The Terms Pertinent to Islamic Dietary Laws

(1) Al-Halal (The Lawful)

Halal is an Arabic word meaning ‘allowed’ or ‘lawful’. The Qur’anic

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term halal is that which is permitted and allowed by the Law-Giver – Allah. With respect to halal, there are no restrictions of consumption or use. Most foods and drinks are considered to be halal unless they are specifically forbidden by an explicit Qur’anic verse or an authentic Hadith. Human beings cannot forbid the halal. It is absolutely Allah’s prerogative.

“O you who believe! Forbid not the good things which Allah has made halal (lawful) for you, and transgress not. Lo! Allah loves not transgressors. Eat of that which Allah has bestowed on you as food halal and good, and keep your duty to Allah in Whom you are believers.” (Al-Qur’an 5:87-88)

(2) Al-Haram (The Unlawful)

Haram is an Arabic word meaning ‘prohibited’, ‘forbidden’, or ‘unlawful’. The Qur’anic term ‘haram’ is that which is absolutely prohibited by the Law-Giver – Allah. In respect to haram, there are absolute restrictions of consumption and use in normal circumstances. Anyone who engages in haram is liable to incur the punishment of Allah in the Hereafter as well as a legal punishment in this world. Human beings cannot permit the haram. It is absolutely

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Allah’s prerogative to make certain things haram and others halal.

“…He has explained to you what He has made haram (unlawful) for you…” (Al-Qur’an 6:119)

Examples of haram things are the flesh of swine, alcoholic beverages, intoxicating drugs, and the meat of dead animals and birds.

Al-Makrooh (The Discouraged)

Makrooh is an Arabic word meaning religiously ‘discouraged’, or ‘detested’. Islamic law uses the category of ‘makrooh’ to cover any food, liquid, or smoking substance which is disgusting or harmful to the body – physically, mentally, psychologically, or spiritually. Makrooh (detested) is that which is disapproved by the

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Law-Giver -Allah, but not very strongly. The makrooh is less in degree than the haram. The person who involves himself in the makrooh may be blamed on the Day of Judgement, but may not be penalized. The legal punishment for a makrooh act in this world is less than for those that are haram, except when done in excess and in a manner that leads an individual to what is haram. Examples of makrooh things are harmful stimulants and/or depressants, substances which cause drug dependency, and smoking substances.

Al-Mash-booh (The Suspected)

Mash-booh is an Arabic word meaning ‘suspected’. Islamic law uses the category of ‘mash-booh’ to cover the grey area between the halal and the haram. Due to doubtful evidence or to doubt concerning the applicability of the text of the Qur’an or Sunnah to a particular circumstance or matter, one may be suspicious about permissibility or prohibition. This suspicion is called ‘shubah’ (in Arabic) and such a particular circumstance or matter is considered ‘mushcook’ (questionable). A practicing Muslim prevents himself from indulging in things that are considered mash-booh. Islam recommends avoidance of the mash-booh (suspected) circumstances and things, in order to prevent oneself from indulgence into potential haram. This recommendation is deduced from the following saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

“The halal is clear and the haram is clear; in between these two there are doubtful matters concerning which people do not know whether they are halal or haram. One who avoids them, in order to safeguard his religion and his honour, is safe. Anyone who gets involved in any of these doubtful items, he may fall into the haram. This case is similar to the one who wishes to raise his animals next to a restricted area, he may step into it. Indeed for every landlord there is a restricted area. Indeed the restrictions of Allah are haram.” (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim)

(5) Dhabiha (Slaughtered)

Dhabiha is an Arabic word meaning ‘slaughtered’. When an animal is slaughtered according to the Islamic method of slaughtering, the meat is considered to be dhabiha. Anytime the term dhabiha is used for meat it should mean halal meat or lawful meat.

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