Halal is an Arabic term which means – food products, meat, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and food ingredients ‘permissible or lawful’ as prescribed to be consumed or used by the followers of the Qur’an. On the other hand, Haram means ‘prohibited or forbidden’ for Muslims.
The terms halal and haram apply to all facets of life. Apart from these, there is a range of products classified or called Mushbooh literally meaning “doubtful” or “suspect” or when it is unclear whether any food or product is Halal or Haraam. In case one is not sure about the slaughtering process or the ingredients used while preparing the food items are considered Mushbooh. Islamic laws prohibit the consumption and use of Mushbooh foods prepared from animals or from plants prohibited by the Qur’an or the Hadith.
According to Shariah (Islamic) law, an object or an action that is permissible to use or engage in thus fit for consumption of Muslims is halal. Islamic laws strictly forbid Muslims to partake in anything that is forbidden or Haram.
The Islamic laws define the manner in which things have to be processed, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery and the manner in which they have to be cleansed before use.
Muslims are spiritually and morally bound to ensure that all foods including processed foods, and non-food items like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, are halal.
The Hadith which records the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and is revered as a source of religious law and moral guidance spells out that the prayers of a person who consumes food that is haram are rejected by Allah.
Examples of haram foods include:
- Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
- Meat or fat of animals slaughtered in a non-halal manner
- Pig meat- Pork, Bacon or Ham
- Foods contaminated with any of the above products
- Carrion meaning decaying flesh of dead animals, including human flesh
- Likewise an animal that has been strangled, beaten to death, or sacrificed on a stone altar cannot be eaten
- Foods containing gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavours are questionable, because the origin of these ingredients is not known
The Islamic laws only allow Muslims to eat the meat of animals that have been slaughtered in a specified manner. This method of slaughtering animals consists of using a sharp knife to make an incision that cuts the front of the throat, oesophagus and jugular veins but not the spinal cord.
In Islamic law, Dhabihah (also pronounced zabiha by the people from non-Arab Muslim countries) prescribes the lawful or halal method of animal slaughter.
- The slaughterer must be a sane adult Muslim.
- Meat of animals slaughtered by non-Muslims is not halal.
- The head of an animal being slaughtered is facing towards the Kaaba in Mecca
- The butcher must utter Bismillah – the name of Allah before slaughtering the animal.
- The name of God is uttered to emphasize that the animal is being killed for food with God’s consent.
- The animal must be killed by cutting the throat with one continuous motion of a sharp knife.
- The cut must sever at least three of the trachea, oesophagus, and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat.
- The spinal cord must not be cut.
- Animals must be well treated before being killed.
- Animals must not see other animals being killed.
- The knife must not be sharpened in the animal’s presence.
- The knife blade must be free of blemishes that might tear the wound.
- The animal must not be in an uncomfortable position.
- The animal must be allowed to bleed out and be completely dead before further processing.
- At the time of slaughter, the animal must be alive and healthy. The maximum amount of blood must be drained from the veins of the carcass.
- Consuming meat of an animal that is already dead or other than the halal process is prohibited in Islam.
In the meat and poultry food industry, animals such as sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and game birds etc, are considered halal, but they must be prepared according to 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.
Islam places great emphasis on the way in which an animal’s life ends, which has to be in accordance with Islamic regulations. Life is a sacred blessing of God to creation, animals as well as humans. If the life of an animal has to be ended for human survival, then its life should only be taken in the name of God. Hence, the phrase bismillah (in the name of God) must be uttered just before slaughtering an animal. Muslims cannot consume the meat of animals that are not sacrificed in the name of God. Any animal slaughtered in the name of a person, deity or idol is considered haram and is therefore not permissible for Muslims to eat.