HALAL FOODS are foods that are permitted for Muslims. Haram foods may not be eaten by Muslims, except in times of extreme emergency.
A food is halal if:
Muslims define Najis in three ways: ritual (that is the absence of ceremonial cleansing), tolerable and intolerable. Tolerable filth includes minor but often inescapable fouling, such as the blood of mosquitoes and insects, or blood from a nose bleed. Intolerable filth includes liquor, intoxicating drugs and carrion.
A food is haram if:
The food is also said haram if it comes from a permitted animal but was not slaughtered in an acceptable way or if it was not prepared properly.
Animals that cannot be eaten by Muslims include:
Muslims carefully avoid dogs and pigs. They are not to eat their flesh, or use any part of them, or have any contact with them. Those who do have accidental contact with them are required to clean themselves with water and clay. Even their skins are not to be used, although other skins may be used for leather if they are properly tanned. The tanner need not be a Muslim.
Food ingredients like gelatin or fat, may not be consumed by Muslims unless they come from halal sources, that is permitted animals killed in the correct way or vegetable matter. Fish are halal and need not be slaughtered for Muslims to eat them. Vegetables and eggs are halal as long as they:
Bread, noodles, cheese and the like produced by non-Muslims can be eaten by Muslims if there is no suggestion that they contain haram substances.
Islam holds dear the sanctity of the human mind and it requires Muslims not to take intoxicating drinks or other substances that impair the thinking. Islam teaches that intoxicants are a means by which Satan drives man to evil, and there is enough contemporary evidence to support this.
Apart from its use in a social setting, alcohol has many uses in industry and in medicine, and this sometimes leads to confusion about what is permitted and what is not. Medicines that contain alcohol or other intoxicants can be taken if there is no other medicine available, or if an alternative medicine is less effective than the one containing alcohol.
On the other hand, alcohol itself cannot be accepted as a medicine. In Islam there is no stiff scotch to help you over your problems. The Prophet Muhammad said: God has not made a cure in what He has prohibited and that liquors are not reprieves but diseases.
This differentiation between forms of alcohol and different types of oil or meat, does not indicate an obsession with detail. It is a way of making things clear for Muslims who live in a cosmopolitan environment. Muslims living in an Islamic country can trust almost anything they buy because haram products are not generally sold there. But in a country which is open to many international influences and where there are so many consumables of unknown origin, the Muslim needs a set of guidelines.
Even then, the criteria are reasonable. A decision that this or that food is halal or haram must be based on facts that are beyond dispute. If a type of food is accepted as halal then any item of that food can be eaten. Hearsay which contradicts clear knowledge of its origins is not a sufficient basis to brand it as haram. Haram status must be proved, clearly.
Islam is a highly practical religion so that once the rules for religious hygiene have been observed, the rule of common sense comes into play. For example if animals killed in the Muslim way are placed with other carcasses they are still acceptable, provided they can be clearly identified and cleaned if they come into contact with the other meat.
However, hotel kitchens which also serve Muslims should ensure that halal food is kept separate from other foods in the kitchen and that it is stored separately. Utensils used for non-halal foods are not to be used in the preparation or serving of food for Muslims until they have been washed so that no taste, smell or colour of the unlawful food remains.
In the case of utensils used to serve pork, the requirements include ritual cleansing with water and clay by a qualified Muslim. However, this will be done only if it is known for certain that particular utensil, out of the many in the kitchen, is the one that was used to serve pork.
Even some Muslims believe that, in cases where the origin or preparation of the food is in doubt, saying God's name over it is enough to make it lawful. It is an area of Islamic law where there has been some confusion.
Firstly, Muslims must be absolutely sure that what they are eating is permissible. If they have been told that the meat has been properly slaughtered, but nonetheless have private doubts, they may invoke the name of God and eat it without guilt. There was at least one occasion when Muhammad gave this advice to his companions. But he also advised that it was best not to eat food of doubtful origin.
The slaughtering of animals is a precise procedure in Islam because of the need to ensure clean and healthy meat. The animal is killed by cutting the windpipe, the gullet and the jugular vein so that as much blood as possible will be released from the animal before it is completely dead.
Muslims may eat meat slaughtered in the Islamic way by the People of the Book. The People of the Book are Jews and Christians who are direct descendants or followers of the Prophet Moses and the Prophet Jesus. They once received Revelation from God and the requirements of slaughter, shared by Islam, are also found in their Scriptures. If these requirements are observed (more commonly by the Jews these days) Muslims may eat meat slaughtered by Jews and Christians. Still, if the animal is not killed in the proper way - even by a Muslim - it is not acceptable. Additionally, it must be stressed that the animal must be of halal origin, that is not a pig or other forbidden animal.
The Prophet Muhammad insisted that a sharp object must be used to inflict a precise cut, so that the animals need not suffer unnecessarily. The original stipulation was that the instrument was not to be made of nails, teeth or bones, which do not hold an edge. The knife should be cleaned after every killing, or different knives should be used. The Prophet's concern that animals should not suffer needlessly outlaws the practice of some modern butchers of putting an animal into boiling water, after its throat has been cut but while it is still alive.
The animal that is being slaughtered is made to face the direction of Mecca, which is the physical centre of Islam and the point to which every Muslim faces during prayer. After the cut has been made, the animal must be rested until it dies. Animals that are sedated or made unconscious by injections or electrical shocks can be slaughtered legitimately, as long as it is clear that they die through the butcher's knife, and not the injections or shocks.