Islam is not only a religion, it is a way of life with protocols, rules and manners governing every facet of life. For Muslims, eating is considered to be a matter of worship of Allah (SWT)/God like prayer, fasting, alms-giving and other religious activities.
The logic behind why food needs to be ḥalāl is that Muslims eat to maintain a strong and healthy physique in order to worship Allah (SWT)/God, lead a healthy life, contribute towards the welfare of the society, etc. Therefore, it is paramount that Muslims make every effort to obtain the best quality food nutritionally in order to function as human beings.
The terms ḥalāl and haram are universal and apply to all facets of life. Halāl is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. The opposite of ḥalāl is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited. These terms are commonly used in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials.
In general every food is considered ḥalāl in Islam unless it is specially prohibited by the Qur’an or the hadīth (prophetic traditions). Halāl foods are those that are free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to sharī’ah ( Islamic law).
While many things are clearly ḥalāl or haram, there are some things which are not clear. Mushbooh is a food designation in Islam and literally meaning “doubtful” or “suspect,” foods are labelled mushbooh when it is unclear whether they are ḥalāl (consumption is permitted) or haraam (consumption is prohibited).
In general, all foods are considered ḥalāl except the following (which are haram):
- alcoholic drinks and intoxicant;
- non- ḥalāl animal fat;
- enzymes* (microbial enzymes are permissible);
- gelatine* – from non- ḥalāl source (fish gelatine is ḥalāl);
- L-cysteine (if from human hair);
- lipase* (only animal lipase need be avoided);
- non- ḥalāl animal shortening;
- pork, bacon / ham and anything from pigs;
- unspecified meat broth;
- rennet* (all forms should be avoided except for plant / microbial / synthetic – rennet obtained from ḥalāl slaughtered animal is permissible);
- stock* (a blend of mix species broth or meat stock);
- tallow* (non- ḥalāl species);
- carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals;
- foods contaminated with any of the above products.
(*may be consumed if derived from ḥalāl animals or plant or fish based.)
Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavours are questionable, because the origin of these ingredients is not known.
In the meat and poultry food industry, animals such as cows, veal, lamb, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, game birds, bison, venison, etc, are considered ḥalāl, but they must be prepared according to sharī’ah (Islamic laws) in order for their meat to be suitable for consumption.
Fish and seafood (with the exception of crocodiles, alligators and frogs) are generally acceptable for Muslims but personal dietary preference or allergy needs t be checked. The preparation of the fish or seafood should not include alcohol (i.e. batter or wine, or anything considered haram).
Islamic Halal Meat Preparation and Supervision
In order to be certified as ḥalāl, even the process of manufacturing the food (utensils, equipment and/or machinery) and the way the food is stored, needs to be according to sharī’ah (Islamic law).
In nearly every country of the world, there are official bodies that certify ḥalāl products and trains Islamic slaughter men for the meat and poultry industry. They visit abattoirs/farms, meat and non-meat food companies, drugs, cosmetic establishments to perform Islamic supervision, audit/ inspection, and halal preparation.
In general, ḥalāl products are derived from animals and/or poultry that have been prepared according to Islamic law under the following statement, “In the name of God – God is the Greatest/Bismillahi Allahu Akbar”.
As Islam places great emphasis in the way in which an animal’s life ends, it is paramount that the animal has to be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic regulations. Muslims believe that if the life of an animal has to be ended for human survival, then its life should only be taken in the name of Allah (SWT)/God. Hence, the phrase Bismillah (‘in the name of God’) must be uttered just before slaughtering an animal.
Muslims are only allowed to eat meat that has been prepared according to Islamic law. Muslims cannot consume the meat of animals that are sacrificed in a name other than God. Any animal slaughtered in the name of a person alive or dead, any deity or idol will be considered as haram and therefore it is not permissible for Muslims to consume that meat.