Lawful and unlawful animals (Part one)
Extract from the book Le Marché du Halal, entre références religieuses & contraintes industrielles, Mostafa Brahimi & Fethallah Otmani.
For animal-based food, the general rule is unlawfulness (haram), unless the Texts clearly state the opposite.
We can classify animal species by the following categories:
– Land animals: herbivores (sheep, cattle, etc.), carnivores (felines, etc.).
– Aquatic animals: fish, crustaceans and other marine animals.
– Birds: granivores (roosters, chickens, turkeys, etc.) and carnivores such as raptors.
Rather than providing an exhaustive list, in this section we will detail the main animals whose consumption is legal and illegal, notably those that are the most common to our eating habits.
The main verses related to meat consumption reveal four main prohibitions. For the record:
“O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. 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.” [Qur’an 2/172-173]
The following are therefore prohibited:
- Slaughtered animals not intended for God: notably an animal which was slaughtered in the name of a deity other than God, or an animal sacrificed on stone (altars).
- Dead animal (mayta) and its variants: animals that are strangled; animals that die by stunning; animals that die after a fall; animals that die after being gored; or the animal whose body was partially devoured by another animal.
Lawful land animals
An exhaustive list of animals that can be lawfully consumed after ritual slaughter can’t be easily drawn up. In fact it’s easier to list the animals that are unlawful. However, we can still draw up the following categories:
– The animals cited in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, under the name of an’am, are domestic animals raised for the purpose of food consumption, but they can also be used for other purposes. They include sheep, cattle, goats and camels.
– The same animals in their wild form, and the related species (bison, deer…).
Without assuming that all herbivores are legal, scholars are unanimous (ijma’) in considering these animals lawful for consumption as long as they are ritually slaughtered. Only a small number of herbivores, domestic or wild, are disputed among scholars, including animals used for riding such as donkeys, horses, mules as well as insects and certain amphibians (frogs), which we will look at in more detail below.
Land animals illicit for consumption
The three verses above establish that the consumption of pork meat or fat is specifically prohibited, whether the pig is domesticated or wild, whether it has been bled or not. The verses are so unambiguous they require no further discussion.
Similarly to wine, other prohibitions apply to pork, most notably the prohibition to trade it. According to Abu Hurayra, the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) banned wine, dead animals and pigs, as well as the product of their trade.
The verses 172 and 173 of sura 2 forbid the consumption of blood, but another verse is more specific, referring to “the blood spilled out”.
“Say, « I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure – or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah”. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], then indeed, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful. » [Qur’an 6/145]
Ibn ‘Abbas explains that this specification (takhsis) implies that God forbids the blood that is extracted from the body, but not the blood contained within the flesh or the organs. In the same way, the great scholar Ikrima, asserts that, was it not for this specific detail, Muslims would have sought to remove all traces of blood within the flesh or the veins, as Jewish people do. Ibn Rushd is of the same opinion, asserting that the blood, which is banned, is the blood that comes out of the slaughtered animal according to the Islamic rite (dhakat).
- Animals sacrificed to another divinity other than God
Here again, Quranic verses that evoke dietary prohibitions detail:
– « [The animal] dedicated to other than God », [Qur’an 6/145]
– And « those which are sacrificed on stone altars (the altars dedicated to the gods at the time of the polytheistic Arabs) ». [Qur’an 5/3]
Here we enter the realm of intention. In Islam, it is the intention that drives the action and gives it its healthy or unhealthy vocation. God accepts or rejects an action (any good deed for example) by judging the intention of its author. It’s therefore by looking at the intention that He validates or rejects a ritual act (prayer, zakat …), or renders lawful or unlawful the consumption and use of meat. Thus, every animal slaughtered for consumption must be killed solely in the Name of God.
Any animal upon which we invoke or associate a name other than God’s – even if it’s the Prophet himself – is not considered lawful, regardless of the way it has been killed.
- Dead animals (mayta)
For an animal to be lawful for consumption, it must die as a result of hunting or ritual Islamic slaughter. Thus, any animal that was already dead when found (mayta), regardless of the cause of death, is unlawful for consumption. A verse details some categories of dead animals:
– An animal strangled, by rope for example;
– An animal that dies stunned by a blunt object, i.e. neither a sharp or piercing object that could have made it bleed out (example stunning);
– An animal that dies as a result of a fall;
– An animal that dies after being gored by horns;
– An animal whose body has been partially devoured by another animal, even if its predator has attacked it by the throat and caused, as a result, the release of its blood. What remains of the animal is considered carrion, and is therefore unlawful.
Dying or injured animals
On the other hand, if there is still a breath of life left in the animal, then it can be slaughtered according to Islamic rite, the condition being that it is slaughtered before it renders its last breath. This is what the following verse says: « […] except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death]« . [Quran 5/3]”
Scholars are unanimous in saying that one must ensure that the animal is indeed alive. However, there is some disagreement on what determines the signs of life.
For the great majority, it is enough that there is still a breath of life in the animal. Ibn Kathir says that one must look for any sign of life, for example, to observe if one’s tail, eye or paw moves. This opinion is shared by a majority of imams (jumhûr) including Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i, Ahmad.
If the animal falls into a place, which is almost inaccessible, then one can kill it with a sharpened weapon, which would make its blood run. This is enough to render it lawful, as long as the death is not caused by the fall itself.
In this sense, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked: « Should the slaughter (dhakat) be performed only on the throat and collar? He replied, « If you do it on the thigh, that will suffice. »
Abu Dwud, Tirmidhi and other scholars specify that this killing must be exceptional, and only valid in cases of a fall, asphyxia, etc. The traditional ritual slaughter method should be applied as much as possible.
Ibn Qudāma writes that if the animal is animated only by death spasms, then it becomes unlawful for consumption. However, if it has enough life left for it to be slaughtered, then it becomes lawful, even when we do not know if it will survive its wounds or not. He concludes by saying: « The most accurate opinion is that if the animal is still alive in the time it would take to slaughter, and the blood is flowing, then it is lawful. »
- Body parts of living animals
Mutilation is strictly forbidden in Islam. Thus, any part or member removed from an animal that is still alive is unlawful. A very explicit hadith supports this prohibition: Abu Waqid al-Laythi reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), when he migrated to Medina noticed that people cut off camel’s bumps and fat tails of sheep for food. The Prophet forbade them from doing this and said, “Whatever is cut off an animal while it is still alive, is carrion (mayta) and is unlawful to eat.”
- Ruling on game
Although hunting is allowed in Islam, it is regulated. The hunter must only hunt for food and must ensure his prey is spared of unnecessary suffering. Thus only sharp weapons, able to pierce the body of the animal to make the blood flow, are allowed, which render the prey lawful for consumption. Any animal that succumbs after being chased with a stone or a blunt object is considered carrion (mayta), and therefore becomes unlawful for consumption. This ruling is drawn from many hadiths.
The Companion ‘Udayy Ibn Hatim reports: I asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) about hunting the game with the help of Mi’rad (a heavy stick with a metal blade attached at one end, but sometimes without a blade, according to Nawawi’s definition), whereupon he said: If it strikes (the game) with its point, then eat it, but if it strikes flat, that is (the game is) beaten (into death), (then do not eat that). ‘Udayy Ibn Hatim further said: I asked him about hunting with the help of a dog, whereupon he said: If that (the dog) catches it (the game) for you and does not eat out of that, then you eat (the game) for Dhakat (slaughtering) of that is its being caught by it (by the dog). But if you find another dog besides it, and you fear that that dog (the second one) had caught it (the game) along with that (your dog) and killed it then don’t eat; for you recited the name of Allah on your dog and did not recite that on the other one (which joined your dog incidentally).
Fanged animals and birds with talons
In the Muslim tradition, some fanged animals and birds with talons are unlawful for consumption. According to Ibn ‘Abbas, the Prophet « discouraged / forbade (eating the flesh) of fanged animals, among felines, as well as birds with talons”.
But the ban does not apply to all carnivores. According to Ibn al-Qayyim, the ban concerns animals that use their fangs to attack humans, such as felines, wolves, etc. This opinion is also shared by Imam Shafi’i and Nawawi.
Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i, Ahmad and Dawud forbid the consumption of the flesh of fanged felines. However, Imam Malik only asks to abstain (karaha) from it, without forbidding it (tahrim), even though some of his disciples forbid it formally.
Some species subject to divergences
Scholars differ over certain animals, such as donkeys, horses and mules. Some consider them licit for consumption while others forbid them.
- Donkeys and horses
Domestic donkeys and mules: The majority of scholars consider unlawful (haram) the consumption of domestic donkeys and mules. However, according to some sources, Ibn ‘Abbas and’ Aisha believed them lawful for consumption. Imam Malik cites the principle of reprobation (makruh): the act is blameworthy without leading to sanctions.
Horses: Malik and Abu Hanifa both forbid their consumption, or advise against it, according to certain opinions, whereas a majority of scholars, in particular Shafi’i, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abu Yusuf, the Companion Ibn Zubayr, and the Successors ‘Ata’, Hasan al-Basri and Sa’id Ibn Jubayr consider that consumption of horse meat is lawful (halal) based on two authentic texts:
– « On the day of Khaybar, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade the meat of domesticated donkeys, but as a concession he granted us permission to eat the meat of horses”.
– Asma reports: « We slaughtered a horse during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle and ate it”.
Finally, Malik and Awza’i consider it only reprehensible (makruh), because while there is no basis to forbid its consumption, one must take into consideration the nobility of the animal.
Abu Hanifa and Shafi’i forbid (haram) the consumption of insects. However, for Imam Malik, Awza’i and others, they can lawfully be consumed.
The scholars who forbid them rely on the principle of custom (‘urf’) that considers their consumption repulsive. Those who consider licit their consumption, base their judgment on the absence of texts clearly prohibiting this practice, as well as on the famous verse: « »Say, « I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden…« [Qur’an 6/145]
 Page 41 to 50, Tawhid, AVS
 As the Arabs, in the pre-Islamic period, used to do during sacrificial rituals to their gods.
 Ikrima, freed Berber slave, who became the disciple of the Companion Ibn Abbas, the first great commentator of the Qur’an, after the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).