Haram (forbidden) in the Qur’an

What the Qur’an itself forbids

The idea of what is ḥarām – or forbidden – is a central topic among those who follow the ḥadīth literature. There is no end of what you cannot do: from keeping dogs to men wearing silk, if you can name it, you’ll probably find someone telling you it’s forbidden.

For those of us who are interested in what the Qur’an says rather than in accepting hearsay written down by representatives of the defeated Persians – a nation which had good reason to want to see the end of the Qur’anic movement – some 100 or 200 years later, the picture is much clearer.

The following verses come from my own work: The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation which you can download free from this site. Listed here are all the verses which speak directly of what God has made ḥarām and of man’s rights and responsibilities in that regard.

Following them, I have included the only verse in the Qur’an which talks of a particular rite – since Traditionalist Muslims have adopted syncretically ideas about the killing of animals which come from the Jewish Bible and Talmud and have conflated those ideas with some part of what we mean when we talk about ḥarām or ḥalal.

The verses themselves make the case clear. I will add my own notes to this page if I have time, God willing.

Food

He has but made unlawful to you carrion
And blood
And the flesh of swine
And what has been dedicated to other than God.
And whoso is forced
Neither desiring nor transgressing:
No falsehood is against him.
God is forgiving
Merciful.
Those who conceal what God has sent down of the law and sell it for a cheap price
These eat into their bellies only fire. (2:173-174)

Usury

[…]God has made commerce lawful and prohibited usury. (2:275)

Marriage relations

Forbidden to you are your mothers
And your daughters
And your sisters
And your paternal aunts
And your maternal aunts
And the daughters of a brother
And the daughters of a sister
And your milk-mothers
And your milk-sisters
And the mothers of your wives
And your step-daughters under your protection from your wives unto whom you have gone in
(And if you have gone not in unto them
Then there is no wrong upon you)
And the wives of your sons of your loins
And that you bring two sisters together
Save what is past
(God is forgiving, merciful)
And married women save what your right hands possess.
The law of God is over you.
But lawful to you is what is beyond that
If you seek with your wealth in chastity, not being fornicators. (4:23-24)

Hunting

Made lawful for you is four-footed cattle
Save what is recited to you
Hunting not being permitted when you are forbidden.
God ordains what he wishes. (5:1)

Food

Forbidden to you is carrion
And blood
And the flesh of swine
And that dedicated to other than God
And the strangled
And the beaten
And the fallen
And the gored
And that eaten by the beast of prey save what you slaughter
And that sacrificed upon an altar
And that you seek apportionment by divining arrows.
That is wanton perfidy.
This day have those who are indifferent to warning despaired of your doctrine:
Fear them not but fear me.
This day have I perfected for you your doctrine and completed my favour upon you
And approved for you submission as doctrine.
Then whoso is compelled by hunger – without inclination to falsehood:
God is forgiving, merciful(5:3)

Ascribing partnership to God

Whoso ascribes a partnership to God
To him has God forbidden the garden
And his habitation is the fire. (5:72)

Making ḥarām things which God has not made ḥarām

O you who heed warning: forbid not the good things that God has made lawful for you.
And transgress not.
God loves not the transgressors(5:87)

Hunting

O you who heed warning: kill no game when you are forbidden. (5:95)

Eating

And why should you not eat of that over which the name of God has been remembered
When he has set out and detailed to you what is forbidden you save that you be compelled thereto? (6:119)

Against the creation of false taboos

And they say: These cattle and tilth are taboo, none is to eat them save whom we will
(According to their claim)
And cattle whose backs are made unlawful
And cattle over which they remember not the name of God
As an invention against him.
He will requite them for what they invented.
And they say: That which is in the bellies of such cattle is exclusively for our males and forbidden our wives
And if it be dead:
They are all partners therein.
He will requite them for their description.
He is wise, knowing.
They have lost, those who foolishly kill their children without knowledge
And make unlawful what God provided them, as an invention about God.
They have gone astray and are not rightly guided. (6:138-140)

What God will make ḥarām in the hereafter

And the companions of the fire will call to the companions of the garden:
Pour forth upon us some water
Or some of what God has provided for you.
They will say: God has made both unlawful to those who spurn guidance while claiming virtue
Those who took their doctrine as play and diversion
And whom the life of this world deceived.
So this day do we forget them
Even as they forgot the meeting of this their day
And as they rejected our proofs(7:50-51)

Changing times*

Postponement is but an increase in denial
Whereby those who are indifferent to warning are led astray.
They make it lawful one year
And make it unlawful another year
That the count might agree with what God made unlawful.
So they make lawful what God made unlawful.
Made fair to them is the evil of their deeds.
And God guides not the people who spurn guidance while claiming virtue. (9:37)

*see here for more.

Food and lying about God

He has but made unlawful to you
Carrion
And blood
And the flesh of swine
And that dedicated to other than God
But whoso is forced, neither desiring nor transgressing:
God is forgiving, merciful.
And add not to what your tongues describe the lie: This is lawful and this is unlawful
To invent lies about God.
Those who invent lies about God will not succeed.
A brief enjoyment
And they have a painful punishment(16:115-117)

Cities destroyed by God

And a prohibition is upon a city we have destroyed.
They will not return(21:95)

Those unrepentant guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse may not marry believers

The man guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse shall not marry
Save a woman guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse
Or an idolatress.
And a woman guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse shall not marry
Save a man guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse
Or an idolater
(And that is unlawful to the believers) (24:3)

The prophet told not to engage in making ḥarām what is lawful

O prophet: why makest thou unlawful that which God has made lawful for thee
Seeking to please thy wives?
And God is forgiving, merciful(66:1)

The Qur’an also gives clear instruction on what is permissible – which is anything good not covered by what is listed above. It also makes it very clear that the prophet was not to collude with those who wished to bind additional burdens upon men’s backs.

The Qur’anic burden is light

Say thou: I find not in what I am instructed anything made unlawful to one who would eat it save it be carrion
Or blood poured forth
Or the flesh of swine:
(And it is abomination)
Or a wanton perfidy dedicated to other than God.
And whoso is forced, neither desiring nor transgressing
Then thy lord is forgiving, merciful. (6:145)

The Qur’anic position

Say thou: Bring your witnesses who bear witness that God made this unlawful.
Then if they bear witness
Then bear thou not witness with them.
And follow thou not the vain desires of those who repudiate our proofs
And those who believe not in the hereafter and ascribe equals to their lord.
Say thou: Come, I will recite to you what your lord has made unlawful for you:
That you ascribe a partnership with him to anything
(While towards parents good conduct)
And kill not your children out of poverty
(We will provide for you and for them)
And approach not sexual immoralities
(Whether open or concealed)
And kill not the soul which God has made unlawful
Save aright.
That he enjoined upon you
That you might use reason.
And approach not the property of the fatherless
(Save with what is better)
Until he reach his maturity.
And fulfil the measure and the balance with equity
(We task not any soul save to its capacity)
And when you speak be just
(Though he be a relative)
And the pledge of God fulfil.
That he commanded you
That you might take heed.
And this is my straight path
So follow it.
And follow not other ways
For then will you be parted from his way.
That he commanded you
That you might be in prudent fear. (6:150-153)

Good things are not ḥarām

Say thou: Who has made unlawful the adornment of God which he brought forth for his servants, and the good things of provision?
Say thou: These are for those who heed warning in the life of this world exclusively on the Day of Resurrection.
Thus do we set out and detail the proofs for people who know.
Say thou: My lord has made unlawful sexual immoralities
(Whether open or concealed)
And falsehood
And sectarian zealotry without cause
And that you ascribe a partnership with God to that for which he has not sent down a warrant
And that you ascribe to God what you know not(7:32-33)

Now, since the concept of ḥarām and ḥalal is so tied up with food, we find that the only case in the Qur’an of an explicit rite concerns livestock for food: we should remember the name of God over it.

The idea that it must be done in a particular way or even only prior to killing them is not in the Qur’an.

We may reason since we may use hunting dogs, for example, which kill prey afar that we may remember God’s name over them at any time.

The only rite in the Qur’an was given to every community

And for every community we appointed a rite:
That they remember the name of God over what he has provided them of livestock cattle.
And your god is One God
So submit to him.
And bear thou glad tidings to the humble (22:34)

In summary

Traditionalist Islam has created a cult around ignoring the Qur’anic guidance. It is based almost entirely upon a spurious, specious, later literature.

Thoughtful people should decide what and whom they believe and then act accordingly.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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