What is Halal?

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asked May 19, 2015 by admin (4,530 points)

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Summary

Some of the terminology which is specific to Islam can find its way into other languages and cultures. This can sometimes take on a negative connotation, when an innocent word is presented as something sinister, and in some cases, non-Muslims can become fearful or resentful of Islam and the Muslim community because of a simple concept which is misrepresented.

One of the terms which are frequently mentioned in association with Islam and Muslims is the term halāl (pronounced: halaal). It is most commonly seen associated with food, particularly meat. However, the term halāl is actually very simple; it means something which is lawful. It is a term used to describe objects and actions which are allowed for a Muslim to use or take part in, as defined in Islamic law. The opposite of the term halāl is harām (pronounced: haraam), which means something forbidden.

When it comes to food, Islamic law is also very simple. Where this becomes more complex is the implementation of these simple rules in non-Muslim countries, where practises may not conform to Islamic standards. This can include animals that are killed without proper slaughter, such as those that are killed by electric shock, as well as ingredients that are sourced from blood or dead animals, such as certain food additives.

Halal food products are not intended to be limited for Muslim consumption only; non-Muslims can also benefit from them. Furthermore, the concept of having food which is lawful and unlawful is not something restricted to Islam; rather, Judaism also has a well known system of food regulation, known by the term kosher. Muslims are permitted to eat kosher food, as well as meat slaughtered by Christians.

Full Answer

Islam is a truly comprehensive religion, which affects and influences all parts of a Muslim's life. As Muslims live in communities all over the world, often alongside non-Muslims, some of the terminology which is specific to Islam finds its way into other languages and cultures. This can sometimes take on a negative connotation, when an innocent word is presented as something sinister, and in some cases, non-Muslims can become fearful or resentful of Islam and the Muslim community because of a simple concept which is misrepresented.

One of the terms which are frequently mentioned in association with Islam and Muslims is the term halāl (pronounced: halaal). It is most commonly seen associated with food, particularly meat. However, the term halāl is actually very simple; it means something which is lawful. It is a term used to describe objects and actions which are allowed for a Muslim to use or take part in, as defined in Islamic law. For example, a Muslim man may ask, is it halāl to shake hands with a woman? In this example, the world halāl simply means allowed. In terms of food, a Muslim may ask, is this food halāl? In this example, they are asking if the food is completely free of ingredients and methods of preparation which would make that food forbidden for Muslims. This could be something like containing pork, or even something connected to the way the food was prepared, or the money that it was purchased with. The opposite of the term halāl is harām (pronounced: haraam), which means something forbidden.

The purity of a Muslim's life, food, and sustenance is something which is given a great deal of importance in Islam. Allah mentioned in the Qur'an:

“O you who believe, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” [The Qur'an: al-Baqarah 2:172]

And in the following narration of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

O people, Allah is good and He only accepts that which is good. Allah commanded the believers as He commanded the Messengers, by saying: “O Messengers, eat of the good things, and do good deeds; verily I am aware of what you do.” [23:51]. And He said: “O you who believe, eat of the good things that We provided you.” [2:172]. He then made a mention of a person on a long journey; his hair dishevelled and covered with dust. He raises his hands to the sky, [supplicating]: “O Lord, O Lord,” whereas his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothes are unlawful, and he has been nourished with that which is unlawful – how then can [his supplication] be answered? [Muslim: 1015]

Dictating what is halāl and what is harām is the right of Allah alone. There is a strong criticism in the Qur'an of those people who declare things to be allowed, such as the following passage, in which Allah said:

“Say, 'Have you seen what Allah has sent down to you of provision, of which you have made [some] lawful and [some] unlawful?' Say, 'Has Allah permitted you [to do so], or do you invent [something] about Allah?'” [The Qur'an: Yunus 10:59]

It is also important to emphasise, that when it comes to matters of worldly life, the basic principle is that everything in Islam is permissible, except those things which have been specifically made forbidden. This is part of the ease of Islam, and the fact that Islam isn't complex and restrictive. So, if a person asks, is mango juice halal, when they didn't have it at the time of revelation? Is driving a car halal, when there were no cars in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)? We reply that everything in the matters of worldly life is permissible; every drink; every kind of food; every sort of transport, unless there is something specifically mentioned prohibiting them, or a principle mentioned which would make them prohibited. So, if a person asks, why are recreational drugs forbidden, when they aren't mentioned in Islamic texts? We reply that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) established the principle that every intoxicant is forbidden, and therefore it doesn't matter what kind of intoxicant that is; whether it is new or old; nor does it matter whether it is something which is drunk, inhaled, or injected.

When it comes to food, Islamic law is also very simple. Allah said in the Qur'an:

“Say, 'I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it, unless it is a dead animal; or blood spilled out; or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure; or it is [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah…” [The Qur'an: al-An'aam 6:145]

The majority of Islamic regulations with regard to food can be found in this passage: that it is forbidden to eat the meat of an animal that has died without proper slaughter, such as the animal which has been killed by a blow, a fall, or a disease; that it is forbidden to eat or drink foods that are made with blood, or in which the blood has not been drained from the animal; and that the animals which are slaughtered for consumption must be slaughtered in dedication to God. This covers both the meat of the animal and the edible by-products of the animal, unless those by-products have undergone a significant chemical change.

Where this becomes more complex is the implementation of these simple rules in non-Muslim countries, where practises may not conform to Islamic standards. This can include animals that are killed without proper slaughter, such as those that are killed by electric shock, as well as ingredients that are sourced from blood or dead animals, such as certain food additives. The scholars of Islam are required to clarify these issues to the wider Muslim community, and may not always agree. For this reason, some Muslims may consider certain food additives to be forbidden, while others consider them to be permissible; and some Muslims may be content to eat meat that has been stunned before slaughter, while others may not. Having said that, the vast majority of food containing animal ingredients and labelled halal, and the vast majority of food which is suitable for vegetarians would be eaten by all Muslims, without any concern.

Halal food products are not intended to be limited for Muslim consumption only; non-Muslims can also benefit from them. In some non-Muslim countries, all meat products are halal, and both Muslim and non-Muslims purchase them, since there is nothing substantially different about it. Even in countries where this is not the case, many resteraunts choose to serve halal food products, in order to better cater for both Muslim and non-Muslim customers. Furthermore, the concept of having food which is lawful and unlawful is not something restricted to Islam; rather, Judaism also has a well known system of food regulation, known by the term kosher. Muslims are permitted to eat kosher food, as well as meat slaughtered by Christians, because of the statement of Allah:

“This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them.” [The Qur'an: al-Maa'idah 5:5]

In conclusion, some of the terminology which is specific to Islam can find its way into other languages and cultures. This can sometimes take on a negative connotation, when an innocent word is presented as something sinister, and in some cases, non-Muslims can become fearful or resentful of Islam and the Muslim community because of a simple concept which is misrepresented.

One of the terms which are frequently mentioned in association with Islam and Muslims is the term halāl (pronounced: halaal). It is most commonly seen associated with food, particularly meat. However, the term halāl is actually very simple; it means something which is lawful. It is a term used to describe objects and actions which are allowed for a Muslim to use or take part in, as defined in Islamic law. The opposite of the term halāl is harām (pronounced: haraam), which means something forbidden.

When it comes to food, Islamic law is also very simple. Where this becomes more complex is the implementation of these simple rules in non-Muslim countries, where practises may not conform to Islamic standards. This can include animals that are killed without proper slaughter, such as those that are killed by electric shock, as well as ingredients that are sourced from blood or dead animals, such as certain food additives.

Halal food products are not intended to be limited for Muslim consumption only; non-Muslims can also benefit from them. Furthermore, the concept of having food which is lawful and unlawful is not something restricted to Islam; rather, Judaism also has a well known system of food regulation, known by the term kosher. Muslims are permitted to eat kosher food, as well as meat slaughtered by Christians.

answered May 19, 2015 by admin (4,530 points)
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