What Is Halal? A Guide For Non-Muslims


For non-Muslims, the terms Halal and Haram can be a bit confusing. This is a guide to help non-Muslim people understand the terms as well as the traditional Islamic way that Muslim people slaughter animals. 

How it is related to the food they are allowed to eat and what does not make the menu, also to avoid the awkwardness of offering something that is forbidden in the Muslim community. 

It is important to Muslims to adhere to the teachings of the Qu’ran and the Hadith when practicing Islam. To give an example this is the same as keeping the 10 commandments in Christianity. The teachings are to help Muslim people follow traditions that have been set out by Allah for their lives here on Earth. It is to please Allah, and have these people find themselves worthy of the promises and rewards Allah has for them. 



What is Halal and Haram?

The word Halal is the Arabic word that means permitted or lawful. In simpler terms it simply means allowed, it is what the religion agrees for Muslim people to do. The word Haram means the total opposite which is prohibited or unlawful and in simpler terms it means it is not allowed, these are things that Muslim people cannot do within their religion. 

These terms are universal, all Muslims know and use them and are applied to all areas of life- mainly we associate it with food. It has also become the standard dietary criteria according to the Qu’ran that all Muslim’s adhere to in the preparation of food. You will hear the terms in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials. 

There are somethings that might not be as straight forward as either being haram or halal and that term is referred to as mashbooh and that means something being doubtful or questionable. 

All foods in Islam are considered halal unless it is something that the Qu’ran or Hadith has said to be prohibited then it would be considered haram. 

Officially Halal foods are free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to what the law says. Only foods that have been processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored utensils, equipment or machinery that have been cleansed according to the Islamic law can be eaten. 

Muslims eat to maintain a healthy and strong physique to contribute their knowledge and effort for the welfare of society.  They are supposed to make sure that they obtain the best quality of nutrients to achieve this goal.  Here are a list of foods that are considered as haram and forbidden to be consumed or prepared with any other food. 



A List of Foods That are Considered Haram: 

  • Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants

  • Enzymes (only microbial enzymes are allowed)

  • Gelatin – (only fish gelatin is halal) 

  • L-Cysteine (only from human hair)

  • Lard 

  • Lipase 

  • Non-Halal Animal Shortening 

  • Pork, Bacon, Ham (no pig meat) 

  • Unspecified Meat Broth 

  • Rennet (except plant, microbial or synthetic) 

  • Tallow (non-halal spices)

  • Stock 

  • Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals 

  • Food contaminated with the above products



In the Hadith, it is mentioned that Allah rejects the prayer of a person if they eat food that is prohibited.  Islam requires you to pray 5 daily prayers, if you break the rules by eating haram food, Allah regards you as being disobedient and defying the teachings. 

There are animals that are allowed by Islam to be consumed, they are; cows, veal, lambs, sheep, goat, turkey, chicken, ducks, game birds, bison, and venison. 

However, these animals need to be prepared according to the Islamic laws to be suitable for consumption. Generally, fish and seafood are accepted as halal foods except for crocodile, frogs, and alligators.  

When preparing the fish or seafood, do not use alcohol such as wine or even batter as these are considered haram. Also, fish and seafood are a personal preference, and some people are allergic to it. 

In some cases of necessity or an emergency, Islam will allow prohibited products to be used if there is an emergency or a need for it. Islam prioritizes life over death in all circumstances or situations. 

It is important to note that only in real life – or – death situations can haram products be unpunishable if it saves a life. 

How meat is prepared the Islamic way:

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) is the peak Muslim body that certifies and trains Islamic men on how to slaughter their meat and poultry within the industry. There are many other ways, different cultures used to slaughter their meat, but within Islam, this is the standard method everyone uses to ensure that the products are halal. 

The AIFC’s service manager travels throughout the country of Australia to visit various abattoirs and farms, meat and non-meat food companies, drugs, and cosmetic establishments to provide Islamic supervision and inspection of the halal processes and preparations to ensure they are following the right procedure. 

What makes the animals products halal is the way the animal is slaughtered. According to Islamic law the slaughterman has to say “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar” when slaughtering the animal which means “In the name of God- God is the greatest” 

Halal products are clearly separated and identified apart from the non – halal products. 

Islam believes that every life is sacred. Therefore, every slaughter must be done according to the Islamic Regulations set out by the Qu’ran. 

The life of an animal taken for the survival of human life should only be taken in the name of Allah. 

If the animal or meat has been sacrificed other than in the name of Allah, then Muslims cannot eat it at all. 



Islamic Method of Slaughter:

Other cultures find this method of slaughter to be inhumane as they feel that the animal must suffer unnecessarily to achieve the goal of Islamic slaughtering. 

However Islamic law has derived this method of killing animals specifically to reduce the pain felt by the animal and does not cause any distress and suffering. 

By using a razor- sharp knife to cut an animal’s throat in one swift motion is the most humane way. As the animal experiences unconsciousness within seconds, after slicing the throat it dies from cerebral hypoxia and not from bleeding to death. 

There are strict rules that AIFC has put in place that all Muslims must adhere to when slaughtering animals. 

  1. The slaughterer must be a sane Muslim – knowing that he is only killing for food and does not get any pleasure in taking a life.

  2. The slaughterer must say the name of God before making the cut – this is required to make it halal. 

  3. The name of God is said to sanctify the life of the animal that is being killed for food with God’s consent- the animal is only being killed to feed humans, it is a great sacrifice and should be sanctified as this act serves a special purpose. 

  4. The animal must be killed by cutting the throat with one continuous movement/ motion of a sharp knife- ensure that the cut is done evenly, to not have the animal struggle. 

  5. The cut must sever at least three of the trachea, esophagus, and two blood vessels on either side of the throat- this swift action means no suffering. 

  6. The spinal cord must not be cut. 

  7. Animals must be treated well before being killed – the animal should be treated properly as his life is being sacrificed to save others. 

  8. Animals must not see other animals being killed- this will have the animal in distress and cause trauma to the animal by witnessing another animal being slaughtered. 

  9. The knife must not be sharpened in the animal’s presence. 

  10. The knife’s blade must be free from blemishes that might tear the wound- this will cause pain towards the animal as you proceed to slaughter.

  11. The animal must not be in an uncomfortable position.

  12. The animal must be allowed to bleed out and be completely dead before further processing. 

This method must be done according to these steps to ensure that all products are halal and up to the dietary standard of food set out by the Qu’ran. 




This guide for non-Muslims is easy to understand as it explains in detail what halal means to Muslims. Islam values all of God’s creations and the slaughtering of animals is a strict process that must be always respected and adhered to. 

It is forbidden for any Muslim to not follow these practices as it is implemented in the Sharia Law, however, be sure to check packages of products as it will clearly be stated on it if the product is Halal or not.  

Using haram products intentionally is the same as committing a sin and is punishable. Be sure to use this guide as a reference to ensure that none of the products you consume as a Muslim are not allowed under the Islamic law.