God has told us to consume what is lawful and good in the Quran. God says, “So eat of the good and lawful things God has provided for you and be thankful for His blessings, if it is Him that you worship.” [16:114] So what are the things that God has legislated as being unlawful and impure? This blog post will give a brief overview.
Unlawful foods are those that God has forbidden due to them being harmful for people to consume in one way or another. We believe in God’s infinite knowledge and wisdom in this regard as with all else. God says, “You are forbidden to eat carrion; blood; pig’s meat; any animal over which any name other than God’s has been invoked; any animal strangled, or victim of a violent blow or a fall, or gored or savaged by a beast of prey, unless you still slaughter it in the correct manner before it dies; or anything sacrificed on idolatrous altars.” [5:4]
Following are the general categories of unlawful foods found in the Quran and the teachings of the Messenger Muhammad:
- Carrion is any animal which dies without being ritually slaughtered. For example, if the animal dies of natural causes. Seafood and locusts are an exception to this rule.
- Blood is not permissible to consume. Remnants of blood found in ritually slaughtered meat are permissible. Organs of permissible animals which have been ritually slaughtered, such as hearts, liver, and kidneys are permissible.
- Pig meat and any porcine derivative is unlawful in every form e.g. ham, pork, bacon etc.
- Animals that have died due to external reasons are all impermissible to consume. For example:
- struck to death by a violent blow from a stick or rock
- fallen, and died as a result
- gorged by another animal and died as a result
- killed by other animals
- Animals ritually slaughtered and dedicated to another god or deity, to other than the One True God, are impermissible.
- Animals slaughtered according to other religion’s practices such as on altars as the polytheists would do, are also impermissible. Meat slaughtered according to Jewish Law (Kosher) is allowed as an exemption by the Quranic teaching, and thus permissible to eat.
- Predatory animals and animals with fangs are impermissible to consume, such as lions, tigers, wolves etc.
- Predatory birds or birds that use claws to hunt, such as eagles, falcons, hawks etc.
- Impure animals/insects – These are animals which eat impurities or live in impure places. For example dogs, domestic donkeys and mules, spiders, roaches, etc.
- Animals which are harmful and have been ordered killed in Islam are also unlawful to consume. For example, mice, scorpions and snakes.
God commands us to consume foods that are good and pure. This is not necessarily to do with the food or meat itself, but external factors which can lead to that food becoming impure. For example, water is pure and lawful to drink. However, if it is mixed with blood or urine, it now becomes impure and therefore unlawful. Thus, it was the external factor that made the water impure and unlawful.
Another example could be mutton or beef which has been slaughtered correctly according to Islamic law. However, the meat was stolen. It therefore becomes impure due to this external factor. Also if the animal was fed filth and impure substances, it becomes impure and must go through a purification process of pure food before it is slaughtered. Thus, Muslims are commanded to ensure that their food is both lawful and pure, so that they only consume what is good.