- Published on Sunday, 01 May 2016 15:22
- Written by Ayatullah Sistani
Adapted from the book : "A Code of Practice for Muslims in the West" in accordance with the edicts of Ayatullah Sistani
Islamic Law has forbidden Muslims from consuming a number of ingredients. Since non-Muslim manufacturers of food are naturally not required to refrain from using those ingredients in their products, Muslims are required to be vigilant and careful —within the limits outlined by the shari‘a— in using those products.1
We give below some information that was available for us regarding haram ingredients in food products. We have decided not to go into details in order to avoid —within the bounds of theshari‘a— complicating the life of a Muslim who is being tested by living in non-Muslims countries. The Islamic shari‘a, in spite of its meticulous and rigirous nature, is still a simple and linient code of practice. It is, therefore, useful to point out two things right at the outset.
Firstly, some raw ingredients used in manufacturing food and drink go through definite chemical transformations that radically change its original properties, in the sense that it becomes, in perception of the common man, a new and different matter. Such a transformation would remove it from the list of forbidden items, and this is known in the manuals of Islamic laws as “al-istihalah” which is one of the purifying agents according to the shari‘a.
For example, when an item derived from a haram animal source changes into a different item [through chemical transformation], then the latter product would become permissible.
Secondly, there are ingredients used in manufacturing food products that could have possibly come from a number of different sources, some of which are halal and some are haram. In such cases, with no certain knowledge about the origin of such an item, it is not necessary to investigate and it is permissible to eat that doubtful item. (Of course, this principle does not apply to meat when there is doubt whether or not it is from an animal slaughtered according to the laws of Islam. So, if you see in the list of ingredients “mono et diglycerides” which can originate from aminal fat or vegetable oil, and the label does not specify that it comes from animal source, it is not incumbent on the person to investigate about it, and therefore it should be considered halal.
Now we shall provide some information about haram ingredients mentioning both their English, as well as French, names.
1. Oil & Shortening: “Shortening” and “fat” (“matieres grasses” in French) is normally extracted from animal fat. Sometimes vegetable oil is added to it. Whereas the word “lard” (“saindoux” in French) is used for the fat of swine.
2. In American food products, you will find the expression “vegetable shortening” which is not a totally factual statement because American laws permit manufacturers to describe their product as having “vegetable shortening” as long as 80% to 90% of the shortening is vegetable based.
4. The phrases that entail satisfaction for us are “pure vegetable ghee” or “pure vegetable shortening” or “pure vegetable oil”.
5. “Butter” (“beurre” in French) is made from milk and therefore there is no problem in using it.
6. Cheese: Contrary to the belief of some people, lard is not used in cheese. However, in the process of manufacturing cheese, an enzyme is used that is extracted from the stomach of animals (cow, calf, or pig). This enzyme is called “rennet,” “renin,” and “pepsin” (“presure” in French).
7. Since “pepsin” is the enzyme extracted from pigs, it is haram. However, the enzyme from cow or calf [i.e., rennet, renin] that was not slaughtered Islamically is by itself considered ritually pure (tahir) and it is permissible to use. But the stomach becomes impure by coming into wet contact with other parts of the animal. So, if one is unsure whether or not the najis container of enzyme was used in the process of making the cheese, it is permissible to eat it.
8. One should also be aware of other ingredients used in making cheese, some are vegetable based while others are chemically produced like microbic enzymes. There is no doubt in the purity as well as permissiblity of using these.
9. If there is doubt in the enzymes used in making cheese whether they were from natural sources or chemically produced, then you can consider it halal.
10. As for “Gello”, it is used in manufacuring the gelatin. Mostly it is a jellylike substance extracted from animal source. However, you can also obtain the Gello that is made from vegetable source and seaweeds.
11. As for non-alcoholic carbohydrate drinks like Coke, Pepsi, Seven Up, and Canada Dry, they do not contain anything from animal or alcoholic sources.
Note: In preparing the information in this Appendix, we have primarily relied on the write up of Dr. Ahmad Hasan Sakr of Chicago, USA, which is originally taken from the following sources:
1. Al-Mawsou’s fi Uloom al-Tabi’a, Edward Chalib, Beirut 1965-66
3. Le Guide marabout de la peche en mer Michel van Haver - 1982 - FRANCE.
5. Les Poissons D’eau Douce Jiri Cihar 1976 – FRANCE.
7. Guide des Poissons D’eau Douce et Peche Bent J. Muvs et Preben Dahistrom 1981 – SUISSE.
9. Encyclopedie Illustree des Poissons Stanislav Frank – PARIS.
11. Encyclopedie du Monde Animal Tome 4 (Les Poissons et Les reptiles) Maurice Burton. Bibliotheque Marabout – PARIS.
1. Quoted from Dalilu 'l-Muslim fi Biladi 'l-Ghurba, p. 111 ff with modifications.