Halal is an Arabic word which means permissible or lawful. In the Holy Quran, God commands Muslims and all of mankind to eat of the Halal things - "O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and wholesome, and follow not the footsteps of the devil.  Lo! he is an avowed enemy of you." (2:168)
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Halal & Other Islamic Food Classifications

Halal & Other Islamic Food Classifications

In Islam food are divided into three categories: Halal (permitted or lawful), Haram (prohibited or unlawful) and Makrooh (disapproved). However, not all food can be clearly defined under these categories and these ambiguous products have been categorised as Mashbooh (questionable or doubtful).

Halal (Lawful)

Muslims are allowed to consume only Halal food or drinks i.e. those which are :

1. Not Haram - not prohibited by the Holy Quran.
2. Not Makrooh - not designated by Muslim jurisprudents as detestable.
3. Not Mashbooh - not categorised as questionable or doubtful.

Haram (Prohibited)

Haram means prohibited and its judicial equivalent is illegal. In Islamic jurisprudence, Haram stands for items that Muslims should stay away from. Haram food and drinks are explicitly stated in the Quran e.g. flesh of swine, blood, carrion and animals that are slaughtered not in the name of Allah swt.

[Al-Baqarah (2), verse 173, Al-Maidah (5), verse 3, Al-An'am (6), verse 145 and Al-Nahl (16), verse 115]

Makrooh (Disapproved)

Products labelled as makrooh are not prohibited by explicit Quranic verses or Prophetic Traditions (hadiths). However, Muslims are encouraged to avoid consuming such products as these products may or may not have adverse impact on man, his community or the environment.

Mashbooh (Doubtful)

Mashbooh refers to products or items which are not amenable to straightforward categorization of Halal or Haram. It represents a category of ambiguous products that are neither Halal nor Haram.

Why the prohibitions (Haram)?

Products can be prohibited for different reasons and can be categorised as follows :

Prohibited Per Se

Prohibited by explicit Quranic verses without any elucidation of the reasons behind their interdiction. Such products are prohibited for their own sake e.g. flesh of swine, blood, carrion and animals that are slaughtered not in the name of Allah swt.

[Al-Baqarah (2), verse 173, Al-Maidah (5), verse 3, Al-An'am (6), verse 145 and Al-Nahl (16), verse 115]

Prohibited For Potential Harm

Prohibited by Quranic verses with explicit elucidation of the reasons behind their interdiction. One such example is alcohol whose harm overshadows its benefits.

[Al Baqarah (2), verse 219]

Prohibited by Quranic verses for defects that are not inherent but may have been acquired subsequently, e.g. choked or strangled animals.

Prohibited for improper handling, e.g. animals that are not slaughtered according to Islamic rules and regulations.

When Halal Becomes Haram

Under the category for Prohibited For Potential Harm above, it is apparent from the last two classifications, products that are initially in the Halal status can become Haram. More often than not, this change in status is caused by those handling the products failing to observe the regulations prescribed by Islam or simply due to human error. Muslims, therefore, must be cognizant of the proper procedures relevant to the products being handled.

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