The word أُهِلَّ (uhilla) occurs four times in the entire Quran. Each of the four occurrences are in regards to the dietary prohibitions.

[2:173] He only prohibits for you the eating of animals that die of themselves (without human interference), blood, the meat of pigs, and animals dedicated to other than GOD. If one is forced (to eat these), without being malicious or deliberate, he incurs no sin. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

[5:3] Prohibited for you are animals that die of themselves, blood, the meat of pigs, and animals dedicated to other than GOD. (Animals that die of themselves include those) strangled, struck with an object, fallen from a height, gored, attacked by a wild animal—unless you save your animal before it dies—and animals sacrificed on altars. Also prohibited is dividing the meat through a game of chance; this is an abomination. Today, the disbelievers have given up concerning (the eradication of) your religion; do not fear them and fear Me instead. Today, I have completed your religion, perfected My blessing upon you, and I have decreed Submission as the religion for you. If one is forced by famine (to eat prohibited food), without being deliberately sinful, then GOD is Forgiver, Merciful.

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ وَأَنْ تَسْتَقْسِمُوا بِالْأَزْلَامِ ذَٰلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ الْيَوْمَ يَئِسَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ دِينِكُمْ فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِ الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ فِي مَخْمَصَةٍ غَيْرَ مُتَجَانِفٍ لِإِثْمٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

[6:145] Say, “I do not find in the revelations given to me any food that is prohibited for any eater except: (1) carrion, (2) running blood, (3) the meat of pigs, for it is contaminated, and (4) the meat of animals blasphemously dedicated to other than GOD.” If one is forced (to eat these), without being deliberate or malicious, then your Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

 قُلْ لَا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَنْ يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنْزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

[16:115] He only prohibits for you dead animals, blood, the meat of pigs, and food which is dedicated to other than GOD. If one is forced (to eat these), without being deliberate or malicious, then GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

It is interesting that the fourth dietary prohibition does not mention “meat” or “animals” by name, but it is signifying that this reference is contained in the word أُهِلَّ (uhilla).

The triliteral root of أُهِلَّ (uhilla) is ه ل ل. This root occurs only five times in the Quran. Four of these occurrences are in the verses listed above, while the fifth instance occurs in 2:189 and has the meaning of a “new moon.”

[2:189] They ask you about the phases of the moon! Say, “They provide a timing device for the people, and determine the time of Hajj.” It is not righteous to beat around the bush; righteousness is attained by upholding the commandments and by being straightforward. You shall observe GOD, that you may succeed.

 يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ وَلَيْسَ الْبِرُّ بِأَنْ تَأْتُوا الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهَا وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنِ اتَّقَىٰ وَأْتُوا الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

There is debate to why this root has the meaning of a “new moon”, but I believe the reason is because ه ل ل is the moment the reflected light from the moon is completely blacked out as if it is going from a state of life to death. As we will see, this corresponds with the other meaning of uhilla as is used in the four verses about the dietary prohibitions. When we look up the derivative meanings of this root, we see that this word has to general meanings one is in the context of the moon, as shown above, the other is specifically in the context of animals that are slaughtered.

ه ل ل: to appear (new moon), beginning (of lunar month), crescent moon. ahalla – to invoke the name of God upon an animal before slaughtering it.

We can confirm these definitions in the following Classical Arabic dictionaries.

Therefore, according to this we can determine that the fourth dietary prohibition as depicted in 2:173, 5:3, 6:145, and 16:115 is any animal that dedicated through slaughter to other than God.

[6:145] Say, “I do not find in the revelations given to me any food that is prohibited for any eater except: (1) carrion, (2) running blood, (3) the meat of pigs, for it is contaminated, and (4) the meat of animals blasphemously dedicated to other than GOD.” If one is forced (to eat these), without being deliberate or malicious, then your Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

 قُلْ لَا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَنْ يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنْزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

This concept is further reinforced in the following verse.

[5:103] GOD did not prohibit livestock that begets certain combinations of males and females, nor livestock liberated by an oath, nor the one that begets two males in a row, nor the bull that fathers ten. It is the disbelievers who invented such lies about GOD. Most of them do not understand.

مَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ مِنْ بَحِيرَةٍ وَلَا سَائِبَةٍ وَلَا وَصِيلَةٍ وَلَا حَامٍ وَلَٰكِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ

When we look at the Arabic we see that these categories of “livestock that beget certain combinations of males and females, or livestock liberated by an oath….” were idol worshipping practices called Bahirah, Saibah, Wasilah, and Hami.

The idol worshipers would prohibit these animals from consumption by dedicating the livestock that met this criteria to their idols. If simply dedicating an animal to other than God is all that was necessary to make an animal unlawful then therefore these animals would have been prohibited for the believers. But instead, God is informing us that these animals are lawful to be slaughtered and consumed, as long as at the time of sacrifice they are not dedicated to other than God.

[6:138] They said, “These are livestock and crops that are prohibited; no one shall eat them except whomever we permit,” so they claimed. They also prohibited the riding of certain livestock. Even the livestock they ate, they never pronounced GOD’s name as they sacrificed them. Such are innovations attributed to Him. He will surely requite them for their innovations.

وَقَالُوا هَٰذِهِ أَنْعَامٌ وَحَرْثٌ حِجْرٌ لَا يَطْعَمُهَا إِلَّا مَنْ نَشَاءُ بِزَعْمِهِمْ وَأَنْعَامٌ حُرِّمَتْ ظُهُورُهَا وَأَنْعَامٌ لَا يَذْكُرُونَ اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا افْتِرَاءً عَلَيْهِ سَيَجْزِيهِمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ

Additionally, one of the mistakes many Muslims make is they believe that in order for meat to be lawful it must have been dedicated to God at the time of slaughter. While this is a mandatory requirement for someone who slaughters an animal as they are asking God for permission and thanking Him for such a blessing, if someone does not mention God or any other entity then the animal is still lawful to eat. This is because the verse clearly states in all four instances that it is only the animals who are sacrificed to “other than God” / “لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ”. Therefore, if the animal is not sacrificed to another entity then it is still lawful for consumption.

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