The Halal And The Haram In The Private Life of Muslim

Food and Drink

Since ancient times, peoples have differed in their eating and drinking habits and in relation to what is to be allowed and avoided, especially with regard to food of animal origin.

Concerning food and drink of vegetable origin, the peoples of the earth have been close to a consensus. Islam does not prohibit vegetable foods, with the exception of what is fermented, whether it be grapes, dates, barley, or any other substance, as long as it remains in the unfermented state; similarly, Islam prohibits anything which intoxicates, affects the functioning of the brain, or harms the body, as we shall see later. However, with regard to foods derived from animal sources peoples and nations have held widely varying attitudes.


The Attitude of the Brahmins Toward Slaughtering Animals and Eating Meat

The Brahmins and a group of philosophers, subsisting on vegetarian food, only prohibit to themselves the killing and eating of animals. They claim that the slaughtering of animals is a cruelty inflicted by men on these creatures, who are living beings like themselves and that they must not deprive the animals of their right to live.

However, when we ponder the creation, we realize that these animals have not been created for their own sake, because they have not been endowed with intellect or freedom of choice; we also see that their natural position is such that they have been subjected to the service of man. It is therefore not to be doubted that man should benefit from their flesh after slaughter just as he benefits from their service while they are alive.

Again, we realize that it is the law of Allah in His creation that the lower order of species be sacrificed for the benefit of the higher. Thus green plants are cut and fed to an animal, the animal is slaughtered to be food for man, and a man must also fight and risk his life for the sake of the group. Moreover, even if a man refrains from slaughtering an animal, it will not thereby be saved from death and destruction; it will either become prey to some other animal or will die in some other way, possibly in a much more painful manner than by a quick stroke of a sharp knife.


Animals Prohibited to the Jews and Christians

Among the people possessing a religion based on a divinely revealed scripture, Allah prohibited to the Jews the eating of many land and marine animals; for a description of these one may refer to the Old Testment book of Leviticus, chapter eleven. The Qur’an mentions some of the things which Allah prohibited to them, as we mentioned previously, to punish them for their transgressions and sins: And to the Jews We forbade every animal with claws, and of oxen and sheep We have forbidden them their fat, except what is carried on their backs or entrails or what is connected to the bone; thus did We recompense them for their rebelliousness, and indeed We speak the truth. (6:146)

These prohibitions applied to the Jews, and it may be assumed that the Christians were also supposed to observe them since the Injeel declares that Jesus (peace be on him) did not come to abolish the Law of Moses but to fulfill it. However, the Christians made permissible things which had been prohibited in the Torah, although not abrogated in the Injeel, or scripture revealed to Jesus (peace be on him). The Christians followed the teachings of Paul, who declared all foods and drinks permissible with the sole exception of the flesh of animals sacrificed to idols, (1 Cor. 8:4-10,10:19-29; Col. 2:13-14,16,1 Tim. 4:4-5. (Trans)) since “to the pure everything is pure.” (Rom. 14:14-17; Tit. 1:15. (Trans.)) Accordingly, Christians permitted to themselves the eating of pork, despite the fact that the text of the Torah prohibits it to this day.


The Attitude of the Pre-Islamic Arabs

The pre-Islamic Arabs prohibited certain animals as being unclean, together with some other animals which were considered sacred and dedicated to their gods; we have already mentioned bahirah, saibah, wasilah, and ham, which fall into the latter category. In contrast to this, they permitted many kinds of impure foods, such as the flesh of dead animals and flowing blood.


Islam Permits What Is Wholesome

This was the state of the world in relation to the eating of food at the advent of Islam. At one extreme every kind of meat was permitted and at the other all meat was prohibited. Then Allah addressed all human beings saying, O mankind! Eat of what is permissible and good on earth, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan; truly he is an open adversary to you. (2:168)

Thus He speaks to all the people on this globe, calling on them to eat of the good things which He has provided for them on this vast, outspread table, the Earth, and not to follow the ways of Satan, who has made it alluring to some people to prohibit for themselves various wholesome things which Allah has made halal, thus leading them toward the pitfalls of self-destruction. Then Allah addressed the Believers in particular saying, O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be thankful to Allah if it is He alone whom you worship. Indeed, what He has forbidden to you is the flesh of dead animals and blood and the flesh of swine, and that which has been sacrificed to anyone other than Allah. 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)

In this particular message to the Believers, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala tells them to eat of the good things of His providing and to give thanks to Him for His favors. He then explains that no food is haram to them except the four kinds mentioned in the ayah. The same four kinds, with some further details, are mentioned at other places in the Qur’an: Say: I do not find in what is revealed to me anything prohibited to an eater in his food unless it be (the flesh of) that which is dead, or flowing blood, or the flesh of swine, for that is indeed foul, or the abomination which has been dedicated to anyone other than Allah. But if one is compelled by necessity, neither craving (it) nor transgressing, then, indeed, thy Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. (6:145)

And in even greater detail: Forbidden to you are the flesh of dead animals and blood and the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to any other than Allah, and that which has been killed by strangling or by beating or by falling or by being gored, and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild beast except that which you make lawful by slaughtering (before its death), and that which has been sacrificed to idols…. (5:4 (5:3))

There is no contradiction between this verse, which lists ten prohibited categories, and the previous verse which lists four, since animals which are killed by strangulation, by a blow, by a fall, by being gored, or which are partly eaten by wild animals all belong in the category of dead animals. Similarly, what is sacrificed to idols falls into the category of that which is dedicated to anyone other than Allah. Accordingly, the foods which are prohibited fall into four broad categories which may be reclassified into ten detailed categories, as follows:


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 fightshirk 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.

    1.  The beaten: an animal which has been beaten to death by a club or similar object.

    1.  The fallen: an animal which dies as a result of a fall from a high place, or by falling into a gully or ravine.

    1.  The gored: an animal which dies as a result of being gored by the horns of another animal.

  1.  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 theKa’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 allhalal. 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.

According to Ibn ‘Abbas, nothing is haram other than the four categories mentioned in the Qur’an, while what the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade, such as beasts of prey, are to be regarded as makruh (detestable) rather than reaching the degree of haram. Said Ibn ‘Abbas: The people of the time of jahiliyyah ate certain foods and avoided others, according to their whim. Then Allah sent His Prophet (peace be on him) and revealed His Book, and He legislated what is permissible and what is prohibited. Accordingly, what He permitted is halal, what He prohibited is haram, and that concerning which He is silent is allowed. Ibn ‘Abbas then recited, Say: I do not find in what is revealed to me anything prohibited to an eater in his food. Say: I do not find in what is revealed to me anything prohibited to an eater in his food. Say: I do not find in what is revealed to me anything prohibited to an eater in his food. (6:145) (Reported by Abu Daoud as the saying of Ibn ‘Abbas.)

On the basis of this ayah, Ibn ‘Abbas argued that the flesh of domesticated donkeys is permissible. Imam Malik agrees with him on this matter, considering beasts of preymakruh rather than haram.

The jurists agree that cutting the throat of a prohibited animal does not render it halal. However, it then becomes permissible to use its skin without tanning it.


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 theSirah (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: makruhbecause 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 eatis 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 ofAhadith.)

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.



Many Arabs and peoples of other nations formerly lived by hunting; hence the Qur’an and Sunnah have addressed themselves to this matter. Muslim jurists have always treated the subject of hunting under a separate heading, explaining what is lawful and what is prohibited, what is obligatory and what is commendable in this regard, since many animals and birds whose flesh is wholesome are neither tamed nor under man’s control.
In order to render eating them halal, Islam does not require that the throats of such creatures be cut or that the hollow of their throat be pierced, as is required for the slaughter of tame and domesticated animals. It is sufficient to do something of this sort but to a lesser degree, as the circumstances of the hunt permit. People have always followed their instincts while hunting, and Islam does not oppose what is natural and instinctive, but merely adds a few conditions in order to bring hunting, as it brings all the other affairs of Muslims, in accord with its general belief system. Some of these conditions apply to the hunter, others to the game, and still others to the instrument of hunting.
These conditions apply, naturally, only to land game. As for sea game, Allah has permitted all of it without restriction, as was mentioned earlier: The game of the sea is permitted to you and so is its food, a provision for you and for travellers by sea…. (5:99 (96))


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.”



The Arabic word khamr signifies any alcoholic drink which causes intoxication. We would be stating the obvious if we were to discuss the harmful effects of drinking on the individual’s mind, his health, his religion, and his work; or if we discussed the disasters which he brings upon his family by neglecting their needs and by not fulfilling his obligations, as the head of the family, toward his wife and children; or if we elaborated on the spiritual, material, and moral evils which proliferate in societies and nations due to the widespread consumption of alcohol.

A researcher in this area has rightly stated that: Mankind has not suffered any greater calamity than that brought about by the use of alcohol. If statistics were collected worldwide of all the patients in hospitals who, due to alcohol, are suffering from mental disorders, delirium tremens, nervous breakdowns, and ailments of the digestive tract, to which are added the statistics of suicides, homicides, bankruptcies, sales of properties, and broken homes related to the consumption of alcohol, the number of such cases would be so staggering that, in comparison to it, all exhortation and preaching against drinking would seem too little.

The Arabs during the period of jahiliyyah were very fond of wine and drinking parties. This love of wine is reflected in their language, which has nearly one hundred names for it, and in their poetry, which celebrates the praises of wine, goblets, drinking parties, and so on.

To eradicate this pervasive evil from society, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala adopted a wise course of education and training, prohibiting it in measured stages. First, He made it clear to them that the harm of drinking wine is greater than its benefit; next, He told them not to come to salat while intoxicated; and finally, He revealed the verse in Surah al-Maidah which prohibited it totally and decisively: O you who believe! Truly, intoxicants and gambling and divination by arrows are an abomination of Satan’s doing: avoid it in order that you may be successful. Assuredly Satan desires to sow enmity and hatred among you with intoxicants and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from salat. Will you not then desist? (5:93-94 (90-91))

In these two verses, Allah strictly prohibited wine and gambling, linking them to idols and seeking omens by means of divining arrows, and declared them to be rijs(abominable or filthy), a term which the Qur’an reserves for extremely indecent and evil things. He ascribes them to the work of Satan, which indeed consists only of obscenity and evil, and commands the Believers to abstain from them as the only way to attain success. Allah Ta’ala then mentions the harmful effects of wine and gambling on society, namely, the breaking of relationships and ensuing enmity and hatred, in addition to the harm they do to man’s soul by causing him to neglect the religious obligations of remembering Allah and of performing salat. The verses end with a very stern admonition to abstain: “Will you not then desist?” And when the Prophet (peace be on him) had finished reciting these verses for the first time, the listeners answered with the fervent cry, “We have desisted, O Lord! We have desisted!”

The response of the Muslims to these verses was remarkable indeed. At the time some people were drinking, with partly-filled cups in their hands. As soon as they heard someone announcing, “Wine has indeed been prohibited,” they poured the remaining drinks upon the ground and broke the big clay pots in which other drinks were being fermented.

Many present-day governments throughout the world are convinced of the harmful effects of alcohol on individuals, families, and society. Some governments, such as that of the United States, have even tried to abolish alcohol by passing, and attempting to enforce, laws prohibiting the drinking of alcohol. It is only Islam which has succeeded in combating and eradicating it.

The churchmen hold differing opinions concerning the position of alcohol in Christianity. Some argue that the Biblical text permits drinking in small quantities, since it is good for the digestion. (See, for example, I Tim. 5:23.) But if this should be true, even though a little wine may be beneficial to the digestion, this little must be prohibited, as a small amount leads to large amounts and one glass to other glasses, until one becomes’ addicted to it. For this reason Islam’s stand in prohibiting alcohol and in blocking all avenues which lead to drinking is very clear and unequivocal.


All That Intoxicates Is Haram

The first declaration made by the Prophet (peace be him) concerning this matter was that not only is wine prohibited but that the definition of khamr extends to any substance which intoxicates, in whatever form or under whatever name it may appear. Thus, example, beer and similar drinks are haram.

The Prophet (peace be on h) was once asked about certain drinks made from honey, corn, or barley by the process of fermenting them until they became alcoholic. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him), blessed as he was with the best of speech’ replied succinctly, “Every intoxicant is khamr, and every khamr is haram.Reported by Muslim. )

And ‘Umar declared from the pulpit of the Prophet, Khamr is that which befogs the mind.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim. )


Whatever Intoxicates in Large Amounts is Haram in Any Amount

Islam takes an uncompromising stand in prohibiting intoxicants, regardless of whether the amount is little or much. If an individual is permitted to take but a single step along this road, other steps follow; he starts walking and then running, and does not stop at any stage. This is why the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Of that which intoxicates in a large amount, a small amount is haram.” (Reported by Ahmad Abu Daoud, and al-Tirmidhi. )

And again, “If a bucketful intoxicates, a sip of it is haram.” (Reported by Ahmad Abu Daoud, and al-Tirmidhi.)


Trading in Alcohol

The Prophet (peace be on him) did not stop at prohibiting the drinking of alcohol, whether much or little, but he also forbade any trading in it, even with non-Muslims. It is not permissible for a Muslim to import or export alcoholic beverages, or to own or work in a place which sells them. In connection with alcohol, the Prophet (peace be on him) cursed ten categories of people saying: Truly, Allah has cursed khamr and has cursed the one who produces it, the one for whom it is produced, the one who drinks it, the one who serves it, the one who carries it, the one for whom it is carried, the one who sells it, the one who earns from the sale of it, the one who buys it, and the one for whom it is bought. (Reported by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, on reliable authority. )

When the above verse of Surah al-Maidah was revealed, the Prophet (peace be on him) announced: Truly, Allah has prohibited khamr. Therefore, whoever hears this verse and possesses some of this substance should neither drink it nor sell it. The narrator of this hadith says, “The people brought forth whatever they possessed of it and poured it out in the streets of Madinah.” (Reported by Muslim.)

Since the Islamic method is to block all avenues which lead to the haram, it is also haram for a Muslim to sell grapes to a person whom he knows will make khamr from them. A hadith states: If someone stockpiles grapes during harvest time and holds them in order to sell them to a Jew or Christian or anyone else (even if he be a Muslim) who produces khamr, he will be leaping into the Fire with his eyes open. (Reported by al-Tabarani in Al-Awsat, and classified as sahih by al-Hafiz inBulugh al-Maram.)


Alcohol Cannot Be Given as a Gift

Just as the sale of alcohol or receiving the price of it is haram for the Muslim, likewise giving it as a gift to anyone, such as a Christian or Jewish friend, is haram.Alcoholic beverages cannot be received or given by a Muslim as gifts because a Muslim is pure and neither gives nor receives anything except what is pure.

It is reported that a man brought a cask of wine to the Prophet (peace be on him) as a gift. The Prophet (peace be on him) informed him that Allah had prohibited it.‘Shall I not sell it?’ asked the man. ‘The One Who Prohibited drinking it has also prohibited selling it,’ replied the Prophet (peace be on him). ‘Shall I not give it to a Jew as a gift?’ asked the man. ‘The One Who has prohibited it has also prohibited that it be given as a gift to the Jew,’ said the Prophet. ‘Then what shall I do with it?’ asked the man. ‘Pour it on the ground,’ the Prophet replied. (Reported by al-Hameedi in his Musnad. )


Avoiding Drinking Parties

In the same spirit, the Muslim is ordered to stay away from drinking parties or gatherings at which drinks are served. ‘Umar narrated that he heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) saying, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day must not sit at table at which khamr is consumed.” (Reported by Ahmad; al-Tirmidhi also reports something similar to it.)
While it is the duty of a Muslim to eradicate the evil he sees, if he is unable to do so, he must stay away from it, leaving the place where people are engaged in such things.

It is reported that the rightly-guided Caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul’Aziz used to flog not only those who drank but those who sat with them as well, even if they were not themselves drinking. When once he was told of a group of people who were at a drinking party, he ordered that all of them be flogged. He was told that a person who was fasting was among them. “Begin with him,” he said. “Have you not heard Allah’s saying, ‘And He has revealed to you in the Book that when you hear the revelation of Allah rejected and mocked, you are not to sit with them until they turn to some other theme; for if you do so, you will be like them….’ (4:140)


Alcohol, Itself a Disease, Cannot Be a Medicine

From all the explicit texts of the Qur’an and ahadith quoted above, we see that Islam is very firm in combating alcohol, as well as in keeping the Muslim away from it by erecting barriers between him and it so that no opening, either wide or narrow, is left for him either to consume alcohol or to touch it. The Muslim is not allowed to drink it in large or small amounts; he is not permitted to handle it through selling or buying, manufacturing, or giving it as a gift; he is not allowed to bring it to his home or shop; he is not allowed to serve it at gatherings, for a joyous occasion or otherwise, or to serve it to a non-Muslim guest; and he is not allowed to mix it with any food or beverage.

A question raised by some people which still remains to be answered concerns the use of alcohol as a medicine. This question was answered by the Prophet (peace be on him) when a man told him that he used wine as a medicine. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “It is not a medicine but a disease,” (Reported by Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Daoud, and al-Tirmidhi.)

He also said, Allah has sent down the disease and the cure, and for every disease there is a cure. So take medicine but do not use anything haram as medicine. (Reported by Abu-Daoud.)

With regard to intoxicants Ibn Mas’ud said, “Allah has not made a cure for you in what He has prohibited to you.” (Reported by al-Bukhari as a comment on the preceding hadith.)It is therefore not surprising that Islam forbids the use of alcohol and other prohibited substances as medicines. As explained by Ibn Qayyim, the prohibition of a thing implies avoiding and staying way from it by every means, while taking it as a medicine renders it desirable and reuires keeping it on hand, and this is against the Law-Giver’s purpose. Ibn Qayyim, said, “If alcohol were permitted as medicine when people are already inclined toward it, it would provide them with an excuse to drink it for pleasure and enjoyment, especially since people have the impression that it is beneficial for their health, alleviates their complaints, and cures their diseases.” (Zad al-Ma’ad, vol. 3, pp. 115-116.)

One may also mention that the attitude of the patient toward the medicine he takes has a considerable effect in hastening or delaying the cure. Ibn Qayyim, who had considerable insight into human psychology, elaborates on this point in the following manner: One condition for the efficacy of the medicine is that the patient believes in its efficacy and that Allah has placed the blessing of cure in it. Now the Muslim patient’s belief that a particular substance, such as alcohol, is haram prevents him from believing that it can at the same time be beneficial or blessed. Thus he will not have any trust in it nor will he take it approvingly. On the contrary! The stronger the Muslim’s faith, the greater will be his aversion to it and the greater his mistrust of it. If hethen grudgingly takes what he hates and loathes, it will not be a cure for him but a disease. (Adapted from his discussion in Zad al-Ma’ad, vol. 3.)

Having said this, we must again mention the exempted case of necessity; the Islamic Shari’ah has a different ruling for such a case. Supposing a ma’s life were in danger and no substitute for a medication containing alcohol were available; a Muslim physician, who was at once an expert in his field and at the same time zealous in safeguarding the commands of religion, would then find no alternative except to prescribe a medication containing alcohol. As its aim is always the welfare of human beings, the Shari’ah permits the taking of such a medicine in such a case. However, one must be aware that this concession is strictly limited to that quality which is deemed essential: …But if one is compelled by necessity, neither craving (it) nor transgressing, then, indeed, thy Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. (6:145)


About FahmieSabri

Lecturer at Politeknik Merlimau Melaka, Tourism & Hospitality Department

Posted on July 14, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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