Are Protein Supplements Halal?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam Aleykum, My question is regarding Whey protein. As a person who workouts I need to take protein supplements. In most protein bars or powder, it contains whey protein isolate or whey protein concentrate which are often byproducts resulting from the manufacture of rennet types of hard cheese. Are these halal?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

The basis is that rennet is permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa, irrespective of whether or not the animal was slaughtered correctly. His two Companions (sahibayn), however, disagreed and held that rennet extracted from non-slaughtered animals is impermissible due to its proximity and contact with filthy moisture in the stomach. This is a safer and more precautionary position to follow.

Whey is a by-product of the cheesemaking process in which initially rennet is added to milk in order to curdle it. The resultant liquid which is released from the coagulum is termed whey; accordingly, this would also be permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa regardless of the source of the rennet, with the obvious exception of a swine which is unconditionally impermissible to use or consume altogether.

Commercial Methods of Rennet Extraction

However, many contemporary methods of rennet extraction wherein the entire stomach of the animal is treated in order to chemically extract the rennet are religiously problematic when the animal has not undergone a correct religious slaughter. The reason for this is that the stomach itself is not deemed to be legally pure in such a case, nor is it thus permissible to consume anything extracted from it.

What this means is that the process of extraction undertaken by means of using something religiously filthy, through a filthy solution and the like, would cause the by-product to also be filthy and impermissible to consume. This is something which deserves caution and our attention lest we fall into a situation of consuming that which is prohibited. An easy way to find out is to simply ask the company in question what the source of the rennet is.

Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives in our times to animal-based rennet such as GM, microbial, plant-based, and the like which would generally be permissible to use in the cheesemaking process, and the cheese produced thereby would be legally permissible to consume, barring any other impermissible ingredients. Similarly, plant-based whey protein may be used as an alternative to commercial whey protein powders unless the process used in the latter is clearly known to be permissible or the animal has been correctly slaughtered.

(Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar/Minhat al-Khaliq ‘ala al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, quoting Ibn Amir Haj; Halabi, Multaqa al-Abhur)

Please also see: Is Rennet in Cheese Halal or Haram to Consume? and: A Guide for Consuming Various Meats, Foods, Alcohol, Animal By-Product Ingredients, and Cosmetics

And Allah Most High knows best.

Wassalam,

[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan, and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based on his family.