The Halal Food Guide – everything you can and can’t eat



The majority of food is halal

The list of what is haram is not long. In fact, Allah Almighty is saying that everything is halal except the few things which are prohibited.

There are 10 prohibitions mentioned in the Quran and some more from the Sunnah – all in all not more than 20 things. Everything else is allowed.

We derive the 10 prohibitions from this ayah in Surah Maidah:

Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. That is grave disobedience. This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (5:3)

Here Allah Almighty lists these ten food prohibitions:

  1. dead animals
  2. blood
  3. the flesh of swine
  4. that which has been dedicated to other than Allah
  5. [animals] killed by strangling
  6. [animals] killed by a violent blow
  7. [animals] killed by a head-long fall
  8. [animals] killed by the goring of horns
  9. [animals] from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death]
  10. animals which are sacrificed on stone altars

In the following ayahs of Surah Baqarah, Surah Anam and Surah Nahl, 4 of these prohibitions (dead animals, blood, flesh of swine) had already been mentioned:

He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah . But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (2:173)

(6:145) Tell them (O Muhammad!): ‘I do not find in what has been revealed to me anything forbidden for anyone who wants to eat unless it is carrion, outpoured blood and the flesh of swine, all of which is unclean; or that which is profane having been slaughtered in a name other than that of Allah. But whosoever is constrained to it by necessity – neither desiring to disobey nor exceeding the limit of necessity – your Lord is surely All Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (6:145)

He has forbidden you only Al-Maytatah (meat of a dead animal), blood, the flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols etc. or on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, and not transgressing, then, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (16:115)

Surah Maidah was revealed later – one of the final revelations and hence provides more clarity on the details (tafsil) of these prohibitions which had come earlier:

They ask you, [O Muhammad], what has been made lawful for them. Say, ‘Lawful for you are [all] good foods and [game caught by] what you have trained of hunting animals which you train as Allah has taught you. So eat of what they catch for you, and mention the name of Allah upon it, and fear Allah.’ Indeed, Allah is swift in account. (5:4)


People have a tendency to get bogged down in details. However the guidelines are quite clear.

Do not make life complicated, but make sure to base your decisions on what is in line with the shariah.

Here is a summary of what you can and can’t consume

Sea Food

All sea food is halal – though there are opinions that some sea creatures e.g. prawns are not. Follow the verse in Surah Maidah that all sea food is permissible:

Permitted for you is the catch of the sea and its food (5:96)

Crabs are permissible. Turtles are impermissible in the Hanafi school, but permitted in the Maliki, Hanbali and Shafi’i school, which says that if they live in the sea they may be eaten, but if they live on the land, they may not. 

Exotic meats, frogs and snails

Kangaroo, zebra, deer, shark, meat, rabbit, buffalo and ox are halal. Frog and snails are also halal. If these tickle your fancy, bon appétit. Land turtles are not halal. 


The meat and milk of domesticated donkeys is haram, as it is considered impure (najis) based on hadith of the Prophet (peace be on him). Horse meat is permissible. Donkey milk can be found as an ingredient in cosmetic products and creams. The majority of scholars say it is not halal to drink because it is impure. It should not be used topically unless it has undergone change by being mixed with some chemicals that change its properties. If it’s used as a cure for certain diseases and there are no other alternatives, then it’s allowed due to necessity.

Food of People of the Book 

There is some confusion in people’s minds over whether it is permissible for Muslims to consume the food of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). This is due to the two different ayahs in the Quran. One saying that the food of the People of the Book is permissible and the second which says do not eat food over which Allah’s name has not been pronounced.

The ayah that shows the food is permissible is: 

ٱلْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتُ ۖ وَطَعَامُ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ حِلٌّۭ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّۭ لَّهُمْ ۖ وَٱلْمُحْصَنَـٰتُ مِنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ وَٱلْمُحْصَنَـٰتُ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَـٰفِحِينَ وَلَا مُتَّخِذِىٓ أَخْدَانٍۢ ۗ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلْإِيمَـٰنِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُۥ وَهُوَ فِى ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ ٥

This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you, when you have given them their due compensation, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse or taking [secret] lovers. And whoever denies the faith – his work has become worthless, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers. (5:5)

The ayah that shows food that has not had Allah’s name pronounced over it is impermissible is:

وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِسْقٌ ۗ وَإِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ لَيُوحُونَ إِلَىٰ أَوْلِيَائِهِمْ لِيُجَادِلُوكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ أَطَعْتُمُوهُمْ إِنَّكُمْ لَمُشْرِكُونَ

And do not eat from that over which the Name of God was not pronounced, for it is abomination. The devils inspire their followers to argue with you; but if you obey them, you would be polytheists. [6:21]

When we apply this, in order for the food of the People of the Book to be permissible, it would have to be clear that the food has been slaughtered according to their food laws. For instance, food which has been certified Kosher. In the case of the food of the Christians, this is hard to identify. There is no certification to show that the food is the food of Christians. It is doubtful whether the name of God was pronounced over it at the time of slaughter, or that it was a Christian who slaughtered it. In the UK which is considered a Christian country the majority of people in the last census stated they had no religion. Therefore, there is no way of knowing whether the butcher is Christian or not or whether the animal was already dead before it was slaughtered. 

When the European Fatwa council considered whether the food of the People of the Book was permissible in 2013 they concluded that clarity about what is being consumed is necessary:

By virtue of the Qur’an consumption of the food of the people of the Book is permissible. Allah says: “On this day all things that are clean have been made lawful for you; and made lawful for you is the food of the people of the Book, as your food is made lawful for them.” {Trans. 05:05} The term “the people of the Book” refers to the Christians and the Jews. This rule remains intact even though certain articles of their faith e.g. the Trinity are not in harmony with the original monotheism as this and other issues are mentioned prior to this rule in the same chapter. Nevertheless, the food of the people of the Book is lawful for Muslims provided that its legitimacy is approved of by their rabbis and priests, that it is not meat of animals or birds that died prior to killing and that it is not pork since these categories are labelled as unlawful for Muslims in the Qur’an.

In this context the ECFR stresses its resolution No. 2 issued in the 3rd session recommending Muslims residing in the West to have their own abattoirs to have peace of mind and preserve their religious and cultural identity. The ECFR appeals to the West to recognize Muslims’ religious distinctiveness. Part of this recognition entails that Muslims, just like others e.g. Jews, should have the right of practicing the Islamic legitimacy of killing birds and animals. The ECFR also appeals to the Islamic countries to import Halal meat supervised by entrusted Islamic centres based in the West.

People of the Book – Jews (Kosher)

While the food of Jews is permissible to consume, halal options are still preferable. The halal alternative trumps the Kosher option when there are 2 equally viable options. So if you can buy halal sausages, why go for Kosher, but if you went to a gathering where only Kosher was served, you can eat from their meat.

The common and original scenario for the Muslim is to eat halal and marry a Muslim, it is the exception is to eat the food of the People of the Book or to marry from them.

In general we have been commanded to seek the halal, that is why the Halal takes precedence over kosher etc.

If there is no choice then eating kosher is fine. Remember that Jews consume alcohol so to still check and not all Jews observe no pork.

People of the Book – Christians

You can eat anything of theirs other than their meat, pork, alcohol. When it comes to the meat of Christians, a minority of scholars say that you can eat it, and accordingly some people follow this opinion and say ‘Bismillah’ and eat meat apart from pork.

However it is preferable not to eat meat slaughtered by Christians because one cannot be assured that their meat is slaughtered as the Christians used to slaughter it. Their methods are no longer the same as Jews or Muslims. Therefore not only is their meat is doubtful, but when one is buying from a supermarket or restaurant, how does one know it is a Christian establishment. McDonalds is non denominational. It is advisable therefore not to eat it. 

An-Nu’man bin Bashir (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying, ‘Both legal and illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (suspicious) things and most of the people have no knowledge about them. So whoever saves himself from these suspicious things saves his religion and his honor. And whoever indulges in these suspicious things is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of someone else and at any moment he is liable to get in it. (O people!) Beware! Every king has a Hima and the Hima of Allah on the earth is His illegal (forbidden) things. Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart. [Bukhari]

Do not eat the meat of the Christians even if you are in an awkward social situation. Decline politely. And avoid the situation arising in the first place, by letting your host know that you only eat halal or seafood.

People of other Religions

Meat of non People of the Book – eg Hindus/ Sikhs / Buddhists is not allowed but any vegetarian food of theirs is allowed – unless it was blessed / had their prayers recited on it


Do not get bogged down in details – if it has a halal stamp from either organisation it’s fine to eat. The difference arises from whether the meat was stunned or not.

Which parts of an animal may be eaten

Two bloods are permitted: kabid wa tihal – the kidney and spleen. I.e. all internal organs, intestines and brain. There is some discussion on genitalia whether it is permissible of not.

Gelatine & Rennet

Gelatine – including animal gelatine is fine based on the Hanafi opinion which is that it has been changed by a process so that it no longer bears any resemblance to its original matter. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.

There is a difference of opinion among scholars.

Imams Shafi’, Maliki and Hanbali held that once something is impure then it is always impure.

The Hanafi school of thought says that if the state of a substance has changed, then the impure becomes pure.

An example of where an impure substance becomes pure is vinegar which is derived from fermented alcohol but becomes permissible as it undergoes a process of change.

The Arabic term for transformation is Istihaala.

Istihalah, from the Fiqh point of view, is defined as changing the nature of a substance so that it is completely transformed physically and chemically.

According to the Islamic Organization for Medical Science gelatine undergoes a complete transformation and is different from the substance from which it was derived.

Its chemical properties differ from the original substance from which it was extracted. The structure of the molecules is different. [i]

This means that according to the Hanafi opinion, gelatine is halal, regardless of whether it was derived from animals that are considered halal or haram, including pigs, and animals not slaughtered by halal methods.

Based on the Hanafi opinion, foods and medication containing gelatine, even porcine gelatine are permissible.


Alcohol  is not permitted. Not even a drop. Not even in cooking, because it does not get burned off during cooking til it leaves no trace.

Alcohol is haram whether it is in a large qty or just a drop. (The ingredients to avoid are alcohol, ethanol and ethyl alcohol)

Alcohol is fine topically eg in creams and deodorants

Alcohol is not fine in medicine which you swallow eg cough syrup, nightnurse. Be careful to check the ingredients.

Mouthwash with alcohol – it is better to avoid this as there is a chance you will swallow it.

Alcohol medicinally when no alternatives are available-
The general rule is: we have to avoid the Haram and doubtful matters unless there’s a necessity darurah or a dire need, provided that there is no alternative, then we may use it within limits after we consult the experts


All vinegar is fine – because it is no longer alcohol – though there is an opinion which is complicated – do not get into it.

E numbers and food colouring derived from insects

These are permissible though not necessarily good for our health. Some fall under the same category as gelatine as they are so far removed from their original form that they do not fall within the list of prohibited items. They should be consumed in moderation especially as they are in processed food which in general should be limited in our diet.


Flesh of swine – the whole of the swine is prohibited. It is not permissable to wear its skin as leather. Pig leather has a distinctive dimply look.

Smoking, shisha and vaping

Haram as they are addictive, detrimental to health and longevity.


Haram as they compromise mental function. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Every intoxicant is khamr, and every intoxicant is haraam. Whoever drinks khamr in this world and dies persisting in that and without having repented, will not drink it in the Hereafter. (Muslim)

The one who consumes a little or a lot of it is to be subjected to the punishment for drinking: eighty or forty lashes, if he is a Muslim who believes that intoxicants are haraam.

(al-Fataawa al-Kubra, 3/423)


Your body and well being are an amanah.

So be moderate in your consumption – for yourself and for the sake of the environment. Do not over consume – meat or other food.

When choosing what to consume, remember that it is a matter of taqwa not what you personally prefer.

The word halal used to refer to what was permissible by culture. However it was given a new dimension by the arrival of Islam after which halal has come to mean what has been permitted by shariah (Islamic Law). Shariah has redefined the word halal. Allah Almighty taught us that ‘halal’ for us is everything that is tayyib.

Tayyib is wholesome as well as beneficial. The opposite of tayyib is khabith which is evil and harmful.


[i] A chemical change, also known as a chemical reaction, is a process in which one or more substances are irreversibly altered into one or more new and different substances. In other words, a chemical change is a chemical reaction involving the rearrangement of atoms. Examples of chemical reactions include photosynthesis, rusting and burning.

Hydrolysis is a type of decomposition reaction where one of the reactants is water; and typically, water is used to split molecules by breaking chemical bonds in the other reactant.

Examples of hydrolysis reactions include making soap. The saponification reaction occurs when a triglyceride (fat) is hydrolyzed with water and a base (usually sodium hydroxide, NaOH, or potassium hydroxide, KOH). Fatty acids react with the base to produce glycerol and salts (which becomes soap).

Gelatine is a form of hydrolysed collagen which means it has been broken down.

To convert collagen from animal parts into gelatine, several processes are used that break the bonds of collagen and release certain amino acids. Extraction of gelatine in food manufacturing is usually done using hot water and acid solutions to hydrolyze collagen into gelatine. Then certain filtration, clarification and sterilization processes usually take place to form the dried, final product, depending on how it’s sold.

Gelatine forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water, whereas collagen does not.

Though the amino acids are the same (as we only have a limited number of those as building blocks of all proteins), there is a chemical splitting of bonds to release certain amino acids, which change the structure. The process is largely irreversible.

Related posts

Where does it say alcohol is prohibited?

Why is alcohol prohibited?

Is alcohol haram?

Is gelatine halal?

Is it permissible to have the nasal flu vaccine?


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.