Someone shared the following photograph with me this morning and I felt I should remind people of the problems of not knowing what is halal and the pitfalls of consumerism. We all know a pig cannot be halal or kosher yet here is a product image that clear has taken the label halal too far. It could be a genuine error out of ignorance or a technical glitch or it could be part of the insatiable appetite to make more money or maximizing profit driven by naked greed. Either way, it is totally inexcusable. Companies should not exploit this label and consumers should know better.
I have put together a quick ten points that you should know when you hear the phrase “halal” next time:
1. The Quran does lot talk about Halal food on its own. It couples the word Halal with another word Tayyib. Muslim are only allowed to eat food including meat that are Halal and Tayyib.
2. Halal means permissible and Tayyib means wholesome. Muslims are only allowed to eat food that heals and not eat food that harms. Any harmful food would be deemed impermissible including smoking, taking drugs, drinking alcohol, excessive sugar etc. Food that harms include pig meat, meat of animals that have not been slaughtered but died, blood as well as addictive substances such as narcotics, cigarette, vape, shiha, and all forms of intoxicants. Muslims are instructed to not eat or drink food that are detrimental to their physical and spiritual health.
3. Muslims are only allowed to eat meat from animals that have predominantly vegetarian diet. These mainly include cattle such as goats, sheep, cows and camels or animals with similar characteristics. The more tame and earthly characteristics are found in these categories of animals the more they are considered to be compatible to human characters.
4. Muslims are not allowed to eat meat from animals that come from dog or cat families, pig, vermin, rodents and scavengers and strongly discouraged from eating meat from animals that are used for work or carriage such donkeys or horses.
5. Muslims are only allowed to eat meat of animals that have been bred, reared, kept, fed and treated ethically. Battery farmed and caged chickens or animals that have been fed offal or injected with growth hormones would be considered problematic as it breaches the “halal and tayyib” codes. Animals that we eat must be fed vegetarian diet or we face the increasing risk of contracting diseases such as mad cow disease, CJD and foot and mouth disease.
6. Muslims are not allowed to inflict unnecessary pain on the animals while alive or in the process of slaughter. The animal that is being slaughtered must be slaughtered away from the sight or hearing of other animals and the sharpest knife must be used for the smoothest cut. Causing distress in other animals is against the teachings of the faith.
7. The Islamic method of slaughter is more humane as it requires the severing of the artery that carries the pain signal to the brain. Once severed the animal is no longer aware of what is happening. Stunning may incapacitate an animal but it does not stop the brain from sending signals to the body and body sending pain alerts to brain. Stunning could also kill the animal before it is slaughtered, thus rendering it prohibited.
8. Islamic method of slaughter is cleaner. Animals blood carries most of the bacteria and by severing the artery while the heart is still pumping you maximise on the possibility of most of the blood being drained. However, stunning either kills the animal before slaughter and thus the blood sets inside the body of the animal or incapacitates the animal such that when it is actually slaughtered it no longer has the natural reflexes fully functioning to drain maximum amount of blood.
9. Muslims are required to show respect to animals that they are killing to eat by not adopting mechanical slaughter. When you hand slaughter an animal the warmth of the animals body, its warm blood over your hands and the sound of the heart beat that you hear will make you forever humble and appreciative of the sacrifice that the animals have made – it has given its life for you to live. This will change your attitude towards animals forever and more likely to reduce your meat consumption dramatically.
10. Muslims are not allowed to waste or eat excessively. Muslims are advised to eat one third fill of their stomach with solid, one third with liquid and leave the rest for air. Binge eating is frowned upon and gluttony is forbidden. It is forbidden for Muslims to waste their food. And they are strongly encouraged to share their food with their neighbours and those in need.
Islamic philosophy behind food is governed by the belief that God is the provider of all sustenance and provisions. We eat to live and we don’t live to eat. Our food consumption is part of our recognition of God’s grace and thanks giving. Our approach to food is governed by strict ethical and moral parameters. We don’t over fish to deplete the fish stock in the sea and we don’t over consume meat such that we suffer from heart disease or become clinically obese. We are responsible for creating a sustainable approach to food production and comsumption. Our relationship between food and God is intertwined such that those who do not show appreciation and humility to the animals do not actually show respect and gratitude to God.
We are what we eat and this is the bottom. Islam teaching us that if we eat animals that have terrible traits including aggression, selfishness and filthiness it is most likely that we will inherit such grotesque attributes in our characters. Food is part of our physical and spiritual growth, so eat the right food and your growth will be wholesome and sound and eat the wrong food and your growth is going to be rotten.
I think British public should change their attitude towards food and drink and take up the “Halal and Tayyib” philosophy. I believe we will reduce obesity, coronary heart disease, cruelty to animals, depleting fish stock in the sea and certainly lessen the burden on the National Health Service (NHS) and state. The environmental degradation by over farming and over eating is colossal, in some cases we are reaching the point of no return in the damage to the environment because of our bad and careless eating and drinking habits.
The saddest part is that many Muslims are the worst examples of their faith today. Obesity and wastefulness has overtaken many of the Muslim countries around the world while millions die of hunger and lack of clean water on a daily basis. So before I invite the world to take up Islamic eating and drinking philosophy and lifestyle, I should remind the Muslims that they are being terrible ambassadors of their faith and lifestyle. Many Muslims today have abandoned the “Halal and Tayyib” ideals and have embraced gluttony, wastefulness and food junkie attitudes. It is a great shame!
You do not have to be a Muslim to eat sensibly and by eating and drinking in the Muslim style you will not be automatically converted to Islam. I think the world should adopt “Halal and Tayyib” philosophy in its food and drinking habits and we will certainly see a monumental improvement in our personal health and environmental health. So stay calm and eat “Halal and Tayyib”.
Written By : Ajmal Masroor