Good to know about your Muslim friend: food

This is an 8th entry in the series of Things that are good to know about your Muslim friend. Make sure to read the first seven entries if you missed them, and which had to do with:

This entry will deal with what foods may and may not be consumed by a Muslim. The explanation will be more of an overview, as each of these rules comes with a lot of details, exceptions, and sometimes even differences of opinion between scholars…

So you really want to invite your Muslim friend to an exotic restaurant to celebrate their most recent achievements, and you know that they observe certain dietary restrictions, but you’re not sure what they are? Then let me try to make sense of it all for you with regards to what Muslims can and can’t eat and drink, before you order oysters, chocolate covered ants, haggis, crocodile, hakarl, or fugu as a surprise dish…

Non-food:

Before getting to the food, let us make it clear that it is forbidden for Muslims to consume earth, mud, dirt, sand, pebbles, etc.

It is also forbidden to consume anything that may cause significant harm or cause intoxication. Finally, it is forbidden to consume anything that is considered impure. (you may want to take a look at this entry)

Food:

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, etc.

Despite some Muslims sticking to dates and watermelons year-round, Muslims can actually eat anything that grows from earth – unless it is shown to have some secondary attributes that make it illicit for consumption, such as psychedelic mushrooms…

Fish and seafood

The golden rule is that Muslims may consume fish that have scales (which includes shrimp). So they cannot consume crab, lobster, or any fish that has with no scales.

Animals

To keep this short, allowed: sheep, cows, camels, deer, etc. are all allowed. Horses, donkeys, zebras, are allowed, but discouraged.

Not allowed: animals that are considered predators, animals that have canines, tusks and fangs.

This includes all felines, dogs, wolves, foxes, hyenas, rabbits, pigs, primates, bear, elephant, as well as all animal that dwell inside the earth, rats, mice, gerbils, porcupines, hedgehogs, snakes… and the guy in the picture.

Birds:

All birds (defined in Islamic law as animals with wings or that fly) may be consumed if two conditions are observed:

1) so long as they have feathers, which excludes bats for instance (though technically it is a mammal, it is considered a bird in the classic terminology of Islamic law). In fact, they will even explicitly mention wasps, butterflies, and all other insects as being forbidden for conception under the topic of birds, because of the way it used to be defined and used in primary narrations. So a Muslim may consume a pigeon, a chicken, an ostrich, etc. The only insect that may be consumed is the grasshopper.

2) they are not birds of prey, which are the ones that have claws and a talon, like eagles, falcons, crows, and owls.

If you want to get technical, and these 2 conditions are not sufficient to determine whether the bird may be consumed, then you can look at the flapping of its wings: if it flaps its wings more than it glides when it flies, then it may be consumed, otherwise, it may not be. If you can’t tell, then you move to the next criteria: only birds with one of the following body parts may be consumed: a crop, a gizzard or a spur. I told you it was going to get technical…

Insects

All insects, including spiders and worms, are forbidden except for grasshoppers.

Reptiles and amphibians

All are forbidden. May not consume snakes, crocodiles, frogs, turtles, lizards, etc.

Manner of death of the animal

Not all animals may be consumed, as we shall see below.

Of those that may be consumed, only those that have died in the right manner may be consumed. There are four acceptable ways in which an animal may die that render it permissible for consumption:

  • If it is a camel, it must be slaughtered in the special way that only applies to camels
  • If it is a fish, it must die outside of water
  • If it is a grasshopper, it must be caught.
  • if it is any other animal (from those which may be consumed), it must be slaughtered or hunted.

Body parts:

It is only permissible to consume the milk and eggs of animals that may be consumed.

Any body part that has been separated from a living animal may not be consumed. Specifically, the following body parts may not be consumed:

  1. blood
  2. excrement (urine, fecal matter)
  3. genitals (including womb, testicles…) and placenta
  4. all glands, including the pituitary gland, as well as a gland in the brain
  5. the marrow of the spinal cord
  6. the nerves on both sides of the spinal cord
  7. gall bladder
  8. spleen
  9. urinary bladder
  10. iris

Not sure why, but I think I’ll be sticking with hummus and tabbouleh for the next couple of meals…

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