One of the common concepts among divine religions, despite differences in conditions, is what foods are considered to be permissible ("halal" in Islam or "kosher" in Judaism). Preparing halal food is a challenge for followers of religions, which will be addressed in this article.
Nearly 250 Quranic verses and dozens of narrations from the infallibles (peace be upon them) indicate the importance of food and nutrition. As Allah the Almighty has said:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
“O humanity! Eat from what is lawful and good on the earth and do not follow Satan’s footsteps. He is truly your sworn enemy.” (1)
The preparation of halal food is something common in Islamic countries, to a point that if we doubt that a food is halal in an Islamic country or not, we judge it as halal, because of a principle called "Muslims Market" (2). However, eating halal in non-Muslim countries is always one of the challenges of devoted families.
The food for the body is the food for the soul
According to religious teachings, humans are a combination of two dimensions, body and soul. Hence, foods affect the soul as well as the body. Consequently, eating non-halal foods makes negative impacts on the human soul. When reflecting on the verses of the holy Quran it could be understood that there is a close connection between halal foods and righteous deeds:
يا أَيُّهَا الرُّسُلُ كُلُوا مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَاعْمَلُوا صَالِحًا
“O messengers! Eat from what is good and lawful” (3)
The prophet (pbuh & his family) stated, “Worshiping while eating haram (non-permissible food) is like building on sand”. (4)
In Tafsir Rouh Al-Bayan, after mentioning the relation between righteous deeds and eating halal foods, the author cited some verses from Rumi’s poem (5):
Excess knowledge and wisdom come from a halal morsel
Love and compassion come from a halal morsel
When you are jealous and trapped by your morsel
It bears Ignorance and negligence, make it forbidden (6)
Upon reflecting on this it will become clear that spending money and time to prepare halal food is not a fee but rather an investment to have a materially and spiritually healthy life.
Nowadays, the spirit of obedience to religious rulings, especially among the youths, has been declining. The state of having an immoral attitude in life has increased among the Muslim youths living in Western countries, and so has neglecting the ugliness of eating unlawful foods.
In a series of interviews conducted on the YouTube channel “Muslim” with Muslim youths, we hear fascinating answers. All the guests are aware of the prohibition of eating non-halal foods and know what foods are halal and what are haram. However, most of the interviewees overlook this divine law and justify eating non-halal food. Some of them bring up excuses such as hunger and state that Allah (s.w.t) knows they are hungry and will forgive them for a few pieces of chicken nuggets. Others said that if I was offered a delicious dessert, I would not inquire about its ingredients because Allah (s.w.t) would not punish an unaware servant. Others, who attached more importance to divine laws, found that the only way out of the challenge of halal food was to cook at home or turn to vegetarianism.
Currently, to simplify the preparation of halal foods, a brand with the same name has been registered to reassure Muslims. Halal food products first appeared in Malaysia. In recent years, this food brand has been introduced as a global brand by Islamic countries in the world and has been well received in non-Islamic countries.
Yet a notable thing is that according to Muslims, food with the "Halal" brand is expensive and in some cases is considered as a luxurious meal that not every family can afford. Therefore, creating a suitable service for Muslims to have easy and low-cost access to halal foods will have a great impact on the issue of halal eating in the West.
According to the Islamic jurisprudence, there must be certainty of the lawfulness of foods and beverages before consumption. In other words, we must make sure that it is halal before eating or drinking, otherwise, we are not allowed to eat or drink. The rule of "Muslims Market" which solves the problem of doubt in the sanctity and lawfulness of foods is only valid in Muslim markets. Therefore, in non-Muslim countries, one should be cautious when eating and drinking and should avoid suspicious foods. A morsel that is not known to be halal or haram is dubious property. The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him & his family) said: There will come a time when people will not care where they got their wealth from, whether it is lawful or unlawful." (7).
Saying "Bismillah" on Foods that we do not know their lawfulness does not make them halal.
(1) Sura Al-Baqara, verse 168.
(2) Muhammad Baqir Irwani, states in his book “Introductory Lessons in Jurisprudence Rules”, v. 2, p. 77: “The Muslims Market rule is one of the important rules that is greatly benefited from in the area of Muslims coexistence with each other. Without the authority of the mentioned rule, it is not possible to buy meat from the market and eat from it because it is possible that it was not slaughtered according to the divine law.”.
(3) Sura Al-Mu’minun, verse 51.
(4) 'Uddat al-da'i wa najah al-sa'I, p.153.
(5) Tafsīr rūḥ al-bayān, v.1, p.273.
(6) The First Book, Part 88.
(7) Kanz al-Ummal, v.4, p.7, h.9215.