Muslim Food Guidelines
In this humble work, I would like to explain briefly what are the Muslim dietary regulations in order to clear some confusion and some doubtful matters for the Muslims. It is also intended to help the non-Muslims, who deal with us how to better assist us whether at the hospitals, restaurants, hotels, airflights, or any other place where food is served or sold to us.
The religion of Islam is a complete religion, which deals with all aspects of life and sets ways, manners, and etiquette for each one of them. Islam teaches us the best way to live this life of ours by showing us how to dress, how to conduct oneself, how to behave with the others, how and what to eat and drink, and how to worship Allah the best way knowing that worship includes all our actions in this life. Therefore, God sent His Law called Shari’ah, which means a clear path or way to be followed by those who believe in Him as well as in His Messenger (S).
The main purpose of this Divine Law is to protect us from any physical or mental harm and to take it away if it exists and to bring to us all kinds of benefit or preserves it if it exists. The Mosaic Law was sent by Allah, the same God the Jews and Christians know, to Moussa – Moses- (Peace be upon him) and it was more difficult and detailed compared to the Shari’ah sent to Muhammad (P.b.u.h.) in terms of restrictions and obligations. We read in the Qur’an,
“My Mercy extends to all things. I shall ordain it for those who do right, and practice regular charity, and those who believe in Our Signs. Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures) - in the Torah and the Gospel - for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the Light which is sent down with him, it is they who will prosper."(7:156-7)
Thus, in Islam there are less restrictions in the dietary regulations than in Judaism. The number of the prohibited foods is not really significant compared to the numberr of the allowed foods.
Allah (swt) says,
“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless you are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject Faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (5:3)
Allah is the One who created us and knows what is good and what is bad for us. Whatever Allah (swt) describes as impure and bad we cannot consume it no matter what the situation is unless it is a matter of life ore death. Satan tries eagerly to make us disobey Allah and find excuses without finding solutions. Our Lord Allah (swt) says,
“O people! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for he is to you an avowed enemy” (2:168)
What is Halaal and Pure food?
“They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food). Say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure…” (5:4)
Food, which is permissible for Muslims to consume is called "Halaal" food. Most people in the West are familiar with the word "Kosher", but it is not totally the same thing. The equivalent word for Muslims is "Halaal" (which means "permissible" "licit" "legal" etc.). The opposite of "Halaal" is "Haraam", the illicit. The Muslim law governing these aspects is based on the Qur'an, Muslim's Holy Book, and the Sunnah - the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), which is different than the Mosaic Law even if it agrees with it in many regulations especially the dietary ones.
In general, all food is halaal, or licit, except what is mentioned in the Primary sources of the Islamic law – the Qur’an and the Sunnah - as haraam, or illicit. Therefore, it is easier to mention what is not permissible, haraam, than to state all that is allowed to be consumed. However, there is sometimes some confusion as whether a certain product/meal is haraam or halaal. This falls in a “Grey” category that is doubtful, or Mushtabah. The Messenger of Allah (P.b.u.h.) said:
“ Halaal is clear and Haraam is clear and between the two of them are doubtful matters that many people do not know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart” (Related by al-Bukhari & Muslim).
There is al-Hamdulillah a great variety of Halaal food and it can be easily found everywhere in the world. The Haraam items, which make food prohibited, are indeed very few as we mentioned earlier. Allah (swt) says,
“Say O Muhammad: "I do not find in the Message sent to me by revelation any (meat) forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it is dead meat, or blood poured forth, or the flesh of swine - for it is an abomination - or what is impious, (meat) on which a name has been invoked other than Allah's." But (even so), if a person is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, thy Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (6:145)
“He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and any (food) over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (16:115)
“He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (2:173)
1-The meat of an animal/bird, which is not slaughtered by Muslims or by the People of the Book in accordance to the Mosaic law is not permissible. Allah (swt) says,
“This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them” (5:5)
If slaughtering is performed by someone, who does not believe in God, the meat is prohibited from consumption. The meat of an animal/bird, which died before it was slaughtered, cannot be eaten as well because it is considered a Carrion. All meat from dead animals is haraam to consume.
The modern day mass production of meat at many slaughtering houses and meat processing factories does not take into consideration the requirement of neither the Mosaic law nor the Islamic law. For example, the chicken are highly electrocuted (and dead) before their heads are cut off to let all the blood to be drained properly. This practice makes the meat of the chicken, the same as the meat of a dead animal. And the stunning of animals causes death sometimes before the animal is slaughtered the proper way. For this reason, Muslims should buy their meat, cheese, gelatine, marshmallows…etc., from trusted Halaal Food Shops.
Note on Kosher food: Muslims must investigate before consuming kosher foods to check if they contain wine, which is used very often in the cooking process, as such foods cannot be consumed.
2-Pork and anything derived from it such as bacon, lard, ham, and other pig by-products are prohibited. This means that a food which has as ingredients gelatin, and pepsin, or food which was seasoned with pork or its derivatives, and any other food items having come into contact with pork or pork by-products is unlawful to eat. Gelatin is usually made from the skin and bones of an animal. Gelatin itself is not prohibited - for example, kosher or halaal gelatine from animals such as cow, sheep…etc., slaughtered according to the religious requirement can be consumed. Any product such as marshmallows, capsules and jello containing gelatin (which is neither kosher nor halaal) cannot be consumed.
Since cheese requires enzymes, pepsin…etc., which are derived from pork, only halaal cheese can be consumed. Also, some breads, cookies, doughnuts, cakes and other baked goods contain lard. Therefore, its ingredients must be verified.
3- Meat of animals and birds, which are carnivorous, have claws, have nails, or paws or fangs are haraam (not permissible). Muslims can eat beef, chicken, pigeon, turkey, duck, lamb, goat, deer, and many similar animals, which do not consume meat and birds which prey. Moreover, all the marine animals are lawful to eat. The Prophet (P.b.u.h.) forbade every beast having a fang and every bird having a talon as it is related by Muslim and others.
4- A food or a drink, which contains alcohol or alcoholic by-products is haraam. All wine, beer, liquor, and narcotics are unlawful for consumption whether in large or small amounts (even in cooking). In brief, any intoxicant whether a liquor or a drug is haraam to consume.
Allah (swt) says,
“O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination of Satan's handiwork: eschew such (abomination), that you may prosper” (5:90)
5- The flowing blood and its derivatives are haraam.
6- Dead animals or birds, which did not die by slaughtering or hunting. They are impure and thus haraam to eat except in the case of dead fish unless it is proven medically harmful due to pollution or any kind of poisoning.
7- Foods that contain certain types of ingredients extracted from unlawful sources such as dead animals or pork are also haraam. The Muslim must do his best to avoid anything suspicious and must investigate carefully about enzymes, lecithin, mono- and di-glycerides, shortenings, minerals, vitamins … etc., Many derivatives such as some enzymes used in the cheese for instance are extracted from a meat of a halaal kind of animal, but the latter might have been killed not according to the Islamic law or at least the Mosaic law.
8- Any halaal food, which was not kept isolated from haraam, illicit, food and was mixed with it cannot also be consumed. The Prophet (P.b.u.h) said:
“ Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt” (Related by at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa’i).
9- Meat or food, which was offered and dedicated to any god other than Allah. He (swt) says,
“He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah” (2:173).That is why Muslims mention the name of Allah while slaughtering because it is an act of worship whether it is a sacrifice or a routine act for meat consumption; All should be by the blessing of Allah (swt) who says,
“Eat not of (meats) on which Allah's name has not been pronounced: that would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if you were to obey them, you would indeed be Pagans” (6:121).
Most importantly, food, which was stolen by any means, or bought with stolen or unlawful money (obtained from gambling, cheating, frauding…etc.,) is haraam to eat. The concept of lawful and unlawful is not just restricted on the substance and kind of food. It must be gained through hard work, given as a gift, or charity, or offered by family, friends, and people.
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