What is Halal? Learn Everything You Need to Know
Thanks to the rise and popularity of halal foods such as the “Halal Guys” in NY and the Wehalal Guys, more and more people want to know what makes halal unique and different.
The term Halal itself is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permissible. The opposite of halal is called haram (forbidden). You can read about the difference between halal and haram to learn more.
In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Qur’an (the Muslim scripture) which is like the bible for Muslims.
In reference to everything else, halal is further broken down into five classifications, mandatory, recommended, neutral, reprehensible, and forbidden.
This article will go over in detail both references in order to help you learn all there is to know about the word halal.
What is Halal?
For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, there is a growing sense of concern for quality meats and food.
In fact, Muslims must be even more conscientious of what they consume, as a Muslim’s dietary guidelines must, above all, be lawful (halal) under Islamic law, as well as wholesome (tayyib).
The Qur’an states, “O people, eat from whatever is upon the earth that is lawful and wholesome” (2:168).
In the US many consumers review every last ingredient listed in a food item’s nutritional facts list to ensure that they meet their dietary standards, now imagine a unique set of standards and that’s what you have with halal.
Some of you might also be aware of “Kosher meat” which is the Jewish term for what is allowed and forbidden to consume within the Jewish faith.
These terms are commonly used in relation to the food industry such as food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials.
While many things are clearly halal or haram, there are some things that are not clear. Further information is needed to categorize them as halal or haram.
Such items are often referred to as mashbooh, which means doubtful or questionable.
How is Halal Broken Down: Halal Guidelines
In Islam, things are prohibited only because they are impure or harmful. If something is entirely harmful it is ‘haram’, and if it is entirely beneficial it is ‘halal’; if the harm of it outweighs its benefit it is haram, while if its benefit outweighs its harm it is halal.
This contrast is highlighted in the Quran in Chapter 2 verse 219, “They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say (O Prophet); in them is great sin and some benefit for human beings, but the sin is Greater than the benefit…”(Qur’an, Al-Baqarah 2:219).
He has prohibited gambling but has encouraged healthy forms of competition such as sports.
He has prohibited intoxicating drinks in order that they may enjoy other delicious drinks which are beneficial for the body and mind, such as cold-pressed juices and kombuchas (non-alcoholic).
One of the beauties of Islam is that it has prohibited only such things as are unnecessary and dispensable while providing alternatives that are better and which give greater ease and comfort to human beings.
Types of Food That Are Halal
- Dairy products as long as it is taken from a source that is halal
- Cheese and Cheese products
Useful Resources: List of halal foods
Unlawful Foods That Are Haram
- Consumption of alcohol or food made with alcoholic ingredients.
- Food from dead meat
The Halal Take on Pork
One of the most famous rules of Muslims universally is that they don’t eat pork! That rule is true, and it all boils down to herbivorous vs carnivorous.
First, the distinction between pork and animals such as sheep starts with what each animal consumes.
Herbivorous animals such as cattle and sheep eat clean fresh fodder and cereals, whereas the pig will eat waste animal products including offal and carrion, and other animal flesh.
Worms and Parasites are much easier to transfer from the pig to a human due to the fast absorption of pork within the body.
You can find worms and parasites such as trichina Worms, tapeworms (taenia Solium), roundworms, hookworms, and many more worms and parasites that are responsible for many diseases.
Uric Acid found in pork meat (a known cause of heart disease and rheumatism) has an approximately 20% extraction rate from the kidneys of the pig. Herbivorous animals have an 80% extraction rate. Hence, relative to other animals, a high concentration of Uric Acid is found in Pork.
Fatty Acids found in Pork Fat are very harmful to the body, being difficult to digest and efficiently convert to energy.
Pork Fat is absorbed by the body and consequently accumulates in human tissue as animal fat.
Herbivorous animal fat is broken down by the body within the bloodstream resynthesizing the fat into a readily available energy source.
Note: Pork is not the only meat that is prohibited, the flesh of all carnivorous animals is not allowed to be eaten, while that of herbivorous animals is permitted.
So What is Halal Meat?
Before we dive into the process of slaughtering halal meat, let’s first start with a list of what are actual halal meats.
Types of Meat That Are Halal:
- Amphibians and reptiles, (Frog, toads, crocodiles, tortoises)
- Carnivorous animals
- Omnivorous animals
- Shark and Whale
- Carrions and Dead Animals
- Birds of prey or animals with fangs
Method of Slaughter: Halal Slaughtering According to Halal Food Certification Process
It should be noted that the process of halal slaughter begins by separating each animal so they don’t see the process or the knife at the time of slaughter.
It is also compulsory that each animal must be slaughtered individually and in seclusion. In a poultry farm or slaughterhouse, one animal must not witness another animal being slaughtered.
Halal standards are against automated slaughtering in which animals are not separated beforehand.
Before the slaughter of the animal can take place one must say the declaration of the Name of God.
In fact, this is also mentioned in the Quran “Then eat of that over which the Name of Allah has been mentioned, if you believe in His Signs.” (Qur’an, Al-An’am 6:118).
The wisdom of the Islamic method of slaughtering is to take the animal’s life in the quickest and least painful way; the requirements of using a sharp instrument and of cutting the throat relate to this end.
By using a sharp knife and cutting the windpipe, the gullet, and the two jugular veins without severing the spine, the animal will be subject to the least amount of pain.
This method allows the animal’s heart to pump out blood; whilst the brain is supplied with blood, instructing the heart to beat.
Health-wise, such a method is justified as it allows the minimum amount of blood to remain in the flesh. In this way, the high level of Uric Acid found in the bloodstream is kept to a minimum.
Can Non-Muslims Eat Halal?
Absolutely. Like Kosher, Halal foods are considered to be of the highest quality and standards made for all people to enjoy.
With the spread of Islam around the world, halal foods have gained popularity within every major form of cuisine.
In fact, halal food has become popularized in the heart of New York City by The Halal Guys, a food cart famous for foil platters heaped to the brim with fragrant chicken and rice.
After emigrating from Egypt to New York City, founders Mohammed Abouelenein, Abdelbaset Elsayed, and Ahmed Elsaka started selling halal rice platters and gyro sandwiches.
Their food was so good that word of mouth propelled the cart into cult status; before long, it was a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Nearly three decades later, the Halal Guys has 35 storefronts and are planning on opening hundreds more.