This is a question that comes up once in a while. Let us take the time to provide a thorough analysis. In Islam, halal means ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’ and refers to all matters of life, not just food. So, Islamically, it is proper to refer to pure foods, marriage to a person whose bloodline is sufficiently far from one’s own bloodline, and having marital relations during the nights of Ramadan as being halal. In the same light, it is proper to refer to pork, marriage to your sister or brother, and marital acts performed between dawn and sunset – a.k.a., the fasting hours – during the month of Ramadan, as haram. In fact, any knowingly shameful deed is considered haram.
When it comes to meat and poultry, Muslims also use the term zabiha (dhabiha) to refer to meat from a halal animal slaughtered by a Muslim in the prescribed Islamic way. (Meat from haram animals does not become halal, even if it is slaughtered in the prescribed Islamic way and a Muslim would never slaughter a haram animal.) Conversely, kosher is a term associated only with food. It has a similar meaning as halal does in the context of food, but there are also many differences. Some of the differences are listed below:
- Islam prohibits all intoxicants, including alcohols, liquors and wines, whereas Judaism regards alcohol and wines as kosher. Hence kosher foods may contain alcohol. If they do, they are considered haram in Islam.
- Gelatin is considered kosher by many Jews regardless of its source of origin. For Muslims, if gelatin is prepared from swine it is haram. Even if gelatin is prepared from cows that are not zabiha, many scholars consider it haram.
- Kosher practice does not require Jews to pronounce the name of God on the animals while slaughtering, but Muslims must pronounce the name of ALLAH on all animals while in the act of slaughtering.
- There are other differences between halal and kosher that make some kosher products haram or questionable with respect to Muslim consumption.
These differences may seem minor to some. However, indulging in acts or cuisine that is haram is a very serious offense against ALLAH. Consuming alcohol or pork is a clear violation of ALLAH’s commandments and should not be taken lightly. The pronouncement of the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter is an act of worship and obedience in its own right. Not only is this pronouncement an act of worship of the most high unto itself, it also is the key to many blessings and bounties. Muslims and non-Muslims alike can taste the difference in meat slaughtered in a benign, humane manner and meat slaughtered while foregoing the rite’s inherent compassion to the animal.
And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
Mono and di-glycerides are fatty substances that are used as emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are compounds used to keep oils or fats and water dispersed in one phase (i.e., they prevent oil and water from separating).Mono and di-glycerides can be derived from animal or vegetable sources. When derived from vegetable sources, they are halal. When derived from animal sources, they are questionable. More information is required to determine if they are halal.Halal consumers should avoid products containing mono- and diglycerides unless they are labeled as 100% vegetable mono- and diglycerides. Mono- and diglycerides are used in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, peanut butter, margarine, shortening, and other products.And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
ISO 9000 is another quality management system that fits in well with the concept of halal. Implementing ISO 9000 demonstrates the producer’s desire to produce consistent quality products. When implementing a Halal Certification program, the certifying agency will incorporate specific halal procedures within the ISO procedures. ISO alone does not make a product halal, and a halal product can be made without ISO.
Chocolate liquor is a viscous liquid obtained by the grinding of cocoa nibs from the cocoa bean*. It is used in making candy, drinks and other chocolate-flavored products. It does not contain any alcohol, so it is not haram.
And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
*Source: Halal Food Production, Mian N. Riaz & Muhammad M. Chaudry, CRC Press
Lecithin is an emulsifier. It is found in plants such as soybeans, in egg yolks and in other animal sources. As discussed below, emulsifiers are compounds used to keep oils or fats and water dispersed in one phase (i.e., they prevent oil and water from separating).If the lecithin is derived from plants, egg yolks or halal animals slaughtered according to Islamic law, it is Halal. Otherwise it is not. While most lecithin produced in the USA is currently derived from soybeans, it is still possible it might come from animal sources.Unless the ingredient label says soya lecithin or vegetable lecithin, you need to check with the producer to determine the source.And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
Yellow No. 5 and all other numbered dyes (colors) are made from petrochemicals. In their pure form, they are halal. However, when used in food products they may be mixed with other doubtful or haram ingredients, such as gelatin. Sometimes non-dye ingredients may be added to dissolve or disperse the dye so that it can be applied in a drink, hard candy, or other food product. Finally, standardizing ingredients may also be added to help control the concentration of the dye being used. This causes some doubt about products containing these dyes.To determine if the product containing the dye is halal, you should ask the manufacturer of the product what the other components of the dye are and from where they come. Of course, if the product containing the dye is certified halal, then it would be acceptable.And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
The production of cheese requires the use of enzymes to coagulate or curdle the milk and the addition of other ingredients for various functions. The enzymes can be derived from animal, vegetable, or microbial sources. The animal sources include pigs and cattle. The enzyme derived from pigs is called pepsin and is haram. Another enzyme derived from pigs or small cattle is lipase. (Lipase can also be made by microorganisms, which is halal.) One of the enzymes derived from the inner lining of the fourth stomach of calves is called rennet. It may come from Zabiha calves or non-Zabiha calves. The enzyme can also be produced by microbial methods. Microbial enzymes are not derived from meat and are halal.Rennet is a crude preparation containing dried, ground linings of the calf stomach. The active enzyme is called chymosin. Today, purified chymosin is also manufactured through genetic modifications of microorganisms when the chymosin gene from a calf is duplicated and inserted into microbial cells. Calf rennet is still used by specialty cheese manufacturers. Moreover, pig enzymes, such as lipase, are still used in high flavor, ripened cheeses, like romano.Today, most cheeses in the North American markets are questionable. However, IFANCA Pakistan has certified some specialty cheeses. Most cheese products do not list the source of the enzyme, so one must ask the producer from where the enzyme comes. Of course, it is possible the source will change without notification.Finally, cheese products may contain many other ingredients, each of which must also be examined.And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
IFANCA Pakistan assumes the question concerns restaurants in predominantly non-Muslim societies.
There are three basic considerations: one is the meat or poultry itself, another is the method of preparation and segregation of halal versus haram meat in the same preparation area and the third is the other items that combine to make up the meal.
Let us consider the meat and poultry itself. There are some who interpret the ayah about the food of the People of the Book (Ahlul Kitab) to mean Muslims can eat the meat of halal animals slaughtered by Christians and/or Jews. Others take the ayah about not eating meat that has not been slaughtered with the recitation of the name of ALLAH to mean if Ahlul Kitab do not recite the name of ALLAH during slaughter, thereby making their methods of slaughter unacceptable for consumption by Muslims. There does not seem to be a consensus. Still others add the hadith that what is halal is clear, and what is haram is clear, and that between these two ends are unclear things. The hadith tells us that whoever avoids these unclear matters protects himself from committing sin, and whoever does not avoid them may fall into sin unknowingly. These individuals feel that if a food item is not clearly halal, then it is best to avoid it.
After all this is said, it may still leave room for personal consideration. At IFANCA Pakistan, we have decided that we shall not certify meat that is slaughtered without Tasmiyyah – the recitation of the name of ALLAH – so we would not certify the meat and poultry used in most of these fast food restaurants.
As to the final matter of preparation and segregation, most restaurants serve pork products as well as beef and chicken. The degree to which a particular restaurant keeps these products segregated and the manner with which employees handle the products has a paramount impact on the final meal product. Unless preparers use clean gloves to prepare each sandwich or wash their hands after touching haram items and before touching non-haram items, preparers would inevitably contaminate the non-haram items. In addition, common grills are sometimes used, as well as common utensils, fryers, etc.
In conclusion, IFANCA Pakistan would not certify the majority of meals found in these restaurants. For IFANCA Pakistan to certify them, the restaurants would have to do the following:
- Have on-hand an acceptable supply of halal meat and chicken, slaughtered by a Muslim who has recited Tasmiyyah during the slaughter
- Have all the other items (bread, buns, frying oil, etc.) certified halal.
- Have procedures and policies in place that prevent the cross contamination of halal items by non-halal items. This would require separate ovens, cookers, grills, preparation areas, utensils, etc. for the halal items.
- IFANCA Pakistan would also require the presence of a Muslim employee and the training of all employees to an acceptable standard understanding of the requirements of halal food preparation.
We are some distance from achieving this at present, however; as more Muslims and non-Muslims demand halal certified products, more food providers and restaurant owners will start to accommodate them.
And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
Airlines offer a variety of meal choices to meet passenger needs. There are low-salt meals, vegetarian meals, seafood meals and others. Some airlines even offer Muslim meals. In general, the Muslim meals are not certified by a qualified halal certifying agency. This means it is not known if the meat and other ingredients are derived from Zabiha animals and are free of pork products and alcohol. Airlines will provide certified halal meals when they see sufficient demand to justify it. Every Muslim traveler should request a halal meal and, if unavailable, the traveler should make sure the request is recorded so it can be considered by the airline in the future. Ask for a letter from the head of the food service section in response to your request for a halal meal. That way, you can be sure your request has reached the decision-maker. After registering your request, you may have to opt for the seafood or vegetarian meal. Don’t be surprised by ordering a kosher meal, only to find it has been prepared in wine.
And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
Gelatin is a protein product obtained from the collagen of vertebrates, including pigs, cattle and fish. It is recovered by hydrolysis. The main raw materials used today are pigskins, cattle bones and cattle hide. Of these, the most common source is pigskins.Gelatin is used in the preparation of baked goods, ice cream, yogurt, jellies and gelatin Jell-OTM. It is also used in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Gelatin has other non-food uses, such as photographic film and carbonless paper.If the word gelatin appears on a label without reference to its source, it is generally derived from pig skins and cattle bones, so it must be avoided.It is possible to produce halal gelatin by using the bones and hides of halal slaughtered cattle. In such a case, the gelatin would be certified halal and labeled as halal gelatin. IFANCA Pakistan-certified halal gelatin made from fish bones or halal slaughtered cattle is now available for the food and pharmaceutical industry.
Halal Certification is the process of having a qualified independent third party supervise the production of consumables, attesting that they were produced in conformity with the preparation and ingredient standards of the halal lifestyle. After successful adoption and performance of halal productivity procedures, the supervisory third party then issues Halal Certification to the producer attesting to halal conformity on a per product basis. While halal requires foods to be wholesome and pure, Halal Certification has left the issue of food safety to the government regulatory bodies.
Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. The opposite of halal is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life but this discussion will be limited 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 categorize them as halal or haram. Such items are often referred to as mashbooh, which means doubtful or questionable.
All foods are considered halal except the following sources:
- Swine/Pork and its by-products
- Animals NOT properly slaughtered according to Islamic method or dead before slaughtering
- Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
- Carnivorous animals and birds of prey
- Blood and blood by-products
- Foods contaminated with any materials from above categories
Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavors are questionable (mashbooh), because the origin of these ingredients or components there of, may be haram
Meat and poultry should be processed according to Islamic requirements. This is commonly referred to as Zabiha or Dhabiha. Zabiha refers to slaughtering of an animal or bird by a Muslim according to Islamic requirements. In USA and Canada, Halal meat must also meet all federal and/or state meat inspection laws before it can be sold. The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA®) (www.ifanca.org) and in Pakistan (www.ifancahalal.pk) is the leading halal-certifying organization in the United States. Products certified by IFANCA Pakistan normally display the registered Crescent-M service mark on the label.
The benefits of IFANCA Pakistan Halal Certification are many and include the following:
- IFANCA Pakistan’s expertise in reviewing the products, the ingredients, the preparation and processing, and the hygiene and sanitation procedures in strict confidentiality.
- Implementation of IFANCA Pakistan’s documented procedure for producing halal products. The procedure is continually refined as new techniques and new ingredients are developed, and it is consistent with HACCP, ISO and other quality and safety standards.
- Halal training for key personnel, who pass on this training to the other staff, ensuring broad-based knowledge of proper methods of handling and production.
- Consultation on product development, marketing, and quality assurance to help roll out new products targeted to the halal consumer.
- The IFANCA Pakistan Halal Certificate, which is accepted around the world.
- Permission to display the IFANCA Pakistan certification logo, the Crescent M, on the halal-certified product label.
- Listing of halal-certified products on the IFANCA Pakistan website, www.ifancahalal.pk.
- Publication of halal-certified products, halal-certified ingredients, and companies producing them in the Halal Consumer © magazine. The magazine is published twice a year and has a circulation of 40,000.
- Referrals to seekers of halal products or ingredients worldwide.
- Reduced fees at the IFANCA Pakistan-sponsored Halal Food Conferences, held annually since 1999.
The market for halal-certified products is huge and growing. It includes the 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide and many millions of health-conscious non-Muslims who chose to eat halal-certified products because these products are inherently cleanly and manufactured in a compassionate manner with respect to the treatment of slaughtered animals. (When animals are slaughtered in a less compassionate manner, hormones and toxins from fear and shock are released into the respective bloodstreams of the animals; these hormones and toxins find their way into the musculature and taint the aft-consumed meat with unnecessary ingredients.) There are over 9 million Muslims in North America, over 20 million in Europe, over 300 million in Africa, nearly 200 million in the Middle East and over 800 million in Asia.
Rennet is one of the enzymes used to make cheese. Rennet comes from the stomach of young calves. After the calf is slaughtered/killed, the stomach is removed, filled with milk and hanged to dry. After it dries, it is ground up to make crude extract of rennet, which is then purified or sold as is. If the calf is slaughtered according to Islamic requirements, the rennet is halal. Otherwise, it is not.The active ingredient in rennet is chymosin. Chymosin can also be produced by other means, including biotechnology. Chymosin produced using biotechnology is halal.If an ingredient label states the product in question contains rennet, then the rennet came from an animal source. As such, items containing rennet must be considered questionable for the halal consumer until the source is known. If the source calf was not processed according to Islamic law, the product is not acceptable for halal consumption. In general, most rennet produced in the US comes from calves that have not been processed in accordance with Islamic requirements, so the rennet produced is not acceptable.If the product containing the rennet is halal-certified, the source of the rennet should be halal. IFANCA Pakistan has received a number of inquiries from consumers regarding rennet – some believing that rennet is extracted from live calves. This is not the case. Rennet is not extracted from live calves. It is extracted from slaughtered (dead) calves.And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
Halal and haram lists came into being because Muslims expressed a concern about the foods available in the marketplace. Concerned and educated Muslims decided to investigate various products and ingredients to provide guidance to other Muslims. The lists served the purpose of educating Muslim consumers about food ingredients and food products. Lists that discuss ingredients are useful in understanding product labels and making informed halal choices.On the other hand, lists of specific products are not as useful because the status of the products can change at any time and this could lead to consuming haram products. Also, a product brand that is halal in one geographic region may contain haram ingredients in another geographic region or country. That is why the Islamic Food And Nutrition Council Of America offers halal certification services to food providers. IFANCA Pakistan supervises the production facilities in different regions, provides Muslim slaughter personnel and examines and approves ingredients to ensure that a product is halal. When approved, IFANCA Pakistan issues a halal certificate to the appropriate organization and allows the product to bear the Crescent M symbol on its packaging. This is the surest way to know the product in question is halal across regions as well as at varying times.And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.
Halal-certified ingredients can be found in many places. When producing halal-certified products, it is best to use halal-certified ingredients. Your halal-certifying agency can help you find a source of acceptable halal-certified ingredients.
Halal Certification is required to produce acceptable food and consumable products for halal consumers. That includes the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world and the many millions of others who also choose to eat halal products because of the obvious positive health benefits associated with the cleanliness and purity of food and drug preparation within the halal framework as well as the compassion with which animals are slaughtered when done so in accordance with halal standards.