Food, glorious food! 

Have you heard of the word Halal before?

As muslims, eating Halal food is an essential part of our spiritual health. That’s why its important to understand what we can and cannot eat as Muslims.

Let’s dig into it!

So, what’s “Halal” mean?

Halal is an Arabic word that simply means ‘permissible’. This is in contrast to Haram, meaning – impermissible.

The terms Halal and Haram are used for a whole manner of things outside of food. Common examples might include: “Is it Halal to work at a bank?”, “Is it Halal to get a tattoo?”.

When applied to food, it simply means – is it permissible to eat this?

According to the Shariah there are certain types of food and drink which we can’t consume. The most commonly known are pork and alcohol. But even beef and chicken can be impermissible. And something as innocent as a packet of chips can also be impermissible!

“O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth (that is) lawful and pure”

Quran 2:168

Most of us know that pork is impermissible. But even beef and chicken can be impermissible. And something as innocent as a packet of chips can also be impermissible!

What is Halal?

In general:

  • All fruits, nuts and vegetables
  • All fish
  • Livestock that has been “lawfully slaughtered”

Halal Meat

In order for a meat to qualify as Halal, it must be from a livestock animal that was lawfully slaughtered according to Islam.

  • The slaughterer must be either a muslim, a christian or a jew.
  • If the slaugtherer is a muslim, he must say “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar” as he makes the cut.
  • All the blood must be drained out of the animal.

Cross contamination

Most of us wouldn’t dream of eating floor food! Similarly, muslims cannot eat food that has been cross-contaminated with unlawful sources.

Unlawful sources of food are simply anything outside the scope of what is Halal.

More specifically:

  • Intoxicants 
  • Carrion
  • Blood 
  • Pork
  • Insects
  • Horses, mules and donkeys
  • Omnivores and carnivores
  • Birds of prey

Most grocery store food will also have extra ingredients: additives, preservatives or gelatin. These extra ingredients may come from sources which are not permissible to eat.

Gelatin, for example, is a protein made from animal collagen. If the animal was from an unlawful source, it would cross contaminate the food. This would make it unlawful for us to eat.

So… Can I still have that Lobster?

We have said earlier that all fish is permissible to eat. But what about lobster? How about prawn?

Different muslim countries will have different seafood cuisines. This cuisine depends on the school of Islamic law most people in the country follow.

For example, in Pakistan, where most people are Hanafis, you’ll be hard pressed to find crab or lobster in the menu. This is because according to Hanafi scholars, crustaceans are impermissible to eat.

However, in Malaysia, where most people are Shaffi’i, you’ll find a kaleidoscopic range of seafood on the menu! This is because Shaffi’i scholars regard all seafood permissible to eat.