Can Muslims Eat Any Meat?

When Western people travel to eastern Islamic countries, they often prefer to eat the folk and favorite local food of the region. But what is it that makes western Muslims starve for a KFC classic chicken-on –the-bone bucket meal, or a McDonalds’ double burger if they don’t eat meat?! Muslims are Muslims, not vegetarians.



But like the followers of other religions who have specific slaughtering rituals, Muslims also have explicit rulings for slaughtering particular animals to make it lawful (Halal).


eating in islam


Lawful and Unlawful Meats


As it is defined in the Quran, believers are welcomed to enjoy all of the blessings of this world [1]. Therefore, about eating meat, Allah does not mention what to eat, but He excludes what is not lawful to eat and may be physically or spiritually harmful to human's body and soul.  "You are permitted animals of grazing livestock, except what is [now] announced to you…" (5:1) and what is recited as prohibited is mentioned in the Quran as below:


You are prohibited carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and what has been offered to other than Allah, and the animal strangled or beaten to death, and that which dies by falling or is gored to death, and that which is mangled by a beast of prey— barring that which you may purify —and what is sacrificed on stone altars [to idols], and that you should divide by raffling with arrows...(5:3).



Other than the mentioned meats all other kinds of meat are Halal as described in the Quran: Say, ‘I do not find in what has been revealed to me that anyone be forbidden to eat anything except carrion or spilt blood, or the flesh of swine—for that is indeed unclean—or an impiety offered to other than Allah.’ But should someone be compelled, without being rebellious or aggressive, indeed your Lord is all-forgiving, all-merciful’ (6:145).



Please note that all kinds of lawful (Halal) meat must be slaughtered according to Islamic rulings: “Do not eat [anything] of that over which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned, and that is indeed transgression…” (6:121). 



Even the above mentioned prohibited meats are lawful (Halal) while you are living in a problematic situation and following the rules of Islam will put you in extreme difficulty. Please note that difficulty does not mean that you do not have ready food at home and therefore you may eat forbidden (Haram) meat. A difficulty, as written in Islamic jurisprudence, is when one’s life is at risk, and there is no other food available but forbidden (Haram) meat.


A Detailed Description of Lawful (Halal ) and Forbidden (Haram ) meats


To be more precise on which meat is lawful, let’s have a review of the Islamic jurisprudence.


Sea Creatures


Fish that have scales are the only type of Halal sea creatures. Other sea creatures and fish are Haram [2]. 


eating in islam


Land Creatures (Domestic or Wild)


Among all domestic land creatures; sheep, cow, and camel are Halal, but eating the meat of horse and donkey is detestable (Makruh). The rest of domestic land creatures such as dogs, cats, etc. are forbidden (Haram).


Deer, cow, zebra, mountain goat and wild donkey are all Halal. However, eating the meat of wild predatory animals that are predatory in essence, have strong and sharp nails, claws and fangs such as, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, or animals with less sharp fangs such as foxes and hyenas as well as rabbits, while not part of the predatory category, are considered Haram.


Also, insects and reptiles, such as snakes, mice, lizards, hedgehogs, fleas, lice, etc., are all Haram. Animals who have undergone metamorphosis (maskh) [i] such as, elephants, monkeys, bears, etc. are Haram as well [3]. 




Birds that flap their wings more than they glide while flying are Halal, but birds that glide and spread their wings more while flying in the air instead of flapping their wings are Haram. Also, birds with gizzards and spurs at the back of their feet are Halal [ii] [4].




All insects are Haram [iii] [5]. 


Eating Raw Meat


It is permissible to eat Halal meat cooked or uncooked or even burned (as long as it has no harm for human health) [7].


The Rules of Hunted Meat


Please note that the rules of slaughtering and eating hunted meat are slightly different with all the rulings mentioned above, and we will discuss that in a separate article.


Can Muslims Eat Kosher?


"For every nation, We have appointed a rite so that they might mention Allah’s Name over the livestock He has provided them" (22:34).


Although Jews have their specific rules of slaughtering that have many similarities to the Islamic rulings, as there are minor differences in the slaughtering of Jews and Muslims, therefore kosher meat is not lawful (Halal) for Muslims [8]. 


[i] In Arabic, Maskh means for something to change form to an uglier one. In the Quran and Islamic tradition, this term refers to a specific divine punishment which was sent upon the wrongdoers and wrongdoing nations in the past (of course not all wrongdoers, but those who committed certain wrong acts) which can be called metamorphosis [9].

[ii] Birds with sharp claws such as eagles, hawks, falcons, etc. are Haram.

[iii] If a locust is caught by hand or any other means, it is lawful (Halal) (after dying) [6].


[1] “Say, who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which he has produced for his servants and the good (lawful) things of provision?”(7:32)

[2] Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 137, the book of foods and drinks, issue 2; al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi’, pg. 251; Sharayi’ al-Islam, pg. 169.

[3] Ibid


[5] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 603.

[6] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 593, issue 2622.

[7] Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 162