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There are actually only a few dietary laws a Muslim is required to follow. In brief, Muslims are asked to abstain from intoxicants and meat that it is considered to be unclean, mainly pork. Meat that is permissible to eat must be purified first. Within this framework, all other foods and styles of cooking from all cultures are allowed.

Living in a non-Muslim country can pose some difficulty but Muslims learn to adapt. In extreme situations, such as famine for example, the usual dietary restrictions can be lifted and Muslims are allowed to eat any food to give them sustenance.


Halaal (Permitted) Food


Everything except that which is specified in the Quran is acceptable to eat and drink. The Qur?an states: ?O people, eat from the earth's products all that is lawful and good...? (Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter 2 Verse 168)

?Halaal meat or poultry? is a term frequently seen in public and heard being used in Britain in the context of Muslim dietary laws. It has a similar meaning to the Hebrew term of ?kosher?.


In order for meat to be purified and become Halaal, certain requirements must be fulfilled:


  • The animal must be reared in a humane manner and be well treated before it is killed.
  • The animal must not be slaughtered in sight of the other animals (so as to minimise distress)
  • The slaughterer should be an adult Muslim. However if the other requirements are met, the slaughterer could be one of the ?People of the Book? (that is a Christian or a Jew).
  • The animal must be slaughtered by a sharp knife that is able to deeply severe the animal?s neck in one stroke and allow maximal drainage of blood. This is also to allow the animal to die quickly.
  • The name of Allah must be invoked at the time of cutting.
  • After slaughter, the carcass must be hung upside down to allow blood to be drained.


The philosophy of this method is to minimise the pain and distress felt by an animal and to maximise blood drainage - blood is considered unclean by Muslims and should not be consumed.


Fish do not need to be prepared in the same way and are permissible in Islam as stated in the Qur?an: ?To hunt and to eat the fish of the sea is made lawful for you, a provision for you and for seafarers?? (Surah Al Maeda, Chapter 5 Verse 96)



Haraam (forbidden) food


The main things prohibited in Islam in terms of food and drink are:

  • All intoxicants (especially alcohol)
  • Pork, or any pig-based products (e.g.gelatin)
  • Carnivorous animals ? with the exception of fish
  • Blood
  • Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but God


The Qur?an states that:


?O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, And be grateful to Allah if it is Him ye worship. He has only forbidden you Dead meat, and blood, And the flesh of swine, And that on which any other name has been invoked , Besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, Without wilful disobedience, Nor transgressing due limits, - Then he is guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful? (Surah Al Baqarah Chapter 2 Verses 172-173)


Two of these prohibited items can be looked at in more detail: - Alcohol and Pork





There are several reasons why alcohol is prohibited in Islam.


  • Loss of human faculty ? under the influence of alcohol one loses the faculty of reasoning. It affects reaction times and impairs judgement. A person is unaware of their general behaviour and thus whether or not they act according to what they hold to be right comes into question. In fact, all intoxicants are prohibited in Islam, including recreational drugs.
  • Health impact ? anything that is harmful to one?s health is prohibited in Islam. Alcohol is well known to cause many health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver, heart failure, dementia, mental illness etc.
  • Social impact ? parental alcohol misuse affects up to 1.3 million children in England. Absenteeism, performance at work and crime are just a few the other repercussions of alcohol use.

Many people in Western society enjoy alcohol and not all suffer the harmful consequences mentioned. However, because the risks are considered to be so great, both to the individual and society, Islam commands its followers to abstain completely.


The risk from alcohol is felt to outweigh even the potential benefits of moderate drinking, as explained in the Qur?an:


"They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: "In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit."??.." Thus All?h makes clear to you His Laws in order that you may give thought." (Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter 2 Verse 219)


In certain circumstances, alcohol is allowed to be used for medical and other purposes, for example industrial use. Many Muslims will try to avoid alcohol even in these circumstances.





Pork has also been added to the list of prohibitions of Islam. The Qur'an has not explained the reasons for this disallowance or prohibition. Nevertheless, because the Qur'an has clearly mentioned that the prohibitions in general are due to their inherent physical or spiritual uncleanness or due to the negative effects that they may have on the morality of individuals. It may be derived that the reason for the prohibition of pork also belongs to one of these two categories.





Muslims are also given guidance on how to eat. Islam discourages greed and calls for moderation. The Prophet (pbuh) said: ?No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than a few morsels of food to keep up his strength, doing so he should consider that a third of his stomach is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing?

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