Unless specially prohibited, every food is considered halal in Islam.
Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible or lawful” in English. The word pertains to what Muslims are allowed do to in their lives, especially when it comes to food and drink. The opposite of Halal is Haram which again is an Arabic word for something that’s forbidden.
What constitutes Halal (or Haram) is set out by the Holy Quran and is reflected in the Sharia law which governs the Muslim way of life. Like everything else in the Muslim law, what’s Halal and Haram is also sourced from the Holy Quran, Sharia Laws, as well as the Hadith which is the traditions of the Prophet Muhammed.
The term Halaal is most commonly associated with the Islamic dietary laws, especially meat. Muslims must be sure about how the meat they are consuming is sourced, processed, and prepared to be edible for them. Besides that, the Islamic jurisprudence clearly specifies which foods are Halal and which are Haram.
Quran and Food – the Islamic Dietary Laws
Islamic jurisprudence – based on commandments of the Quran, as well as derivations from Hadith and Sunnah – gives a clear outlook of the food that’s permissible for Muslims to consume. Although the Islamic law has clear directions on the type of meat that Muslims can consume, it is flexible when there’s a lack of alternatives under the ‘law of necessity’. In such situations, the forbidden becomes permissible.
Haram or ‘forbidden’ food
The Quran explicitly forbids the consumption of the meat sourced from an otherwise Halal animal that is not slaughtered and dies of itself. Similarly, consumption of pig meat is forbidden in Islam. Consumption of animal blood for food is also outlawed by Islam. Also forbidden is any form of food that’s dedicated to anyone other than God.
Here’s a list of the food and drinks Muslims are barred from consuming:
- Intoxicants: Quran has reproached the consumption of alcohol (intoxicants) on several occasions.
- Carrion: An animal that dies of itself.
- Pork: Islam strictly forbids the consumption of pork or products made from it.
- Blood: Consumption of blood and all its by-products is forbidden in Islam.
- Donkey, mules and horses.
- Animals with fangs (cats, dogs, bears, lions, wolves etc.).
- Birds of prey.
- Other animals: Monkeys, snakes, scorpions, lizards etc. are also prohibited.
NOTE: Ingredients that have been contaminated by or derived from non-halal animal products are also not allowed.
Halal or ‘permissible’ food
Here are some of the animals whose consumption is permitted by Islam.
- Seafood: Consumption of seafood, or game of sea, is permitted by Islam
- Consumption of all domestic birds, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, buck, rabbits, fish, locusts is permitted by Islam.
- Kosher foods – that conform to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut (dietary law) – are also permitted in Islam.
Dhabihah – the permitted method of slaughter
Muslims are required to follow specified slaughter method for the permitted animals (except for seafood). The animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim while saying the name of Allah (God), and by hand, not by machine.
Dhabiha, involves killing through a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe. The blade being used must be sharp for quick killing; the animal must not suffer, see the blade, or smell the blood from another animal’s slaughter. It is recommended that the carcass be hung upside down for some time to be completely drained of blood.
Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter. The animal or poultry meant for Muslim consumption must not have been killed by strangulation, violent blow, a head-long fall, goring of horns, or attack from another animal unless a man kills it.
What is Halal chicken?
Is all chicken that we consume is Halal? Then answer can both be yes and no, even if it’s slaughtered in the right way. To qualify as truly Halal, how the animals are raised is also taken into account. According to Islamic dietary law, the animals must be fed vegetarian diets, which can make many chickens that we consume today non-Halal.
And just as with the animals, poultry too must be slaughtered by a man of Muslim faith, with a prayer said at the time of the slaughter to be qualified as Halal. Although the practices at the Halal chicken processing plants may not be very distinguishable from the rest, the small differences that we discussed above make all the difference.
Halal vs Kosher
“Kosher” refers to the foods that conform to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut. Like in this Jewish dietary framework, Islamic dietary law (Halal) also only allows certain animals to be eaten and certain drinks to be consumed.
Kosher animals typically include cows, sheep, goats, and deer which are also part of the Halal diet. Other animals permitted in the Kosher diet include domestic birds (e.g., chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, and pigeons), scaly fish with fins (like tuna, pike, carp, flounder, or salmon), etc. which also make up the Halal diet.
Although camels and rabbits are allowed in Muslim food, they aren’t in Kosher food and are a part of the prohibited animals group that includes the likes of pigs, cats, dogs, bears, etc. Halal and Kosher also share the same slaughter practices.
Halal is humane
Islam forbids all forms of animal cruelty and lays out numerous guidelines with respect to slaughter. Islam commands that animals must be slaughtered or killed for a specific purpose (i.e. not for fun) and the slaughter must be as painless and humane as possible, amongst other rules.
All Muslims around the world generally agree that humane meat production is a vital part of what makes it Halal. In essence, the animal must be killed as swiftly and painlessly as possible. Islam is very particular about being kind to animals, and mandates the use of a sharp blade for the practice. Also, the animal must not see the blade, or smell or see the animal of other animals that have been slaughtered.
Also, any other way of killing the animal than the ritual slaughter renders the animal un-consumable. Forms of killing like stunning or machine slaughter have also been prohibited by Islam, a religion that mandates the slaughter to be performed by hand with utmost care and kindness.
Halal food certification
Halal certification guarantees that the food items being consumed are permissible under Islamic law. These products are thus edible, drinkable or usable for Muslims across the world. For a couple of decades now, the efforts to create organizations to certify Halal food have accelerated with mainstream manufacturers of food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, as well as hotels, restaurants, airlines, hospitals, and other service providers have gone for Halal certifications.
But it must be noted that Islam doesn’t require a certification for the food to be permissible for consumption as long as it follows the Islamic dietary law. So essentially, businesses do not need to spend hefty halal certification fees to make their Halal products okay for Muslim consumption. But, in today’s competitive market with countless food products manufacturers, it’s tough to regulate each player individually so Halal certification helps both the business and the consumer.
Different Halal certification bodies around the world charge variedly for their certification services. Once the product has a Halal certified label on it, it makes it easier for Muslims to consume the products with ease and confidence especially if they’re in a Muslim minority country.
Why do you need Halal certification?
As discussed above, we do not need Halal certification by the Muslim law, as soon as the product follows Halal practices. If a product doesn’t have the Halal label on it, Muslims can always check the ingredients to be sure that the product is safe and permitted for consumption. If in doubt, they can also get in touch with the manufacturer for more information on a product’s contents.
But this is not possible for us to do, especially today when supermarket shelves are loaded with food products of all sorts. Although Halal certification may cost a business some money, it helps consumers a great deal by giving them the assurance that the product has followed all Islamic dietary laws.
How Halal certification can benefit your business
If you’re a food manufacturer or processor in a Muslim country, or looking to export your meat or other food products to a Muslim majority country, or if your product is meant for Muslim consumption in any country, you’ll need Halal certification for all of your food products. This will mean that you’ll make some regular payments to the Halal certification body, and expecting routine audits from them.
Some of the key benefits of Halal certification include:
- Ease of export: When your product is Halal certified, the export complications will be eased.
- Improved revenues: Halal certification helps you improve the revenues of your food business as the sales tend to grow.
- Increased trust: The surety and confidence that your food business gives to the Muslim customers will help them build stringer levels of trust on your brand
A preferred choice: Halal certification assures customers that the product served is also hygienic and healthy besides being Halal.