Halal food is a term used to define the meat and foods allowed for human consumption by Muslims according to Islamic dietary laws. So, what is halal and what is not? A quick look at what these dietary laws are for Muslims will explain the restrictions of halal food.
When we talk about halal food in general, the principle is basically the same as kosher meat, in that the meat of animals permitted for human consumption exclude the following:-
Meat and any by products from swine.Pigs are considered dirty, and high in bacteria which remain even after being cooked in high temperatures and is thus considered harmful for human consumption.
All carnivorous animals or birds of prey, that is any animal or bird which eats meat or meat byproducts.The meat from animals suitable for consumption is pretty much limited to domestic animals. Other meat and poultry such as venison and rabbit can also be eaten.
Muslims are not allowed to eat meat of carrion. Any meat of animals that have died prior to being slaughtered in the specific way is not halal. This meat is considered unsuitable as the blood is retained in the body of the carcass.
The instructions in the Quran are clear in regards to halal food.
“Forbidden to you (your food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on wish 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; than 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 transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” Quran 5:3.
According to strict dietary laws Muslims must slaughter the animal in the technique of “zabiha”. This involves using a sharp knife against the jugular vein making swift deep incisions. At the same time the butcher must perform the sacrifice with the name of Allah and recite “Allah hu Akbar” (God is great). This technique allows the blood to properly drain from the animal.
Dietary laws of Muslims also exclude the consumption and use of alcohol or intoxicants. Some schools of Islamic thought now prohibit smoking. This is under the principle that halal foods should not be detrimental to human health. Alcohol and intoxicants may have beneficial properties but the harm on society is perceived as greater than their benefits.
Fish and most sea-life are considered halal. Some consider animals without scales such as catfish, prawns and crabs not permissible or makruh. Makruh means disliked by Allah.
However Muslim dietary law is not just about food that is halal,but also how much one is permitted to eat. A saying of the Prophet Muhammad explains that Muslims should divide their stomach into three parts. One third should be for water, one third for air and a person should be careful to eat not to his fill, but to satisfy only one third of one’s stomach . Another instruction in the Quran, exhorts Muslims not to be excessive or wasteful when it come to food.
These are the the main dietary laws of Muslims pertaining to halal food. These laws are similar to Kosher food and many Muslims also consider Kosher food permissible in the absence of halal certified food.
In general, Muslim dietary laws pertaining to halal food, work under the principle of what is considered healthy and fit for human consumption. Despite all these conditions, a Muslim is allowed to eat from those excluded food groups if that food is the only available source of sustenance in extreme cases of hunger.
Further information about halal food and dietary laws of Muslims can be found at:-