What is Halal? An Overview
WHAT IS HALAL?
This article provides an overview of ‘Halal’ i.e. permissible or lawful in Islam, and ‘Haram’ i.e. impermissible or unlawful in Islam:
Halal and Haram
HALAL: This is an Arabic term which means permissible or lawful in Islam. In reference to food, it is the Islamic dietary standard, as prescribed in the Shari’ah (Islamic Law).
HARAM: This is another Arabic term which means impermissible or unlawful in Islam.
Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wasallam said: “Halal is clear and the Haram (unlawful) is clear. Between the two there are doubtful matters concerning which people do not know. One who avoids them in order to safeguard his deen (religion) and his honour are safe, while if some one indulges in it, he may be indulging in the unlawful……” (Bukhari)
General Qur’anic guidance dictates that all foods are Halal except those that are specifically mentioned as Haram (unlawful or prohibited). The Glorious Qur’an reads:
“O ye who believes! Eat of the good things wherewith we have provided you, and render thanks to Allah, if it is He whom ye worship. (chapter II, Verse 172)”
The unlawful foods are specifically mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an, in the following verses:
“He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked any other name besides Allah’s……..” (Chapter II, Verse 173)
“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….” (Chapter V, Verse 3)
Consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants is prohibited according to the following guidance:
“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.” (Chapter V, Verse 9)
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.
“Eat of that over which the name of Allah hath been mentioned, if ye are believers in his revelations” (Chapter VI, Verse 118)
“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”. (Chapter VI, Verse 121)
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 permit 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.
The following animals are fit for Muslim consumption:
- All domestic birds
- All cattle
- All types of buck
The aforementioned animals excluding fish and locusts will only be considered Halal when they are slaughtered according to the following guidelines:
- The slaughter man must be a Muslim
- Prior to slaughter, the slaughter man must invoke the name of Allah upon the animal to be slaughtered by reciting “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar” or at the very least recite “Bismillah”
- He must immediately slaughter the animal after the recital without any significant delay
- His knife must be extremely sharp in order that the slaughter may be conducted efficiently and easily and the animal suffers minimal agony
- He must sever the following arteries:
Trachea (windpipe), Oesophagus (gullet), both Jugular Veins
If it is not possible for the slaughter man to cut all four arteries due to whatever reason then he must sever at least three in order to render the meat Halal.
- He must conduct the slaughter manually (i.e. by hand) and swiftly. The knife must not be lifted before the cut is complete and the cut must be below the Adam’s apple
The consumption of the following animals is against the dietary laws of Islam. Likewise any ingredient or product derived from them or contaminated with them is also prohibited for a Muslim to consume:
- Meat of swine (pig) including all it’s by products
- Meat of an animal that was not blessed with the name of Allah at the time of slaughter
- Meat of dead animals (carrion)
- Meat of animals that were strangled to death
- Meat of animals that were beaten to death
- Meat of animals that died due to falling from a height
- Meat of animals that were gored to death by a horn
- Meat of animals that were devoured by wild beasts
- Animals killed in a manner which prevents their blood from being fully drained from their bodies;
- Carnivorous animals with fangs, e.g. lions, dogs, wolves, tigers, etc…
- Birds of prey e.g. falcons, eagles, owls, vultures, etc
- Reptiles, snakes, crocodiles
- Mules and Asses
- Pests’ e.g. rats and scorpions
- Insects excluding locusts
Unlawful Organs of Animals Slaughtered as Halal
- Flowing Blood
- Male reproductory organ
- Female reproductory organ
- Gall bladder
- All types of alcohol
- Intoxicating of all types, including alcohol and drugs