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Halal Foods – Why Halal?

Food is everyone’s favorite subject and we generally all love to eat meat. However, for Muslims, one thing should be considered.

Halal means lawful and permitted in Islam, according to Islamic law. It can, and is applied to any subject matter. In terms of food, there are certain products that Islamic law does not allow Muslims to consume. These forbidden foods or ingredients are known as Haram, which means unlawful or prohibited.

In relation to food and drink, the main items that are Haram under Islamic law are alcohol beverages, any part of a pig, carrion (meat of dead animals), carnivorous animals, and blood. Islamic Law also stipulates that all meat consumed must be from animals that have been slaughtered in accordance with the Islamic law, thus making it Halal or acceptable for consumption. To satisfy Islamic law, slaughter is done by cutting the animal’s jugular vein as this includes rapid and complete bleeding (as blood is thought to be the main carrier of diseases which could be passed to humans).

“O Messengers, eat from the pure foods and work righteousness.” From the Holy Qur’an (sacred scripture of Islam) 23:51, this is one of the statements that serve as a proof that Haram foods, contrary to Halal, are embodied with forbidden ingredients not conforming with Allah.

Similarly, Muslims are taught through the Qur’an that all animals should be treated with respect and well cared for. The goal is to slaughter the animal, limiting the amount of pain it will endure.

Preparation, production and marketing
Contrary to popular belief, the manner employed in the production and preparation of Halal meat is one of the most humane and hygienic. Fundamental to this method is the treatment of the animals with the highest respect and the slaughtering with the least amount of pain. The actual slaughtering method used means the animal is totally relaxed and there is very little increase in adrenaline, resulting in more tender meat. The draining of the blood and the removal of the spinal cord mean that all bacteria and toxins are removed from the meat, resulting in a longer shelf life.

Halal food certification
Halal food certification refers to the examination of food processes in its preparation, slaughtering, cleaning, processing, handling, disinfecting, storing, and transporting. It also has to undergo assurance and auditing of the technical matters involved. It thus involves management practices as a whole. The ways associated to being Halal should apply to all stages of processing or should be applied “from farm to table.”

Certification of Halal foods has the following benefits: 1) consumer confidence, that allows the consumers to make informed choice of their purchase; 2) competitive advantage, which manufacturers can use as a marketing tool to secure bigger market share seeing that Halal food is suitable for both Muslims and non-Muslims; 3) quality, which indicates that the food product not only fulfills Halal requirements, but also strict hygiene practices; and 4) auditing and monitoring mechanism for the authority.

Meanwhile, Halal certification is different from merely determining whether a food product can be taken by a Muslim or not. It actually involves trust and responsibility on the part of the certifying body.

Trust, or Amanah in Arabic, is a religious obligation of the certifying body, and those involved in the issuance of certification are accountable to the consumers and to the “Almighty God” who is the all-knowing and the final judge.

Filipino Halal industry
In relation to Halal food certification, the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippine (IDCP), which is a member of the World Halal Council (WHC) and the Regional Islamic Da’wah Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, accepts the obligation to fulfill the trust imposed by the religion in connection with the verification, analysis, and other necessary acts and safeguards to genuineness and purity without contamination of the product before it issues certification.

The Filipinos, being influenced by neighboring countries, are close to Islamic culture. The Philippines has a Muslim population of about 10 million, most of them living in Mindanao and Metro Manila.

For this reason, the Philippine government itself saw the potential of the market for Halal products. As a matter of fact, it’s in the process of launching the first official guideline book in making Halal foods, which will provide food processors, traders, exporters, and marketing logistic operators with the necessary information in preparing, packing, labeling, and handling Halal foods.

Is Halal food uniting or dividing us?
The rapid expansion of Halal products and establishments has brought numerous benefits to the Muslim community, not to mention the advantage it gives in the form of employment and business opportunities.

Needless to say, Halal foods can also be enjoyed by non-Muslims. It sustains its role as a base that will allow people of different religions to sit together over a meal where they previously could not.

However, not all agrees to that. Some perceive this concept as a subtle colonization of Muslims who impose their lifestyle on people of other races and religions. When an eating outlet is certified Halal, food prohibited by Islam is not allowed to be consumed in the same premises. These include alcoholic beverages and meat of animals that were not slaughtered according to the Islamic law.

Hence, this prohibition has raised resentment to consumers who, say for an example, can no longer enjoy a cold mug of beer with their favorite dish at their usual eating outlets.

Furthermore, Halal foods can cost three times as much as the regular food due to its particular method of preparation. This can be interpreted and taken either positively or negatively, though.

Today, there is a huge international market for Halal food and many countries, especially those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, have been promoting their Halal food production for both resident and foreign consumers.

Since it can or cannot be deemed a common denominator, consuming Halal appears to be in a case-to-case basis and the question “Why Halal?” so remains.

Source: Christmas B. de Guzman -bar.gov.ph January-March 2008 Volume 10 Issue No. 1

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View Comments (2)

  • idiotic belief! those foods are offered to their gods, idol worshippers, then all you non-muslims will eat it? at least these muslims have delicadeza's not to eat their own food.

  • Halal is good for everyone's health. Anything coming from pork meat/pig may do harm to the body. It is not really necessary for people to learn from halal principle. They themselves can initiate their own healthy lifestyle habit by avoiding oil from pigs.

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