Islamic dietary laws

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Let Food Be Medicine, Medicine Be Food - Hippocrates


Islamic jurisprudence specifies which foods are [[halal|Template:Transl]] (حَلَال "lawful") and which are [[haraam|Template:Transl]] (حَرَامْ "unlawful"). This is derived from commandments found in the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, as well as the Hadith and Sunnah, libraries cataloging things the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said and done. Extensions of these rulings are issued, as fatwas, by mujtahids, with varying degrees of strictness, but they are not always widely held to be authoritative. According to the Quran, the only foods explicitly forbidden are meat from animals that die of themselves, blood, the meat of swine (porcine animals, pigs), and animals dedicated to other than Allah (either undedicated or dedicated to idols), but a person is not guilty of sin in a situation where the lack of any alternative creates an undesired necessity to consume that which is otherwise unlawful. (Quran 2:173) This is the "law of necessity" in Islamic jurisprudence: "That which is necessary makes the forbidden permissible", which, in the case of dietary laws, allows one to eat pork or carrion, or drink wine or ethanol if one was starving or dying of thirst (although the Shafi'i madhhab differs on the issue of ethanolic drinks).

Food hygiene

Food hygiene is an important part of Islamic dietary law.


Dhabīḥah (ذَبِيْحَة) is a prescribed method of ritual animal slaughter; it does not apply to most aquatic animals. The animal must be slaughtered by a Muslim or by one of the People of the Book, generally speaking, a Christian or a Jew, while mentioning the name of God (Allah in Arabic). According to some fatwas, the animal must be slaughtered specifically by a Muslim (who must be thaher – طاهر, meaning clean and not dirty), however, other fatwas (فتاوي ) dispute this, ruling that, according to verse 5:5 of the Qurʼan, an animal properly slaughtered by People of the Book is halal. The animal slaughtered must be killed quickly with a sharpened blade. It must not suffer. It must not see the blade. It must not see or smell the blood from a previous slaughter.

Animals for food may not be killed by being boiled or electrocuted, and the carcass should be hung upside down for long enough to be free of blood.[citation needed] All water game is considered halal (although the Hanafi madhhab differs on this): "Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food as provision for you [who are settled] as well as for travellers, although you are forbidden to hunt on land while you are in the state of pilgrimage. And be conscious of God, unto whom you shall be gathered." (Qurʼan 5:96.)

There are generally no restrictions on the consumption of vegetarian food as the restrictions pertain to slaughter.

Food certification

Because of the recent rise in Muslim populations in the United States and Europe, certain organizations have emerged that certify that food products and ingredients met dhabiha standards. The Muslim Consumer Group is an example of an organization that employs certification labelling, using the H-MCG symbol, to identify the status of different edible and non-edible consumer products.

In Islam, halal is an Arabic term meaning 'lawful, permissible' and not only encompasses food and drink, but all matters of daily life. When it comes to halal food, most people think of meat products only. However, Muslims must ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, pharmaceuticals and non-food items such as cosmetics are also halal. Often these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslim consumption.

Since 1991, mainstream manufacturers of soups, grains, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, prepared foods, and other industries, as well as hotels, restaurants, airlines, hospitals and other service providers have pursued the halal market. Halal certification tells Muslims that the ingredients and production methods of a product have been tested and declared permissible by a certification body. It also allows companies to export products to most Middle Eastern and South East Asian countries. The oldest and most well known halal certifier in the USA is Islamic Services of America.[1]

In Europe, several organizations have been created over the past twenty years in order to certify the halal products. A survey recently published by a French association of Muslim Consumers (ASIDCOM[2]) shows that the market of halal products has been developed in a chaotic way in Europe.[3] The European certification organizations do not have a common definition of "halal" nor agreed upon control procedures and traceability. The controls implemented by individual agencies are all very different: they can go from an annual audit of the slaughterhouse, to checking each production with permanent controls in place and on-going independent.

Some animals and manners of death or preparation can make certain things haram to eat, that is, taboo food and drink. These include what are regarded as unclean animals such as swine, or animals that are sick.[4]

Prohibited food


In Islam, consumption of any intoxicants (specifically, alcoholic beverages) is generally forbidden in the Qur'an through several separate verses revealed at different times over a period of years. At first, it was forbidden for Muslims to attend prayers while intoxicated.

O you who believe! do not go near prayer when you are Intoxicated until you know (well) what you say, nor when you are under an obligation to perform a bath—unless (you are) travelling on the road—until you have washed yourselves; and if you are sick, or on a journey, or one of you come from the privy or you have touched the women, and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth, then wipe your faces and your hands; surely Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving.


Then a later verse was revealed which said that alcohol contains some good and some evil, but the evil is greater than the good (In Surat al-Baqarah: 219, it states:

They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare. Thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, that you may ponder.


This was the next step in turning people away from consumption of it. Finally, "intoxicants and games of chance" were called "abominations of Satan's handiwork," intended to turn people away from God and forget about prayer, and Muslims were ordered to avoid.

O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, al-ansāb , and al-azlām (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shayṭān's (Satan's) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.


In addition to this, most observant Muslims refrain from consuming food products that contain pure vanilla extract or soy sauce if these food products contain alcohol; there is some debate about whether the prohibition extends to dishes in which the alcohol would be cooked off or if it would be practically impossible to consume enough of the food to become intoxicated.[8][9] The Zaidi and Mutazili sects believe that the use of alcohol has always been forbidden and refer to this Qur'an Ayah (4:43) as feeling of sleepiness and not to be awake.

Substances which are intoxicants are not prohibited as such, although their consumption is.[10] For example, alcohol can be used as a disinfectant[11][12] or for cleaning, but not as a beverage, yet In Sura XLVII (Muhammed) Verse 15 - it states

"(There is) a Parable

Of the Garden which

The righteous are promised;

In it are rivers

Of water incorruptible;

Rivers of milk

Of which the taste

Never changes; rivers

Of wine, a joy

To those who drink;

And rivers of honey......etc.


Blood and its by-products are forbidden in Islam, in the Qurʼan, surah 5, al-Maʼidah, verse 3:

Forbidden to you is that which dies of itself, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that on which any other name than that of Allah has been invoked, and the strangled (animal) and that beaten to death, and that killed by a fall and that killed by being smitten with the horn, and that which wild beasts have eaten, except what you slaughter, and what is sacrificed on stones set up (for idols) and that you divide by the arrows; that is a transgression. This day have those who disbelieve despaired of your religion, so fear them not, and fear Me. This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion; but whoever is compelled by hunger, not inclining willfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.



Consumption of pork and products made from pork is strictly forbidden in Islam. The origin of this prohibition is in Surat al-Baqarah:

He has only forbidden you what dies of itself, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that over which any other (name) than (that of) Allah has been invoked; but whoever is driven to necessity, not desiring, nor exceeding the limit, no sin shall be upon him; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.


In non-Islamic countries

A halal meat store sign in Hankou, China, ca. 1935, serving the Hui Muslim community. The Hui Muslims are scattered throughout the country.
A halal Chinese restaurant in Da'an, Taipei.
File:European Halal-Certificate.jpg
Halal certificate issued for dairy products by a German registered merchant
Australian halal certificate for chocolate.

Rules concerning halal food are relatively difficult to adhere to in non-Muslim countries:

  • The abundance of pork and non-dhabīḥah meats (that is, from animals that are not slaughtered by the prescribed method) at restaurants presents a rather difficult problem to overcome. While an observant Muslim would not order a non-halal dish, there is a concern about cross-contamination. This is likely to occur when the dhabīḥah halal dish is prepared with the same cooking tools and in the same kitchen as other non-dhabīḥah halal dishes. Food particles and juices from the two dishes are likely to be exchanged, technically rendering the dhabīḥah halal dish as haraam.
  • Many apparently meat-free dishes, and even some desserts, contain pork, such as most kinds of gelatin, or other non-conforming substances. There is some disagreement about food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) that may use enzymes derived from pig fat in the production process. It is difficult to avoid such additives when eating out since they are usually not listed on restaurant menus. Some Muslim organizations compile tables of such additives.[15]

The halal market is now estimated to be 16% of world trade and is growing. Companies from Europe and North America that would like to access the growing Halal market must get their consumable products Halal certified. The Global Halal Institute has a list of Halal certifiers that are approved by most Muslim countries with dietary import restrictions. The list can be found on

Efforts to increase the availability of halal food in non-Islamic countries

Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been efforts to create organizations such as the Muslim Consumer Group that certify food products as halal for Muslim consumers in the USA.[16]

Since 1991, some mainstream manufacturers of soups, grains, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, prepared foods, and other products, as well as hotels, restaurants, airlines, hospitals, and other service providers have pursued the halal market. These companies purchase halal-certified products. Halal certification tells Muslims that their ingredients and production methods have been tested and declared permissible by a certification body. It also allows companies to export products to most Middle Eastern countries and South East Asian Countries. The oldest and most well-known halal certifier in the United States is called the Islamic Services of America. Something that companies which intend to export halal products must keep in mind, when choosing a certifier, is whether or not the certifier is recognized by foreign governmental bodies.[17]

  • In 1986, the Islamic Meat & Poultry Company was founded in Stockton, California. Islamic Meat & Poultry is a halal-only, U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected, hand-slaughtering and meat processing facility. This company follows the principles of slaughtering and meat processing according to the Islamic Shariʻah.[18]
  • In 2011, the Halal Products Certification Institute was established in California and became the first worldwide corporation that certified halal consumer products such as cosmetics, personal care products, and perfumes and fragrances. The institute was established by Islamic intellectual scholars and Muslim scientists to assure the dissemination of halal consumer products.

Also in Europe, several organizations have been created over the past 20 years in order to certify halal products. A survey recently published by a French association of Muslim Consumers (ASIDCOM) shows that the market of halal products has been developed in a chaotic way. The certification organizations do not have a common definition of "halal" nor agreed upon control procedures and traceability. The controls implemented by individual agencies are all very different: it can go from an annual audit of the slaughterhouse to checking each production with permanent controls in place.[19]

In South Africa, most chicken products have a halal stamp. The South African National Halal Authority (SANHA) issues certificates and products bearing this logo range from water, snacks, and even meat-free products (which may contain non-halal ingredients). The South African National Halal Authority also licenses the usage of the Halal logo in restaurants where the food is halal in addition to no alcohol or pork products being served.[20]

One of the first halal food companies in the USA is Midamar Corporation, established in 1974 and located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.[21] It is also one of the first companies in the USA to sell USDA approved and halal-certified US protein products to the Middle East and South East Asia.[22] The certification agency Islamic Services of America (ISA) was established in 2004 and is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.[23] Islamic Services of America certifications are recognized by some Islamic countries.

In Dearborn, Michigan, the home of one of the largest Muslim and Arab populations in the United States, some fast-food restaurant chains such as the McDonald's Corporation have introduced halal chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches.[24]

In the United Kingdom, China, Malaysia, or Singapore, halal fried chicken restaurants having thousands of outlets serve halal foods, such as the ChicKing Fried Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Brown's Chicken, and Crown Fried Chicken companies. As of February 2009, Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the U.K. began to sell halal meals in several restaurants.[25]

Also, in New York City there are numerous halal food carts in business which serve gyros, chicken platters, and other halal fast foods, whereas in Europe, there are many Muslim-owned döner kebap shops.[26]

A law passed by a county in Michigan, in 2005, bans the sale, distribution, or production of food mislabeled "halal," when county authorities determine that the food does not meet Islamic dietary standards. Similar laws protect kosher foods in most of the United States, and in many other countries, states, or provinces.[27]

In 2008 and 2009, twelve stores in the Mary Brown's chain in Ontario and Alberta became 100% halal.[28] Numerous halal meat markets also exist in Southern Ontario and Metro Vancouver.[citation needed]

Popeye's Chicken in Ontario is mostly not halal-certified (depending on location); however, a legal dispute broke out between a group of 14 Muslim franchisees and the chain over the company's decision to use machine-slaughtered birds. The fourteen Toronto area outlets are instead using hand-slaughtered halal birds, and are suing the company so that they can continue to do so.[29]

Thailand and the Philippines also have a noticeable population of Muslims and halal-meat shops country-wide.

Within the People's Republic of China, which has a sizable Hui Muslim minority population, halal food is known as qingzhen (Chinese: 清真; pinyin: qīngzhēn; literally: 'pure truth'). Halal restaurants run by Hui Chinese resemble typical Chinese food, except that they do not serve pork. Dishes specific to Hui Chinese are known as Chinese Islamic cuisine.

See also


  1. Islamic Services of America
  3. Template:En icon "Survey on the Halal certification agencies (December 2009)". ASIDCOM. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  5. Template:Cite quran
  6. Template:Cite quran
  7. Template:Cite quran
  8. Alcohol in Islam
  9. Islam Prohibits Alcohol
  10. Common Misconceptions About Islam, Muslims and The Quran: Alcohol is forbidden in all forms
  11. UK NHS National Patient Safety Agency: Alcohol handrub
  12. World Health Organization Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care
  13. Template:Cite quran
  14. Template:Cite quran
  15. "Food additive numbers". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  16. "Welcome -". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  17. "?". Islamic Services of America.
  18. United States (1999-02-22). "islamic meat & poultry co". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  19. "Survey on the Halal certification agencies (December 2009)". ASIDCOM. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  20. "HHO: Recognized Halal Certification Bodies". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  21. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  22. Midamar Milestones
  23. "Home - Islamic Services of America". Islamic Services of America. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  24. Dodge, Christine Huda. "Halal McNuggets a Hit in Detroit". Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  25. Killalea, Debra. "Fast food chain KFC converts eight London restaurants to halal-only menu". Daily Mail.
  27. Wayne County law fines for fake Islamic diet ads
  28. Mary Brown's Website "?".
  29. Stone, Laura (2 November 2011). "Popeye's in fight over Halal chicken". Toronto Star. Retrieved 7 January 2012.

External links

Template:Islam topics Template:Prohibition

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