Saturday, March 08, 2008

Halal Food

Recently a friend of mine went on a foreign tour. Before going there, we had discussions regarding food - what to eat and what not to eat. One thing is for sure.. muslims are damn serious when 'halal' food is concerned and they, either residing in non-muslim countries or on a visit to such countries, remain extra careful. Whether the animal was properly slaughtered (zabeeha), whether God's name was pronounced before slaughtering the animal, that it should not be pork. Things like that. Not that I mind it :p

The trouble starts when say you are in a restaurant and order food, no one knows whether its 'halal' or not. When you buy meat and it does not have a 'halal' sticker on it! When you are invited over to a non-muslim friend's place and your mind starts playing games on you regarding food! Do you tell you friend that you wont eat this food?! Do you ask him whether he pronounced God's name on it?!

Lets see what God states..

6:118 - You shall eat from that upon which GOD's name has been pronounced, if you truly believe in His revelations.

There are two main topics of discussion. 1) Whether Quran suggests that God's name should be taken when slaughtering the animal OR 2) Quran suggests that God's name should be taken before you eat! Normally muslims take the former situation as an obligation and the latter as the preferred thing to do. Mores of sorts.

When it comes to the question 'how the animal was slaughtered' then there is no information regarding that in Quran. Muslims slaughter the animals in a particular way. To quote 'The ‘slaughtering’ is to be done by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck causing the animal’s death, but without cutting the spinal cord.' Since there is no information from God regarding how the animal should be slaughtered so the choice is yours. If you think that medically its fit to eat the animal as slaughtered in the above manner, good for you. It wont become 'haram' if you ate an animal slaughtered in another way.

Now the big question is what does Quran suggest regarding taking of God's name on food.

6:121 - Do not eat from that upon which the name of GOD has not been mentioned, for it is an abomination. The devils inspire their allies to argue with you; if you obey them, you will be idol worshipers.

This is a clear injunction regarding food. Do not eat from anything on which God's name has not been mentioned. So the butcher most probably would have taken God's name and then slaughtered the animal. Very nice so far. The problem arises when you are not in an Islamic country or when you do not know whether the source of this food has taken God's name. This becomes extremely cumbersome for muslims because every effort is being spent to know the source of the food. I do not think that is so feasible. Why would God make it so difficult for muslims when they have to visit a non-muslim country or when they reside there?

There is an other view. An opinion says that since the verse uses the word 'eat' so this implies that you do not have to worry how the animal was slaughtered or whether God's name was taken on it, you just pronounce God's name before 'eating'! Sounds logical enough. But the counter argument given, and I quote "What it would mean then is that if we eat edibles without pronouncing bismillah before doing so, we will be committing clear transgression. In other words, even while eating rice, sweets, or anything, if the ritual is not adopted we will be sinners". Now God would not make life so miserable for muslims like this too! And honestly I keep forgetting saying Bismillah (In the Name of God) before eating my food!

So what is it actually? Lets probe further.

6:119 - Why should you not eat from that upon which GOD's name has been mentioned? He has detailed for you what is prohibited for you, unless you are forced. Indeed, many people mislead others with their personal opinions, without knowledge. Your Lord is fully aware of the transgressors.

So what is prohibited?

16:115 - He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and any (food) over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Verse 2:173 states the same. "I" think the answer to this lies in this verse. It states "Any food over which the name of others than Allah has been invoked". Any offering made to an entity other than God is prohibited. Its not about normal meal that you eat but rather the specific meal made as offering to gods or meal that has some religious significance to it.

Consider the following verses...

6:136 - Out of what Allah hath produced in abundance in tilth and in cattle, they assigned Him a share: they say, according to their fancies: "This is for Allah, and this" - for our "partners"! but the share of their" partners "reacheth not Allah, whilst the share of Allah reacheth their "partners" ! evil (and unjust) is their assignment!

6:138 - They said, "These are livestock and crops that are prohibited; no one shall eat them except whomever we permit," so they claimed. They also prohibited the riding of certain livestock. Even the livestock they ate, they never pronounced GOD's name as they sacrificed them. Such are innovations attributed to Him. He will surely requite them for their innovations.

6:139 - They say: "What is in the wombs of such and such cattle is specially reserved for our men, and forbidden to our women; but if it is still-born, then all have share therein. For their (false) attribution, He will soon punish them: for He is full of wisdom and knowledge.

Get the drift? So the prohibition is, in 'my' opinion, only for that food which is offering for gods and not Allah. Next time you are in a non-muslim country, do not fret over food and enjoy eating it. When a non-muslim friend of yours brings you food prepared in his home, eat it! This in no way is a suggestion that Gods name before slaughtering 'should not' be taken or not taken before eating! These are very good acts and should be done!

6:145 - Say: "I find not in the message received by me by inspiration any (meat) forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be dead meat, or blood poured forth, or the flesh of swine,- for it is an abomination - or, what is impious, (meat) on which a name has been invoked, other than Allah's". But (even so), if a person is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- thy Lord is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

God even still, makes things easy for us. You can eat it when forced by necessity, without willful disobedience and not transgressing limits!

Comments are more than welcome. I believe its a learning initiative.

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Moti Bhains said...

i've lived in the US all my life. i recently started eating non-zabeeha chicken. why did i give up? because it was impossible to not eat it.
it's obvious that you wont be able to get zabeeha meat at a non-muslim's house. if you live in places like houston, chicago, or new york, you can very easily stay with the only-eat-zabeeha-meat thing because halal food is readily available there. as for us, oh well. pork i still don't eat..

"Do you tell you friend that you wont eat this food?! Do you ask him whether he pronounced God's name on it?!"
if the friend is very close to you, he/she would know that you don't eat non-zabeeha. at their house, they would get halal meat for you. otherwise you can always tell them that you're Muslim and you don't eat non-zabeeha meat.

trust me, if people in rural-land kansas know it, new yorkers would very much understand. =]

Anonymous said...

Hmm one could eat daal if one is particular, ive found it everywhere i have been in this world, even in venice there are Indian restaurants which serve dal and chapati.

I have also seen my fellow Brother's say "NO PORK" loudly in the stewardesses face and Heineken please with a smile in the next second.

If you want to know my philosophy this is it
"Bhook lage tu sab halal hay"
Cheers and a great blog you have going!!!

PostMan said...

Thanks both of you for visiting...

1. Pork - totally out of question. No body is saying to go for pork.

2. Of course you can buy halal food these days, it is becoming ubiquitous really. What I am talking about is that its not really about 'halal' food as we know it.. Quran is talking of a more higher perspective.. perhaps we muslims can 'breathe' easy?! :p

Anonymous said...

As you state 'You can eat it when forced by necessity, without willful disobedience and not transgressing limits'. I agree. However, we need to be clear about what necessity is?! If nothing, one gets fruits, raw vegetables and other junk food quite easily at every place…so I do not really see that necessity thing fits in here. Yes at times people do not understand the connotation of Halal and Haram and give you a real bad stare so at that time or to avoid a bad situation of saying no to your friend's food, you can take refuge in posing yourself to be a vegetarian. Hehe!
The halal and haram thing doesn’t just end to meat. Man real test of your taste buds is when you see all those yummiest flavors of ice creams everywhere around and you cannot even taste them because you are not sure about them being halal. I know one argument would be that the use of wine or alcohol is prohibited if it is in such a quantity that makes you unconscious… but I dunno…somehow yes we do prohibit things on ourselves..may be fearing that if we allow ourselves to a little…we’ll go for more as well…?!?
However, yes God goes easy on you…and in extreme necessity condition or for saving your life you are allowed to eat pork even..provided you can convince yourself for that..hehe!

PostMan said...

That is my point actually! Why cant you eat ice cream?! Why the question of haram or halal in the first place! Eat it! Even if you eat tons of ice cream you'll not get intoxicated!

"If nothing, one gets fruits, raw vegetables and other junk food quite easily at every place"

Obviously its 'not' a necessity!

ossupov said...

Indonesian Muslims dont normally care whether the meat is properly slaughtered in Islamic way or not. We normally assume that as long as it's not pork then everything will be halal :) As simple as that. I used to live in Arkansas so I understand how hard it is to find halal food. It's almost impossible. I learned more about this religion since I came here. I strongly believe that God has no intention or whatsoever to make our life miserable. God just want to see the level of our commitment. Are we type of people who live this life based on our convenience? So, again it's up to us. God gives us brain to think so we decide whats best for us. I believe what's forbidden in religion is basically for our own good. Halal meat is healthier anyway - so take advantage to live healthier.

As for me, I started eating halal meat since last year, before that, I was like other mainstreamed Indonesians. Some people think that this is a sacrifice on my side, but is it a sacrifice when you do something for someone you love. For me, being a Muslim is my lifetime commitment. Not just because I am in the US then things have to be in the US ways. Well, of course, we will need to make adjustments and compromises but hey, when I am a Muslim then I will be Muslim everywhere I go. I dont give up my beliefs and values just because things are not so convenient for me. Dont get me wrong here, everybody has full right to decide how they want to live their life. No right or wrong here. Just follow your heart. No judgment here. Starting eating halal meat is my personal decision and will remain like that. I feel good, happy and helathy to live this way anyway. I dont do things just because other people do. My non muslim friends are cool with it and they respect this. The only thing I have to do is to ask and explain...and it's not painful at all. Just like when you are a vegetarian! Sorry for this crappy opinion :) Sometimes I dont really know how to illustrate my thoughts, hehehe.

PostMan said...

I think I could not convey what I wanted to say...

I assume that most of the readers of this post are getting the idea that I am looking for convenience in religion. Yeah ok :p But No!

"I dont give up my beliefs and values just because things are not so convenient for me." - Ossupov

It is not about seeking conveniences in religion! You are a muslim by eating halal food, I would still be a muslim if I ever had a chance not to eat a halal food (per se)!

This is not about beliefs.. according to my assessment, God has no where asked you to go through such acts of halal food. Its more about 'cultural mores' of muslims gaining the role of belief.

What the hell am I saying?!

Anonymous said...

I guess all religious beliefs have origins in circumstances. It is important that these circumstances be re-examined to see which guidelines are still relevant. I was born an brought up as an orthodox vegetarian but travelling abroad, I realised that though i can survive on vegetarian food, it would make practical sense if i have the flexibility to eat non vegetarian food. I now eat non - vegetarian food when necessary for survival or when courtesy to a host requires this. and I think my God understands that I am being considerate and not greedy. If he does not understand i would have to rethink ..

As for my stand for vegetarian, i do not see how one method of kill is pious and another not. As long as i kill a creature for my food, i am a killer/hunter whether by Method A or Method B as opposed to a food gatherer.

PostMan said...

My post would have attempted ,I hope, to show that its not about being vegetarian or how do you slaughter an animal... its about a different issue altogether (if one can count it as different).

If you are a vegetarian - good for you. For me, I don't have any issues being a carnivore :p

Anonymous said...

I think you missed the point. It is not about being Vegetarian. It is that if one has crossed the line as i have, and eat non veg, i do not see as you yourself say, if it matters what we kill and how. We kill and animal kingdom has a grudge : )
Happy eating to both of us.

Anonymous said...

umm...I wasn't very happy to read this post of yours. Suffice to say that Allah and His Messenger has forbidden us to indulge in anything we find doubtful...i.e. to stay away from it(There's an authentic hadith regarding it, but I do not remember word to word).
And that is why ice-creams, chips, even chocolates should be monitored when being consumed. Better to be safe than sorry on the Day of Judgement :)

PostMan said...

Thanks Annonymous..

You did not like it I know.. but at least base it on arguments :) I would appreciate that

Sophi said...

I think I am trapped somewhere :|