What is the ruling on eating gelatin?
In the name of God, The Beneficent, The Merciful to whom all praise is due. May God’s peace blessings
and mercy be upon His final prophet Muhammad…
Of course there are many people who will take the fact that gelatin is derived from mostly porcine
sources and others will point to how the rest is from animals who are not “Halal” and therefore from
this perspective it is clearly prohibited by divine law. To them unless it has a kosher or plant based
marking then it is prohibited case closed.
The fact is that there are many prominent scholars of Islamic Law across the world who give the fatwa
that it is permissible to eat gelatin regardless of its source be it porcine or otherwise. Let’s analyze their
So what exactly is gelatin? A translucent, colorless, flavorless food ingredient, derived from collagen
taken from animal body parts. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, medications, drug and
vitamin capsules, photographic films and papers, and cosmetics.
How is it made? Most gelatin is derived from pork skins, pork and cattle bones, or split cattle hides. The
raw materials are prepared by different curing, acid, and alkali processes that are employed to extract
the dried collagen hydrolysate. There are four stages to this; pretreatment, hydrolysis, extraction or
Can we call gelatin collagen? No the 4 step chemical process is how collagen is transformed into gelatin.
Many scholars perceive it as simply extracted from collagen and thus similar and bring up the fact that
there can be found porcine and bovine DNA in gelatin and therefore see it is not enough of a change in
substance to change the ruling. Other scholars disagree with this characterization of the change from
collagen to gelatin.
The definition of collagen helps us understand this point better. Any of a class of extracellular proteins
abundant in higher animals, especially in the skin, bone, cartilage, tendon, and teeth, forming strong
insoluble fibers and serving as connective tissue between cells, yielding gelatin when denatured by
boiling. Denatured means – to deprive (something) of its natural character, properties, etc.
For these scientific reasons and the fact that the color, smell and taste of gelatin is clearly different than
collagen many Muslim scholars deem gelatin as something different than collagen thus carrying a
The common Muslim will ask why should any of this matter? Of course there is no doubt by consensus
of Muslim scholars across history that it is categorically forbidden to eat any type of pig meat or that of a
dead animal. The point they bring is the concept known in Islamic law as “Istihalah” which literally
means alteration. Traditional scholars of the 4 schools of thought talked about how rulings of things
could change if the actual substance at hand changed into something else.
The easiest example of this that we can all easily understand is in how we all know grapes to be
permissible, but when they are transformed into alcohol then they become forbidden. When that same
alcohol is broken but then when that same alcohol becomes vinegar then it becomes permissible. So
here we have one substance going from permissible to prohibited back to permissible. Back to the
argument of the previous point, in fact most vinegars we cook with still contain between 1-2% alcohol.
But because that is non-intoxicating and no one in their right mind would attempt to drink the highly
acidic vinegar it is negligible and the prophet himself not only ate vinegar, but praised eating it! “The
Prophet once asked a family if they had something to eat with bread and they replied that all they had
was vinegar which was obviously made from wine. He then ate it with them and praised it as a great
thing to eat with bread.” (Muslim 2052)
In terms of the ruling of Istihalah when something changes in its permissibility based on the change in its
substance there is a disagreement among classical jurists. Imam al-Shafi’ee said it only specifically occurs
with tanning the hide of an animal or in making vinegar otherwise there can be no analogies. The Maliki
scholars are split on the issue and the mainstream ruling of the Hanafi and Hanbali scholars such as Ibn
Taymiyyah is that when a change takes place in any prohibited substance then it becomes permissible.
One of the greatest Hanafi scholars, Sh. Ibn Abedin (ra) gave the example: “the swine which drowns in a
salt lake and decomposes and becomes salt itself, is now halaal.” The great Hanafi jurist Dr. Wahbah
Zuhaily who recently passed once argued in the 80’s at a scholarly council debate that to transfer the
lands of Mina which were previously used for human waste can be used to set up tents for pilgrims since
over time the sun and rain have purified the land and the feces had transformed into dirt.
In my opinion this opinion the permissibility of eating gelatin makes the most sense after studying the
scholarly debate. This opinion is further supported by the ease it brings to us.
The Quran and Sunnah emphasize that Islam is easy and not difficult or rigid. Therefore, one should not
go out of ones way to find haram. The scholars of Juristic Principles say that the basic ruling for
everything is permissibility except that which has been expressly forbidden by either the Qur’an,
Sunnah, or consensus of Muslim scholars.
Some of the top international scholars who support the purity of gelatin are Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
(Founder and former president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars), Dr. Muhammad Bazmool
(Professor at Umm Al-Qura in Makkah) Dr. Abdul-Ghaffar Ash-Sharif (Former Dean/Professor of Shari’ah
Kuwait college), Tahir al-Mahdi al-Baleeli (European Fiqh Council), Muhammad Al-Hawaari (European
Council for Fatwa Research).