Islamic Web Library

An Islamic Resource Center

5:4 Hunting and Lawful food

8 min read

They ask thee 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, but pronounce the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah; for Allah is swift in taking account.

The following excerpt is taken from “The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam” by Yusuf Al Qaradawi pg. 61-66:

Conditions Pertaining to the Hunter

The conditions pertaining to the hunter are the same as those which pertain to the butcher: that he should be either a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Zoroastrian, or a Sabean.

Islam teaches the hunter that he should not hunt merely for sport, taking the life of animals without intending to eat them or otherwise benefit from them. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgement, ‘O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose.’ (Reported by al-Nisai and by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih.)

Again, he said: Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgement. The listeners asked, O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause? He replied, That he kill it to eat, not to simply chop off its head and then throw it away. (Reported by al-Nisai and al-Hakim who said that its transmission is sound.)

Another condition is that the Muslim should not be in the state of ihram (Ihram refers to the state of consecration, physical and spiritual, of the Muslim who is performing hajj, the obligatory pilgrimage, or ‘umrah, the lesser and voluntary pilgrimage. (Trans.)) for hajj or ‘umrah, for at that time he is in a state of total peace and serenity, the sphere of which extends to the animals and birds around him. Even if some game should appear right in front of him so that he could catch or kill it with a spear, it is not permissible for him to do so. This is to test and train the Believer in order to make him strong and patient. As Allah Ta’ala says: O you who believe! Do not kill game while you are in the state of ihram…. ihram…. (5:98 (95))

…And hunting is haram for you while you are in the state of ihram…. (5:2(1))

Conditions Pertaining to the Game

One of the conditions pertaining to game is that it should be an animal which man is not able to bring under control in order to slaughter it properly, for, according to principle, if it is possible to slaughter it, this must be done, and no other choice remains.

Similarly, if one shoots an arrow at the animal or if his hunting dog has brought it down, as long as he reaches the animal while there is still abundant life remaining in it, its throat must be cut. However, although cutting the throat is preferable, if it is barely alive and the hunter leaves it to die without cutting the throat there is no harm in it. According to the two Sahih’s of al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (peace be on him) said: When you set your dog (for the chase), mention the name of Allah. If he catches the game, and you reach it while it is still alive, cut its throat.

Conditions Pertaining to the Instrument

Instruments of hunting are two kinds:

  1. Weapons, such as swords, arrows, and spears, as mentioned in the ayah: …in the game which you take with your hands and your spears…. (5:97 (94))
  2. Hunting animals which can be trained, such as the dog and the leopard among beasts, and the falcon and hawk among birds. Allah Ta’ala says: Say: Whatever is good is lawful for you. And eat of what is caught for you by those you have trained among hunting animals, teaching them as Allah has taught you…. (5:5 (4))

Hunting with Weapons

Two conditions must be met if the game is killed by a weapon. 

First, the weapon should pierce the body of the animal, making a wound; death by mere impact does not render it halal. ‘Adi bin Hatim narrated, “I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace be him) about game killed with a weapon (m’irad). He said, “If you hurl the weapon and it pierces the game, eat it, but if it is killed by the blow of its side, do not eat it.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
This hadith is proof that what makes the game halal is that the body of the animal be pierced, even if the weapon is blunt. Accordingly, game killed by a rifle or pistol or the like is halal as the bullet will penetrate its body even more deeply than an arrow, spear, or sword.

With reference to the hadith reported by Ahmad, “Do not eat what is killed by a banduqah unless you slaughter it,” and the one reported by al-Bukhari on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar, which states that the animal killed by a banduqah is like an animal killed by a blow, it should be noted that banduqah here refers to a ball of clay and not to the modern bullet. The Prophet (peace be on him) likewise forbade throwing stones at the hunted animal, saying, “Throwing stones will not hunt the game or kill an enemy, but it may break a tooth or gouge out an eye.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim. )

The second condition to be met when hunting with a weapon is that the name of Allah must be mentioned when hurling or striking with the weapon, as the Prophet (peace be on him) instructed ‘Adi bin Hatim, whose reports of a hadith are the source material for this topic. (The above instructions likewise apply to hunting with a gun. (Trans.))

Hunting with Dogs and the Like

If hunting is done with a dog or falcon or the like, the following is required: first, it should be a trained animal; second, it should catch the game for its owner and not for itself, as the Qur’an specifies; and third, the name of Allah must be mentioned while sending it for the chase. The source of these conditions is the following ayah: They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is lawful to them (as food). Say: Whatever is good is lawful for you. And eat of what is caught for you by those you have trained among hunting animals, teaching them as Allah has taught you, and mention the name of Allah over it…. (5:5 (4))

  1. The definition of “training” is well known. It means that the animal so trained is under the control of its owner so that when he calls it, it responds; when he sends it toward the game, it hunts it; and when he restrains it, it halts. The jurists have laid down various criteria for this; however, common sense is a better guide in deciding whether a hunting animal is trained or not.
  2. The definition of “catching the game for its owner” is that it does not itself eat the game. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “If you send your dog after the game, and it eats part of it, you should not eat of it, for the dog has hunted the game for itself andnot for you; but if you send the dog and it kills the game without eating it, you can eat it, as it has caught it for its master.” (Narrated by Ahmad; also reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
    Some jurists make a distinction between hunting animalssuch as dogs and hunting birds such as falcons. Their opinion is that eating game which has been partly eaten by a bird is permissible, while if a dog has eaten from it, it is not allowed.

    The reason for laying down these two conditions is, first, to emphasize that the hunting dog should be well-trained, always being under the control of its master, and second, to preserve human dignity by not allowing man to eat the leavings of animals. Finally, we note that a well-trained dog which catches the game for its master is very similar to an inanimate weapon in his hands such as an arrow.
  3. Mentioning the name of Allah while sending the dog for the chase is like mentioning His name while shooting the arrow, hurling the spear, or striking with the sword. The Qur’anic injunction, “mention the name of Allah over it,” has also been emphasized in ahadith, such as that of ‘Adi bin Hatim.

    The mandatory nature of this condition has also been demonstrated by the fact that if a dog other than that of the hunter is found at the game, eating of it is not lawful. ‘Adi said to the Prophet (peace be on him), “Suppose I send my dog but I find another dog at the game, and I do not know which dog caught it?” The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, “Do not eat it, for while you mentioned the name of Allah over your dog, you did not mention it over the other dog.”

However, if one forgets to mention Allah’s name while dispatching his weapon or the hunting animal, he can make up for it by mentioning it at the time of eating, for Allah has forgiven the Muslim ummah for the errors it commits due to forgetfulness or error. As was mentioned earlier, this also applies in the case of forgetting to pronounce the name of Allah at the time of slaughtering.

The significance of mentioning the name of Allah over the animal need not be repeated here, as it was explained earlier in connection with slaughtering.

When the Game is Found Dead

It may happen that although the game is struck by the arrow it may nevertheless escape; the hunter may find it some time —perhaps even days—later, dead. In such a case, the game is lawful l s food under the following conditions:

  1. That it is not found in water. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “If you shoot an arrow and it kills the animal, you can eat it. But if it is found in water, you do not know whether its death was caused by drowning or by your arrow.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim )
  2. That it has no wounds other than the wound inflicted by the arrow. ‘Adi bin Hatim asked the Prophet (peace be on him), “What if I shoot an arrow and find the game the next morning with my arrow in it?” The Prophet (peace be on him) replied: “If you know that your arrow killed it, and you do not find any wound inflicted by wild beasts, you may eat it.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who classifies it as sahih. )
  3. That the game has not reached the stage of decay. People of sound taste are naturally revolted and nauseated by rotten meat, and eating it is also likely to be injurious. It is narrated in the Sahih of Muslim that the Prophet (peace be on him) told Abu Th’alabah al-Khashini, “You shoot an arrow but the game disappears for three days. If you then come upon it, you may eat what is not decayed of it.”


Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf (1960). The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam. (p. 61-66).

About Post Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *