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What does halal mean? | Halal meat & slaughter simply explained

What does halal mean?

The word "halal" comes from Arabic and means "permitted" or "permissible" in German. Halal is therefore understood to mean all lifestyles, actions and foods that are permitted under Islamic law. The counterpart of "halal" is "haram", which means "forbidden" in German. For example, the consumption of pork and also the pork gelatine in sweets is haram for Muslims - i.e. forbidden(for Muslims permitted sweets without pork gelatine can be found here). Which actions and foods are halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) for Muslims is derived from the writings of the Koran and the way of life of the Prophet Muhammad (s).  

Halal and haram are two principles that relate to all human (co)life. It concerns everything that is part of life. Rights between people, family and neighborhood relationships, the treatment of animals, the treatment of the environment or even finances and banking are, as well as the topic of nutrition, only a few examples that are regulated by the helal-haram principle.


Halal meat and the concept of Islamic slaughtering

When considering halal-haram classifications, meat often receives the most attention. In order for a particular type of meat or food containing meat to be classified as halal(What foods are halal?), not only the choice of animal, but also the procedure for preparing and carrying out slaughter, as well as the processing of various meat products, plays a significant role. In this article, the focus will be on the preparation, as well as the conditions and implementation of slaughter in more detail.

 What is halal meat? How does Islamic slaughter take place?

Islamic slaughter equals slaughter?

Linguistically, it has become established in German usage to use the term "Schächten" (slaughtering), familiar from Judaism, for the Islamic procedure of slaughtering. In principle, there are great similarities to the concept of "kosher", but in order to avoid misunderstandings and overlaps in content, some certifiers differentiate and summarize the "Muslim set of rules" under the name "Islamic slaughtering".


The Rulebook for Islamic Slaughter - A Guide

As with permitted(halal) and prohibited (haram) foods, there are also guidelines from certifiers for the slaughtering itself. These are based on the Koran, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s), as well as numerous legal opinions, and take into account geographical conditions and technological possibilities in the age of industrial standards and automated processes. According to the following guidelines of the European Halal Certification Body.


  • only permitted (halal) animals may be slaughtered (i.e. no pork).
  • the person slaughtering must be Muslim.
  • meanwhile, the slaughtered animal must be alive.
  • anesthetic methods may be used to protect against pain and suffering* (more info on this point below). 
  • however, the animal must not have died as a result of the stunning or otherwise before the decisive cut.
  • must be slaughtered in the name of Allah.
  • under no circumstances shall the animal be tortured or subjected to stress and/or suffering.
  • possible transport to the slaughterhouse should be as gentle as possible.
  • the slaughter knives should be as sharp as possible in order to perform a quick clean cut.
  • it is undesirable to break the neck of the animal during slaughter.
  • bleeding of the animal must be ensured. 

Islamic slaughter under halal criteria is completed when the trachea and esophagus, as well as both arteries below the larynx, are quickly cut. At least three of the four places mentioned must be cut.

In principle, one can adhere to the following guiding principle:

During the keeping, transport, preparations, slaughtering and aftercare, care must be taken to respect the animal as a creature of God and to treat it with dignity.

Prophet Muhammad (s) underlines this statement with the following tradition:

"Whoever acts ruthlessly (toward the living being) will not receive mercy (from Allah ta'ala). "1

The tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s) makes it clear once again that the question of halal does not only concern the choice of animal and the technique of slaughtering, but also requires animal-friendly and species-appropriate treatment.


Halal is a universal concept that covers a wide spectrum from animal husbandry to processing into products. Since the idea of halal covers such a deep and broad area, the next article will highlight all the important aspects of the production and processing of halal food.


Note on stunning methods

The criteria mentioned all seem somewhat abstract. For better clarification, two concrete examples will be discussed. The Koran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s) are the first two sources that define Islamic principles. These were transmitted to mankind several hundred years ago. Stunning before slaughter is a classic example of trying to apply these principles to current technological standards and possibilities. Therefore, stunning, which did not play a role at the time of the Prophet, is an often discussed aspect today. According to some scholars and certifiers, stunning is not permissible for various reasons. One of these reasons is the possible danger that the animal may already die as a result of stunning (cardiac arrest due to electrical short-time stunning, allergic shock to the anesthetic, etc.). Thus, with the subsequent slaughter, the meat would no longer be classified as halal. For this reason, some Muslims avoid meat and other products from animals that have been slaughtered using stunning methods. 


1Tradition of Al-Bukhari


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