Culture Faith Opinion

What are halal foods?

Atiya Aftab, center, picks up her Ramadan meat order from her butcher shop, Chops and Steaks Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in North Brunswick, N.J. For Muslims, the monthlong Ramadan holiday that began Wednesday night marks the holiest time of the year, a time for ritual fasting during the day and oftentimes a large meal among friends and family after sundown. For butcher shop owners, it marks a time of even higher vigilance to make sure that the meat they’re selling to customers as the ritually approved halal is exactly that. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(The Conversation) — During the month of Ramadan, for 30 days, Muslims who choose to fast will neither eat nor drink during daylight hours. At night, when they break their fast, many will only choose foods that are considered permissible under Islamic law. The Arabic word for such food is “halal.”

The halal food industry in the United States is expanding rapidly. A growing Muslim population, along with younger non-Muslim customers who consume these foods for non-religious reasons, drove overall sales to a whopping US$20 billion in 2016, a 15 percent increase since 2012.

To clarify, most foods do come under the category of halal for Muslims. However, under Islamic law, the following are not considered permissible: blood, alcohol and other intoxicants, pork, meat of carnivorous animals like wolves or coyotes, birds of prey such as vultures, amphibians, snakes, and animals that live on land and water like frogs. Meat and poultry are considered halal only if the animals are conscious when slaughtered and bleed out before they die.

To determine which foods are halal, Islamic jurisprudence draws on three religious sources: passages in the Quran, the sayings and customs of the Prophet Muhammad, which were written down by his followers and are called “Hadith” and rulings by recognized religious scholars.

One verse in the Quran says, “He [Allah] has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah.”

This Quranic verse merely states that animals are unfit to eat if slaughtered in the name of deities other than Allah, but jurists have further ruled that animals must be slaughtered in the name of Allah and by a faithful Muslim. Jurists don’t always agree however. For example, most jurists have ruled that shellfish is halal. Others disagree.

Though no federal laws regulate the use of the label “halal” on food products, states such as California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas restrict the use of this label to foods that meet Islamic religious requirements. Various private Muslim organizations also oversee the production and certification of halal products.

The ConversationRamadan is a time set aside to celebrate and reflect on one’s relationship with Allah. For many Muslims, this includes respecting Islamic law by making sure that halal foods await them at the end of each day’s fast.

(Myriam Renaud is a PhD Candidate in Religious Thought and Ethics at the University of Chicago. This article was originally published on The Conversation.)

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  • Halal and kosher require the animal be alive when the throat is slit. Is this humane?

  • 2 Corinthians 10 – 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[d] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

  • From Sir Salman Rushdie’s book “Satanic Verses”, p. 376, paperback issue – for those 1 billion Muslims to read as they are forbidden to purchase or read said book:

    One of the passages that prompted the crazy Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa against Sir Rushdie:

    Mahound = Mohammed
    Gibreel = Gabriel

    “The faithful lived by lawlessness, but in those years Mahound – or should one say the Archangel Gibreel? – should one say Al-Lah? – became obsessed by law.

    Amid the palm-trees of the oasis Gibreel appeared to the Prophet and found himself spouting rules, rules, rules, until the faithful could scarcely bear the prospect of any more revelation, Salman said, rules about every damn thing, if a man farts let him turn his face to the wind, a rule about which hand to use for the purpose of cleaning one’s behind.

    It was as if no aspect of human existence was to be left unregulated, free. The revelation – the recitation- told the faithful how much to eat, how deeply they should sleep, and which sexual positions had received divine sanction, so that they learned that sodomy and the missionary position were approved of by the archangel, whereas the forbidden postures included all those in which the female was on top.

    Gibreel further listed the permitted and forbidden subjects of conversation, and earmarked the parts of the body which could not be scratched no matter how unbearably they might itch.

    He vetoed the consumption of prawns, those bizarre other-worldly creatures which no member of the faithful had ever seen, and required animals to be killed slowly, by bleeding, so that by experiencing their deaths to the full they might arrive at an understanding of the meaning of their lives, for it is only at the moment of death that living creatures understand that life has been real, and not a sort of dream.

    And Gibreel the archangel specified the manner in which a man should be buried, and how his property should be divided, so that Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God this was that sounded so much like a businessman.

    This was when he had the idea that destroyed his faith, because he recalled that of course Mahound himself had been a businessman, and a damned successful one at that, a person to whom organization and rules came naturally, so how excessively convenient it was that he should have come up with such a very businesslike archangel, who handed down the management decisions of this highly corporate, if noncorporeal, God.”

  • A freedom-of-religion country is where we are permitted to be kind to people of goodwill without necessarily endorsing particular scripture or belief systems. I hope we do that in practice as well as in theory—-Non-Muslims to Muslims and vice versa.

  • This is an article about butchering meat for consumption. There isn’t anything about food sacrificed or offered to any idols. Muslims and Jews have similar laws regarding what meat they eat.

    You can’t really say the same about eating food in many Asian restaurants. Look around for the idol, it is usually there. The food served in these restaurants is dedicated to the god represented by the idol each day.

  • All animals are alive when they are killed.

    Many consider killing animals in any form inhumane.

  • ” but jurists have further ruled that animals must be slaughtered in the name of Allah and by a faithful Muslim.” offered to demons

  • So when the millions of Arabic speaking Christians pray, in your opinion, they are not praying to God.

  • Another pearl clutching moment for church ladies everywhere. Their motto: Fear the different and force that fear upon the weak willed.

  • Wait, I’ve read about food sacrifices in your book when I was child being forced fed biased dogma. Why is this not being performed, according to your book?

  • Off subject but I was fortunate to witness an extended Muslim family break their fast…and it was absolutely beautiful. To think that they gather like that, as frequently as possible and sometimes invite non Muslim guests, every night for the period of Ramadan, we were quite moved.

  • Sandinwindsor professes to be Christian.

    In what Christian book did you read about food sacrifices?

    Or do you think she is Jewish?

  • The rules of halal, like those for kosher foods, are mostly based in good health practices, as they were understood in ancient times. How animals are to be slaughtered, for example, is to ensure that meat for consumption isn’t rancid or putrified.

    There’s nothing sinister about any of this, but that will never convince people determined to demonize those whose beliefs don’t match their own.

  • Hi, Rockchalk,
    I’m glad that I found you here. I really miss the NCR conversations…
    I’m glad that you posted your comment. It’s amazing to me why people would see fit to attack halal rules. Those Catholics who see sinister here ought to realize that there are many in the Evangelical right who consider many Catholic practices to be sinister.

  • Note that the deluded Christian nutcase, bigot, and NRA shill presenting himself in this thread as “Bob Arnzen” variously and dishonestly uses a variety of names on RNS such as Bob Arnzen, José Carioca, and others. However, there is actually no real Bob Arnzen, and there is no real José Carioca.

    It is recommended that you refer to him and reply to him stating his name as “Bobosé”, “Bobby-Jo”, or just “snowflake”.

    The account for this present post is used as a parody of “Bob Arnzen”.

  • Hi, Alexandra! It’s great to hear from an old NCR friend!

    I post here every now and then, but it isn’t the same. Besides the ‘my way or the highway’ Catholics, there are a couple of new types of bigots on this site — intolerant fundamentalists and insufferable atheists. I don’t know which are more annoying.

    On the other hand, there are also some lovely, tolerant folks of all stripes who seem willing to engage in interesting conversation.

    But some things never change. For those who’ve decided to see others as enemies, no amount of logic is ever convincing. I guess the best we can do is speak truth as we see it, and hope we run across those of like mind.

  • “The food served in these restaurants is dedicated to the god represented by the idol each day.”

    Sort of…ish.

    When you see the little figure of a cat with its paw in the air in Chinese and Japanese restaurants, it is not representing a god at all. Its simply a token of good luck based on folklore

    The fat smiling guy is a a version of Buddha. Japanese Shinto has incorporated him as a god, but Buddhist belief where it came from would not.

  • It is sad that you persist in creating new fake accounts

    after Disqus closes them one at a time for violating the prohibition against “Impersonation — misrepresents themselves as someone else”. Eventually Disqus will block your url and you’ll have to go to a public library to post.

    There is no Ben in Oakland, there is no Pope Hilarius II, there is no Moderator DC, there is no NoMoreBadTown, there is no PsiCop, and there is no Kangaroo52 because there is no ban on using pen names to avoid personal harassment, which is also a violation of Disqus terms of use.

    If you were able to carry on an actual discussion based on facts and reason we would not be reading your post, which makes clear who the deluded nutcase, bigot, etc. really is.

  • Are you being obtuse on purpose? We generally kill the animals or stun cows, for example, before we butcher. Slitting an conscious animal’s throat is cruel and this has to be taken into account.

  • But it is their religious requirement for butchering meat, it isn’t likely going to change.

    And it isn’t any different than what is done by millions of US hunters every year. Their shot, by riffle or bow, rarely kill the animal, just brings it down. Then the hunter administers the coup de grace, by slicing the conscious animal’s throat and letting it bleed out.

  • The food sacrifices in the Jewish Temple periods were all food. It provided the food that sustained the Levitical priests and their families.

  • Actually it does bear on the matter, as many Muslims apparently don’t think Christians pray to the same deity.

    That supports her argument.

  • In spite of the fact that someone has stirred the Muslims in one of the largest Muslim population nations doesn’t change the fact that isn’t Islamic belief about Christians.

  • Had you read the articles you would have noted that it spread from Malaysia to other countries, that it was a Sharia opinion supported by imams, and that therefore at least these Muslims believe that Allah is different than the Christian deity.

    Which supports her contention.

  • You are right that I do at times, then He kicks me in the pants and brings me back to reality – Him.

  • OK, I submit. The modern fact that a few 100 million Muslims today no longer believe what the rest of the Muslim world believes today or what Muslims have believed throughout the history of Islam, including Mohammed, is now a fact of life.

  • It’s sad that these sites draw bigots. I’m not quite sure what they think that they are going to achieve. But maybe their purpose is disruption.

  • Sounds like you’ve identified something Judaism, Christianity and Islam all agree upon: do not eat meat that was sacrificed to idols.

  • I have been to a vegetarian Indian restaurant that is certified kosher but also has a very large cow statue in the waiting area. I can only assume the certifying rabbi either hasn’t seen it or found a way to rule it wasn’t a problem.
    On the other hand, I’ve also been to a vegan restaurant that had a Buddha figurine in the waiting area, and heard through the grapevine that the statue was a sticking point on its kosher certification.

  • Even if you think that Islam is a secretly pagan religion, it does not have idols, which in strictest parlance refers to the statues themselves and not particular deities.

  • they follow an idol. God (Christ) does not want Christians and Jews annihilated.

  • As I noted above, I’ve always wondered about those cat figurines. I haven’t been to a kosher Chinese restaurant in a while, at least one with a largely Orthodox clientele, but I will look next time. I have a feeling they won’t have them out of customer sensibility, regardless of whether it’s a god.

  • Sandi’s argument is that Islam is a demonic pagan death cult, not merely that there are theological differences between Jesus and Allah.

  • Good point about the customer sensibility!

    Also one you may have seen in sushi places, but not widely recognized is the tanuki (raccoon dog)

    Kind of the “lawn jockey” of Japan which depicts a real animal which was made the subject of folklore. Kind of like depicting a wolf but from “Little Red Riding Hood” as opposed to an actual one. *

    *also seen in Super Mario 3