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Friday, July 04, 2014

What is Halal?

Halal and Haram rules our lives without us knowing and it governs our behaviour. Here we wish to examine the different facets of Halal/lawful in our lives. Halal is something that is lawful to consume in terms of food or in terms of action, clothes, jobs and other things something to do.

Haram is the unlawful which is very easy in terms of food; pork, consumption of blood, unslaughtered meat and human products, any job that involves interest transactions and so forth.


We advised a friend to look for the suitable for vegetarian signs about food. Due to packaging regulations food companies have to abide by what the ingredients they list or face prosecution.

My friends question do we have to look for them? As long as we check that there is no pork in them, should that no be sufficient? Well it would be in most cases but there are instances where we cannot know all the ingredients. Looking for the 'suitable of vegetarian' makes sense. You see there are ingredients such as E numbers which are not lawful/Halal. L-Cystine which is human hair is not lawful to consume. This is commonly found in pastry or wraps despite the suitable for vegetarian sign. Vegetarians seem to have little complaint  about eating human hair! Though it could be classed as highly disliked/makruh tahrima. As only the consumption of human flesh would be unlawful totally.

He was beginning to question a system that many had used for years. As it was, to my mind at least, a full proof method. Look for the suitable for vegetarian sign and then check the ingredients for alcohol, meat and pork.


There are other items such as rennet which there is disagreement on. The Shafi's do not allow it and the Hanafi's allow it. Hanafi's allow products or medicine which contain alcohol when they have had their intoxicant quality altered. Like in beans or sauces. This is the same for deodorant sprays or cremes, which is allowed because they are synthetic and not the fermented type. Though some scholars, from the indo pak region, do not allow it because of the word alcohol. As they do not differentiate between synthetic alcohol which is not the same as fermented alcohol. So be aware of this when you hear speakers.

Shoes and clothes

The tanning process cleans all animals that have been killed for their meat. (source Quduri ) Whether they have been Islamically slaughtered or not is irrelevant. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) was given leather socks of an animal that was not Islamically slaughtered and wore them. So its lawful for you to buy that leather jacket as long you do not act like the Fonz (see Happy days Tv show).

One thing that you have to be aware of is pig skin in leather products. This is very true about shoes. Now this is little tricky because you have to look for three dots together which is a sign of pig flesh. This link has some good information of how to spot pig flesh.  

If you find them then get rid of them because they will do your body harm. The only time in which pig meat is allowed is in a situation of life and death. For example there is no food except pork and if you do not eat it then you will die. Someone is lost in the desert for example. Then you can only eat what will keep you alive and no more; and you do not say bismillah/In the name of Allah.

Gold is lawful for women but unlawful for men. Why because it makes men effeminate. Silk is also unlawful in ties for men but they have to check if the silk is real or synthetic.

Also bear in mind soaps and washing materials. Please see Astonish cleaning products which are better for the environment and suitable for us.

Making the unlawful lawful

This is a dangerous game that some play. They think by saying bismillah changes the product or the thing from unlawful to lawful. Newsflash it does not change anything its unlawful nature stays the same. Also according to Abu Hanifah in Fiqh Al-Akbar, a person leaves Islam. Because of his desire to make the unlawful lawful. Like someone taking a bottle of wine and saying bismillah over it. It does not change it into Halal and you have committed a major sin! Major sins only make one leave Islam with this intention otherwise they do not. Someone who drinks alcohol has sinned but not left Islam. So do not play this game which is like playing with fire, literally in the next world.


Jobs need to Halal also. Which means that you cannot involve yourself in interest, betting, any transaction of unlawful product, cheat or deceive when making transactions to the government or anyone else. You have to be honest or else that money is unlawful. Money is the only thing one is asked about twice; how we earned and spent it. All unlawful income belongs to the fire.

Non Muslims view of Halal/Haram

Now many of you reading this live in the west. So when we ask a non Muslim if something is Halal or not. Do not expect them to understand because in all likelihood they will have no concept of it. Of course why should they when we don't understand it! How could they? So it's better to declare yourself as vegetarian thus saving you from a puzzled look from a unsuspecting person. So bear that mind parents who have children in schools who are unable to differentiate between food. Tell the schools they are vegetarians and the job is done.

Also declaring yourself as tea totaled might save you from the office party where alcohol is consumed. Know that the only thing necessary for a disbeliever is faith and their sins can be forgiven if they accept Islam. But we will be punished if we do not explain our religion correctly. Explaining Halal and haram is easily done. 

Say that we can only consume meat that has been slaughtered  according to traditional methods akin to the kosher meat of the Jews. It's almost the same method which has been used for many century. We cannot eat pig meat because its deemed unlawful by the Quran and the Bible. As there are many toxins and diseases that are not removed after cooking at certain temperatures. Is this not a contributing factor to the rise of cancer in the west?

Non Muslims are advised to consider Muslims as vegetarians when they purchase food for them. Please do not offended when we refuse food because its not suitable for veggies.

Animal slaughter

Animals that are lawful to consume have to be traditionally slaughtered. This method sounds brutal but the animal is dead within three to seven seconds. When the throat is cut death is instantaneous. This is not the same as stunning because it does not cause death instantly. As the process (stunning) needs to be repeated and this causes great distress to the animal. 

That pre-packed piece of meat, in the supermarket, might have been distressed greatly before death. However when meat is slaughtered correctly is more humane than stunning. As the time of stunning is different depending on the size of the animal. There is a possibility that the animal might still be aware when it is cut up because the stunning is not as effective as slaughtering. The most humane way is to make sure that the animal does not suffer needlessly or for an extending period of time; both which are possible in stunning. 

When an animal is slaughtered death is within three to seven seconds because of heavy blood loss. And there is no need of repeating the process but with stunning there can be a need because the animal is not dead yet. Because of the uncertainty of stunning, the death and suffering of the animal have lead scholars to declare stunning highly disliked. As a consequence many non-Muslims do not eat meat because of the process than the conditions of the animals in abattoirs. So why should we as Muslims change from a method that is tried and tested? To a method many people do not like themselves!

At the same time someone can see the state of some slaughter houses and find a lot to be desired. This because of people who are more interested in profits rather doing the job correctly. The stunning concerns the chicken rather than other animals. 

Please note Muslims cannot eat meat that non Muslims sell in supermarkets. As it is not food from the people of the book as the meat is slaughtered by atheists therefore unlawful. There is no excuse in consuming this food. If you live far away from Muslims then make good use of a freezer. Personally I do not accept the reported news that some meat that supermarkets sell is halal.

Halal and pure

The Quran tells us to consume the "Halal and pure." Now these two parts are essentially one set of rulings; Halal and pure. Halal meaning lawful and pure meaning there is no harm to one health. Now you cannot separate the lawful from the pure by saying something is pure and therefore permissible. Nothing that is pure that is not Halal is not lawful. This is logical fallacy because it has to Halal and if it isn't then it's not lawful and its purity is disregarded!

Although there are times when something is Halal but not pure like that cheese burger dripping with fat! It might be Halal but it's not pure! A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips!


It's very difficult for people to come from the Muslim world to the west. Where everything was lawful to consume, to another world where you have to check everything. He is not used to checking anything, he just picked up what he wanted without giving it a second thought. So tell him what he needs to look for and advise him.

Eating at McDonalds in the west is clearly unlawful because they do not separate oils when frying nor do the Milk shakes contain lawful substances etc. But when you are in the Muslim world this picture changes. Because its lawful because government regulations do not allow anything Haram to be sold! So bear that in mind if you want it your way in Saudi! (Burger King motto!) With the exception of alcohol and supermarkets selling pork.

Further study

Please look into this field a little deeper by looking at the chapters of Hadar wa Ibah or Halal wa Haram in the books of fiqh. This is a very large section and it covers many fields. Ask a trusted scholar about further study in this field. We have not spoken deeply about means of earning a livelihood or other matters. Halal and Haram encompasses our entire lives and if we get this right; how great of an act of worship would that be!

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