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What is Halal? What Halal Means

Halal (also spelled halaal) is an Arabic word that means “lawful or permitted.” It is a term that is used in the Islamic religion in contrast with the word haram (which means “unlawful or not allowed”). These terms indicate which life practices are allowed or not allowed for those who practice Islam (Muslims). While halal refers to much more than just Islamic dietary practices, the term is most often thought of when talking about food, drinks, and other products.


This “AHF Insight” will give you a better understanding of halal as is pertains to dietary practices.

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Governing Philosophy

The basic principle established by Islam is the principle of natural usability and permissibility of things.


"It is He Who created all that is in the earth for you
(Al-Qur'an 2:29)



"Do you not see that Allah has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and what is on earth, and has showered upon you His favors, both apparent and unseen? "
(A-Qur'an 31:20)

In general, everything is permitted for man's use and benefit. Nothing is forbidden except what is prohibited either by a verse of the Qur'an or an authentic and explicit Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (S). This rule of Shari'ah (Islamic law) brings freedom for people to eat and drink anything they like as long as it is not haram.



"… He (Allah) has explained to you what He has made haram for you " (Al-Qur'an 6:119)

Prophet Muhammad (S) said:
"The halal is that which Allah has made lawful in His Book and the haram is that which He has forbidden, and that concerning which He is silent, He has permitted as a favor to you. '
(Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

A useful heuristic is “Everything is halal except ABCD IS haram”.

A-Alcohol (ethyl) and all types of intoxicants/drugs
B- Blood – flowing or congealed
C- Carnivorous animals
D- Dead meat – meat that is not slaughtered according to Islamic slaughtering rites
I- Food immolate unto idols
S- Swine and all swine derivatives

Key Definitions

(1) Al-Halal (The Lawful)

Halal is an Arabic word meaning 'allowed' or 'lawful'. The Qur’anic term halal is that which is permitted and allowed by the law-Giver Allah.

With respect to halal, there are no restrictions of consumption or use. Most foods and drinks are considered to be halal unless they are specifically forbidden by an explicit Qur’anic verse or an authentic Hadith. Human beings cannot forbid halal. The guidelines are divine.




"O you who believe! forbid not the good things which Allah has made halal (lawful) for you, and transgress not. Lo! Allah loves not transgressors. Eat of that which Allah has bestowed on you as food halal and good, and keep your duty to Allah in Whom you are believers.
(Al-Qur'an 5:87-88)

(2) Al-Haram (The Unlawful)

Haram is an Arabic word meaning 'prohibited', 'forbidden', or 'unlawful'. The Qur’anic term 'haram' is that which is absolutely prohibited by the Law-Giver Allah.

In respect to haram, there are absolute restrictions of consumption and use in normal circumstances. Human beings cannot permit the haram. Once again, it is a divine injunction.


"....He has explained to you what He has made haram (unlawful) for you...
(Al-Qur'an 6:119)

Examples of haram things are the flesh of swine, alcoholic beverages, intoxicating drugs, meat of dead animals and birds.

(3) Al-Makrooh (The Discouraged)

Makrooh is an Arabic word meaning religiously 'discouraged', or 'detested'. Islamic law uses the category of 'makrooh' to cover any food, liquid, or smoking substance which is disguised or harmful to the body - physically, mentally, psychologically, or spiritually.

Makrooh (detested) is that which is disapproved by the Law-Giver — Allah, but not very strongly. Examples of makrooh things are harmful stimulants and/or depressants, substances which cause drug dependency, and smoking substances.

(4) Al-Mash-booh (The Suspected)

Mash-booh is an Arabic word meaning 'suspected', Islamic law uses the category of 'mash-booh' to cover the grey area between the halal and the haram. Due to doubtful evidence or to doubt concerning the applicability of the text of the Qur'an or Sunnah to a particular circumstance or matter, one may be suspicious about permissibility or prohibition. This suspicion is called 'shubah' (in Arabic) and such a particular circumstance or matter is considered 'mushcook' (in Arabic). A practicing Muslim prevents himself from indulging in things that are considered mash-booh. Islam recommends avoidance of the mash-booh (suspected) circumstances and things, in order to prevent oneself from indulgence into potential haram. This recommendation is deduced from the following saying of Prophet Muhammad (S):

"The halal is clear and the haram is clear; in between these two there are doubtful matters concerning which people do not know whether they are halal or haram. One who avoids them, in order to safeguard his religion and his honor, is safe. Anyone who gets involved in any of these doubtful items, he may fall into the haram. This case is similar to the one who wishes to raise his animals next to a restricted area, he may step into it. Indeed, for every landlord there is a restricted area. Indeed the restrictions of Allah are haram. "
(Sahih Bukhari & Muslim)

(5) Dhabiha (Slaughtered)

Dhabiha is an Arabic word meaning 'slaughtered'. When an animal is slaughtered according to the moral and ethical standard of halal, the meat is considered to be dhabiha. Anytime the term dhabiha is used for meat it should mean halal meat or lawful meat.

Foods and Drinks for Consumption

Foods and drinks are derived from four broad sources:
1) The plant kingdom,
2) The animal kingdom,
3) The mineral kingdom,
4) Bio-technologically produced foods and drinks

(1) The Plant Kingdom

People of the world have been close to a consensus about the permissibility of foods and drinks of plant origin. Islam allows all the foods and drinks of plant origin, with the following exceptions:
(a) Anything which adversely affects the nervous system, thereby impairing the senses, memory, and judgment. For example, fermented grapes, dates, barley, etc., producing wine, liquor, and other alcoholic beverages. Opium, cocaine, and other such intoxicating drugs.
(b) Anything that harms life and/or health. Example: Poisons.

(2) The Animal Kingdom

From a halal perspective, some animals are intrinsically considered non-halal species, for example, carnivorous animals and specific bugs. From the permissible animals,

(3) The Mineral Kingdom

Generally, minerals or substances derived from minerals such as petroleum sources are permissible, which might adversely affect the nervous system or harm life and health.

(4) Bio-technologically Produced Foods and Drinks

With advanced food technology, foods and drinks are produced by biotechnological and bioengineering techniques.

The techniques are likely to manipulate many genetically controlled characteristics of animals and plants. Specific introduction of genetic material from other cultivars, microorganisms, and species into animals and plants offers the potential to increase production efficiency and enhance the disease and pest resistance of many animals and plants.

In biotechnologically produced foods and drinks, it is not only the sources of origin but the processes of manufacture that are to be reviewed by Islamic jurists to determine the permissibility of these products for consumption on a case-by-case basis.

Halal Meat and Poultry

Other Halal Food Products

In general, a product is considered halal if it is free of any substance or ingredient taken from a haram source. It must also be manufactured or stored by utensils, equipment, and machinery that have not been contaminated with haram. It must never have been contaminated or cross-contaminated with a haram substance during its product life cycle (from production to storage).

These food products can be considered halal when meeting the above criteria:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Bread products
  • Pastry items (frostings and coatings)
  • Desserts (cakes and pastries)
  • Cereals (breakfast, natural, and organic)
  • Pasta
  • Dairy products (whipped toppings and drink mixes)
  • Milk (from species considered halal)
  • Cheese, cheese products, and coatings
  • Ice cream and ice cream toppings
  • Eggs (powdered, frozen, and processed)
  • Coffee mixes
  • Tea blends
  • Seasonings
  • Fruits (fresh and or dried)
  • Honey
  • Syrups (table and flavored)
  • Jams and jellies
  • Legumes and nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Pizzas (halal meats and veggies only)
  • Plants (which are non-intoxicating)
  • Vegetables (fresh and frozen)
  • French fries and processed potatoes
  • Sauces and dressings
  • Soup and soup base

Other Non-Food Halal Products

Other products that can be certified halal include:

  • Packaging
  • Protein powders
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Soap
  • Perfume
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair color
  • Infused oil
  • Filter
  • Products made of rubber
  • Capsules, both pharmaceutical and vitamin
  • Cleaning agents

The reason for halal certification of these products is that they often contain non-halal animal byproducts or ethyl alcohol constituents as part of their makeup. They must also be alcohol-free to be halal certified. To be considered halal, they must meet the criteria listed above (e.g., processing and storage).

Halal Cooking

It is essential to understand that all the ingredients used in a halal dish must be halal. Alcohol and non-halal animal derivatives are not allowed in a halal meal.
As stated earlier, any animal products used in halal cooking cannot come from carnivores, such as exotic meats like alligator or birds of prey (any bird with large talons), pork, or lard.

Is Halal for Muslims Only?

The short answer: no. With over 2 billion halal consumers, its practice can be embraced by those of any faith, ethnicity, gender, or any other demographic. A halal lifestyle is often adopted by those interested in animal welfare and humane slaughter methods.

Is Kosher Halal?

Kosher is a term that many companies are also familiar with. Kosher plays a similar role for those of the Jewish faith, as halal does for Muslims. Kosher and halal certification share many commonalities, including the prohibition of pork and nonritually slaughtered animal derivatives. However, not all kosher products are halal and vice-versa. Kosher certification differs from halal in its prohibition of mixing dairy and meat and allowance of certain alcohols.

We hope this guide has answered any questions you may have had about halal.

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