذْكُرُواْ اسْمَ اللّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَاب
They ask you what is lawful to them (as food). Say: lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what ye have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allah. Eat what they catch for you, and mention the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah. For Allah is swift in taking account. (Qur’an 5:4)
Lawful for us to eat are:
- All good things.
- What our trained animals have caught for us, over which we mention the name of Allah.
o This may be the only situation where eating something dead is allowed, as it is dead due to your method of catching it. When hunting we cannot guarantee that we can get our prey and that it will be alive.
فَكُلُواْ مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كُنتُمْ بِآيَاتِهِ مُؤْمِنِينَ, وَمَا لَكُمْ أَلاَّ تَأْكُلُواْ مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَقَدْ فَصَّلَ لَكُم مَّا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِلاَّ مَا اضْطُرِرْتُمْ إِلَيْهِ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا لَّيُضِلُّونَ بِأَهْوَائِهِم بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُعْتَدِينَ
So eat of that (any food, meat or not) on which Allah’s name has been mentioned, if ye have faith in His signs. What is the matter with you that you do not eat that over which the name of Allah has been mentioned?, and He has made clear to you what He has made forbidden for you except when you are forced to eat it. Many people lead others astray through their whims and desires without having any knowledge. Your Lord knows best those who overstep the limits. (Qur’an 6:118-119)
وَلاَ تَأْكُلُواْ مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِسْقٌ وَإِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ لَيُوحُونَ إِلَى أَوْلِيَآئِهِمْ لِيُجَادِلُوكُمْ وَإِنْ أَطَعْتُمُوهُمْ إِنَّكُمْ لَمُشْرِكُونَ
And do not eat from that which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for it is a transgression/sin. The Satans will reveal to their guided ones to argue with you. If you obey them, you shall indeed become idolaters. (Qur’an 6:121)
- a) We must mention the name of Allah over any food we eat before eating, or know that this act has been done at some point. Otherwise we transgress.
- b) The general understanding (among Muslims) from Qur’an 6:118-119 and 121 is that this is referring specifically to meat/animal. This is not the case though, as Allah has not indicated this in these verses.
- c) The term (ذُكِرَ) is used in 22:36 in reference to mentioning Allah at the slaughter of the camels at Hajj. This would indicate best practice for slaughter includes mentioning the name of Allah on the animal before slaughter. This would fit in without contradiction with the 4th category at the start of this section.
- d) As all food must have Allah’s name mentioned on it we can only be sure of this if we do it ourselves at the time of eating, regardless of c). This is the only way we can guarantee avoiding transgression.
As a result of the fact of the 4 categories mentioned at the start of this section, we cannot add this as a requirement for what makes food Halal. Rather we learn from this the command of Allah on what to say and recall upon the mercy and gift that is food.
قُل لاَّ أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوْحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَى طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلاَّ أَن يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَّسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللّهِ بِهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلاَ عَادٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Say: ‘I do not find, in what has been revealed to me, any food that is forbidden to eat except for carrion, flowing blood or blood poured forth, and pork–for that is unclean–or some deviance consecrated to other than Allah. But if anyone is forced to eat it, without desiring to or going to excess in it, your Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (Qur’an 6:145)
Forbidden for us to eat is:
- Flowing blood.
- This clarified all the other verses, as it is obvious that we can never get meat without blood, however we can aim to remove as much as we can of flowing blood, that is, the blood that can be shed or poured forth at slaughter.
وَالْبُدْنَ جَعَلْنَاهَا لَكُم مِّن شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ لَكُمْ فِيهَا خَيْرٌ فَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا صَوَافَّ فَإِذَا وَجَبَتْ جُنُوبُهَا فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا وَأَطْعِمُوا الْقَانِعَ وَالْمُعْتَرَّ كَذَلِكَ سَخَّرْنَاهَا لَكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the symbols from Allah. in them is (much) good for you: then mention the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice): when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat ye thereof, and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility: thus have We made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful. (Qur’an 22:36)
As part of the rites of Hajj, when animals (e.g., Camels) are to be slaughtered, we must mention the name of Allah over them before slaughter. It is our intention in this act that reaches Allah, not the meat. This is the best and recommended method for slaughtering the animals. To be noted that this is the only place where mentioning the name of Allah at slaughter is mentioned, it is within the context of Hajj sacrifice.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالأَنصَابُ وَالأَزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
O believers, wine and gambling, idols and divining arrows are abominations from the work of Satan. Avoid them, in order that you prosper. (Qur’an 5:90)
- Alcohol and any intoxicant are forbidden.
So to summarise, the following foods are forbidden to Muslims:
- Blood, specifically flowing blood. This is because it is impossible to avoid blood in animals; however with draining much of the flowing blood can be removed.
- Pork meat, pork fat not mentioned.
- Any food dedicated to other than Allah.
- Any food over which you have not mentioned the name of Allah.
- Animals which are dead before you slaughter them (carrion). Under this category are animals that: –
- Have fallen to their death.
- Have been strangled to death.
- Have been killed by a blow.
- Have been gored to death.
- Anything which is bad.
- Animals that have been (partly) eaten by wild beasts and can be properly slaughtered are halal, otherwise they are haram.
- Animals that are caught by your trained animal(s), these may be dead by the time you get them.
There is nothing else, and anyone who wishes to say that there is should read section ‘A Warning’.
The following foods are allowed:
- All that is good and pure for us and which we gratefully mention the name of Allah over.
The proper method of slaughter in the Qur’an, based upon all available verses is:
- a) Have a live animal.
- b) Except if caught by your hunting animal and pronounce the name of Allah on it.
- c) Pronounce the name of Allah over the animals, whether one or many. (Qur’an 22:36)
- d) This is a recommended practice that we learn from its usage in the rites of Hajj. However This may not be a requirement given previous discussion and c)..
- e) Slaughter the animal (and bleed it, which is implied by the commandment to avoid flowing blood) with consideration to points 4(b,c,d).
- f) Be grateful.
The proper method of eating is: –
- Mention the name of Allah (Qur’an 5:4, 6:118-119,121) in gratefulness (Qur’an 16:114).
- Eat whatever is lawful.
And Allah knows best.