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What Are the Differences between Halal and Haram Foods?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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Halal and haram foods refer to types of foods that observant Muslims are allowed and not allowed to consume. Foods that are considered to be halal, or allowed, cannot contain any products of certain animals, particularly pigs. Meat from animals that are not slaughtered according to the rules of halal are considered haram, or forbidden, foods. Food or drinks that contain blood or intoxicants are also considered to be haram.

Muslim people categorize foods into two main categories, halal and haram. Halal literally means permissible in Arabic, and haram translates to forbidden. The Qur'an, or the holy book of the Islamic religion, clearly outlines which foods fall into these categories. Some other foods may also be considered to be questionable, or mooshbah, and they should also be avoided. Not leading a completely halal lifestyle and eating haram foods is considered sinful in the Islamic religion.

The source of food items can be important in distinguishing between halal and haram foods. Plant-based foods, such as vegetables, are usually considered permissible. The only exceptions are plants that may cause intoxication, like marijuana.

Swine meats and anything that contains swine by-products are considered haram foods. The Qur'an clearly states that the pig is an unclean animal, and thus it should not be consumed. Bacon and pork chops, along with things like pork rinds, are forbidden foods.

Meat from some other animals is also considered to be unclean. Rats, for instance, would be considered a haram food, if one were so inclined to cook a rat. Insects and worms are also forbidden.

Seafood can also be divided into halal and haram categories, although different branches of Islam sometimes have different beliefs about what can be eaten. Generally, fish with scales are accepted as halal by all sects. Opinions vary widely about other seafood, however, with some believing that any animal that can only live in water is permissible, while others arguing that only fish with scales and no other sea creatures should be eaten. There are also differences about whether a fish must be alive when it removed from the water to be considered halal.

Many carnivorous animals are also considered haram foods. Observant Muslims are not allowed to consume birds of prey, for instance. They are also forbidden to consume any meat from animals with fangs, including cats.

Another major difference between halal and haram meat is the way that the animal is slaughtered. According to the Qur'an, halal meat must come from an animal slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. This method of slaughter is often referred to as dhabihah.

Islamic dietary law requires the animals to be slaughtered with a very sharp knife. The jugular vein and corotid artery must be cut, along with the windpipe, but the spinal cord must not be severed. Tools used during the slaughter must be blessed, and the animal is to be slaughtered in the name of Allah, or God. Any animals that are slaughtered in the name of any other god are considered to be haram. Also, the animal must be calm and well nourished, and it is not to be slaughtered where other animals might see the act.

Blood is also considered to be haram. It is forbidden to drink blood or eat any food made from blood, like black pudding. Alcohol and other drugs are also considered to be haram. This includes foods that have been cooked in wine.

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Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Oct 07, 2014

Halal and kosher seems very similar except that the rules in a kosher diet seem a little more strict. But not eating pork, blood and the way the animals are slaughtered are mostly the same.

By turquoise — On Oct 06, 2014

@soneMason-- If a Muslim eats haram foods on purpose and knowing full well that they are haram, then there is bound to be reactions from friends and family. I don't know if she or he will be outcast. That depends on how strict a family may be. But I think most people will discourage the individual from continuing the consumption of these. He or she may be reminded of the verses from the Qur'an where Allah has forbidden these substances.

If an individual however consumes something without knowing that it is haram, then it is believed that Allah will forgive him or her as long as it is not consumed again. Islam is actually a very forgiving and compassionate religion. In extreme situations where an individual may be forced to consume something that is haram, Allah is also forgiving. For example, the Qur'an mentions that if one were to be starving, with the only food available being pork, he or she may eat a small amount required for survival.

So in Islam, intention is most important. As long as one intends on following God's decrees and tries his or her best to avoid haram, it will be fine.

By stoneMason — On Oct 06, 2014

What happens if a Muslim consumes a haram food? Will he or she be outcast by friends and family for consuming it? For example, how do people react when a Muslim drinks alcohol, smokes marijuana or eats pork?

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