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What does halal mean?

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In the following article we are going to discuss the following topics:

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Halal in the Quran

One of the things about which Islam gives instructions is food. Muslims are only permitted to eat things that are defined as halal within the laws of sharia. Halal is an Arabic word that means lawful. Allah has said in this regard:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّـهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ2:172

O you who have faith! Eat of the good things We have provided you, and thank Allah, if it is Him that you worship.

The Quran alongside narrations from Prophet Muhammad and his household determine the things that are halal and those that are haram, which is the opposite of halal meaning unlawful. Halal applies but is not limited to food products that are taken from animals and plants.

halal meet

The conditions for halal meat

There are conditions that a four legged animal (quadruped) must have and for it to be slaughtered in a specific way according to Islamic standards in order for it to be halal to consume. For example, halal animals such as sheep, cows, and goats must have the main veins in their neck severed by a Muslim while reciting the name of Allah and facing the direction of qibla while observing a number of other conditions. If halal animals are killed in ways other than what Islam has defined then they will not be permissible for Muslims to consume.

Other than that, there are certain conditions that must be met in sea animals for them to be halal as well. For instance, Muslims are not allowed to eat fish that do not have scales or have died due to natural causes or inside water, so eels and fish that die due to high tide are off limits. 

What are the conditions for slaughtering an animal in Islam?

There is only one method of halal slaughtering in Islam that must be applied to animals that are not naturally impure, such as sheep, goats, and others in order for them to be permissible for consumption. Halal slaughtering means one must sever the four main arteries in the animal’s neck by which Islam means the food pipe, the jugular vein, the jugular artery, and the windpipe. It is also important for these veins to be cut from under the knot in the animal’s throat.

The key point in halal slaughtering is to make sure the animal dies due to having its arteries severed rather than its head being chopped off. If you want to learn more about halal slaughtering, take a look at our course on “Halal Food.

Conditions of the person slaughtering an animal

There are other conditions that must be met in order for slaughtering to be halal. The person performing the slaughter must be a Muslim and must utter the name of Allah before cutting the animal’s throat. So if the person who is slaughtering the animal is a non-Muslim, the slaughter would not be halal, even if they do say the name of Allah. But it is permissible for a Muslim child who can distinguish right from wrong to perform the slaughter as long as the other conditions are met.

Other conditions of slaughtering

It is also necessary for the animal’s throat to be cut with a sharp weapon made of iron. But if there are no such instruments, any other sharp weapon would suffice. Another point that one must observe for the slaughter to be halal is that the animal must be slaughtered while facing the qibla, meaning either its stomach should be facing the direction of qibla while lying down or its entire body should be towards qibla while standing like a person who is praying towards the qibla. If a person forgets these conditions or does not observe them due to ignorance, the slaughter would be halal. Otherwise, if they are intentionally ignored then the slaughter will be void.

Another condition is that the animal must show some sign of life such as twitching and moving after it has been slaughtered, however, this condition is only necessary in situations where they are doubtful whether the animal was alive before being slaughtered.

Hunting in Islam

Hunting is allowed in Islam. As an ancient method of attaining food, hunting is something that has been thoroughly discussed in Islam with many strict rules and regulations incorporated into it. The Holy Quran has said in relation to this:

یَسْئَلُونَكَ ما ذا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَکُمُ الطَّیِّباتُ وَ ما عَلَّمْتُمْ مِنَ الْجَوارِحِ مُکَلِّبِینَ تُعَلِّمُونَهُنَّ مِمّا عَلَّمَکُمُ اللّهُ فَکُلُوا مِمّا أَمْسَکْنَ عَلَیْکُمْ وَ اذْکُرُوا اسْمَ اللّهِ عَلَیْهِ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ سَرِیعُ الْحِسابِ-5:4
They ask you what is lawful to them. Say, ‘All the good things are lawful to you.’ As for what you have taught hunting dogs [to catch] , teaching them out of what Allah has taught you, eat of what they catch for you and mention Allah’s Name over it, and be wary of Allah. Indeed Allah is swift in calculation.

It is clear from this verse that Allah (swt) has allowed hunting with dogs but only when it is done within the guidelines that Allah has determined. One of the key factors here is that hunting with dogs is only permissible with dogs that have been trained for this purpose. Another factor is that the name of Allah must be mentioned in order for the hunt to be halal and at the end of this verse, Allah mentions His judgment thus implying that one must be careful and God-wary in terms of not wasting or transgressing. In another verse Allah addresses hunting of sea animals, that is, fishing, and says:

احل لکم صیدالبحر و طعامه متاعا لکم و للسیاره-5:96

You are permitted the game of the sea and its food, a provision for you and for the caravans.

Through this verse we can understand that Allah has made halal for us that which we acquire from the sea, however, this is only under the premise of it acting as provision for us or for those who are voyaging.

Hunting rules regarding animal rights

Even though Islam allows hunting, one of the most distinguished points that Islam discusses is the rights of the animals. It is forbidden in Islam to hunt or fish for any reason other than food and sustenance. This matter is taken so seriously to the extent that the prayer of one who travels in order to hunt for sports and pleasure will not be reduced due to the fact that his travel is in fact haram. It has been narrated from Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him and his household] that “Seven people do not break their fast and reduce their prayer on a trip…” one of which being:

A man who goes hunting for pleasure.

This shows that Islam pays great heed to the rights of animals and only allows their consumption for the purpose of assuring the survival of a human being. There have been numerous other hadith narrated in regard to hunting and the rights of animals from the Prophet and his household.

A beautiful Hadith on animal rights

One of the more unique narrations that we have received which shows Islam’s respect for nature and animals is from the Noble Prophet who has said:” Do not disturb a bird when it is resting in its nest at night time and wait until it awakens in the morning.”2 In addition to all this, in order to emphasize on animal rights furthermore, even though Islam has allowed hunting and has confirmed the meat of the animal that is attained through hunting as halal, under circumstances where the hunter has hunted the animal for pleasure and sport, its meat becomes haram and impermissible to consume according to Islamic law.

Does halal and haram apply to everything?

Haram and halal apply to every other edible thing in the world such as birds, plants, beverages, and insects. There are a number of conditions that Islam has defined that birds must have in order for them to be halal such as the way they fly and the shape of their claws. The general rule for non-animal foodstuff is that all plants and vegetables are considered halal unless they undergo changes that make them unlawful. For example, grapes are halal but if they turn into wine then they are no longer permissible to consume.


[1] Al-wasail, vol. 8,p. 477.

[2] Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 216.

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