Many people know that Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol. However, in some cases, avoiding dishes with pork meat or not offering alcohol isn’t enough. Let’s learn some details about what is halal, so that you won’t be at total loss when meeting Muslims or hosting Muslim guests.
What does Halal mean?
Halal means permissible in Islam. Halal is not just about food, but also about everything in a Muslim’s life. What has been allowed by God in the rules He created, is halal. What is impermissible is called Haram. The basic idea and rules are the same everywhere, because they were determined by God. However, there may be difference of opinions and policy in the fine details depending on the religious sect, culture and individual. Some may avoid using dishes and cutlery touched even once by the haram. Others may decide to eat meat without halal certification when they are in a non-Muslim country. The best thing recommended to do here is to ask the person you’re serving. Honest communication and consent are key to any happy relationship.
This is basically the food that Muslims are allowed to eat. The opposite is haram food and examples include pork and alcohol. Almost no Muslim restaurants offer pork or alcohol in their meals. You may think these rules are super strict, but in fact, there are only a few haram foods. Everything is halal except the haram. I know it’s confusing but I’ll try to explain it in the best way I can. Starting with vegetables, fruits and grains, they are halal in themselves. As for animal-derived foods, eggs and milk are halal. This means that most vegetarian dishes are halal. Rice, bread, vegetable dishes and cakes can be all halal; although you still need to make sure no haram is contained. Meat is halal with some conditions. Except for pork and some other animals, popular meats like beef, chicken and lamb are halal. However, the animal needs to be slaughtered in a certain way determined by Islamic law. You can’t tell if meat is halal just by looking, that’s why halal meat is usually accompanied by a halal symbol on the package. In Japan, for instance, halal meat is not as easy to find, but some imported food shops and wholesale stores sell some. One thing to be aware of is the fact that some processed foods contain no meat itself, but contains animal broth and other products derived from meat. It is wise to look out for these ingredients when buying packaged foods.
Fish is generally halal, except in some cases. Most Muslims think that creatures from the water are halal. However, according to some who follow the Shia sect, fish without scales are not permissible. As was mentioned above, alcohol is not halal, so watch out for alcohol, not just in drinks. Alcohol is used not only as drinks but also in dishes and desserts. Some may not care about small quantities, but be careful; some seasonings such as soy sauce and miso may contain alcohol added as a preservative. Some packaged foods are halal certified, which means they are checked by a third party to be halal. They are still rare in many countries, but they are available in many imported foods stores. You can make your Muslim guests feel safer by using these products.
How is Halal Certification obtained?
As explained above, halal food is the food Muslims are allowed to eat. It should not be mixed with the non-halal food, and as for meat, certain rules must be followed. However, when it comes to packaged foods and restaurants, Muslim consumers cannot see the process of manufacturing the food, which makes it difficult to assure that the food is truly halal. Therefore, halal certification organizations check the manufacturers, the ingredients and process to see if they meet the standards, and authorize the restaurant or the product as halal. Certified restaurants and manufacturers can display a halal symbol, which consumers can look for and buy products without worry. There are many halal certification organizations around the world. They each may have their own standards and their symbols look different. If you are part of a restaurant or food manufacturer and are considering getting halal certification, consult with a certifying organization. If you are considering exporting your product to countries with large population of Muslims, consider getting certified by an organization of those countries. Halal certification obviously costs money, so you need to be prepared in this aspect as well. Major steps include consulting with the certifying organization, submitting application forms, document review and on-site audit. Certifications also have a fixed date of expiration and must be renewed.
Halal and Vegetarian Food
Muslims eat common meat except for pork; this means that halal food is not always vegetarian food. Likewise, not all vegetarian dishes are halal, because they might contain alcohol. When eating in at restaurants that do not specifically offer halal meals, Muslims often opt for vegetarian options because they do not ear non-halal meat. However, this does not mean all vegetarian options are suitable for Muslims. It is possible to cook dishes that are both halal and vegetarian. You just have to make sure the dishes meet both halal and vegetarian requirements. That way, everyone can eat together – Muslims, vegetarians and those who do not follow such diets. The most important thing is that everyone can have fun together. One thing to note here is that culturally, most Muslims are meat lovers. You can probably make them happier by having some meat options. In that case, it’s better to have a separate section from the vegetarian dishes.
So, in conclusion, the general rules in Halal are:
Vegetables, fruits and grains are great.
Eggs and dairy are also permissible.
Fish is generally acceptable, but some may say no to those without scales.
Muslims eat beef, lamb or chicken, except pork. Pork is not halal.
Muslims do not drink alcohol.
Check the snacks if they contain gelatin, animal fat or alcohol.