The Islamic Concept of Halal

The Islamic Concept of Halal

Farrukh Tahir, Canada

Islam is a religion that strives to enable one to reach their greatest potential – especially in respect to one’s purification. Islam inculcates an incomparable love for attaining perfection in purity and teaches us to refrain entirely from everything that is impure. This is where the concept of Halal (lawful) and Haram (unlawful) comes into play. 

If you have a Muslim friend or colleague, you’ve probably heard the word Halal before, particularly in regard to food. Even while passing through the grocery store, you’ve probably seen food products labelled with Halal in bold letters. The truth of the matter is, the term Halal holds a much deeper significance in Islam and encompasses a much broader domain than just food and consumables. It is used to describe the limits that God has set for us in every aspect of our lives, whether that be about our food, marriage, earnings or even our day-to-day behaviour. With this term, God and His Holy Prophet, Muhammad (sa), outline what is permissible for us and what is prohibited, all for the sake of complete purification from any sort of degeneracy. As mentioned before, Islam’s teachings cut the problem at its roots and aim to discard even the slightest risk of error. 

God has mentioned a general principle in the Holy Qur’an for what is considered Halal. He says:

‘They ask thee what is made lawful for them. Say, ‘All good things have been made lawful for you.’ [1]

The Holy Prophet (sa) was ordained to give this answer to anyone who inquired about what is lawful. Everything that is good and pure for us has been made Halal, and everything that is detrimental for us has been specifically prohibited by God in the Holy Qur’an in clear terms. There is no ambiguity in the specific prohibitions made by God. For example, the consumption of swine [2] and alcohol [3], charging interest [4] and marrying women such as your mother, sisters and aunts [5], is unequivocally forbidden in the Holy Qur’an. 

The Holy Qur’an ©Shutterstock

These limits set by God are not to hinder us in any way, but to protect us from misusing the creation of God and to inculcate righteousness within us. The Holy Prophet (sa) once explained to his companions that the supplications of one whose diet, clothing and deeds are Haram are rendered useless [6]. From this, we can see that anything yielded from unlawful means is not Halal, but rather Haram. If we make our earnings through unlawful means, those earnings and anything acquired through those earnings becomes unlawful.

As far as food is concerned, meat is always a topic of conversation. Many wonder whether a specific type of beef or chicken is Halal or not. It should be understood that beef and chicken are both Halal, or in other words lawful to be consumed. God has indicated in many parts of the Holy Qur’an as to what is lawful and unlawful. One example of this is when He declares:

He has made unlawful to you only that which dies of itself, and blood and the flesh of swine, and that on which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked.‘ [7]

Anything aside from that which God has prohibited is lawfully consumable with the condition that it is pure and beneficial to human health. It is as God commands:

And eat of that which Allah has provided for you of what is lawful and good.‘ [8]

The consumption of swine and blood is declared by God to be harmful for humans and detrimental to their health, hence He has forbidden it. The Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), explains an even deeper facet of the prohibition of swine etc., and writes: 

‘Everyone knows that it (swine) eats filth and is utterly shameless. Thus the reason for the prohibition of its flesh is obvious, as by the law of nature its flesh would have a foul effect on the body and the soul of one who eats it. As we have already demonstrated food affects a person’s soul and there can be no doubt that the flesh of such a foul animal would also be foul. Even in pre-Islamic times, Greek physicians had opined that the flesh of this animal particularly damages the faculty of modesty and fosters shamelessness. The eating of carrion is also prohibited in Islamic law for the same reason; that is to say, it affects the moral qualities adversely and is also harmful to physical health.’ [9]

From the food we consume to the environment we spend our time in – all these factors have an impact on our internal or spiritual condition. That is the wisdom behind the prohibition of such harmful foods and the ordinance to eat what is Halal and pure. Aside from that, the above-referenced verse of the Holy Qur’an also mentions the prohibition of food that is prepared in the name of someone other than God. Although there is no inherent danger to consume such foods, it is a matter of faith and the faithful always eat that which is prepared in the name of the Entity that provided that food. 

Islam, however, is a religion of great wisdom and recognizes the need for a human to survive. For the preservation of human life, God makes some unlawful things lawful. After the prohibition of blood and swine, God says:

‘But he who is driven by necessity, being neither disobedient nor exceeding the limit, it shall be no sin for him. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’ [10]

If a person’s survival is dependent on the consumption of swine, then that is temporarily made lawful for that person, but only to the extent that is required for survival. 

As such, the teachings of Islam regarding what is Halal and Haram are very clear and facilitate the purification of a person and the proper use of the creation of God. These teachings are solely for the safety and betterment of humankind and strive to not only reform the individual, but also society as a whole. 

About the Author: Farrukh Tahir is a recent graduate from the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology Canada.


[1] The Holy Qur’an 5:5

[2] The Holy Qur’an 16:116

[3] The Holy Qur’an 5:91

[4] The Holy Qur’an 4:162

[5] The Holy Qur’an 4:24

[6] Sahih Muslim, Book of Zakat, Chapter of the Acceptance of Charity that comes from Good Earnings, and the growth thereof

[7] The Holy Qur’an 2:174

[8] The Holy Qur’an 5:89

[9] The Promised Messiah (as), ‘The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’, pp. 39-40

[10] The Holy Qur’an 2:174