What is the Islamic law on what is Haram in Islam?
The religious term “Haram” has many different interpretations. “Haram” is typically defined as being forbidden by the Quran, something that one should abstain from doing according to Islamic law. In English, the term means unlawful or prohibited.
However, Muslim people usually use it to refer to food and objects which are specifically not allowed by Islamic law due to their inherent impurity or uncleanliness. While these foods and objects cannot be eaten for health reasons, they should not be consumed because they do not meet Muslim religious requirements for purity as well as ritual preparation such as washing before cooking or eating.
As far as food goes, the primary haram items are pork, blood and animals that have been strangled to death. In addition to these items, meat that has been cooked by non-Muslims is also inadmissible for Muslims to eat according to Islamic law. Other kinds of meat and animal flesh are allowed for Muslims except those forbidden from consumption by God’s own words in the Quran.
“It is He Who has created cattle for you; you have some of them as riding animals and some for slaughter… [and] you have [many] benefits from them…
4:12,15 (Muhammad Asad)
The Qur’an also forbids the eating of camel blood and specifically states that it is a major abomination (5:1-4). The prohibition on camel blood is based on the fact that this animal is considered unclean in Islam, as its meat has been used for medicinal purposes and it was used to draw blood in a type of surgery performed in ancient Islamic times. Despite this, camel meat has a long history of consumption by Muslims who could afford it.
Blood requires further explanation. It is difficult to define precisely what constitutes “blood” in Islam since the word can encompass any liquid containing plasma or red blood cells from a living organism.
Likewise, animals that have died from strangulation and suffocation are among those foods forbidden by God in the Quran.
“Forbidden to you [for food] are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine…” 5:3 (Muhammad Asad)
This prohibition is part of Islam’s general opposition to cruelty against animals as well as its ethic of caring for the health of humans.
In addition to food items, Islam also provides strictures for cleanliness in preparation and consumption which extends to other objects such as water. These regulations are intended to prevent contamination and infestation of the body by disease-causing microbes.
“But if one has driven one’s cattle free, and does not supply what is due [their food], We shall remit their evil [debt] to them; they shall not be wronged.” 4:160 (Muhammad Asad)
It is for these reasons that Muslims have traditionally dedicated a portion of their time each day at prayer to cleaning themselves in preparation for eating.
“He who cleans his private parts five times every day — except when he is ill or on a journey, verily Allah will love him…
4:43 (Muhammad Asad)
The Quran also discusses ritual cleanliness through the practice of ablutions or wudu in 4:43 which is made from such things as water, sand and stones, before prayer.
Ablutions in Islam are intended to cleanse those parts of the body that one touches during prayer. This is because one must be free of impurities when he or she comes into contact with any kind of sacred object including the Quran. While this practice is not necessarily required for everyone who performs prayers, it is recommended and encouraged by Islamic texts as a form of hygiene for all Muslims who perform prayers on a regular basis.
“O you who believe! Do your appointed prayers [at nightfall, in the morning, in the afternoon, and at sunset] and glorify Him [in the evening and] when you [have finished your prayers]….
5:55 (Muhammad Asad)
Finally, we look at the ritual impurity of women. This is also a female specific ritual practice which is not required for Muslim men. However for women who have reached menarch (puberty), their menses are considered to be a ritually impure state. This means that a woman must take steps to cleanse herself before praying in order to be free of the shame and impurity of menstruation.
“O you who believe! Enter into your houses [the houses of the prophet] the one having [sufficient] impurity should not rush forth therein…
33:59 (Muhammad Asad)
This practice is also considered a type of ritual purity and is thus intended to improve spiritual well-being and mental concentration as well as physical health.
The last section of this article will address other haram foods, objects, and situations which are forbidden in Islam which are not covered here. We will begin by looking at alcohol which is forbidden in Islam and then move on to look at items related to gambling, meat from animals not slaughtered according to Islamic precepts, kissing the hand of another person as a sign of respect, and other issues.
Alcohol is forbidden for Muslims in Sura An-Nisa 4:46 and Sura Al-Ma’idah 5:90.
“They ask you about alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: “In them there is a great sin, and (some) benefit for people; but their sinfulness outweighs their benefit.” 4:46 (Muhammad Asad)
The prohibition of alcohol in Islam is a direct consequence of the doctrine prohibiting the consumption of haram or “impure” food. Alcohol is impure because its consumption interferes with a person’s ability to differentiate between right and wrong according to Islamic texts. Thus it is forbidden.
Similarly, gambling or games of chance are specifically forbidden by God along with alcohol in Sura Al-Ma’idah 5:90.
“O you who believe! Do not approach prayers with a mind befogged in wine and gambling, but when you are well-prepared, then approach your place of worship. When you have finished your prostrations, remember Allah and glorify Him for having guided you.” 5:90 (Muhammad Asad)
Note: this as well as other sins related to gambling are forbidden in Islam is not limited to men. It is said that in some versions of the Hadith (Malik’s version), it says that it is forbidden for both men and women to play dice or gamble.
Meats produced by animals traditionally slaughtered according to Islamic principles also come under the category of haram. These are animals that must be ritually slaughtered by a Muslim, in the name of God, while they are conscious and alert. If not, the meat is ‘impure’ or forbidden.
There was a lot of debate concerning the slaughtering of animals according to Islamic precepts for many years. The people who were in favor of it claimed that it was better for human health because proper slaughtering practices removed toxins from the animal’s flesh. Those against this practice argued that proper human medical analysis had proven this claim to be in error.
However, this argument has been largely resolved in Islamic law by allowing an exemption where an animal produced by traditional slaughtering practices can be eaten if there is nothing else available (i.e. no other non-animal source was available at that time or place to be eaten).
The most famous example of this exemption occurs in the Quran. There are many verses forbidding the consumption of animals slaughtered in a way that is not in accordance with Islamic practices, and this is one of them. An animal whose meat has been lawfully slaughtered according to Islamic law may be eaten.
In modern times, there are many medical professionals who recommend the eating of animals from countries that have traditionally practiced ritual slaughter, as it is proven to have higher nutritional value and lower levels of harmful pathogens than conventionally reared animals.
So-called halal food is broadly divided into two types –:
The sum of both types is considered to be halal.
Halal may also refer to animals that are specifically slaughtered according to Islamic religious law (shar’ia) as opposed to sharia law where a general system of punishments (qisas) and social rules (mu’amalat) is applied. In practice, the difference between halal and non-halal varies by country, but the concepts are distinct. In some countries non-halal animals are used if no alternatives are available.