The Prohibition of Eating Dead Animals in Islam

Prohibition of Eating What Is Dead and Its Wisdom

The first thing mentioned in these verses concerning prohibited foods is the flesh of “dead animals,” that is, the beast or fowl which dies of natural causes, without being slaughtered or hunted by men. There are obvious reasons for this prohibition :

1) Eating the flesh of a dead animals is repugnant to civilized taste and is considered by thinking people in all societies to be contrary to human dignity.

We also observe that all peoples possessing a divinely revealed scripture have prohibited it and that they do not eat the flesh of an animal unless it is slaughtered. However, the methods of slaughter may vary.

2) In whatever he does, the Muslim acts with a set purpose and intention; he does not use a thing nor reap its benefit without directing his intention, aim, and effort toward it.

The significance of slaughtering, which is a purposeful act, and the intention of which is to take the life of the animal in order to use it as food is to remove the slaughtered animal from the category of “dead animals”.

Allah (Glory be to Him) does not desire that man should eat of what he did not intend or think of cating as is the case with the dead animal; conversely, slaughtering an animal or hunting it as game hoth require an intention followed by effort and subsequent action.

3) If the animal died naturally, it is quite likely that it died of some acute or chronic disease, through eating a poisonous plant, or other similar causes; hence eating its flesh would probably be harmful. The same is the case when the cause of death is old age or starvation.

4) By prohibiting the flesh of a dead animal to human beings, Allah in His mercy provides a source of food to animals and birds, that, in the words of the Qur’an, constitute communities (umam) like ourselves.

The truth of this is demonstrated by the fact that carcasses of animals lying out in the open are devoured by birds and animals.

5) This prohibition encourages the owner of an animal to guard it from disease and malnutrition lest it die and be wasted. Accordingly, in the case of disease, he will be quick to seek a cure for it or will hasten to slaughter the animal.

Types of Dead Animals

The Prohibition of Eating Dead Animals in Islam
The Prohibition of Eating Dead Animals in Islam

The preceding are the four principle categories of prohibited animal foods. As revealed in the verse of Surat al-Ma’idah (verse, 3), to these four are added five other categories which pertain to further classifications of the “dead animal,” as follows:

  • The strangled: an animal which has been strangled, for example, by a rope around its neck, or suffocated, as for instance by putting its head into something which produces suffocation.
  • The beaten: an animal which has been beaten to death by a club or similar object.
  • The fallen: an animal which dies as a result of a fall from a high place, or by falling into a gully or ravine.
  • The gored: an animal which dies as a result of being gored by the horns of another animal.
  • That which has been (partly) eaten by wild beasts: an animal which has been partially devoured by wild animals and dies as a result.

After naming these categories, Allah makes an exception of “that which you make lawful by slaughtering,” meaning that if one comes upon such an animal while it is still alive, slaughtering renders it halal as food.

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The correct understanding of “still alive” is that some sign of life remains in it. ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib said, “If you can slaughter a beaten, a fallen, or a gored animal while it (still) moves its hoof or leg, you may eat it.”

Ad-Dahhak commented, “The people of the time of Jahiliyyah used to eat them (dead animals); then Allah prohibited them in Islam, excepting what is slaughtered. If it is slaughtered while it (still) moves a leg, a tail, or an eye, it is halal.


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