Forbidden foods (Haram)



A Muslim considers such food “haram” (or prohibited). Anything else is “halal” (or permitted).

Surah 5:3. Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah. That which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety….  But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

We can point out to our Muslim friends that there are also similarities between Islam and Old Testament teaching on the concept of forbidden foods. While the Quran is silent on why these categories of foods are prohibited, the Bible gives us the reasons for their exclusion.

Compare these verses to the Quranic verses above.

(Lev 17:12 NIV)  Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.”

(Gen 9:3-4 NIV)  Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. {4} “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

(Deu 14:21 NIV)  Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God.

(Exo 22:31 NIV)  “You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.

Consumption of blood forbidden

Conversation pointer: Do you know why the Quran forbids the consumption of blood? Do you know that Christians are also forbidden to consume blood?

The consumption of blood is forbidden in both Islam and Christianity.

Because the consumption of blood is forbidden, the consumption of dead meat is also forbidden. Dead meat refers to animals that have died without their blood leaving their bodies. Similarly, the consumption of animals that have died by strangulation, violent blow or of a natural death is also forbidden.

The Bible tells us why we cannot consume blood.

(Lev 17:11, 14 NIV)  For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.  14…That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

Blood represents life and when the people of God sacrificed the life of the animals on the altar as atonement for their sins, the blood of the animal is shed.

(Lev 16:6, 14 NIV)  Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

This animal sacrifice as an atonement for sin is only a temporary measure. Because Jesus came and provided Himself as a permanent sacrifice to atone for our sins. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mat 26:28 NIV)

Consumption of pork forbidden in the Old Testament

A Christian may sometimes be asked by Muslims as to why he consumes pork. It is true that the Old Testament practice forbids the eating of pork.

(Lev 11:7 NIV)  And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.

The reason again had to do with the temporary sacrifice system practiced by the Jews. The animals sacrificed by them included sheep, goats, and oxen, which all had in common cloven hooves (i.e. divided into two parts) and the fact that they chew the cud (see Lev 11:3). (Animals such as sheep have more than one stomach. When the food is partially digested by one stomach, the partially digested food, known as cud, comes back to the mouth to be chewed again before going to the second stomach.)

God had chosen the Jews to follow in their diet the same two requirements of animals used for sacrifices. This explains why the eating of pigs is forbidden. It fails to meet both requirements. (Lev 11:7)

With this background, we can understand why the system of clean and unclean animals was abolished after Jesus came. The temporary system of sacrifices had no more significance when Jesus the ultimate sacrifice came.

That is why Jesus moved beyond the temporary system of clean and unclean food and focused on the true source of uncleanliness. Jesus taught that it is not what you eat that defiles you, it is what you are.

(Mark 7:18-23 NIV)  “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? {19} For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) {20} He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ {21} For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, {22} greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. {23} All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”

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