Unlawful Food


“The great principle for knowing what is lawful and unlawful food is that what the Holy Quraan and Hadith prohibited is unlawful and what is besides that is lawful”. There are certain things, which have not been expressly permitted or prohibited.  These are doubtful things. These are considered as Mubah or simply lawful. There are two things introduced by jurists between lawful and unlawful things: One is Mubah, near the lawful things and the other is Makrooh, near the unlawful things, but nevertheless lawful. The abominable things being near the unlawful things should be avoided as far as possible by pious Muslims, as none should even go to the neighbourhood of the places of destruction or epidemics. In that case, there is but little space to fall into illegality. The pious Muslims should not go even to the borderline of illegality. The Mubah things are lawful and can be taken if constitution and climate permit.

The effect of food and drink upon the body and temperaments is wonderful. The medical men therefore prescribe special diets for patients, so that indiscriminate diet may not injure the body. Different things have got different properties for different uses according to the requirements of men, and they have naturally got different effect on body. As soundness of mind depends on soundness of body, therefore food and drink may be said to be one of the principal causes, which lead a man to vice, and virtue. The control of food and drink is the control of the vices and promotion of virtues.

Almighty Allah and His Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) therefore prescribed such food for men as are conducive to them from a temporal and religious point of view. This is also the reason why lawful food, unlawfully acquired, has been made unlawful as it greatly affects the moral tendency of a man.

The Holy Quraan and Hadith have expressly prohibited the following foods and things:

  1. Food on which Allah’s Name is not taken or meat of a lawful animal or bird which is not slaughtered in the Name of Allah. The Holy Quraan says: And don’t eat of that on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned. That is surely a transgression. (6:122)
  2. Everything which is offered to idols.
  3. All animals, which die of themselves without slaughter in the Name of Allah. These include also animals strangled to death, or beaten to death, or killed by a fall, or attacked by horns and killed, or torn to death by beasts.
  4. All bloods flowing.
  5. All beasts and birds of prey; all quadrupeds that seize prey with teeth, and all birds which seize it with talons, viz., foxes, hyenas, elephants, weasels, kites, crows, raven, crocodiles, insects, domestic asses, mules, swines, and men.
  6. All unclean things repugnant to health and morality, viz., dogs, cats, mules, horses, asses, lizards, swines, etc.

In support of these, the following Quraanic verses are quoted: Forbidden to you is that which dies of itself, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that on which any other than Allah has been invoked, and the strangled animal, and that beaten to death, and that killed by a fall, and that killed by being smitten with horn, and that which wild beasts have eaten except what you slaughter. (5: 3)

There is a reservation in case of extreme necessity, such as possibilities of death for want of food. In that circumstance, a small quantity of unlawful things, which can barely save life, becomes lawful. The Holy Quraan says: “But whoever is driven to necessity, not desiring, nor exceeding the limit, no sin shall be upon him.” (2: 173)

It so happens sometimes that the food is being served and suddenly some stranger or guest enters. The master of the house invites the newcomer to join. If the master does not invite the stranger, it is considered a very bad manner. Invitation to a Muslim brother to food is a virtuous thing, but this invitation should not be for the name’s sake. This is also a custom these days that the stranger who is invited to join the food says: “No thanks!” or say “Bismillah”. The scholars have prevented us not to say that. Anybody who is invited to join food should say, “May Allah bless you with abundance in food.”

If a man is too hungry to go out and ask the people to help him, in that case it is abiding on those persons who know his condition to provide him with food. If the man dies of hunger, the persons who knew his condition but did not give him food, would be answerable to Almighty Allah.

Sayyidah Ayesha (radi Allahu anha) asked Sayyiduna Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) what were the things, which we cannot refuse to others. He said: “Water, salt and fire.” She said: “O Allah’s Apostle (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam)! Why can’t we refuse salt and fire to others?” He said: One who gives others a share in his fire, it is as if he has given in Sadaqa the entire stuff cooked on that fire, and he who gives others a share in his salt, it is as if he has given in Sadaqa the complete dish processed with that salt; and he who quenches the thirst of a Muslim at a place where water is not available, it is as if he resurrects a dead. (Ibn-e-Majah)

Sayyiduna Abu Waqed Laithi (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) came to Madina and they had liking for humps of camels and for cutting the tails of sheep. He said: “What is taken off from animals while they are alive is a dead thing. It shall not be taken” (Tirmidi, Abu Da’ood)

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