Halal food is a core component of Islamic dietary practices. It is a set of rules that state what is permissible for Muslims to consume. The term halal is derived from Arabic and means permissible and lawful. In the Quran, this word is contrasted with haram, which means impermissible and unlawful. The concepts of halal and haram are not only used in food but encompass everything in the life of a Muslim.
In Islam, any kind of food is halal except for those food items explicitly forbidden in the Quran. The word halal doesn’t only pertain to foods but also drinks. In the Quran, Allah SWT says to eat from the good and permissible things that he has provided for you.. [Quran 16:114]
For foods to be halal, certain criteria must be met, such as:
- If it is meat, the animal from which it came must be halal according to Islamic laws.
- The animal must be slaughtered according to the rules of dhabihah
- The food items must not be prepared or processed with anything haram.
- The food items must not be stored or transported by any facility containing haram products.
- According to Islamic law, the food items must be properly cleaned and not contain any najis (unclean) material.
- The equipment with which it was processed should be cleaned according to Islamic laws.
- It must be completely safe for humans to consume. That means any food or drink that is non-poisonous, non-hazardous, and non-intoxicating to the human body is permissible.
- It has not been in direct contact with any kind of food or drink during manufacturing or processing, which is considered unlawful according to Islam.
- The animal from which they came must be on a halal diet for dairy products. [Mishkat al-Masabih 4126]
Dhabihah is the term given to the rules under which an animal must be slaughtered. Only then does the animal become permissible, and Muslims can eat it. There are certain criteria in this set of rules for the animal and the butcher.
- Gelatin (only if it is derived from an animal whose meat is halal. As for artificial and vegan gelatin, it is halal).
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dried fruits
- Grains and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Deserts and baked goods
- Alcohol [Quran 5:90]
- Pork [Quran 16:115]
- Blood [Quran 16:115]
- Donkey meat [Sahih al-Bukhari 4219]
- Dead animals which were not slaughtered according to Islamic laws
- Land animals with no blood, for example, hornets, beetles, and scorpions. The only exception to this rule is a locust.
- Lizards [Sunan Abi Dawud 3796]
- All types of pests.
- Terrestrial predatory animals and beasts, i.e., any animals that hunt with their teeth and have fangs, are also haram. For example, lions, cheetahs, dogs, cats, wolves, etc. [Sunan an-Nasa’i 4324]
- All kinds of birds that hunt with their claws. Such as eagles, falcons, bats, etc. [Mishkat al-Masabih 4089]
- Any part of an animal that is cut off while the animal is still alive is dead meat.
The term mushbooh is derived from Arabic and means suspicious or doubtful. If an edible item’s halal or haram status is not determined, it is called mushbooh.
And as our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, we should stay away from things that are doubtful and go for things in which there is no doubt involved.
Mushbooh is used for food and other consumables, such as smoking and certain drugs. Keeping the words of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in mind, we should avoid these things altogether.
The term halal doesn’t only extend to whether or not a Muslim can consume an animal’s meat. But it is also applicable to the various body parts of an animal that are lawful and permissible for Muslims to eat and benefit from.
Let’s look at the body parts of animals deemed permissible for Muslims to consume:
- Liver [Sunan Ibn Majah 3314]
- Spleen [Sunan Ibn Majah 3314]
- Spinal Cord
Just like halal body parts, there are also haram body parts of an animal that are not permissible to Muslims; these include:
- Vagus nerves
- Gall bladder
- Blood [Quran 16:115]
While the core principles of dietary Islamic laws apply to seafood as to other foods, certain rules differentiate halal seafood from other kinds of halal foods. Moreover, seafood, termed permissible, greatly depends on the Fiqh being followed in Islam.
Let’s discuss what imams of each fiqh deem permissible to eat from the wide variety of seafood.
- Fiqa Shafi’i: According to the Shafi’i scholars, every sea animal is halal, whether in the form of fish or not.
- Fiqa Maliki: The scholars of Fiqa Maliki say that every sea animal is halal except an eel.
- Fiqa Hanafi: The Hanafi scholars state that the only sea animals permissible to Muslims are those in the form of fish. Every other sea animal is not acceptable to be consumed by Muslims who follow Fiqa Hanafi.
- Fiqa Hanbaliy: The scholars of Fiqa Hanabaliy also share the same views as Fiqa Shafi’i and state that any kind of sea animal is permissible, whether in the form of a fish or not.
Although Imams have different views regarding seafood animals, every scholar considers some marine creatures haram. Below is a list of such animals:
- Crocodiles: Since crocodiles are predatory animals that hunt with their teeth and have fangs, they are considered haram according to Islamic laws.
- Alligators: Although there is a difference between the appearance of a crocodile and a gator since it has fangs, it is also considered haram.
- Frogs: Frogs are haram because our Holy Prophet (PBUH) forbade us to kill them.
A basic Fiqhi principle is also indicated by Shari’ah: Everything that is forbidden will become permissible in the case of necessity.
For example, in our case, if a person is so hungry that if he does not eat the haram meat, he will die of hunger, it is permissible for him to eat the meat.
Although haram becomes halal out of necessity, there are two conditions set forth:
- This condition tells us that if someone is involved in a situation where they don’t have the option to choose between haram and halal, and they find an alternative, then they are not allowed to do the haram thing. In our case, if a person is so hungry that he doesn’t have another option but to eat dead meat (or else he fears he might die of starvation) and then finds some permissible food, he is not allowed to eat the dead meat anymore even if he is really hungry.
- The other condition is that the person should only choose the haram option if there is complete certainty that it will solve the problem. If there is even a shadow of doubt that the haram option might not be able to solve the problem, then it should be avoided. For example, if a man was sick and another person told him that by taking alcohol, he would be cured. In this case, alcohol is still haram. Firstly, there is no certainty that the man can be cured. Secondly, the man may get better without any medication by simply putting his trust in Allah SWT.
In the end, we should always keep the things discussed above in mind when eating or drinking to lead a life in accordance with the Islamic dietary laws and gain Allah SWT’s pleasure.