I want to discuss how we decide what is halal for us.
When taking into account things that are universally forbidden, one might list murder–the taking of life. In that sense, then, is God a murderer? God takes our lives. Are angels murderers? The Qur’an says that angels are enlisted to take our souls at death and sleep by God’s permission. (Souls are taken into the Otherworld temporarily at night. There are Quranic verses alluding to this travel of souls; perhaps this is why dreams can predict the future. There are other realms in which time runs together, past merging with present and tomorrow. Our souls might visit those realms at night. Maybe that is why Prophet Yusuf [upon whom be Peace] knew the interpretation of dreams. But anyways, I’m totally going off on tangents.)
Back to the point. Taking life is halal for angels but haraam on us. It is not inherently a bad act if God has given you permission to commit it. But God has not given us permission, so we are Forbidden from taking life, at least in general.
We do everything, everything, by God’s permission. We would not be allowed to eat anything (especially animals, or even plants), had God not specifically permitted it to us. That is why the name of God must be said over meat to render it halal. We are paying homage to the One who allowed it for us.
Alcohol is generally forbidden to us in Islam, because only God is allowed to alter our state of mind at will in a potentially crippling way. (Being drunk cripples the senses.) This is God’s job and not ours. Were we to drink alcohol, we would be infringing on God’s purpose and God’s Rights over us. (In this vein, there is an exception made regarding alcohol in Jannah. The Qur’an mentions the existence of wine in Heaven, and the name of a certain river in Jannat Al-Firdaus is said to be Rawan.)
What I am saying, I suppose, is that the things which are forbidden to us–i.e. the taking of human and animal life without reason–are forbidden to us, Adamkind, and us specifically. They are not forbidden to other creations, such as angels, because their rights are different.
Alluding now to exegesis, this is why the angel in the story of Prophet Musa killed the little boy he suspected of being a disbeliever. (I am referring to Surah Kahf and the story of “Khidr”, verses 18:60-82). In this story, a creature in the shape of a mortal man comes to Musa (upon whom be Peace) and says he will teach him moral lessons, and Musa had better be quiet and not question him. He performs some questionable deeds, including destroying a boat belonging to poor peasants and wringing the neck of a young child. Musa is distraught and demands to know how and why the “man” could do this.
According to traditionalists, the “wise man” in this story really is a mortal man whose name is Khidr. However, I beg to differ. I am quite certain that the “man” was actually an angel or some other non-human being, which was why he was permitted to take the life of a child. He was not following the laws laid down for humans at all, because he was different. (Note that the Qur’anic Arabic does not describe “Khidr” as a literal man at all, but rather as an “exalted servant of God;” simply an abd rather than an insaan.)
And perhaps this was exactly what Prophet Musa needed to learn: The physics of permissibility, of halaal and haraam. And maybe this is what “Khidr” intended to teach him.
Edit: I realize I was quite vague regarding the Musa/Khidr story in this post, and I’ve been asked a couple of questions, so here’s my clarification. My concern in this post was not over whether the child was innocent, but rather over whether a human being should be permitted by God to carry out the boy’s execution. I maintain that the child could not have been innocent, because God would not sentence an innocent person to death.
Since the kid was a child, it would be impossible for human beings to ascertain the magnitude of his sins, or to determine if he should be held responsible for them. His sins might have been invisible to humans. Therefore, the task of punishing the boy was delegated to angels–because mere human beings are (usually) not fit to make judgements about matters regarding the Unseen (Al-Ghayb).