Halal (حلال, ḥalāl, halaal) is an Arabic term meaning “permissible”. In the English language, it most frequently refers to food that is permissible according to Islamic law.[citation needed] In the Arabic language, it refers to anything that is permissible under Islam. It is estimated that 70% of Muslims worldwide follow Halal food standards[1] and that the Global Halal Market is currently a USD 580 billion industry[2]. Its antonym is haraam.

“Halal” the word

The use of the term varies between Arabic-speaking communities and non-Arabic-speaking ones.

In Arabic-speaking countries, the term is used to describe anything permissible under Islamic law, in contrast to haraam, that which is forbidden. This includes human behavior, speech communication, clothing, conduct, manner and dietary laws.

In non-Arabic-speaking countries, the term is most commonly used in the narrower context of just Muslim dietary laws, especially where meat and poultry are concerned, though it can be used for the more general meaning, as well. This dichotomy of usage is similar to the Hebrew term kosher.[citation needed]

Varying forms of Halal

Halal food

Adherents to this philosophy maintain that in order for food to be considered halal, it must not be a forbidden substance and any meat must have been slaughtered according to traditional guidelines set forth by the Sunnah, known as dhabiĥa (Alternatively spelled “zabiha”). This is the strictest definition of Halal.

Halal and dhabiha are two different concepts

However, adhering to this philosophy can lead to the error of not separating the premise of halal and dhabiha. There is a very strict difference between Halal and Dhabiha, and this difference is made clear on the basis of Quranic scriptures. The difference between Halal and Dhabiha is that Halal is simply everything which is not specified as Haraam in the Quran and Dhabiha is simply a ritual based not on Quranic mandate but only on Islamic tradition. In most cases, they are being taken as to mean the same when they are not the same.

An easy way to understand the difference is to note that while the consumption of a sheep is halal according to the Quran, it is based on the condition that it be slaughtered according to the rules of Dhabiha. Otherwise, the consumption is forbidden (haram). The consumption of pork can never be halal (unless under very extenuating circumstances such as fear of losing one’s life), even if it is slaughtered according to the rules of Dhabiha.

Permissibility of Halal meat

Main article: Difference between Halal and Dhabiha

It is permissible for Muslims to consume the meat of an animal, that has been defined as Halal according to the relevant references from Quran, but has not been slaughtered by the ritual of Dhabiha, by simply invoking the name of Allah right before consuming it. This assertion is supported by Hadith (Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 67, Number 415)(See Main Article)

Kosher and Halal

Main article: Islamic and Jewish dietary laws compared

There is a great deal of similarity between the laws of Dhabiĥa halal and kashrut, and there are also various differences. Whether or not Muslims can use kashrut standards as a replacement for halal standards or vice versa is an ongoing debate, and the answer depends largely on the individual being asked.[3] However, most Muslim authorities believe the terms are not interchangeable.[4].

A package of halal-certified (see green label on the package) frozen food (steamed cabbage buns) from Jiangsu province, China

A package of halal-certified (see green label on the package) frozen food (steamed cabbage buns) from Jiangsu province, China

Halal food and animal welfare

Because halal prohibits slaughter of an unconscious animal, the slaughtering is done by cutting the front of the throat first. Some animal rights groups object to this method, claiming that it can take several minutes for the animal to die and can often cause suffering. In 2003 in the UK, an independent advisory group – the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) – concluded that the way halal (and Kosher) meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals and should be banned immediately. Halal and kosher butchers deny their method of killing animals is cruel and expressed anger over the recommendation [5].

Explicitly forbidden substances

A variety of substances are considered forbidden (haraam) as per various Quranic verses:

  • Pork meat (i.e. flesh of swine)[Qur’an 2:173]
  • Blood[Qur’an 2:173]
  • Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but Allah (God) (there are debates regarding the permissibility of meat slaughtered by Jews, i.e., kosher meat).[Qur’an 2:173]
  • Carrion[Qur’an 5:3]
  • “Fanged beasts of prey” as per the Sunnah, usually simplified to all carnivorous animals, with the exception of most fish and sea animals[citation needed].
  • The meat of donkeys.
  • All insects except for the locust (no reference)

Everything apart from these forbidden (Haraam) items is permitted or halal for all muslims.

  • Verses in the Quran say that intoxicants (and games of chance) contain some good and some evil, but the evil is greater than the good [Qur’an 2:219]; most Muslims interpret these verses to forbid any intoxicating substance which may make one forgetful of God and prayer.

There is some disagreement among Muslims regarding seafood, especially predatory sea creatures. IFANCA (Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America) states, regarding the opinion of Islamic scholars:[6]

  • All are in agreement that fish with scales are halal
  • Sunnis consider all fish to be halal, while some Shias consider only shrimp and fish with scales to be halal[7] Within the Hanafi School of thought, the stronger position is that shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, etc.) are prohibited[citation needed].
  • but in other three mazhab(malaki,shafee,hanbalee) crab and lobster are permissible.
  • Most agree that frogs are haraam due to the prohibition of killing them in hadith.[citation needed] In fact it is common belief among Southeast Asian Muslims that animals who live on both land and sea (such as amphibians, some reptiles, and some species of bird) are off limits.[citation needed]

Halal in non-Islamic countries

Halal certificate issued for dairy products by a German registered merchant

Halal certificate issued for dairy products by a German registered merchant

In Dearborn, Michigan, United States, home to one of the largest Muslim and Arab populations in the United States, a number of fast food chains like McDonald’s introduced halal chicken nuggets. [8] In the UK, American-style fried chicken is becoming increasingly popular with the Muslim population, and hundreds of outlets serving Halal fried chicken such as Chicken Cottage have sprung up.

Recent laws passed in the United States have made it illegal to sell, distribute, and/or produce food that has been mislabeled “halal,” when it is determined that the food does not meet Islamic dietary standards. Similar laws protect kosher foods [9]. Some were struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional sanction of religious provisions[citation needed], but others were upheld as consumer protection regulations[citation needed]. See Kashrut.

McDonald’s is intending to offer Halal meals in the United States and some parts of the United Kingdom with two of its franchises currently on trial, offering this service. All McDonald’s Restaurants in Australia (two outlets in Melbourne and one in Sydney have Halal meals since 2006), India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa are Halal certified. [10]

Australian halal certificate for chocolate.

Australian halal certificate for chocolate.

Depending on which definition of halal a Muslim chooses to adhere to, and the strictness with which the person chooses to adhere to it, living in a non-Muslim country can pose minimal or great difficulty.

Dhabiĥa Halal

Dhabiĥa halal is relatively difficult to adhere to in a non-Muslim country:

  • Depending on the presence or absence of a significant Muslim population in the area, finding grocery stores, meat stores, and restaurants which serve/sell dhabiĥa halal foods can be extremely difficult.
  • The abundance of pork and non-dhabiĥa meats at restaurants presents a rather difficult problem to overcome. While a Muslim will not order a non-dhabiĥa halal dish, there is a concern about cross-contamination. This is likely to occur when the dhabiĥa halal dish is prepared with the same cooking tools as other non-dhabiĥa halal dishes. Food and juices from the two dishes are likely to be exchanged, technically rendering the dhabiĥa halal dish as haraam.
  • Many apparently meat-free dishes, and even some desserts, contain pork, gelatin, or other non-conforming substances. There is also a concern in the Muslim community about food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) that may use enzymes derived from pig fat in the production process. It is very difficult to avoid such food additives as they are widely used and are not declared on restaurant menus.
  • Alcohol, especially wine, is frequently used in cooking. It is largely used in sauces and cakes, and is also present as an ingredient in vanilla and other extracts. Alcohol in food flavors will mostly evaporate if it is used as a solvent in food flavors for baked products or heat treated products. One opinion is that food cooked with wine is haraam since it involves paying for the wine and the alcohol does not evaporate totally in some meats[11]. Some Islamic scholars do not consider a food product Halal even if it is made with all Halal ingredients but food flavor in which ethyl alcohol was used as a solvent. But other Islamic scholars recommend food products made with all Halal ingredients even if food flavors containing ethyl alcohol as a solvent. [12]

Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been efforts to create organizations such as the Muslim Consumer Group that certify food products as halal for Muslim consumers.

  • In 1993 Ahsan Mohyuddin founded the facility of Halal Meat & Food Corporation in Bladenboro, NC as the only meat plant in existence of its time in the United States under the USDA inspection, operating under the principles of the Islamic Faith. Owner of Midwest Halal Meats, Inc. in Perryville, Missouri.[citation needed]

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