Koran Islamic Dietary Law
Islamic dietary law may descend from Jewish Dietary Law but there are significant differences that make kosher certifications unreliable guides for Muslims.   Photo © i0111


© 2007 Clove Garden


Foods (and behavior) are divided into three categories:

  • Halal - lawful.
  • Haram - forbidden, unlawful.
  • Mashbooh, Mushtabahat - questionable or doubtful, to be avoided where possible.

Specific Rules

This list is not exhaustive or in sufficient detail to be a complete guide to halal foods. It is more a general guide to persons who have found a need to understand the rules well enough to get along. For authoritative detail see the Links section.

You need to determine the level of compliance of your guests in advance so you will not screw up. Meats are a particular problem due to certified halal products being difficult to find in many areas. In such cases a vegetarian approach may be a good idea, particularly if your guests are fairly strict in their compliance.

  • Alcohol is banned, as are any foods prepared with alcohol. For instance you can't use vanilla extract in baked goods because it contains alcohol. The Turks, though, have either obtained a special dispensation from Allah or they're all going straight to Hell with the rest of us. The distilled beverage raki (similar to Greek ouzo) is very popular, wine is used in cooking, and many Turks reserve abstinence for Ramadan.
  • Animals that are vegetarian are allowed, including cattle, sheep, goats, deer, bison, camel, wild ass and rabbit. Donkey (domestic) is forbidden and horse is controversial (Mashbooh). In addition, approved animals must be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law (Zabihah). This must be done by a Muslim while invoking the name of Allah. Slaughter must by by cutting all blood vessels in the neck. There is debate as to whether animals slaughtered by Christians and Jews (People of the Book) can be eaten. The answer tends to "No" (and how can you say the guy who actually did the job wasn't a Hindu or Shamanist?). There is also a problem with bogus halal certification of packaged meats. The best solution is probably to slaughter your own goat.
  • Animal Products from non halal animals are forbidden. Animal shortenings (lard, tallow), gelatin and many other animal extracts used in food processing are forbidden unless the halal and Zabihah status of the source are known - usually impossible. Blood and products made from blood are forbidden, but liver and spleen (which contain blood) are permitted.
  • Specifically Forbidden are pigs, donkeys, mules, dogs, cats, monkeys, elephant, mouse, rat, wild animals and all predators (animals with fangs). Any animal that has died except by Zabihah slaughter is forbidden except fish that have died by removal from water or by a blow.
  • Birds that hunt with talons (hawks, eagles, etc.) and prey on animals or birds are forbidden. Birds that eat seeds and vegetables are permitted (chicken, duck pigeon sparrow, etc.). Birds that eat some forbidden items (chickens eat insects, etc.) are permitted provided such things are not a major part of their diet.
  • Insects:   Locusts are permitted, all others forbidden.
  • Pigs may not be eaten nor any foods derived from pigs, but going beyond Jewish dietary laws Islam forbids having anything whatever to do with pigs. A Muslim is only allowed to sell pork if in an infidel land and if grave hardship would be caused by not doing so. Even then the money must be kept separate from other money and all profit must be given to Muslim charities. Pig leather and other non-food products are also banned. For more on this see my page Pig - Prohibitions.
  • Fish:   This is an area of disagreement. Some schools follow the same strict rules as Kashrut (Jewish dietary law). Others permit all fish but not shellfish. A few classify shrimp and prawns as "fish", while still others consider all seafood permitted. In any case, fish that have died in the water are forbidden. Fish killed by removal from water or by a blow are permitted (if they are a permitted fish according to the school of thought to which you subscribe).
  • Shellfish are forbidden by some schools, accepted along with all seafoods by others.
  • Rodents and other Pests are all forbidden, including mouse, hedgehog and rat, but rabbit is permitted.
  • Reptiles and Amphibians are all forbidden.
  • Cheese:   Here we have controversy. Some schools reject all rennet coagulated cheese because the Zabihah status of the animal is unknown. Others say rennet is not life because blood does not flow thorough it so it doesn't matter. Some say rennet is OK so long as it doesn't come from a pig (redundant, rennet never comes from pigs). Cheeses coagulated with acid (cottage, farmer's, etc.) are generally permitted as are those coagulated using vegetable enzymes.
  • Whey is a byproduct of cheese making and products containing it are subject to the same controversy as with cheese.
  • Fruits and Vegetables can be eaten, but must be inspected to assure they contain no bugs.
  • Grains are all permitted, provided they have not been prepared using animal fats or other forbidden ingredients.
  • Vinegar is permitted even though it can only be made from alcohol (wine, beer, etc.). Muslims make some pretty good wine vinegars but they label them "raisin vinegar" or some similar euphemism.

Halal Certification

Unlike kosher certification, halal certification is still pretty sparse in the U.S. and there is considerable dispute among certifying organizations. Particularly in regard to meats. Fraud is fairly common.


This list does not include all sources used to prepare this page but it but those listed are particularly informative.

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©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegarden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited are © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted