What is the Islamic concept of halal and haram?


In a letter, Huzooraa was asked on what basis the meat of various animals had been declared haram in Islam. Huzooraa, in his letter dated 11 April 2016, gave the following reply:

The Islamic principle behind something being halal or haram is that everything that has not been explicitly declared haram by the Shariah is considered permissible. Hence, the Promised Messiahas states:

اصل اشیاء میں حلّت ہے حرمت جب تک نص قطعی سے ثابت نہ ہو تب تک نہیں ہوتی

“All things are halal in essence. Unlawfulness does not apply until it is categorically established through scripture.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 474)

The Holy Quran has declared carrion, the blood which pours out when an animal is slaughtered or wounded, the flesh of swine and such animals on which the name of anyone other than Allah is invoked as haram. (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.146)

These four things mentioned in the Holy Quran are called haram. Moreover, the Holy Prophetsa has prohibited the consumption of certain things. They are called mamnu‘. They include, for example, beasts of prey – be they raptors or other predators etc. The prohibition of such animals is based on ahadith. Hazrat Ibn Abbasra states:

نَھَی رَسُولُ اللہِ صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم عَنْ کُلّ ذِی نَابٍ مِنَ السِّبَاعِ وَعَنْ کُلِّ ذِی مِخْلَبٍ مِنَ الطَّیْرِ

“Allah’s Messengersa prohibited the eating of all fanged beasts of prey and all birds that have talons.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab as-Sa‘idi waz-Zaba‘ihi wa maa Yu‘kalu min al-Hayawani, Babu Tahrimi Akli …)

Likewise, the following is reported in another hadith:

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللہِ صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم نَھَی یَوْمَ خَیْبَرَ عَنْ لُحُوْمِ الْحُمُرِ الأھْلِیَّۃِ

Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Umarra narrates, “On the occasion of the Battle of Khaibar, Allah’s Messengersa forbade the eating of the meat of domesticated donkeys.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Maghazi, Bab Ghazwati Khaibar)

While explaining the terms haram and mamnu‘, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra states:

“One should remember that the consumption of two kinds of things has been prohibited by the Islamic Shariah; firstly, those that are haram and secondly, those that are mamnu‘. Although, linguistically, the term haram encompasses both the kinds, but the Holy Quran has only declared four things as haram in this verse (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.174) i.e. carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and all those things on which the name of anything other than Allah is invoked. Then, there are some additional things, the consumption of which has been prohibited by the shariah. Although, those things would fall in the category of mamnu‘, but they would not be termed haram as per the Quranic terminology …

“These instructions are not contradictory to the message of this verse or any of the other verses. Just as there are several kinds of dos [awamir] – some are farz, others are wajib and yet others are sunnah – there are also several kinds of don’ts [nahi]; there is nahi-e-muharramah, then there is nahi-e-mani‘ah and there is also nahi-e-tanzihi. Thus, four things are haram and the rest are mamnu‘, the majority of which falls under the category of nahi-e-tanzihi. This means that it would be better if one kept away from them.

“The relation between haram and mamnu‘ is the same as the relation between farz and wajib. Hence, the unlawfulness of the things that the Holy Quran has declared haram is very strict, whereas the unlawfulness of the things that the Holy Prophetsa has forbidden is relatively less strict.

“As I mentioned before, in terms of obligations, they can be compared to farzwajib and sunnah. Haram functions like farz, while mamnu‘ is similar to wajib. Just as the difference between farz and wajib is determined by the punishment that is meted out for violating them, likewise, if someone was to consume the things prohibited in the Holy Quran, the punishment would be more severe. In addition, if one was to consume the things that the Holy Prophetsa has prohibited, one would receive a relatively lower punishment. Nevertheless, both the violations are punishable and would draw the displeasure of Allah the Exalted.

“When one commits a haram act, it affects his faith, the certain result of which is sin. However, the consumption of other things does not necessarily result in sin and faithlessness. Hence, you will see that there are some sects among Muslims such as the Malikis who declare these things permissible by way of interpretation and they eat them. It does not affect their faith, nor does it cause any faithlessness and sin among them. In fact, in the past, there have even been some auliya-ullah [saints] among them. However, one will not find any waliullah who eats the flesh of swine or carrion.

“Thus, unlawfulness [hurmat] also has some degrees. In addition to these four things, all others are mamnu‘ things, which are referred to as haram in popular culture. Otherwise, they are not haram as per the Quranic terminology.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 2, p. 340)

While explaining the philosophy behind haram and halal, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira states:

“The Holy Quran states:

وَ لَا تَقُوۡلُوۡا لِمَا تَصِفُ اَلۡسِنَتُکُمُ الۡکَذِبَ ہٰذَا حَلٰلٌ وَّ ہٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفۡتَرُوۡا عَلَی اللّٰہِ الۡکَذِبَ ؕ اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ یَفۡتَرُوۡنَ عَلَی اللّٰہِ الۡکَذِبَ لَا یُفۡلِحُوۡنَ

“Saying, ‘This is halal and that is haram’ aimlessly is tantamount to forging a lie against God. God has declared:

حَرَّمَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡمَیۡتَۃَ وَ الدَّمَ وَ لَحۡمَ الۡخِنۡزِیۡرِ وَ مَاۤ اُہِلَّ بِہٖ لِغَیۡرِ اللہِ

“In a hadith, the Holy Prophetsa said that beasts of prey were haram. This includes all raptors and other predators etc. Now, nobody has the authority to designate things as halal or haram beyond this. However, since there are thousands of animals in the world, the problem arose as to which ones could be consumed and which ones not. Allah the Exalted has solved this problem very easily by saying:

فَکُلُوۡا مِمَّا رَزَقَکُمُ اللّٰہُ حَلٰلًا طَیِّبًا ۪ وَّ اشۡکُرُوۡا نِعۡمَتَ اللّٰہِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ اِیَّاہُ تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ

“‘Eat lawful [halal] and pure [tayyib] things. Hence, we have been told to eat things that are tayyib, meaning that everywhere and among every nation, people should eat that which is considered good and pure and what is consumed by decent and civilised people. It is essential to keep all the exceptions that have been mentioned before in mind while doing so. There may not seem to be any objection against eating the meat of parrots, but I do not eat it because the decent people of our country do not do so.

“Once, a gentleman cooked a lizard and offered it to me. I told him to feel free to eat it on my table, but I would not eat it because the decent people [of my country] did not eat it.” (Badr, no. 19, Vol. 10, 9 March 1911, p. 1)

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