Asking “Is chicken halal?” is to ask the kind of question that only a non-Muslim could. The question doesn’t make sense because it addresses the wrong party. Chickens in themselves cannot be halal or haram, unlike “murder”, which is always haram (see below), or praying, which is always halal.
Is Chicken Halal?
In Islam, food is halal if it is not expressly forbidden, so long as the food is prepared according to Islam’s dietary guidelines. Chicken, unlike pork, is not expressly forbidden, so chicken can be halal. Whether an actual piece of chicken is halal depends on how the chicken was caught or farmed and slaughtered.
What It Means To Be Halal
“Halal” is the Arabic word for “permitted”. As commonly used in cuisine, halal means foods Islam permits in adherence to the Quran and “traditions of the Prophet”, known in Arabic as “hadith”.
There is only one version of the Quran (in Arabic; in other languages, the Quran varies according to the particular interpretations of the translator), so there can only be one set of indisputable Quranic laws governing what is or is not permitted (halal).
On the other hand, there are several different hadiths, so what is halal and what is haram (haram is the Arabic for “forbidden”; haram is the opposite of halal, just like evil is the opposite of good) can vary from hadith to hadith.
The upshot of all this foregoing is that some things are indisputably halal or haram because the Quran says so, and no Muslim can argue with the Quran, whereas other things are disputably halal or haram because they are only mandated as such in one or more hadiths.
Halal and haram do not apply only to foods! Ordinary things in everyday life can be halal or haram, just as in any other religion. For example, Christianity has the idea of sinfulness, and Christians can act sinfully (haram) or sinlessly (halal).
Halal Rules As They Apply to Chicken
Thankfully, chicken is not haram. Other meats and flesh that are not haram are shellfish, fish, turkey, bison, venison, goat, beef, and lamb. Not being haram puts all these kinds of flesh on the candidate list of halal foods.
Unfortunately for those with a fondness for bacon, pork is haram and, as such, can never be halal. Even worse for those who might enjoy a tipple of brandy or knocking back a cold Coors™ on a hot sunny day, alcohol is strictly haram, and no alcoholic drink can ever be halal. Yep, tough beans, baby.
Anyway, having avoided the dread haram list, for any animal to be halal, the following rules apply and must be obeyed completely:
- Not have been fed animal by-products. This means that many farm-raised animals in America are ab initio excluded from being halal because they are fed animal by-products in their meal.
- The animals must have been well cared-for and should not have been maltreated. It is arguable that battery farm chickens raised in those routinely dreadful conditions are haram and cannot make it further onto the halal list. Truthfully, I think all chicken-eating humans could lend a hand and help ensure that we don’t treat animals as carelessly and disgracefully as we do battery farm chickens.
- Animals must be given regular access to drinking water until they are slaughtered.
- Any Muslim who has reached the age of puberty can perform a halal slaughter.
- The person performing the slaughter must point the animal’s face towards Mecca (Islamic purists spell Mecca “Makkah”).
- Those responsible for slaughtering the animal must not sharpen the knife to be used in the slaughter in the presence of the animal to avoid causing the animal undue distress.
- The knife for the slaughtering should be as sharp as possible and free of kinks or nicks.
- The person performing the slaughter must invoke the name of Allah before or during the act of slaughter.
- The actual slaughter is performed in one pass by drawing the sharpened blade across the animal’s throat, severing the trachea, carotid arteries, and jugular vein.
- The animal must be exsanguinated as blood is haram.
A chicken (or any animal that is not haram) is halal when all the actions and conditions in the items listed above have been closely observed.
How To Know if the Chicken in Food Brands Like KFC is Halal
Some countries, for example, the UK, have specific KFC outlets that are guaranteed halal. If you live in, or are visiting the UK, use this link to find a halal KFC near you.
KFC in the United States is an entirely different kettle of fish, steadfastly refusing to allow its franchisees to advertise themselves as halal even though they might be. Supposedly, this is to prevent some franchisees from gaining a competitive edge over others.
Given the lack of uniformity among KFC outlets in different countries, unless that particular outlet advertises itself as halal, it is best to assume that KFC chicken is haram.
Being Free Range Means Chicken is Halal
Being free range does not make chicken halal, but it does go some way towards fulfilling the requirements for being halal.
I am not an “imam” (a Muslim scholar), so my feelings and thoughts on the subject cannot count for much, but I would certainly question the notion that battery-raised chickens can be halal, since it is part and parcel of the halal requirements that all animals that are to be eaten should be raised in humane conditions.
However, just because a chicken is raised humanely doesn’t mean it is carte blanche to eat it. There are still all the other restrictions and requirements that must be observed before a chicken can be pronounced halal.
Frequently Asked Questions to Is Chicken Halal?
Why Do We Completely Drain all the Blood From a Halal Chicken?
It is haram (forbidden) to eat blood in Islam. Therefore, part of preparing a slaughtered animal for food is to completely drain the carcass of all vestiges of its blood. This is typically accomplished by hanging the carcass inverted and letting gravity finish the job of exsanguinating the animal.
What Happens if a Muslim Cannot Find a Halal Chicken Outlet (say in a Foreign Country)?
There are several judgments from competent imams that if Muslims cannot find halal meats, it is permissible for a Muslim to eat meats prepared by Christians or kosher meats prepared by Jews. (In Islam, Christians and Jews are called “the People of the Book”, and Islam recognizes an affinity with them as fellow adherents of the Abrahamic tradition.)
Is It Still Halal if a Chicken Is Stunned Before it is Slaughtered?
This is a mighty vexed issue and the source of much contumely. As I’m not your imam, I cannot offer you guidance on this matter beyond saying that many imams say the chicken is still halal, and many imams say the chicken is haram. Speaking for myself, I don’t understand why the chicken must be conscious when it is being slaughtered, but only Allah knows best.
Afterword: Is Chicken Halal?
Unlike alcohol and pork, chicken is not haram, and in itself, it is not prohibited for Muslims to eat chicken. However, unless the seller has specially raised and prepared the chicken by the applicable laws and customs of Islam, it might still be haram for a Muslim to eat a particular chicken.
To be safe, consumers should only eat chicken specifically labeled halal or at restaurants and other food outlets advertised as halal.