The following article covers the subject from a Quranic perspective.
Contents of the article:
(1) GENERAL PROHIBITIONS
(3) FISH AND WATER CREATURES
(6) VEGETATION AND HERBAGE
Anyone who is compelled by hunger, not by will to eat what is forbidden, not intending to commit sin, will find God Merciful and Forgiving (5:3)
(1) GENERAL PROHIBITIONS
Food restrictions are expounded in verse 5:3 and repeated consistently in 2.173; 6.145 and 16:115. With these verses we are informed NOT to make forbidden anything other than what is mentioned in the scripture See 16:116.
The following information is found in verse 5:3.
Carrion (Dead Animals)
Flesh of Swine
Any animal dedicated to any OTHER than God (Or the One True God – Lawfulness of the meat of those that follow the previous scripture must be understood within the Quran’s own context)
Animals killed through beating or a violent blow (stunned etc)
Animals killed through falling
Animals killed due to goring of horns
Animals devoured by other wild beasts (unless you slaughter it before it dies)
Animals offered to idols on altars or divided by raffling of arrows (divining, superstitions, foretelling)
Exception: Anyone who is compelled by hunger, not by will to eat what is forbidden, not intending to commit sin, will find God Merciful and Forgiving (5:3)
As mentioned above, these prohibitions are repeated similarly in 2.173; 6.145 and 16:115
Anything other than what is forbidden above
Lawful animals that your hunting dogs (Arabic: Mukalibayn) seize for you (which you have trained) and you pronounce God’s name over it (5:4)
The food of the People of the Book (and vice versa) 5:5 who follow their laws.
All sea animals (5:96) – Note the word ‘Bahr’ – Lexicons agree that this denotes any large accumulation of water, whether derived from seas, rivers, lakes or ponds. The pronoun in ‘ta’amuhu’ (literally it’s food) relates to the word Bahr and this indicates all manner of seafood. (See ‘Catch of the Sea’ section below)
EXTRA PROHIBITIONS IN PREVIOUS SCRIPTURES
16.118 – The extra prohibitions still stand for those that call themselves Jews until they accept as a matter of complete choice the veracity of the final messenger and the final revelation to him. Then these (and other) burdens will then be lifted (7:157). Until then, their Mosaic laws still apply. Specific food restriction imposed for the People of the Book can be seen in 6:146.
Note: All good things are made lawful (5:5). This verse not only includes food, but marriage also. Therefore this verse is not restricted to food. All good things are created lawful and we should not prohibit things on ourselves unless God has forbidden them through scripture. Be this food, garments or anything which is not informed via revelation to the Prophet.
Human life is sacred. Humans are not to take the life of another human being without just cause (capital punishment for murder and for spreading corruption in the land). See (5:32, 4:29, 4:92-93, 6:151). Therefore killing another human being for food is prohibited. One could argue that it is permissible to consume human flesh after death has occurred naturally. However this is negated by verse 5:3 in which carrion (dead meat) is also prohibited.
There is an exception given in accentuating circumstances where dead meat can be eaten but such a situation would be extremely rare. However, there have been cases where stranded people have kept themselves alive long enough (only eating as much as they need) from the dead bodies of other humans. This is an extreme situation and as verse 5:3 stipulates: “Anyone who is compelled by hunger, not by will to eat what is forbidden, not intending to commit sin, will find God Merciful and Forgiving”.
Only Grazing Livestock is Lawful
5:1 “O ye who believe! Fulfil your obligations. Grazing (Arabic: bahimatu) livestock (Arabic: anaam’i) is made lawful (Arabic: uhillat) to you (for food) except that which is announced to you (herein), game being unlawful when ye are on the pilgrimage. Lo! God ordains that which pleases Him”
UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF ‘BAHIMATU AL-ANAAM’ (Grazing Livestock)
Root = Ba-Ha-Miim = animals that pasture/graze, lamb/goat/sheep, animals of the bovine kind, beasts/brutes.
It has always been clearly understood by the classical usage of the Arabic word ‘Bahima’ that beasts of pasture or grazing are implied. It is also interesting to note that pigs also pasture. Therefore it is only reasonable to deduce that by virtue of the swine flesh being mentioned as an exception, it is within the category of ‘Bahima’ (i.e. animals that pasture / grazing animals or beasts) that the EXCEPTION is intended and NOT the animal kingdom as a whole.
bahimah (feminine noun) 5:1, 22:28, 22:34
Therefore the term Bahimatu al-anaam’ refers to grazing livestock / cattle. These are not predators but herbivores.
THERE ARE SOME GRAZING ANIMALS WHICH ARE SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED FOR TRAVEL AND NOT FOR FOOD
6.142 “Of the cattle (Arabic: Anaam) are some for burden and some for meat: eat what God has provided for you, and follow not the footsteps of Satan: for he is to you an avowed enemy”
16.8 “And (He has created) horses, mules, and donkeys, for you to ride (Arabic: Litarkabuha) and use for show (Arabic: Wazinatan); and He has created (other) things of which ye have no knowledge”
Note that the animals above have been mentioned for travel and show and NOT as food. It is also interesting to note that the camel is absent from this list (therefore can be eaten).
Other uses of grazing animals have also been mentioned such as milk for example which their stomachs provide (16:66) or usages from their hides (16:80).
DO NOT INVENT AND FORBID YOURSELF FOOD THAT HAS BEEN MADE LAWFUL TO EAT (AS THE LIKE OF THE PAGANS OF OLD)
6:143 “(Take) eight (head of cattle) in (four) pairs: of sheep a pair, and of goats a pair; say, has He forbidden the two males, or the two females, or (the young) which the wombs of the two females enclose? Tell me with knowledge if ye are truthful:
6.144 “Of camels a pair, and oxen a pair; say, has He forbidden the two males, or the two females, or (the young) which the wombs of the two females enclose? – Were ye present when God ordered you such a thing? But who does more wrong than one who invents a lie against God, to lead astray men without knowledge? For God guides not people who do wrong.
In responding to the baseless superstitions, the verses also make clear what are the lawful 4 pairs (8). For superstitions see 6:139 and 5:103
6.139 “They say: “What is in the wombs of such and such cattle is specially reserved (for food) for our men, and forbidden to our women; but if it is still-born, then all have share therein. For their (false) attribution (of superstitions to God), He will soon punish them: for He is full of wisdom and knowledge”
5.103 “It was not God who instituted (superstitions like those of) a slit-ear she-camel, or a she-camel let loose for free pasture, or idol sacrifices for twin-births in animals, or stallion-camels freed from work: It is blasphemers who invent a lie against God; but most of them lack wisdom”
(3) FISH AND WATER CREATURES
All sea food has been made lawful to eat.
Note the word ‘Bahr’ denotes any large accumulation of water, whether derived from seas, rivers, lakes or ponds. The pronoun in ‘ta’amuhu’ (literally it’s food) relates to the word Bahr and this indicates all manner of seafood.
5.096 “Lawful (Arabic: uhilla) to you is the pursuit of game (Arabic: saydu) of the sea (Arabic: bahri) and its use for food (Arabic: ta’amuhu), for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel; but forbidden is the pursuit of game of the land as long as you are in the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb. And fear God, to Whom you shall be gathered back”
No specific restrictions have been imposed with regards the consumption of birds. There is also a specific mention of ‘Salwa’ being sent to the Children of Israel and classed as good things to eat (2:57; 7.160; 20:80) along with Manna. Salwa’s classical meaning is a certain bird which in the present day applies to the Quail but is not restricted to it.
There is an interesting argument here that has merit. Livestock lawfulness is limited to grazing animals (herbivores) as noted above. Therefore animals that eat other animals (carnivorous and omnivorous) are forbidden from simple deduction. Therefore applying the same principle, one could argue that hunting predatory and scavenger birds that also eat dead carcasses and other animals are also forbidden on the same grounds.
No restrictions have been imposed with regards the consumption of fruits.
16.69 “Then eat of all fruits (Arabic: kulli l-thamarati), and follow the ways of thy Lord, made smooth. There comes forth from their bellies a drink diverse of hues, in which there is healing for mankind. Surely! in that there is indeed a sign for people who reflect”
14.32 “God is He Who created the Heavens and the Earth, and causes water to descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and makes the ships to be of service to you, that they may run upon the sea at His command, and has made of service to you the rivers”
(6) VEGETATION & HERBAGE
No restrictions have been imposed with regards the consumption of vegetables and herbage
20.53-54 “Who has appointed the earth as a bed and has threaded roads for you therein and has sent down water from the sky and thereby We have brought forth diverse kinds of vegetation. (Saying): Eat ye and feed your cattle. Surely! in that there is indeed a sign for people who reflect”
32:27 “Have they not seen how We lead the water to the barren land and with it bring forth crops (Arabic: Zar’an) where from their cattle eat and they themselves? Will they not then see?”
The Quran is silent on the matter.