Why is the flesh of chicken not haram though it eats small animals like worms?

Details of the Question

It is said that the flesh of the animals that eat dead animals or carrion cannot be eaten. Chickens eat small animals like worms. Why is the flesh of chicken not haram then?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

First of all, it is religiously permissible to eat chicken; there is no decree in reliable hadith resources and fiqh books prohibiting it. The wisdom behind this decree is out of the scope of our issue.  

However, if an animal whose flesh can be eaten eats something haram to be eaten and used like carrion, worms, it is not killed. It will be appropriate to feed it with some halal food for a while and eat it after that. (Abdurrazzaq, Musannaf, 4/522; Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf, 5/148)

It is often emphasized in the Quran that all of the good things on the earth were prepared for the humanity and it is stated that good and clean things were rendered halal and that dirty and disgusting things were rendered haram. (al-Baqara 2/172; al-Maida 5/4; al-A‘raf 7/32)

However, a list was not given about the animals that can be eaten except for mentioning some animals like camels, cows and sheep or sea animals that are usually eaten; only the name of the pig is mentioned as the animal that must not be eaten.

The other prohibitions regarding the issue are generally related to the way the animal dies and how it is slaughtered. (al-Maida 5/3; al-An‘am 6/121, 145)

It is understood from the expression style of the Quran that being halal is essential in Islam and that being haram is in question when there is contrary evidence.

It is seen that there are more detailed decrees in hadiths regarding the issue, that some criteria were introduced and that they generally explain the principles in the Quran.

For instance, it is stated in hadiths that the flesh of the predatory animals with canine tooth and birds of prey with claws cannot be eaten (Muslim, Sayd, 15, 16; Abu Dawud, Aṭʿima, 32; Tirmidhi, Sayd, 9, 11); there are also some special explanations about some animal species.

Fiqh scholars agree unanimously that domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, goat, camel, rabbit, chicken, goose, duck, turkey and wild animals such as deer, gazelle, mountain goat, wild cattle and zebra, and birds like pigeon, sparrow, starling and heron that do not hunt by their claws are permissible to eat.

Locust is halal to eat because there is a special decree in the Sunnah that it can be eaten. (Bukhari, Dhabaih, 13; Muslim, Dhabaih, 52; Ibn Majah, Aṭʿima, 31)

Some of those animals were stated to be halal in the Quran by being called “an‘am” or “bahimatul-an‘am” (al-Maida 5/1; al-Hajj 22/28, 30); the others were regarded to be among good and clean things about which the Quran said, “eat”.

Fowl like chicken, goose, duck and turkey are essentially halal but if they eat things that are regarded as dirty by the religion, it is makruh to slaughter and eat them without waiting for a few days according to all madhhabs; a view reported from Ahmad b. Hanbal states that it is haram.

It is more appropriate to eat those animals after feeding them with clean food for a while. This period is stated to be two, three, ten or forty days but according to the statement of Sarakhsi, a Hanafi scholar, a period of time enough for the dirty smell in the animal to disappear should be essential. (al-Mabsuṭ, 11/256)

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