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What Is Halal?
A Guide For Non-Muslims.

There is currently a great deal of interest in understanding the term ‘Halal’ and its importance to Muslims.

There are over 600,000 Muslims in Australia, who have come from over 70 countries all around the world.

Muslims believe in the one God. Allah is the Arabic word for God, and Muslims believe in all the Prophets including Jesus, Moses, Abraham and others including Muhammad, peace be upon them.

Halal 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 haraam. The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law.

What is Halal?

Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Qur’an (the Muslim scripture).

The opposite of halal is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life. These terms are commonly used in relation to 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 which are not clear.

Further information is needed to categorise them as halal or haram. Such items are often referred to as mashbooh which means doubtful or questionable.

Definition

In general every food is considered halal in Islam unless it is specially prohibited by the Qur’an or the Hadith . By official definition, halal foods are those that are:

  1. Free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to Islamic law (Shariah).

  2. Processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery that have been cleansed according to Islamic law.

Muslims eat to maintain a strong and healthy physique in order to be able to contribute their knowledge and effort for the welfare of the society. Muslims are supposed to make an effort to obtain the best quality nutritionally. It is mentioned in a Hadith that the prayer of a person is rejected by Allah if the food consumed is prohibited (haram).

All foods are considered halal except the following (which are haram):

  • Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
  • Non-Halal Animal Fat
  • Enzymes* (Microbial Enzymes are permissible)
  • Gelatine* – from non-Halal source (fish gelatine is Halal)
  • L-cysteine (if from human hair)
  • Lard
  • Lipase* (only animal lipase need be avoided)
  • Non-Halal Animal Shortening
  • Pork, Bacon / Ham and anything from pigs
  • Unspecified Meat Broth
  • Rennet* (All forms should be avoided except for plant / microbial /
  • synthetic – rennet obtained from halal slaughtered animal is
  • permissible).
  • Stock* (a blend of mix species broth or meat stock)
  • Tallow* (non-Halal species)
  • Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
  • Foods contaminated with any of the above products

(may be consumed is derived from Halal animals).

Halal / Haraam

Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavours are questionable, because the origin of these ingredients is not known.

In the meat and poultry food industry, animals such as cows, veal, lamb, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, game birds, bison, venison, etc, are considered halal, but they must be prepared according to Islamic laws in order for their meat to be suitable for consumption.

Fish and seafood (with the exception of crocodiles, alligators and frogs) are generally acceptable for Muslims but as always check first, as there may be a personal dietary preference or allergy.

The preparation of the fish or seafood should not include alcohol (ie beer batter or wine, or anything considered haram). In cases of necessity, prohibited things may become permissible (halal) for the duration of the emergency or need, as Islam puts a priority on life over death. Refer to Qur’an at Chapter 2:173 (Al Baqarah).

Life Is Sacred

Islam places great emphasis in the way in which an animal’s life ends, which has to be in accordance with Islamic regulations.

Life is a sacred blessing of God to creation, animals as well as humans. If the life of an animal has to be ended for human survival, then its life should only be taken in the name of God. Hence, the phrase bismillah (‘in the name of God’) must be uttered just before slaughtering an animal. 

Muslims cannot consume the meat of animals that are sacrificed in a name other than God. Any animal slaughtered in the name of a person alive or dead, any deity or idol will be considered as haram and therefore it is not permissible for Muslims to consume that meat.

Conclusion

Islam is not only a religion it is a way of life with protocols, rules and manners governing every facet of life. Since food is an important part of daily life, food laws carry a special significance.

Muslims are expected to eat for survival, to maintain good health and not to live for eating. In Islam, eating is considered to be a matter of worship of God like prayer, fasting, alms-giving and other religious activities.