Halal & Haraam

The world in which we are living today, is so controlled by our own desires and passions, that proper values and religious considerations, hardly play any importance in the lifestyle we have adopted for ourselves. In our eating, drinking, dressing, and in our trade and commercial ventures, we are totally ignorant of the beautiful guidelines that Islam has prescribed for us. In our relentless efforts to amass material wealth, we are unashamedly sacrificing the criteria of truth, honesty, fair play and lawfulness. The temporary glitter of the world is eroding our belief in the Allah of beauty, purity and sublimity.

Transgression, treachery and wickedness have become the order of our lives. The gambling dens are crowded with Muslims. Not only that, Muslim businesses are trading with the aid of lottery machines, striking a further dent in our crippling morality. Some Muslims are stooping so low as to display bars in their homes to entertain their friends and guests. Drugs, prostitution and illegal trading have become our second nature. The primary cause of all this, is our complete disregard for Halal and that which is not, two things, which had soared us to unsurpassed heights and whose absence is plunging us into the depths of degradation and shame.

Before critically examining the implications of Halal and Non-Halal, let us try to establish their proper definitions to clear our minds of any doubts that may exist due to this. At the outset, we must understand that man is neither a purely spiritual being like the angels, nor is he simply a creature of instinct like the animals. He occupies a position between the two; he can attain spiritual heights of the angels by his submission to the will of Allah Almighty or he can sink to the level of the beasts by transgressing Divine laws in matters concerning Halal and Haraam.

The author of ‘A Concise Dictionary of Islamic Terms’ defines Halal as: “Lawful, permissible, legal, sacrificed with the name of Allah”, and Haraam as: “Prohibited, unlawful, forbidden and punishable from the view-point of Islam”.

This definition is based on the Hadith in Tirmizi Shareef in which the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam has said: “The Halal is that which Allah has made lawful in His Book and the Haraam is that which He has forbidden.”

In the same Hadith, another dimension is added to it in the following words: “And that concerning which Allah Almighty is silent, He has permitted as a favour for you”.

Hujjatul Islam Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazzali, one of the greatest scholars of Islam, states in his KIMIYA SA’ADAT:

“It is important to note that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam has said:’The acquisition of lawful means is obligatory upon every believer’. However, this is not possible until one does not have a clear understanding of what exactly constitutes the lawful.

The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam has further elucidated:

‘Halal is clear and Haraam is clear, but, between the two there are those which border on doubt that most people have no knowledge about”.

The law pertaining to the particular doubtful item would thus be dependent on those who have knowledge regarding it and they would have to clarify the position on its permissibility or non-permissibility of consumption or usage.

If we do not have a clear-cut understanding of Halal and Haraam, our application of these two vital concepts in our day-to-day life will not be possible. Until, and unless, we do not make a concerted effort to understand them, whatever we eat, drink, wear and earn will always border on the doubtful.

It is Allah Almighty’s favour and mercy upon His servants that He did not leave them to grope in darkness and ignorance concerning these two most vital issues, which according to Imam Ghazzali constitute the greatest portion of knowledge.

In order to obtain a clear picture of this, let us refer to the Holy Qur’aan and the blessed traditions of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam regarding Halal and Haraam in matters concerning eating, drinking, wearing and commerce. These are four aspects of our daily lives.

The Islamic dietary laws define what food and drinks are permissible or non-permissible. These laws are clearly defined in the Holy Qur’aan and the Hadith of our Beloved Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. Within the teachings of the Holy Qur’aan and the Hadith, they are further codified and modified by Islamic jurists in the books of Jurisprudence.

Says Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur’aan:

“O Mankind! Eat the lawful and good things from what is in the earth, and follow not the footsteps of the devil. Surely, he is an open enemy to you”(S2:V168).

Ibn Katheer states that that which is declared Halal by Allah Almighty is good (nutritious) and causes no harm to the body nor to the intelligence.

Furthermore, regarding this verse, a great Mufassir states: “From eating everything from the earth which is clean and ‘lawful’ emerge a few important issues:

  1. One should eat from lawfully earned livelihood, because anything obtained by unlawful means is forbidden. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam once told Hazrat Sa’ad; “Eat lawful food, it is the means of acceptance of dua (prayer).
  2. Eating is in accordance with Divine Command. Thus, he who starves himself to death is a sinner. In the light of this, those who participate in hunger strikes or fasting unto death are clearly breaking Divine Law. Both are totally forbidden in Islam.

Another great Mufassir, comments on this verse in the following words: “In today’s modern and progressive world, great importance is attached to hygiene with regard to food and drink. Yet, no importance is attached to Halal and Haraam. Islam has ordered its followers to give absolute priority to both, viz. outwardly every care should be given to the laws of hygiene, so that no adverse effect is caused is caused to one’s health, and inwardly they should not be impure (Haraam) so as to stain one’s faith. Outer purity is referred by the Qur’aan as TAYYIB, while inner purity is termed as HALAL. Lawful things are those, which are not regarded as unlawful on personal laws eg. prohibited animal, alcohol, etc. while unlawful things are those obtained through illegal means eg. stealing, gambling

Islam has placed strict prohibition on its commercial system. It has declared every type of earning as unlawful, which is gained by infringing the rights of others and by taking undue advantage of the weakness and helplessness of others. Islam has come to abolish this type of evil system and to establish correct and lawful means of trade”(Zia-ul-Qur’aan. Vol 1).

At another place, Allah Almighty states: “Oh Messengers (you and your followers) eat pure things and do good deeds”(S23:V51).

In this blessed verse, Allah Almighty has given a categorical command to all the Prophets, and through them to all their followers to obtain and eat that which is pure, lawful and wholesome. The great Sufi sages say that earning lawful sustenance is an act of great worship, as it generates a great deal of Ibaadat.

Regarding this verse, Allama ibn Katheer states: “Allah Almighty has commanded all His Prophets to eat that which is lawful, and to do good deeds. This proves without any shadow of doubt that eating that which is lawful is an important act of piety. Hazrat Iesa Alaihis Salaam would eat from the earnings of his mother. Hazrat Dawood Alaihis Salaam would work for his own sustenance.

Once a lady sent a cup of milk to the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam in the evening for him to break his fast. The Messenger of Allah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam sent the milk back saying that if the milk is from your goat then I will drink it. The servant came back saying, “My mistress says that this milk is bought from her lawful wealth.” Only when the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam was satisfied about its source did he drink that milk.

It is stated in Mishkaat Shareef that: “A person after travelling a long distance, with dispersed hair covered with dust raises his hands in prayer uttering Oh Allah! Oh Allah! But his food is Haraam, his drink is Haraam, and his dress is Haraam. So how can his prayer be accepted by Allah.” This very command is for the followers as well. In matters of eating, drinking wearing absolute care must be taken that they are obtained from lawful means. (Tafseer ibn Katheer)

Imam Ghazzali states that from the ten portions of worship, nine are concerning obtaining sustenance by lawful means. This great scholar of Islam then goes on to quote the following Hadith:

“Every night one angels proclaims from Baitul Muqadas that any person who eats unlawful things neither his obligatory worship nor Sunnat worships will be accepted by Allah.”

“Any person who does not care about his source of wealth (i.e whether it is lawfully or unlawfully earned) Allah Almighty to will not be concerned about in which part of health he is flung.”

Hazrat Yahya bin Muaz states:

“Worship and obedience is the treasure of Allah. Its key is dua, and its teeth are made from Halal sustenance.

The great saint further states:

“Any person who fills his stomach with doubtful things for forty days, his heart becomes black and is totally corroded.”

We at all times need to exercise utmost caution to where and what we eat. There is a tendency amongst our people to eat at Non-Muslim owned outlets. There exists an obvious doubt in the food served bearing in mind that the proprietors of these restaurants and stores are oblivious to Muslim dietary laws. Our laxity and indifference to that which is permissible and that forbidden which allows these people to freely display Halal signs.

The Muslims who frequent these eating, houses should pay special attention to the following Hadith of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam:

“When Halal is mixed with Haraam it ruins the Halal as well.”

One who eats a morsel of that which is forbidden, his prayers will not be accepted for forty days. The same applies for the one who consumes alcohol.

The primary concern of NIHT is the consumption of Halal by the Ummah and as has been discussed one can understand that this constitutes a very important aspect of the life of a Muslim.

In the light of what has just been said, it is obligatory upon every Muslim to pay careful attention to that which is consumable and that, which is not in terms of Islamic law. The development of piety and acceptance of our Ibaadat are totally dependent on the extent to which we apply these laws in our day to day living. May Allah Almighty and His Beloved Rasool Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam guide us on the straight path. Ameen.