© 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.
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
- 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
- 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
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.