11 Principles of Halal and Haraam in Islam

Halal Haraam

What is Makrooh?

On some things where the Quran and Sunnah are silent,  and it becomes evident that these things are impure and unsuitable for the believers in light of the guidance of the Quran and Sunnah;  the scholars have termed such things Makrooh or disliked.   Example being cigarettes,  etc.

Everything that is declared Haraam by Allah and His Messenger (saws) are also disliked,  and thus every Haraam thing will also be considered Makrooh;   but not all makrooh things will necessarily be considered Haraam.

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.267        Narrated by An Numan bin Bashir

The Prophet (saws) said “Both, halal and haraam things are obvious, and in between them are (suspicious) doubtful matters.  So whoever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and whoever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal.   Sins are Allah’s Hima (i.e. private pasture) and whoever pastures (his sheep) near it, is likely to get in it at any moment.”

There are 11 generally accepted principles pertaining to halal and haram in Islam for providing guidance to Muslims in their customary practices.

The halal dietary laws define food products as “halal” (permitted) or “haram” (prohibited). A few items go into the category of “makrooh” (questionable to detestable).

Approximately 90% of Muslims are Sunni, while the other 10% are Shiia. This article generally follow the Sunni practice.

  1. The basic principle is that all things created by Allah are permitted, with a few exceptions that are prohibited. Those exceptions include pork, blood, and meat of animals that died of causes other than proper slaughtering, food that has been dedicated or immolated to someone other than Allah, alcohol, intoxicants, and inappropriately used drugs.
  2. To make lawful and unlawful is the right of Allah alone. No human being, no matter how pious or powerful, may take it into his hands to change it.
  3. Prohibiting what is permitted and permitting what is prohibited is similar to ascribing partners to Allah. This is a sin of the highest degree that makes one fall out of the sphere of Islam.
  4. The basic reasons for the prohibition of things are due to impurity and harmfulness.

A Muslim is not supposed to question exactly why or how something is unclean or harmful in  what Allah has prohibited. There might be obvious reasons and there might be obscure reasons.

The following rationales might be considered:

  • Carrion and dead animals are unfit for human consumption because the decaying process leads to the formation of chemicals harmful to humans.
  • Blood that is drained from an animal contains harmful bacteria, products of metabolism, and toxins.
  • Swine serves as a vector for pathogenic worms to enter the human body. Infections by Trichinella spiralis and Traenia solium are not uncommon.
  • Intoxicants are considered harmful for the nervous system, affecting the senses and human judgment, leading to social and family problems and in some cases even death.
  • Immolating food to someone other than Allah may imply that there is somebody as important as Allah, that there could be two Gods. This would be against the first tenet of Islam: “THERE IS BUT ONE GOD.”

These reasons and explanations, and many more such as these, may be acceptable as sounded, but the underlying principle behind the prohibitions remains the Divine order: “FORBIDDEN  UNTO YOU ARE . . . .”

  1. What is permitted is sufficient and what is prohibited is then superfluous. Allah prohibited only things that are unnecessary or dispensable while providing better alternatives. People can survive and live better without consuming unhealthful carrion, unhealthful pork, unhealthful blood, and the root of many vices—alcohol.
  2. Whatever is conducive to the “prohibited” is in itself prohibited. If something is prohibited, anything leading to it is also prohibited.
  3. Falsely representing unlawful as lawful is prohibited. It is unlawful to make flimsy excuses or to consume something that is prohibited, such as drinking alcohol for supposedly medical reasons.
  4. Good intentions do not make the unlawful acceptable. Whenever any permissible action of the believer is accompanied by a good intention, his action becomes an act of worship. In the case of haram, it remains haram no matter how good the intention or how honorable the purpose may be. Islam does not endorse employing a haram means to achieve a praiseworthy end. The religion indeed insists not only that the goal be honorable, but also that the means chosen to achieve it be lawful and proper. Islamic laws demand that the right should be secured solely through just means.
  5. Doubtful things should be avoided. There is a gray area between clearly lawful and clearly unlawful. This is the area of “what is doubtful.” Islam considers it an act of piety for the Muslims to avoid doubtful things, for them to stay clear of the unlawful.

Prophet Muhammad said: “The halal is clear and the haram is clear. Between the two there are doubtful matters concerning which people do not know whether they are halal or haram. One       who avoids them in order to safeguard his religion and his honor is safe, while if someone       engages in a part of them, he may be doing something haram . . . .”

  1. Unlawful things are prohibited to everyone alike. Islamic laws are universally applicable to all races, creeds, and sexes. There is no favored treatment of privileged class. Actually, in Islam, there are no privileged classes; hence, the question of preferential treatment does not arise. This principle applies not only among Muslims, but between Muslims and non-Muslims as well.
  2. Necessity dictates exceptions. The range of prohibited things in Islam is quite limited, but emphasis on observing the prohibitions is very strong. At the same time, Islam is not oblivious to the exigencies of life, to their magnitude, or to human weakness and the capacity to face them. A Muslim is permitted, under the compulsion of necessity, to eat a prohibited food to ensure survival—but only in quantities sufficient to remove the necessity and avoid starvation.

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