Halal (Arabic:حلال, ḥalāl; means lawful or legal) is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. It is the opposite of haram. The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law (Sharia, الشريعة الإسلامية).
Halal also is a Quranic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Quran the Muslim scripture. General Quranic guidance dictates that all foods are Halal except those that are specifically mentioned as Haram (unlawful or Prohibited). Allah Most High says: “Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine…..” (Surah al-Ma’idah, V: 53)
The life of a Muslim revolves around the concept of Halal. A Muslim must earn income from Halal sources, be involved only in Halal transactions and consume Halal food and drink. Staying away from Haram for the Muslim, particularly in non-Islamic society is a life-long struggle. But, if a Muslim tries sincerely, Allah Ta'ala makes this effort easy. It is obvious that Muslims should seek an education and training for themselves and for their children. Education of Muslim children cannot be complete if it fails to inculcate in them a strong faith in the superiority of Halal practices.
Within the Islamic religion, a strong emphasis is placed on cleanliness - both spiritually and in the context of food and drink. For a food or drink product to be approved for consumption it must conform to the Islamic dietary laws as specified in the Qur'an, the Hadith (sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad, his Sunnah (tradition) and in the Fiqh (understanding) of the Islamic Jurists: Hanafi, Shafi', Maliki and Hambali. The Qur'an has numerous injunctions instructing Muslims to choose and consume good and wholesome foodstuffs.
In the selection of food and drink, Islam has laid down three very important guidelines, namely;
- Whether the consumption of the foodstuff is prohibited by Allah,
- Whether the foodstuff is obtained through Halal or Haram means, and
- Whether or not the material is harmful to health.
There are several factors that determine the Halal/Haram status of a particular foodstuff. Amongst others, it is dependent on its nature, how it was processed and where it originated from.
As an example, any pig product is considered Haram because the material itself is Haram. Whereas beef from an animal that has not been slaughtered according to Islamic rites would still be considered Haram.
Also Haram is food that has been stolen or acquired through unethical means. Islam also prohibits the usage of any materials that are detrimental to the spiritual or mental well-being of a person, such as alcoholic drinks and drugs.
The concept of Halal in Islam has very specific motives;
- To preserve the purity of religion
- To safeguard the Islamic mentality
- To preserve life
- To safeguard property
- To safeguard future generations
- To maintain self-respect and integrity.
Islam encourages its followers to choose Halal foods. This awareness is always propagated in Muslim societies and is strengthened by the widespread knowledge extolling the virtues of consuming clean and Halal foods.
Due to advancements in food technology and distribution, Muslims are more exposed to various ingredients and manufactured foods imported into Muslim countries.
The most common of these are food additives, gelatine, emulsifiers and rennet in cheese manufacture. The Muslim community would like to know whether or not the addition, the ingredients or the finished foods contain any Haram substance.
These products can become Halal if the raw materials are Halal and the process is compatible with the Islamic way.
To determine the Halal-Haram status of foodstuffs and other material, Islam has laid general guidelines on this matter, namely:
1. All raw materials and ingredients used must be Halal.
2. Naturally Halal animals such as cattle, goats etc., must be slaughtered according to Islamic rites, the rituals specify that the act must be performed by a mentally sound Muslim, to sever the blood and respiratory channels of the animal, using a sharp cutting tool such as knife.
3. The Halal ingredients must not be mixed, or come into contact with haram materials such as products from pig or dog during storage, transport, cooking, serving etc.
It must be understood that the production of Halal food is not only beneficial to Muslims, but also to food producers, by means of increased market acceptance of their products. Manufacturers and exporters of Halal products can receive Halal certification for their products from AFIC.