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Halal vs. Zabiha: Is there a difference?
Is the difference between the terms “halal” and “zabiha”? Is meat at the grocery store simply “halal”? This AHF Insight delves into the details.

Halal vs. Zabiha: Is there a difference?



Halal in Arabic linguistically means “lawful.” The opposite of halal is “haram,” which means “unlawful.” These two terms technically relate to all aspects of religious legalities and prohibitions. However, in the context of food, it means food that is lawful to consume. Specifically, in terms of meat and poultry, it relates to all meat and poultry that is lawful to consume.
For a complete in-depth discussion about the definition of halal, read here: What is Halal? What Halal Means


Zabiha (also spelled Dhabiha) is an Arabic word meaning “slaughtered.” When an animal is slaughtered according to the Islamically permissible slaughter methods (including hunting, nahr, and traditional harvest), the meat is considered zabiha. When used for meat, the term zabiha generally means halal or lawful.

The core principles of zabiha are:

  1. Permissible Species: The animal must be a non-carnivorous halal specie
  2. Humane Handling: The animal should be handled humanely, and any form of abuse is strictly forbidden
  3. Islamic Belief of Slaughterman: The slaughterman invokes the name of God on each animal harvested.
  4. Harvesting Method: The method of harvesting should minimize pain and be in accordance with the guideline for each respective specie.
  5. Harvesting Instrument: The instrument should be such that no unnecessary pain is caused to the animal.

For an animal to be considered halal, it must be harvested in accordance with Islamic guidelines set forth for each principle above.

The term “Zabiha Halal” thus refers to meat that is harvested in accordance with the principles of zabiha and is thus considered halal. To this end, zabiha does not apply to non-slaughtered food such as fish.

The meat of the people of the book (ahl-ul-kitab), when slaughtered according to the Islamic zabiha requirements (specie, the pronunciation of the name of God, etc.), will also be considered zabiha.

The opposite of Zabiha is “non-slaughtered” meat which is considered dead meat, “maytah,” and considered unequivocally haram and impure “najs.”

According to all schools of legal jurisprudence, for meat to be halal, it must be zabiha; thus, Muslims are only allowed to consume Zabiha meat.

Is there a difference between Zabiha and Halal?

The short answer is no. By definition, all halal meat is zabiha and all zabiha-halal meat is halal.

Meat is either halal haram. This is a strict binary. There is no permissibility, according to any school of thought to consume non-zabiha halal meat as that would be considered unequivocally impure.

A Common and Large Misconception

There is a common misconception amongst consumers that zabiha refers to meat harvested by Muslims, whereas the meat of the People of the Book is halal and not zabiha halal. This is a false binary. The Meat of the People of the Book (ahl-ul-kitab), when slaughtered properly, is considered zabiha halal.

The discussion of the permissibility of meat of the People of the Book is not covered in this AHF Insight.

Is General (Non-Halal Certified) Meat at the Grocery Store “Halal”?

This brings us to another common question: Can I purchase general (non-halal certified) meat at my local grocery store (Walmart, Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, Publix, etc.)? Is it not halal, although it is not zabiha?

There are two parts to the answer to this question:

  1. There is no distinction between zabiha and halal (see above)
  2. General (non-halal certified) meat commonly available is not considered permissible meat of the People of the Book and, therefore, impermissible to consume.

To the second point, there are a few simple, concise, and logical reasons to understand why it is unequivocally impermissible:

  1. There is no certainty that the slaughterman in western secular society was a person of the book.
  2. The animal may have been killed before being slaughtered due to stunning, rendering it maytah and unequivocally haram.
  3. The meat may have been contaminated with other non-halal species.
  4. The name of God was likely not recited upon the animal before harvesting.
  5. The harvest method may be unacceptable in accordance with Islamic laws (vertical slaughter etc.)


Halal consumers can avoid confusion by simply understanding there is no difference between halal and zabiha halal. Meat is either halal or haram. Furthermore, general (non-halal certified) meat commonly available in US supermarkets is not simply “halal” for the abovementioned reasons and can also not be considered permissible meat of the People of the Book.

AHF encourages consumers to spread this awareness and seek to eat only halal-certified meat for themselves and their families.

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