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What is Halal Food? An Introduction

Dec 2019

With the growth of the Muslim consumer market, there is a need to better understand the terms used to describe the many services, needs, and practices related to this segment of consumers. Understanding these concepts, terms, and definitions will help stakeholders to better navigate the segment. The first of these terms to get a better understanding is the word "Halal". 

What is the meaning of Halal (حلال)

Halal is an Arabic term which means permissible. In Islamic terms, it means permissible according to the rules of Islam. It is most frequently referred to in regards to food, but it includes any type of action permissible in Islam. The opposite of Halal is Haram or sometimes referred to as non-Halal. This refers to anything considered unlawful under Islamic teachings. Although it is often used in reference to food, it can also refer to other unlawful acts in Islam such as stealing, corruption, etc.

What is the meaning of Halal food?

All food that is permissible to eat according to the teachings of Islam is called Halal food. This is essentially any food that does not fall into the category of Haram (or forbidden). In Islam, all foods and beverages are Halal except for those that were explicitly forbidden in the Quran. Muslims around the world accept the Quran to be the book of perfect direction and bearing for humankind and believe the Quran to be the last disclosure of God. 

God says in the Quran, (a translation)

  • “Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” (Quran 2:172)
  • “Eat of what is lawful (Halal) and wholesome (Tayyib) on the earth.” (Quran 2:168)
  • “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.”  (Quran 2:168)

Although some specific teachings vary, the consensus is that food/drinks must be free of pork, alcohol/intoxicants, poisons, harmful ingredients, or unhygienic elements. Any meat must be slaughtered in accordance with the methods prescribed under Islamic law known as Zabihah. 

What is Muslim-friendly food or Halal-friendly food?

In some cases, these terms are used by restaurants to indicate that the food is suitable for Muslims to consume. However, these terms do not convey the level of assurance Muslims require. The food has to be either Halal (permissible for consumption) or not Halal (not permissible for consumption). It can not be 'permissible-friendly'.

What is Mashbooh?

Mashbooh is an Arabic word that means suspicious or doubtful. If the Halal or Haram status of a food item cannot be determined, then it is Mashbooh.

What is the meaning of Zabihah?

The Islamic method of slaughtering an animal. Muslims consider this to be the most humane and purest way to slaughter an animal for consumption.

What is Halal & Tayyib Food?

The literal translation of Tayyib is good/clean/wholesome. It is commonly used by Muslims to refer to food, but often that of a higher quality or purity, such as organic or even simply healthy food. It also encompasses universal concerns such as being natural, environment-friendly, eco-ethical, non-cruelty to animals, socially responsible, and reducing over-consumption. Thus, food can be Halal (made of permissible ingredients) but not Tayyib.

What is Halal Meat

There are minor differences of opinion within the Islamic law on which animals are considered Halal, but the general consensus is that all seafood is Halal and those herbivorous land animals are Halal provided they have been slaughtered according to Islamic rulings of Zabihah.

What foods are Haram or non-Halal in Islam?

All foods and beverages are considered Halal except for those that are explicitly forbidden in the Quran as listed below:

  • Alcohol and other intoxicants such as narcotics
  • Dead animals that were not slaughtered
  • Blood
  • Pork
  • Meat that was slaughtered for idols
  • All carnivores with teeth such as lions and tigers
  • All winged creatures which have claws, for example, birds of prey, hawks, vultures, falcons, and so on
  • Domesticated donkeys, mice, scorpions, snakes, frogs
  • Any animal that has died (except fish and sea creatures) before being slaughtered in the Islamic manner

What are the conditions for food and drinks to be Halal?

In order for the food or drink to be halal, it must also fulfill the following parameters:

  • It does not contain anything which is haram in shariah law (as outlined above)
  • It was not prepared, processed, or contaminated with anything haram
  • It was not prepared, processed, transported, or stored using any facility that is contaminated by anything haram.
  • It does not contain najis (unclean) material according to shariah law
  • It must be safe for human consumption, non-poisonous, non-intoxicating, or non-hazardous to health.
  • It must not be prepared, processed, or manufactured using equipment that was contaminated with najis or haram foods according to shariah law
  • The meat(s) must be slaughtered as per Islamic rites


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