The term "halal" means lawful or permissible in Arabic. When referring to food, halal Islamic dietary restrictions forbid consuming certain animals or any animal that is improperly slaughtered. Poultry sold in most American stores is usually from animals that are considered halal, but are not considered properly slaughtered. When determining whether a food item is halal, Muslim scholars discuss not only the species of animal, but the method of slaughter and any added ingredients.
What Does it Mean To Call Something Halal?
There is a general principle in Islamic law that all things not specifically prohibited are permissible. The prophet Muhammad also cautioned Muslims against declaring things forbidden without cause. So while Islamic jurists may declare something inadvisable or undesirable, without a well-constructed case including evidence from Islamic source texts, they are unlikely to declare a thing haram, or forbidden. Some Muslim jurists disagree on which animals are considered haram. Islamic dietary laws prohibit eating an animal found dead, flowing blood, ingredients derived from pigs or improperly slaughtered animals and alcohol. A proper Islamic slaughter of an animal includes slitting the throat while invoking the name of Allah. Game may be eaten, if killed either by catching and slaughtering, or killed by a weapon that pierces the body, such as a bullet or arrow.
Birds that are Halal and Birds that are Haram
Predatory animals that hunt with claws or talons, including birds, are haram. Birds that are haram include hawks, vultures, falcons, kites, eagles, ospreys and owls. Animals that are considered pests, such as seagulls, are haram. Animals that may be a pest in one area may not be considered a pest elsewhere, so Muslims may develop rulings suited to their area. Domestic birds and some game birds are considered halal. These include chickens, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, partridges, pigeons, quails, geese and doves. Other birds that are halal include starlings, nightingales, peacocks, storks, parrots, ostriches, larks, sparrows and hoopoes.
Proper Slaughter is Required for a Halal Bird
A bird that is ill is not suitable for slaughter. A halal bird may become forbidden if not slaughtered properly. For domestic birds or birds caught alive, a Muslim must slit the throat of the bird while saying, "Bismillah, Allahu akbar" ("In the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest"). The knife used for slaughter must be sharp. The bird must be spared any unnecessary discomfort.
Crossbreeds of Two Birds
A bird that is the offspring of two halal birds is halal. A bird that is the offspring of one halal bird and one haram bird adopts the legal status of the mother. A bird that is fathered by a haram bird, but has a halal bird for a mother is halal. A bird that is fathered by a halal bird, but with a haram bird for a mother is haram. This status is not affected by the death of either parent.