Getting to Know Allah

You Are What You Eat

The Table Is Set

Getting to Know AllahThe longest surah about what a believer can and cannot eat, dining etiquette and what he should do before partaking of Allah's edible bounty is appropriately titled The Table.

The first revealed truth about food consumption and preparation is a decree outlawing the eating of game while on pilgrimage. The reason for this being a sin is not clear; but it may have something to do with not being tempted to interrupt your pilgrimage to go hunting for dinner.


5 Al-Mâ’idah

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

5:1 O believers, fulfil your obligations. Lawful to you are the beast of the flock, except what is being recited to you now: "Game is unlawful to you while you are on pilgrimage." Allah decrees whatever He pleases.

5:2 O believers, do not violate the Rites of Allah, or the Sacred Month, or the sacrificial offerings, or the animals with garlands, or those who repair to the Sacred House seeking the bounty and pleasure of their Lord. When you are through with the rites of pilgrimage, you can go hunting. And let not the hatred of those who debar you from the Sacred Mosque prompt you to transgress. Help one another in righteousness and piety, but not in sin and aggression. Fear Allah; Allah is Severe in retribution.

The longest verse in the Koran on what foods are halal (allowed) and what foods are haram (prohibited):

5:3 You are forbidden the eating of carrion, blood, the flesh of swine as well as whatever is slaughtered in the name of any one other than Allah. [You are forbidden] also the animals strangled or beaten to death, those that fall and die, those killed by goring with the horn or mangled by wild beasts, except those which you slaughter and those sacrificed on stones set up [for idols]. [You are forbidden] to use divining arrows*; it is an evil practice. Today, those who disbelieve have despaired of your religion; so do not fear them, but fear Me. Today, I have perfected your religion for you, completed my Grace on you and approved Islam as a religion for you. Yet, whoever is compelled by reason of hunger (to eat what is forbidden), but not intending to sin, then surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful.

* Divining arrows were strips of wood without points usually marked with values, inscriptions or symbols, used by pre-Islamic Arabs to cast lots. These arrows were usually thrown haphazardly to divide the spoils, to foretell the future, to know the opinion of gods and so on.

What your dog, or trained falcon for example, catches for you, you can eat.

5:4 They ask you (O Muhammad) what is lawful to them. Say: “The good things are lawful; and such hunting birds or hounds that you have taught, as Allah has taught you. You may eat whatever they catch for you, mentioning Allah’s name over it. Fear Allah, for Allah is, indeed, Quick in reckoning!”

What scholars believe is the last verse (quoted in its entirety in Women and the Koran - God's Will) revealed to God’s Messenger is about food, and about the women a believer can marry – go figure.

5:5 This day the good things have been made lawful to you; the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them; and so are the believing women who are chaste ...

Allah’s food guide includes only good and pleasant things. You should not eat anything else or deny the foods Allah allows, if you know what is good for you!

5:87 O believers, do not forbid the good things that Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress; for Allah does not like the transgressors.

Do not be fooled by the pleasing, undoubtedly delicious fare that Allah has provided into thinking that He is not a god to be feared.

5:88 Eat of the pleasant things which Allah has given you; and fear Allah in whom you believe.

Wine is not one of the good things!

5:90 O believers, wine, gambling, idols and divining arrows are an abomination of the Devil’s doing; so avoid them that perchance you may prosper!

5:91 The Devil only wishes to stir up enmity and hatred among you, through wine and gambling, and keep you away from remembering Allah and from prayer. Will you not desist, then?

Allah’s revelations pertaining to the decreed diet of the believers was probably delivered, like much of what He had to reveal, during one of His Messenger's homilies, where it would have been advisable to stay until the end.

5:92 Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and beware; but if you turn back, then know that is the duty of Our Messenger to deliver the clear Message.

The following somewhat convoluted revealed truth seems to imply that straying from Allah's decreed diet may not be that big of a deal if you do all the other things that He expects of a believer. But, I would not take a chance. Allah is a fickle God, it could also be a test. 

5:93 Those who believe and do the good deeds are not to blame for what they eat, if they are God-fearing, believe and do the good deeds, then fear God, and believe, then fear God and do good. Allah loves the charitable.

Allah will tempt those performing the pilgrimage with game to confirm if they do what they are told when they think He is not looking.

5:94 O believers, Allah will certainly test you with some game that your hands or lances may catch, so Allah may know who fears Him unseen. Whoever transgresses thereafter shall be painfully punished.

The range of punishments for breaking Allah's injunction against catching and killing game during the pilgrimage:

5:95 O believers, do not kill game while you are on pilgrimage. Whoever of you kills it willfully will have to give the like of what he killed of cattle, as determined by two just men from yourselves, to reach the Ka'ba as an offering; or will have to feed as expiation a number of poor men, or the equivalent of that in fasting so that he may taste the evil consequences of his action. Allah will pardon what is past; but he who offends again, Allah will wreck vengeance upon him. Allah is Mighty, Capable of Retribution.

Catching fish is not the same as catching land game when you are on pilgrimage.

5:96 Lawful to you is the catch of the sea and its food as an enjoyment for you and for travellers; but unlawful to you is the game of the land so long as you are on pilgrimage. Fear Allah unto Whom you shall be gathered.

The aptly named surah The Table is not the only place you find revelations as to what a believer can or cannot eat or drink. It would not be the Koran otherwise. In the surah The Bees, Allah prohibits the consumption of wine while lauding its production.

16:67 And from the fruits of palms and vines, you get wine and fair provision. Surely, there is in that a sign to a people who understand.

To keep within Allah’s injunction that "You are forbidden … whatever is slaughtered in the name of anyone other than Allah”, revelation 5:3, the person killing an animal whose meat is destined for a believer's table must not only be a believer but must also praise Allah using the Arabic invocation "Bismillah Allah-u-Akbar” (In the name of God, And God is the greatest).

To “eat from that over which the Name of Allah has not been mentioned” is running the risk of being labelled an idol worshipper and all the bad things that entails.

6:121 And do not eat from that over which the Name of Allah has not been mentioned; it is indeed sinful. The devils shall insinuate to their followers to dispute with you; but if you obey them, then you will surely be polytheists.

Can only men feed on live-born calf or is it just those others gods sowing confusion as to what is haram and what is halal?

6:138 And they (other gods) say: These cattle and tilth (crops) are taboo, and none shall eat them except those we wish," as they claim. And there are cattle whose backs are forbidden, and others over which they do not mention the Name of Allah. Such is their fabrication about Him. [But] He will punish them for their lies.

6:139 And they say: “What is in the bellies of these cattle is lawful to our males, but forbidden to our wives. If it is still-born both can share it.” [Allah] will punish them for what they attribute [to Him]. He is surely Wise, All-Knowing.

By killing your children foolishly you deprive them of the good things Allah has provided for them.

6:140 Those who kill their children foolishly without knowledge are real losers; and they forbid what Allah has provided for them, thus fabricating lies against Allah. They go astray and they are not well-guided.

A believer was not at fault if he ate any of the proscribed foods if it was not his intention to do so, or if it was a matter of necessity e.g. if he was “constrained” and could not avoid running afoul of Allah’s Decree.

2:172 O believers, eat of the good things which We have provided for you and give thanks to Allah, if He is the One Whom you worship.

2:173 He has only forbidden you [to eat] carrion, blood, pork and that over which (when slaughtered) any name other than that of Allah is invoked. But he who is constrained (constrained to eat those forbidden things) without intending to disobey or transgress, will commit no sin. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.


16:114 Eat then from the lawful and good things which Allah provided you, and give thanks for Allah’s blessing, if you truly worship Him.

16:115 He has forbidden you carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that over which any other name than that of Allah is invoked. But whoever is compelled while neither transgressing nor exceeding the bounds, Allah is All-forgiving, Merciful.

Answering a Question with a Question and Pork is for Other Gods

Some listeners obviously had questions for the Prophet after he announced Allah's dietary rules. As He often does when asked a difficult question, Allah advises His Messenger to do what politicians do all the time, answer the question with a question and impute ulterior motives to the questioner, such as wanting to make Allah out to be a liar, by asking the question in the first place.

6:143 [Take] eight in pairs: of sheep two and of goats two. Say: "Has He forbidden the two males, or the two females, or what the womb of two females contain? Tell me if you a truthful."

6:144 And [take] of camels two and of cows [and oxen] two. Say: "Has He forbidden the two males, the two females, or what the womb of females contain? Or have you been witnesses when Allah commanded you to do this?" Who then is more unjust than he who imputes falsehood to Allah, in order to lead people astray, without knowledge? Surely, Allah will not guide the wrongdoing people.

Answering a question with a question also gives you time to think of an answer, not that Allah would require time, but perhaps the Prophet did to get Allah's response.

Pork is for other gods, as Allah has His Messenger make clear in revelation 6:145 which appears to be in response to a question about a specific food which the Prophet skirts by repeating the general prohibitions Allah decreed in revealed truths 2:173 and 16:115 (remember the order of a revelation is not normally an indication of when it was received). Again, the questioner may also have been concerned about eating a forbidden food under duress i.e. "constrained", for Allah to request His Messenger to yet again provide assurance that if a believer has a bite about what only other god's eat because he has no choice, He will be forgiven!

6:145 Say: "I do not find in what has been revealed to me anything forbidden to an eater to eat from, unless it is carrion, or running blood, or the flesh of swine - which are unclean. For it is profane and slaughtered to [gods] other than Allah. However, he who is constrained, intending neither to commit a sin nor to exceed the bounds, then surely your Lord is All Forgiving, Merciful.

Also, there is always the possibility that Allah's general prohibition about eating "carrion, or running blood, or the flesh of swine" was only communicated once, but because of the way the Koran was put together (appendix - The First Koran) remembered slightly differently by three different witnesses to what the Prophet said.

Vegetarians are not Muslims

Believers who do not eat what Allah has allowed e.g. meat, are not real Muslims; and not only that, they may lead others astray by following “their fancies”, revelation 6:119.

6:118 Eat, then, of that upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you really believe in His Revelations.

6:119 And why is it that you do not eat from that upon which Allah’s name is mentioned, when He has explained to you what is unlawful to you, except for what you are compelled to [eat]? Indeed many shall lead others astray by their fancies, without any knowledge. Surely, your Lord knows best the transgressors.

A hadith confirming that those who do not eat what Allah has allowed, with the Prophet singling out eating meat as one of the four things he eats as a Muslim, are not believers:

Three women approached the Prophet one day. One of them said, “O Prophet! My husband has shunned the company of his wife.” The second said, “My husband has stopped eating meat!” The third said, “My husband has stopped using perfume!”

Hearing the women, the Prophet was upset. He saw that misguided ideas were beginning to take root amongst his followers.

Although it was not the time for any mandatory prayer, he proceeded to the mosque. He went in such a great hurry that even his cloak was not properly placed on his shoulder and one end of it was touching the ground. He ordered the people to assemble in the mosque. People rushed there leaving aside their tasks.

The Prophet ascended the pulpit and said,” I have heard that my companions are getting wrong ideas.” He added, “I am Allah’s Messenger, I eat meat and delicious food! I wear good clothes! I wear perfumes and keep the company of my wives and have conjugal relations with them! Whosoever opposes my ways is not my follower!”

The Prophet has repeated this sentence on several occasions: "One who does not adopt my ways is not a Muslim". Wasa'il

What Do the Jews Have To Do With It!

At one point in time Yahweh and Allah were in almost complete agreement as to the foods that the believers in both flavours of god (Jews and Muslims) could eat.

3:93 All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, save what Israel forbade itself before the Torah was revealed. Say: “Bring then the Torah and recite it, if you are truthful.”

3:94 Whoever, afterwards, fabricates falsehood against Allah, those are truly the evildoers.

Why Allah imposed additional restrictions as to what Jews can eat.

6:146 We have forbidden the Jews every [animal] with claws; and the fat of oxen and sheep except what their backs or entrails carry, or what is mixed with bones. This was the punishment We inflicted on them on account of their aggression. We are surely Truthful.

Jesus of Nazareth did away with much of the dietary rules of the Old Testament. In one interpretation of Mark 7:19, Jesus declares all food clean therefore permissible, and in Acts 10:15, God, in a vision to the apostle Peter, is said to declare that all formerly unclean animals are now clean therefore may be consumed: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”. Therefore, the reference to "the food of the People of the Book is lawful to you" probably means the food of the Jews.

Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible contains many of the same restrictions as the Koran as to what an observant Jew can eat, the most obvious being the prohibition against pork and pork by-products – the most glaring difference being Allah’s interdiction of intoxicants (the cautionary tale of Noah getting drunk after disembarking from the Ark would indicate that the God of the Old Testament expects the People of the Book to exercise moderation when consuming such beverages).

2:219 They ask you about wine and gambling, say: “In both there is great sin and some benefit for people. But the sin is greater than the benefit.” And they ask you about what they should spend, say: “What you can spare.” Thus Allah makes clear to you His Revelations so that you may reflect,

2:220 Upon this world and the Hereafter ...

Eating of the good stuff not allowed by Allah and saying it is, as the Jews did, will give you momentary pleasure but lead to an eternity of hurt, unless you were not aware you were committing evil and repented afterwards.

16:116 And when you speak do not lie by saying: “This is lawful and this is unlawful”, in order to impute lies to Allah. Surely those who impute lies to Allah will not prosper.

16:117 A little enjoyment and then a great punishment is store for them.

16:118 We forbade the Jews what We have related to you earlier. And We did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves.

16:119 Surely, with respect to those who commit evil in ignorance, and later repent and make amends, your Lord thereafter is All-Forgiving, Merciful

Allah’s dietary rules would have met with Abraham’s approval.

16:120 Indeed, Abraham was a model [of virtue], obedient to Allah and upright; and he was not one of the polytheists.

16:121 [He was] thankful for His Blessings, and Allah elected him and guided him to a Straight Path.

16:122 We made him praiseworthy in this world, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the righteous.

16:123 Then We revealed to you (Muhammad): “Follow the religion of Abraham; the upright for he was not one of the polytheists,”


Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) was commanded to follow the way of Abraham and not the way of the Jews, and they themselves knew than these things were not unlawful in the law of Abraham. For instance, the Jews did not eat the flesh of camel but this was lawful according to Abraham. Likewise, ostrich, hare, duck, etc., were unlawful in the Jewish law, but they were lawful according to Abraham.

Where You May Dine

24:61 The blind are not at fault, the lame are not at fault, the sick are not at fault, nor are you if you eat in your houses, the houses of your fathers, the houses of your mothers, the houses of your brothers, the houses of your sisters, the houses of your paternal uncles, the houses of your paternal aunts, the houses of your maternal uncles, the houses of your maternal aunts, those of which you are in possession of the keys or those of your friend. You are not at fault if you eat altogether or separately, but if you enter any houses, greet each other with a blessed and good greeting from Allah. That is how Allah makes clear to you the Signs, that perchance you may understand.

Why Some Gods Go Hungry

Allah being the top god means that if you make Him an offering, along with an offering to lesser gods whose existence He both grudgingly acknowledges and vehemently denies throughout the Koran, the offering never reaches Him but it reaches these lesser gods (associate-gods in the following revelation) in whatever heaven they call home.

6:136 They assigned to Allah a share of the tilth (crop) and cattle He created, saying: "This is for Allah," - as they declare - "and this is for our associate-gods." And while that which is assigned to their associate-gods does not reach Allah, that which is set aside for Allah would reach their associate-gods. How evil is what they judge!