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5:3 Dietary restrictions in Islam

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Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye 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 favour 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.

The following excerpt is taken from “The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam” by Yusuf Al Qaradawi pg. 40-60:

The Prohibition of Eating What Is Dead and Its Wisdom

  1. The first thing mentioned in these verses concerning prohibited foods is the flesh of “dead animals,” that is, the beast or fowl which dies of natural causes, without being slaughtered or hunted by men. There are obvious reasons for this prohibition:
    1. Eating the flesh of a dead animal is repugnant to civilized taste and is considered by thinking people in all societies to be contrary to human dignity. We also observe that all peoples possessing a revealed scripture have prohibited it and that they do not eat the flesh of an aunless it is slaughtered. However, the methods of slaughter may vary.
    2. In whatever he does, the Muslim acts with a set purpose and; intention; he does not use a thing nor reap its benefit without directing his intention, aim, and effort toward it. The significance of slaughtering, which is a purposeful act, the intention of which is to take the life of the animal in order to use it as food, is to remove the slaughtered animal from the category of “dead animals.” Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala does not desire that man should eat of what he did not intend or think of eating, as is the case with the dead animal; conversely, slaughtering an animal or hunting it as game both require an intention followed by effort and subsequent action.
    3. If the animal died a natural death, it is quite likely that it died of some acute or chronic disease, through eating a poisonous plant, or other similar causes; hence eating its flesh would probably be harmful. The same is the case when the cause of death is old age or starvation.
    4. By prohibiting the flesh of a dead animal to human beings, Allah in His Mercy provides source of food to animals and birds, who, in the words of the Qur’an, constitute an ummah (nation) like themselves. The truth of this is demonstrated by the fact that the carcasses of animals lying out in the open are devoured by birds and animals.
    5. This prohibition encourages the owner of an animal to guard it from disease and malnutrition lest it die and be wasted. Accordingly, in the case of disease, he will be quick to seek a cure for it or will hasten to slaughter the animal.

The Prohibition of Flowing Blood

  1. The second prohibition relates to flowing or liquid blood. (It is not prohibited to eat the blood which remains in the flesh of the slaughtered animal after one has done his best to remove it. (Trans.)) Ibn Abbas was asked about the spleen and he replied, “You can eat it.” The questioners said, “But it is blood.” (In early times the spleen was believed to be congealed blood. (Trans.)) He answered, “Only flowing blood is prohibited to you.” The reason for this prohibition is both that the drinking of blood is repugnant to human decency and that it may likewise be injurious to health.

    During the period of jahiliyyah, a person who felt hungry might jab a bone or sharp object into the flesh of his animal, and collect and drink the flowing blood. It was concerning this that the poet al’Ashi said: Never approach animals that are dead, Nor take a sharp bone to pierce the live one.

    Thus, since piercing the flesh of a living animal injures and weakens it, Allah Ta’ala prohibited such a practice.


  1. The third prohibited food is pork, that is, the flesh of swine. Since the pig relishes filth and offal, its meat is repugnant to persons of decent taste; moreover, recent medical research has shown that eating swine-flesh is injurious to health in all climates, especially hot ones. Scientific research has also shown that pork carries a deadly parasite (trichina), among others, and no one can say what science may discover in the future which will shed more light on the wisdom of this prohibition. Allah the Almighty spoke the truth in describing His Messenger, Muhammad (peace be on him), as the one who “makes unlawful what is foul.” (7:157)

    In addition to this, there are also some scholars who say that eating pork frequently diminishes the human being’s sense of shame in relation to what is indecent.

That Which Is Dedicated to Anyone Other Than Allah

  1. The fourth prohibited category refers to an animal which is dedicated to anyone other than Allah, that is to say, one which is slaughtered with the invocation of a name other than the name of Allah—for example, the name of an idol. When slaughtering an animal, the Arab polytheists would invoke the names of their idols, such as al-Lat or al-Uzza. Such a practice is a devotional act addressed to someone other than Allah and is a form of worship in which His glorious name is not mentioned. In this case the reason for the prohibition is entirely related to faith: to safeguard the belief in the Oneness of Allah, to purify worship, and to fight shirk and polytheism in whatever form they may be expressed.

    Indeed, it is Allah who created man and gave him control over everything on the earth, subjecting the animal to his power and permitting him to take its life for food on the condition that His name be pronounced at the time of slaughter. Pronouncing the name of Allah while slaughtering the animal is a declaration that one is taking the life of this creature by the permission of its Creator, while if one invokes any other name, he has forfeited this permission and must be denied the use of its flesh.

Types of Dead Animals

The preceding are the four principal categories of prohibited animal foods. As revealed in the verse of Surh al-Maidah (5:4 (3)), to these four are added five more categories which pertain to further classifications of the “dead animal,” as follows:

  1. The strangled: an animal which has been strangled, for example, by a rope around its neck, or suffocated, as for instance by putting its head into something which produces suffocation.
  2. The beaten: an animal which has been beaten to death by a club or similar object.
  3. The fallen: an animal which dies as a result of a fall from a high place, or by falling into a gully or ravine.
  4. The gored: an animal which dies as a result of being gored by the horns of another animal.
  5. That which has been (partly) eaten by wild beasts: an animal which has been partially devoured by wild animals and dies as a result.

After naming these five categories, Allah makes an exception of “that which you make lawful by slaughtering,” meaning that if one comes upon such an animal while it is still alive, slaughtering renders it halal as food. The correct understanding of “still alive” is that some sign of life remains in it. ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib said, “If you can slaughter the beaten, the fallen or the gored animal while it (still) moves its hoof or leg, you may eat it.” Commented al-Dahak, “The people of the time of jahiliyyah used to eat them (dead animals); then Allah prohibited them in Islam, excepting what is slaughtered. If it is slaughtered while it (still) moves a leg, its tail, or an eye, it is halal (Some jurists have said that there must be life in it, the signs of which are the flow of blood and reflex movements)Reasons for the Prohibition of the Foregoing Categories

We need not repeat the reasons stated in the preceding discussion concerning dead animals, with the possible exception of the danger to health, which is not clear in such cases. However, we wish to emphasize again the significance of prohibitions 5 through 9 above. The All-Wise Law-Giver wants to teach people to be kind to the animal and to protect it from harm. One should not neglect it so that it can be strangled, fall from a high place, or be gored in a fight with other animals, nor torture it by severe beating, possibly resulting in its death, as vicious herdsmen, particularly hired ones, sometimes do, even goading animals such as two bulls or sheep to fight each other until one wounds or gores the other to death.

It is solely for this reason that Islamic jurists have prohibited the eating of the flesh of an animal which has been gored to death, even if it was wounded by the horns of the other and its blood has flowed; this prohibition holds even if the blood flowed from a wound in the usual site of slaughter, the throat. According to my understanding, the purpose behind this is to penalize the owner of such animals who has left them unattended to gore each other to death; he is not to be rewarded for this negligence by being permitted to make use of their flesh for food.
The reason for prohibiting the eating of animals partially devoured by wild beasts is to preserve human dignity; a Muslim is not to degrade himself by eating the leavings of animals. The people of the period of jahiliyyah were in the habit of eating what had been left by wild animals, wof sheep, camel or cow, but subsequently Allah prohibited this to the Believers.Animal Sacrifices

  1. The tenth caof prohibited animal food is that which has been sacrificed to idols. During the period of jahiliyyah, stone altars stood in front of the idols around the Ka’aba, and the polytheists would slaughter animals on or close to these altars in order to seek nearness to the deities to which the altars were assigned.

    Such immolation is similar to “that which has been dedicated to anyone other than Allah,” as both involve the glorification of false deities. The difference is that in case of “that which has been dedicated to anyone other than Allah,” the slaughtering did not take place in the vicinity of the idol and only its name was mentioned over the object of sacrifice, while in the latter case the immolation was done in front of the idol or on the altar assigned to it, and it was therefore unnecessary to mention its name.

    Since these altars were in the vicinity of the Ka’aba, it was possible to imagine that these sacrifices were meant to render homage to the Sacred House. The Qur’an, through an explicit declaration, removed this possibility from the minds of people, classifying this practice in the same category as that which is dedicated to anyone other than Allah.

The Exemption of Sea Food and Locusts

The Islamic Shari’ah has exempted fish, whales, and other sea creatures from the category of “dead animals.” When the Prophet (peace be on him) was asked about the sea, he replied, Its water is pure and its dead are halal. (Reported by Ahmad and other compilers of the Sunnah.)

Says Allah Ta’ala: The game of the sea is permitted to you and so is its food…. (5:99 (96)) and ‘Umar explained, “Its game is what is caught from it and its food is what is thrown out from it,” while Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Its food is its dead (animals).”

In the two Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, it is reported on the authority of Jabir that the Prophet (peace be on him) once sent some of his Companions on an expedition. They found a dead whale by the sea and subsisted on it for more than twenty days. On their return to Madinah, they told the Prophet (peace be on him) about this and he said, Eat the food which Allah has brought forth for you, and feed us from it if you have any left. They then brought him some whale meat and he ate it. (Reported by al-Bukhari.)

By the same token, locusts are exempted from the category of “dead animals.” The Prophet (peace be on him) gave permission to eat dead locusts, as the question of slaughtering them does not arise. Said Ibn Abu Awfa, “We went with the Prophet (peace be on him) on seven expeditions, and we ate locusts with him.” (Reported by all the authentic collections of ahadith excepting that of Ibn Majah.)Making Use of the Skin, Bones, and Hair of the Animal

The prohibition concerning the dead animal is limited to the eating of its flesh. One can—in fact, one should—make use of its skin, horns, bones and hair, for throwing them away is a waste, and waste is not permitted. Concerning this, Ibn ‘Abbas narrated: The freed maid-servant of the Prophet’s wife, Maymunah, was given a sheep, and it died. The Prophet (peace be on him) passed by its carcass and said, ‘Why did you not take its skin to be tanned and use it?’ They replied, ‘But it is deed.’ The Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘What is prohibited is eating it.’ (Reported in all the authentic collections of ahadith excepting that of Ibn Majah)

The Prophet (peace be on him) made it clear that the way to purify the skin of a dead animal is to tan it. He is reported to have said, “The tanning of the skin is its slaughtering,” (Reported by Abu Daoud and al-Nisai) meaning that just as slaughtering makes the eating of the flesh of a sheep or cow halal, likewise tanning makes the use of the skin halal. He also said, “Tanning removes its impurity,” (Reported by al-Hakim.)

And “If the skin is tanned, it is purified.” (Reported by Muslim and others.)

The application of these latter ahadith is quite general, including the skin of the dog or the pig. This was the opinion of the jurists of the Zahiri school, of Abu Yusuf, the pupil of Abu Hanifah, and of al-Shawkani. Sawdah, the wife of the Prophet (peace be on him), said “One of our sheep died, so we tanned its skin and used it as a waterskin, putting dates in it to sweeten the water. We used it until it wore out.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.)

Necessity Dictates Exceptions

All the above-mentioned prohibitions apply in situations in which one has a choice. However, in case of a necessity a different rule applies, as was discussed earlier. Allah Ta’ala says: …He has explained to you what He has made haram for you, except that to which you are compelled… (6:119)
And after mentioning the prohibitions concerning the flesh of dead animals, blood, and so, He says: …but if one is compelled by necessity, neither craving (it) nor transgressing, there is no sin on him; indeed, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (2:172-173)
The consensus of the jurists is that necessity in this case signifies the need for food to alleviate hunger when no food other than the prohibited food is available, some jurists holding the opinion that at least one day and one night should pass without food. In such a situation a person may eat as much will satisfy his hunger and thus save himself from death. Said Imam Malik, “The amount of it is what will alleviate his hunger, and he should not eat more than what will keep him alive.” This, perhaps, is the meaning of Allah’s words, “neither craving (it) nor transgressing,”—that is, neither desiring it nor eating more than necessary. That hunger can be a compelling need is expressly mentioned in the Qur’anic ayah: …but if one is compelled by hunger, without any inclination to sin, then indeed Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (5:4 (3))

Medical Necessity

Concerning the question of whether some of the prohibited food substances can be used as medicine, there is a difference of opinion among jurists. Some do not consider medicine to belong in the category of a compelling necessity like food, and in support of their position they cite the hadith: “Assuredly Allah did not provide a cure for you in what He has prohibited to you.” (Reported by al-Bukhari on the authority of Ibn Mas’ood.)

Others consider the need for medicine equal to that of food, as both are necessary for preserving life. In support of their position that prohibited food substances may be used as medicine, they argue that the Prophet (peace be on him) allowed ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Awf and al-Zubair bin al-‘Awwam to wear silk because they were suffering from scabies. (The text of this hadith is quoted in the subsection of this book entitled “Clothing and Ornaments.”)

Perhaps this latter view is closer to the spirit of Islam which, in all its legislations and teachings, is concerned with the preservation of human life. However, taking medicine containing some of the haram substances is permissible only under the following conditions:
1. The patient’s life is endangered if he does not take this medicine.
2. No alternative or substitute medication made from entirely halal sources is available.
3. The medication is prescribed by a Muslim physician who is knowledgeable as well as God-fearing.

We may, however, add that on the basis of our own observations and the opinions of expert physicians, we have arrived at the conclusion that there hardly exists any medical necessity which requires ingesting what is haram, as for example, taking medicine. Nevertheless, we have stated this principle in case a Muslim happens to be in a place where he cannot find medications other than those which contain haram substances.

Necessity Does Not Exist if the Society Possesses Excess Food

Consider a situation in which an individual does not have enough to eat but other people, Muslims or dhimmis, (Dhimmis: non-Muslims living under the protection of an Islamic government. (Trans.)) in his community have excess food. In such a case he does not fulfill the stipulation of being in a state of necessity and consequently haram foods do not becpermissible to him, for an Islamic community is like a single body supporting its members or like a fortified wall in which each brick strengthensthe other.

The concept of social solidarity is expressed very forcefully by the great jurist Imam Ibn Hazm, who said, The Muslim is not in a state of necessity such that it becomes permissible for him to eat the flesh of dead animals or swine as long as someone else, whether a Muslim or a dhimmi, has excess food. It is obligatory on the person having food to feed the one who is hungry, and that being the case, the hungry person is not compelled to resort to the flesh of dead animals or swine. If the person having excess food denies it to him, he has a right to fight for it. If he (the hungry person) is killed, the killer is guilty of murder and consequently subject to qisas (retaliation), while if he kills the denier of food he has dispatched him to the curse of Allah, as he denied him his right and was one of the rebellious. Allah Ta’ala says: ‘And if one of them transgresses against the other, fight against the one who transgresses until he complies with the command of Allah.’ (49:9)

One who denies the rights of his brother is a rebel against Allah. That is why Abu Bakr al-Siddiq fought against those who refused to pay zakat (while professing to be Muslims). (Al-Muhalla by Ibn Hazm, vol. 6, p. 159.)

All Marine Animals Are Halal

Depending on their habitats, animals are of two kinds: either marine or terrestrial. Marine animals, that is, those which live in water and cannot survive outside it, are all halal. It does not matter in what way they are obtained: whether they are taken out of the water dead or alive, whole or in pieces, whether they are fish or marine animals, whether they are called sea dogs or sea hogs, or whether they are caught by a Muslim or a non-Muslim. The Most Generous Lord has opened wide His bounty upon His servants by permitting them to eat all marine animals, without the requirement of bleeding; man has been left free to catch them in whatever manner he is able, avoiding any unnecessary cruelty as far as possible. Reminding us of His favors, Allah Ta’ala says, And it is He Who has subjected the sea (to you) in order that you may eat fresh meat from it…. (16:14)
The game of the sea is permitted to you and so is its food, a provision for you and for travelers by sea…. (5:99 (96))
Praise be to Him for not having excluded anything, for Thy Lord is not forgetful. (19:64)

Prohibited Terrestrial Animals

As far as terrestrial or land animals are concerned, Allah has prohibited only the eating of pork, the flesh of any animal which dies of itself or is sacrificed to anyone other than Allah, and the drinking of blood. These prohibitions are explicitly mentioned in the text of the Qur’an, comprising, as we have seen, four major and ten minor categories.

At the same time, the Qur’an says concerning the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him): He…makes lawful to them what is good and makes unlawful what is foul…. (7:157)
Foul things are those which, although some individuals may like them, people generally find detestable. As an instance of this, on the day of the confrontation of Khaibar, the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade the eating of the flesh of domesticated donkeys. (Reported by al-Bukhari. Concerning this hadith, it is said that the prohibition of eating donkeys was temporary and was due to an emergency, as donkeys were needed for riding. This is similar to a situation in which, due to a shortage of meat, a government may prohibit the slaughtering of young animals so they may grow bigger or the hunting of deer in a particular season, etc.)

Another example of the same thing is provided by a hadith narrated by both al-Bukhari and Muslim, which states that the Prophet (peace be on him) “forbade the eating of any wild animals with a canine tooth and of any bird with talons.” “Wild animals” denotes those which prey on others and devour them by tearing them apart, e.g., the lion, leopard, wolf, and the like; birds with talons such as the hawk, eagle, falcon, etc., do the same.

The Requirement of Slaughtering in the Islamic Manner

Land animals which are permissible as food are of two kinds. The first consists of those animals which are tame or domesticated, such as camels, cows, goats, poultry, and other fowl which are raised on a farm or in the house, while untamed and wild animals are of the second type. In order to render their flesh halal, Islam requires that animals of the first category be slaughtered in the manner prescribed by Islam.

The Conditions of Islamic Slaughtering

According to the Shari’ah, the legal purification of the flesh of animals requires that the following conditions be met:

  1. The animal should be slaughtered by a sharp object which is capable of making it bleed by severing blood vessels, even if the sharp object is a stone or a piece of wood. ‘Adi bin Hatim narrated that he said to the Prophet (peace be on him), “O Messenger of Allah, we go hunting and sometimes we do not have a knife with us. We may find a sharp rock or a piece of wood or a reed.” The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “The object is to make it bleed with whatever you have and mention the name of Allah over it.” (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, Nisai, Ibn Majah, al-Hakim, and Ibn Hibban.)
  2. The slaughtering is to be done by cutting the throat of the animal or by piercing the hollow of the throat, causing its death. The best way is to cut the windpipe, the gullet, and the two jugular veins. (Some jurists have cited further conditions, but we have omitted them as we did not find explicit texts mentioning them. The slaughtering of animals is known instinctively to all people, and to go into depth and detail concerning it does not accord with Islam, which keeps matters easy and simple. The more details these jurists have attempted to list, the more confusion they have caused; for example, is it necessary to cut all four parts – the windpipe, the gullet and the two jugular veins – or only some of them? Should the knife point downward or upward? Can the hand be raised before the slaughtering is completed or not? and so on, without end, with each alternative answer to these questions finding support among some jurists.)

    However, if it becomes impossible to slaughter the animal in the specified manner, this second condition is cancelled; for example, the animal may have fallen headlong into a well so that its throat is inaccessible, or it may become wild and start kicking and running. Such cases are treated in the manner of game animals and it is sufficient to wound the animal at any place to make it bleed. On the authority of Raf’i ibn Khadij, both al-Bukhari and Muslim report the former as narrating: We were on a journey with the Prophet (peace be on him) when one of the camels bolted away. As the people did not have a horse, a man shot an arrow which struck the camel and wounded it. The Prop(peace be on him) said, ‘Some of these animals are like wild beasts. If any of them behaves like this, treat it in this fashion.’ (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
  3. No name other than Allah’s should be mentioned over the animal at the time of slaughter; concerning this condition there is a consensus among all the jurists. The people of the time of jahiliyyah sought to propitiate their deities and idols by sacrificing animals to them, either by invoking their names while slaughtering or by immolating them on altars specified for them. As mentioned previously, the Qur’an prohibited all this in the words, Forbidden to you are…that which has been dedicated to anyone other than Allah…and that which has been sacrificed to idols. (5:4 (3))
  4. The name of Allah should be mentioned while slaughtering the animal. (The correct manner of mentioning the name of Allah at slaughtering is, “Bismillah Allahu akbar” (in the name of God, God is the most great). On this occasion the words al-Rahman al-Raheem (the Compassionate, the Merciful) do not follow Bismillah as they ordinarily do, since slaughtering is not an act of mercy. (Trans.)) This is clear from Qur’anic texts and ahadith. Allah Ta’ala says: Then eat of that over which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you believe in His signs. (6:118)

    And do not eat of that over which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for truly that is impiety….

    And the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said: If the blood is drained (from the animal) and the name of Allah has been mentioned over it, you may eat of it. (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.)

    This condition is further supported by other sound ahadith which state that Allah’s name must be pronounced while hunting just before an arrow is shot or a hunting dog is sent for the chase. This point will be discussed later in the section on hunting.

    Some scholars are of the opinion that although the name of Allah must be mentioned, it is not necessary to mention it at the time of slaughtering the animal; one can mention it at the time of eating, since in that case it cannot be held that it was eaten without mentioning the name of Allah over it. In the Sahih of al-Bukhari we find a hadith narrated by ‘Aisha, who said, Some people who had recently become Muslims said to the Prophet (peace be on him), ‘People bring us meat and we do not know whether they have mentioned the name of Allah over it or not. Shall we eat of it or not?’ The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, ‘Mention the name of Allah (over it) and eat.” (The correct invocation when one begins to eat or drink is Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” coupled with a supplication such as, Allahumma, barik lana fi ma razaqtana wa qina adhab an-nar, “Our Lord, bless us in what You have provided for us and save us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Trans.))

The Wisdom of the Islamic Manner of Slaughtering

The wisdom of the Islamic rules of slaughtering is to take the animal’s life in the quickest and least painful way; the requirements of using a sharp instrument and of cutting the throat relate to this end. It is forbidden to rend the throat by using teeth or nails since this will cause pain to the animal and is likely to strangle it. The Prophet (peace be on him) recommended sharpening the knife and putting the animal at ease, saying, Allah has ordained kindness (or excellence) in everything. If killing is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife and putting the animal at ease. (Reported by Muslim on the authority of Shaddad bin Aus.)

In another hadith narrated by Ibn’Umar, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “When one of you slaughters, let him complete it,” (Reported by Ibn Majah.) meaning that one should sharpen his knife well and feed, water, and soothe the animal before killing it.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that once the Prophet (peace be on him) saw a man who was sharpening his knife after laying down a sheep to be slaughtered. The Prophet (peace be on him) rebuked him saying, “Do you intend to make it die two deaths? Why did you not sharpen your knife before laying it down?” (Reported by al-Hakim, who classified it as “sound” according to the standard of al Bukhari.)

Once ‘Umar saw a man dragging a sheep by its leg to be slaughtered. He said, “Woe to you! Lead it to its death in a decent manner.” (Reported by ‘Abd ur-Razzaq.)

Thus the main intent here is to be kind to the unfortunate animal and spare it unnecessary suffering insofar as this is possible. The people o f jahiliyyah were fond of cutting off the humps of live camels and the fat tails of live sheep in order to eat them. In order to put a stop to this barbaric practice, the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade the eating of any part obtained in this fashion, saying, “Any part cut off a living animal is dead flesh,” (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, al-Tirmidhi, and al-Hakim.)

The Significance of Mentioning Allah’s Name

Mentioning the name of Allah to purify the act of slaughtering has a subtle significance which we would do well to ponder. 

First, this practice is in opposition to the practice of the idolaters and the people of jahiliyyah, who mentioned the names of their non-existent deities while slaughtering animals. Since the polytheist mentions the name of a false deity, how can the Believer fail to mention the name of the true God?

Second, these animals, like human beings, are creatures of Allah, and like them they have life. How then can a man take control of them and deprive them of life unless he first obtains permission from his, and their, common Creator, to Whom everything belongs? Mentioning the name of Allah while slaughtering the animal is a declaration of this divine permission, as if the one who is killing the animal were saying, “This act of mine is not an act of aggression against the universe nor of oppression of this creature, but in the name of Allah I slaughter, in the name of Allah I hunt, and in the name of Allah I eat.”

Animals Slaughtered by the People of the Book

We have seen that Islam emphasizes that the animal must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner. The polytheists of Arabia and other nations had made animal sacrifice an act of worship, or rather an integral part of their belief system and a pillar of their religion, seeking to propitiate their deities by sacrificing animals either at their special altars or by mentioning their names over them. Islam abolished these pagan rites and ordained that no name except that of Allah be mentioned while slaughtering, and it prohibited what was sacrificed at an altar or dedicated to anyone other than Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.

Now although the People of the Book—the Jews and Christians —are essentially believers in one God, some Muslims nevertheless supposed that in matters related to food the People of the Book were to be treated in the same manner as idolaters. Thereupon Allah Ta’ala granted special permission to Muslims in the matter of eating with the People of the Book and in the matter of marriage to their women. In Surah al-Maidah, the last surah of the Qur’an to be revealed, Allah says, Today whatever is good is made lawful to you. And the food of those who were given the Scripture (before you) is permitted to you and your food is permitted to them…. (5:6 (5))

The meaning of these verses is, in brief, that from this day forward all good, pure, and wholesome things are permitted to you Muslims; consequently, there can be no more bahirah, saibah, wasilah, or ham. Since Allah did not prohibit it, the food of the Jews and the Christians is permitted to you on the basis of the original permissibility of things, and likewise you can share your food with them. Accordingly, you can eat the flesh of the animals they have slaughtered or hunted, and they can eat what you have slaughtered or hunted.

While Islam takes an uncompromising attitude toward polytheists, it is lenient toward the People of the Book, for they are closer to Muslims in their belief in divine revelation, prophethood, and other fundamentals of . Islam permits us to eat with them, to marry their women, and, in general, to have social relations with them. It may be that, by interacting with Muslims in an Islamic environment and observithe beliefs, practices, and characters of Muslims, they may come to realize that Islam is in truth their own religion but with a higher level of spirituality, a more perfect Shari’ah, and books of greater authenticity, (That is, the Holy Qur’an, the books of Ahadith, and the Sirah (biography) of the Prophet. (Trans.)) while also free of the influence of paganism, man-made concepts, and falsehood.

The application of the phrase, “the food of those who were given the Scripture,” is general and includes their meats, produce, and other foods. All of these are halal for us excepting what is haram in itself, e.g., the flesh of a dead animal, pork, and flowing blood, as these are haram regardless of whether they are obtained from a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim.

We now turn to various questions which are of sufficient importance to Muslims to require an answer here.

Animals Slaughtered for Churches and Christian Festivals

If one does not hear from a Christian or a Jew that a name other than Allah’s such as that of Jesus or a saint, was mentioned at the time of slaughter, the meat he offers is halal. If, however, he says that a name other than Allah’s has been mentioned, it is haram, according to the opinion of some jurists who argue that it falls under the heading of what has been dedicated to other than Allah. Some others hold the opinion that the food of the People of the Book has been permitted to us by Allah, Who is aware of what they say when slaughtering an animal.

Someone asked Abu al-Darda whether he could eat the flesh of a lamb, slaughtered for the Church of St. George, which had been given to him. Abu al-Darda answered, “O Allah, may You pardon us! Are they not the People of the Book, whose food is halal for us and ours for them? He then told the person to eat it. (Reported by al-Tabari.)

Imam Malik was once asked about eating the flesh of animals slaughtered for Christian festivals and churches. He replied, I classify it as makruh but not haram: makruh because I am afraid it may have been dedicated to someone other than Allah but not haram because perhaps, with respect to the People of the Book, the meaning of the phrase, ‘that which has been dedicated to any other than Allah,’ applies only to those animals which they slaughter for the purpose of seeking the pleasure of their deities (This may refer to Jesus, Mary, or to other saints. (Trans.)) and not to eat. As for what they slaughter to eat, it is their food, and Allah says, ‘The food of those who were given the Scripture is permitted to you.’ (This ruling by Imam Malik demonstrates his humility, piety, and caution in religion. He did not rush to the conclusion that it was haram, as some jurists do today but confined himself to stating that it was makruh. As we can see, faced with the problem of reconciling two conflicting general categories, that which is dedicated to anyone other than Allah and the permissibility of the food of the People of the Book, he exercised caution and deliberation.) (5:6 (7))

Animals Slaughtered By Electric Shock and Other Methods

The second question is this: Is it necessary that the method of slaughter of an animal employed by the People of the Book so that it is halal in their religion be the same as ours, which is to cut the throat? A majority of jurists stipulate this as a condition, while a number of Maliki jurists have ruled that it is not a condition.

Qadi Ibn al-Arab), in explaining the verse of Surah al-Maidah, “The food of those who were given the Scripture is permitted to you,” (5:6 (7)) says: This is a decisive proof that the game and food of the People of the Book are among the good things which Allah has allowed for us. He, the Most High, has repeated it twice in order to allay doubts and to seal the mouths of those mischievous objectors, who would raise questions and prolong the discussion. I was asked: ‘If a Christian kills a chicken by cutting off its head and then cooks it, is it permissible to eat with him or to partake of his food?’ I said: ‘Eat it, as this is his food and the food of his priests and monks. Although this is not our way of slaughtering the animal, yet Allah has permitted their food to us unconditionally, and also other things in their religion excepting those which Allah says they have falsified.’ Our scholars have said: They give us their women in marriage and it is permissible to engage in sexual intercourse with them. In matters concerning halal and haram, sexual intercourse is of graver import than eating; how then does it make sense to say that their food is not halal?

This is the opinion of Ibn al-Arab). On another occasion he says: “What they eat without intending to make it lawful for eating, as for example by strangling the animal or smashing its head, is haram.” There is no contradiction between these two statements of his. What is meant here is that what they consider as religiously lawful to eat is halal for us, even though the method of killing the animal in their religion may be different from ours, and what is not religiously lawful to them is haram for us. What is meant by killing the animal in their religion is killing it with the intention of making it lawful as food according to their religion. This is the opinion of a group of Maliki jurists.

In the light of this ruling, we know that imported meats, such as chicken and canned beef, originating with the People of the Book are halal for us, even though the animal may have been killed by means of electric shock or the like. As long as they consider it lawful in their religion, it is halal for us. This is the application of the above verse from Surah al-Maidah.

The Meat of Zoroastrians and Others Like Them

A difference of opinion exists among jurists concerning the meat of animals slaughtered by the Zoroastrians or Parsees (Majus). The majority forbids the eating of it because they are polytheists, while others say that it is halal because the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Treat them as you treat the People of the Book.” (Reported by Malik and al-Shafi’i. What comes at the end of this hadith, “Do not marry their women nor eat their meat,” is not considered authentic by the compilers of Ahadith.)

The Prophet (peace be on him) accepted jizyah from the Zoroastrians of Hajar. (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.) In the chapter on slaughtering in Ibn Hazm’s book, Al-Muhalla, (Vol. 7, p. 456.)the author says, “They are also a People of the Book; hence all the rules related to the People of the Book apply to them.” (Ibn Hazm’s opinion undoubtedly carries great weight. He was very meticulous in applying the texts of the Qur’an and Ahadith, as well as being knowledgeable concerning the history of nations and their customs. Al-Baghdadi, in his book Al-Farq Bayn al-Firaq, states: “The Magians (Zoroastrians) claim that Zoraster was a prophet” Some modern Islamic scholars who have conducted researches into ancient cultures, such as Abul Kalam Azad, support this view.) Likewise the Sabeans are classified by Abu Hanifah as belonging to the category of People of the Book. (Some researchers of our time have attempted to extend the circle of People of the Book to include idolatrous such as Hindus and Buddhists, but they are stretching the matter too far. See, for example, Tafsir al-Manar, vol. 6, in the interpretation of the ayah, “The food of those who were given the Scripture is permitted to you,” in the chapter dealing with the food of idolatrous and marriage to their women.)

A Rule: What We Do Not See Should Not Be Probed Into

It is not required of the Muslim to inquire about what he has not witnessed, i.e., How was the animal killed? Did the manner of 6laughter meet the Islamic conditions? Was the name of Allah mentioned while slaughtering or not? If the animal was slaughtered by a Muslim, even if he is ignorant or sinful, or by someone from among the People of the Book, eating it is halal for us.

We have already narrated a hadith in which it wasaid to the Prophet (peace be on him): “People bring us meat and we do not know whether they have mentioned the name of Allah over it or not. Shall we eat it or not?” and the Prophet (peace be on him) replied, “Mentionthe name of Allah (over it) and eat.”
Concerning the application of this hadith, scholars say: This is proof that the actions and practices of people are ordinarily considered to be correct and appropriate, while deviation or error must be proved.


Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf (1960). The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam. (p. 40-60).

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