Lawful and Unlawful Foods – from Manhaj al-ṭullāb

The following rulings are translated from Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyā al-Anṣārī’s Manhaj al-ṭullāb – his abridgment of Imam al-Nawawī’s Minhāj al-ṭālibīn – with selected notes from his commentary Fatḥ al-wahhāb placed between ‹…›. Both works, along with marginal notes, are available in the original Arabic online.

The material presented here is more advanced than my earlier articles on the topic. I recommend reading Lawful and Prohibited Animals from The Evident Memorandum before this one so that it is easier to digest the more advanced issues included in this text.

(n.b. When you’re done, you should be able to answer whether the food in the image above is permissible to eat without restriction, or just when certain circumstances.)


‹Meaning, “clarifying lawful and unlawful foods.” The foundation concerning foods is the verse, “Say, ‘I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one…’” [Q6:157], and Allah Most High says, “makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil” [Q:145].›

Lawful and Unlawful Animals

Worms contained within an edible item ‹like vinegar› are permissible [to consume], so long as they are not separated from that item.

Locusts and fish are [unconditionally] permissible ‹to eat, and to swallow›.

‹The three aforementioned [i.e., worms, locusts, and fish] are permissible› whether living or dead ‹and [the last two] even if killed by a Zoroastrian›. It is offensive to cut the ‹last› two ‹while alive›.

Animals that live on land and in water (e.g., frogs, crabs, and snakes ‹and nisnās [a sea creature bearing human resemblance], crocodile, and turtles›) are not permissible.

What is permissible from land animals includes: a fetus ‹which has [developed enough to show] the form of its animal› that died due to its mother being slaughtered; camels, cows, goat sheep; horses; wild cows; wild asses; gazelles; hyenas; uromastyx [ḍabb]; rabbits; foxes; jerboas; fennec foxes; sables; western jackdaws; ostriches; gruiformes; geese; chickens; pigeons (which [are one of many types of bird to] drink water without taking sips); anything in the shape of the bird, like nightingales, western yellow wagtails, starlings.

[Animals that are] not permissible [include]:

  • domestic donkeys;
  • fanged or beaked ‹predatory› animals such as lions, apes, jackals, and cats; falcons, eagles, Egyptian vultures, turkey vultures, parrots, and peacocks;
  • flies and small animals that creep or walk upon the earth (such as beetles). ‹Exceptions from the latter include hedgehogs, hyraxes, uromastyx lizards [ḍabb], and jerboas.›
  • any creature [Muslims have] been commanded to kill or prohibited ‹from killing› (‹those commanded to kill include:› scorpions, snakes, kites, mice, and other dangerous predators; ‹those forbidden to kill include:› e.g., sparrows, bees);
  • the offspring of an edible and inedible animal ‹e.g., a dog and sheep, a horse and donkey›.

In The Absence of Clear Injunctions

If there is no clear statement [from Quran or hadith] ‹regarding [an animal] being lawful or unlawful [to consume], or a statement indicating either (such as [Muslims] being commanded to or prohibited from killing it) ›, [the ruling is based on the cultural norms of the Arabs at the time of the Prophet ﷺ]. If Arabs living in ease and with sound disposition during times of plenty considered [the animal] wholesome, it is permissible. But if they considered it vile, it is not ‹permissible›. If they disagreed ‹about its wholesomeness›, then [the ruling] is according to the majority; then [according to the cultural norms of the] Quraysh. If the Quraysh disagreed or did not have an opinion [about the animal], then whatever it most closely resembles ‹in its form or in the taste of its flesh› is considered. ‹If it resembles two animals equally, or if it resembles no other animal, then it is lawful.›

If [an animal’s] name [or classification] is unknown, [one inquires about it] and uses the name [or classification] given to it by the Arabs. ‹Meaning, [one applies] whatever name the Arabs used, [and] whether the named animal is lawful or unlawful.›


Filthy items ‹solids and liquids› are unlawful.

It is offensive to consume an animal that has been fed filth and whose meat has been affected by [said filth] ‹i.e., its taste, color, or smell›. ‹It is offensive to consume anything from it, such as its milk, eggs, or meat; and likewise to ride it without a barrier [between it and the rider].›

‹The offensiveness remains› until the animal becomes wholesome ‹whether by feeding it or without feeding it› – but not by, for example, washing it ‹or cooking it›.

Whatever is earned through exposure to filth [mukhamirah], like cupping, is offensive to a freeman. It is sunnah ‹for him› to give [the earnings] to his slave.


Someone compelled by necessity may avert starvation with unlawful ‹non-intoxicating› food [when] it ‹unlawful food, such as [pork, carrion, or the body of a] dead human› is all he finds – provided [the dead human] is not a prophet. ‹Necessity entails one fearing that a calamity will befall one, such as death, a dangerous illness, or an increase in the severity or duration of an illness, or that one would be separated from one’s fellow travelers if one abstains from eating.›
‹One does not eat one’s full, even if one does not expect to find lawful food soon, since [the minimum amount to avert starvation] repels the necessity›. But if one fears calamity ‹from eating just this› one satisfies one’s hunger ‹without gorging›.

He ‹someone compelled by necessity› can kill and eat [from] a human being whose life is not sacrosanct ‹even if that human’s sanctity is relative to him, such as [a criminal] who has been sentenced to death, an apostate, or an enemy combatant – even if a minor or female – due to their lack of sacrosanctity. Minors and female enemy combatants are unlawful to kill [once captured] without necessity. This is for the sake of the recipients of spoils of war, not due to the sacrosanctity of their lives, which is why there is no expiation for killing them. It is not permissible to kill a sacrosanct human – even if is a protected non-Muslim resident of the Islamic State [dhimmī] or a non-Muslim under a safe conduct agreement [mustaʾman]›.

If he [someone compelled by necessity] finds food but the food’s owner is absent, he eats it and pays [the owner] ‹its value›; or

— [if the food belongs to] someone who is present and who is in need of it, he [the owner] is not required to share it [with someone else in need] – though it is permissible for him [the owner] to do so, and [he gives] priority to a sacrosanct Muslim; or

— [if the food belongs to someone who is present] and who is not in need of it, he [the owner] must ‹give the food› to a sacrosanct individual ‹in contrast to someone who is not sacrosanct› immediately, for its fair market price, provided [the one in need] has [the means to pay for it]. Otherwise [it is owed] as a debt, or it is [given] without a price if no price is mentioned; or

— if he ‹the owner who is present and without need of it› refuses ‹to give it to the one in need, for its price›, he ‹the one in need› can take it by force – even if it means killing [the owner]; or

— if he finds unslaughtered meat and food belonging to someone else who will not give it, or ‹unslaughtered meat› and prey that is unlawful due to being in the state of pilgrimage or within the Sacred Precinct – the unslaughtered meat is the only option.

It is permissible to cut a piece of oneself ‹(e.g., flesh from one’s thigh)› so one can eat it ‹since it is destroying a part to preserve the whole, like amputating a gangrenous hand. This is› in the absence of something similar to unslaughtered meat ‹and what was mentioned above, like an apostate or enemy combatant› when one’s fear of ‹cutting› is less ‹than one’s fear of not eating, or if one only fears not eating – as is understood a fortiori. This is in contrast to when something like carrion is found, or when one’s fear is only of cutting, or when one’s fear [of cutting] is equal to one’s fear of not eating or is even more severe. In these cases, cutting is unlawful. The phrase “piece of oneself” excludes cutting a piece of another [living] sacrosanct individual, and the phrase “one can eat it” excludes cutting a piece from oneself to feed to someone else – as these two [acts] are not permissible, unless the needy individual is a Prophet in both cases. As for cutting a piece from a non-sacrosanct [living] being in order to eat it, it is permissible – as understood from me saying “mentioned above” for one can kill a non-human sacrosanct being›. [END]

10 thoughts on “Lawful and Unlawful Foods – from Manhaj al-ṭullāb”

  1. As salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    “‹The three aforementioned [i.e., worms, locusts, and fish] are permissible› whether living or dead ‹even if killed by a Zoroastrian›.”

    Doesn’t this statement contradict the first one that says worms mustn’t be eaten individually?

    • wa alaykum al-salam wa rahmatu Llahi wa barakatuhu

      Thanks for noticing this. There is an ellipsis here that I should have made explicit. I have clarified that the last part is restricted to locusts and fish.

  2. I am sorry, I have another question.

    ‹If it resembles two [lawful] animals equally, or if it resembles no other animal, then it is lawful.›

    Shouldn’t it be or am I misunderstanding something?

      • Oops, something went wrong.

        Shouldn’t it be

        “‹If it resembles two animals [lawful and unlawful] equally, or if it resembles no other animal, then it is lawful.›” instead of “‹If it resembles two [lawful] animals equally,…”

  3. My bad. It’s getting late.

    Shouldn’t it be:

    ‹If it resembles two animals [a lawful one and an unlawful one] equally, or if it resembles no other animal, then it is lawful.›


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: