Islamic Diet – What is Halal?

We were talking about halal in the Muslim forum the other day, so I thought I should address it here. Technically, halal means allowed by Allah, or lawful. What it comes to food, there are very specific things that make an item halal.

[h]No Pork or Pork Products[/h]
It is well-known that Muslims must not eat pork, but many people are unaware of the different varieties of pork. Although non-pork versions exist, the following should always be scrutinized for pork content:

  • Sausage
  • Hot dogs
  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Meatballs
  • Potted meat
  • “Meat” sauce
  • Kolaches

In addition, many restaurants use lard for cooking; this should be avoided. Beans, green beans, salads, baked potatoes and many other vegetables often contain bacon or ham. When eating out, it’s important to ask as some sources of pork are hidden.

[h]A Merciful Death[/h]
In the case of meat, the method of slaughter is of utmost importance. The animal must be slaughtered in the most humane way possible, with no unnecessary pain and suffering. In the time of the Prophet (PBUH), and in halal slaughter houses today, that meant a quick throat slashing. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Allah has prescribed excellence and compassion in all things, so when you kill, kill well; when you slaughter, slaughter well, and let him sharpen his knife and spare the animal pain.”

Many non-Muslim slaughter houses first shock the animal, rendering it unconscious. Although some Muslims look down upon this practice because it differs from the traditional, most scholars have deemed it acceptable. As in all things, Islam is about intention. The intention behind electric shock is to spare the animal pain, and this is the spirit behind Islamic rulings. The Islamic Fiqh Council at the Muslim World League issued the following statement, “If the animal is exposed to a low electric current that would not cause the animal to suffer, and it is rather undertaken to relieve the animal’s pain and control it while slaughtering it, then it is legally all right to do so, for so long as it is in people’s favor.”

[h]No Carrion[/h]
Muslims are not allowed to eat carrion, or dead flesh. This would be any meat that was killed prior to a lawful slaughter, including:

  • Animals dying of natural causes
  • Animals that were beaten or tortured prior to death
  • Animals that were shot
  • Animals that died from the electric shock before the slaughter
  • Animals that were killed by other animals
  • Animals that died of unknown causes

[h]Halal in Conclusion[/h]
Although the prospect of eating halal can be daunting, it is an important aspect of being Muslim. With attention to detail, it is entirely possible to eat Islamically, even in a non-Muslim country. There are restaurants and stores devoted entirely to halal products, and we will discuss those in another blog, en sha Allah.

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