Food, delicious, glorious, divine food! We all have our own idea of what a lovely plate of food looks and tastes like. Our home-made favourites are easy to pick out and we often have memories that go with them. So too are some of our restaurant favourites. Roasts, grills, chicken, seafood, you name it and you can’t help but rub your hands in glee at the thought of it.
As Muslims though, enjoyable as the food might be, before one morsel of food even touches our lips, our minds must be completely at rest, knowing that our food is 100% halal.
To make sure we always have halal food in our plates, we must first know what exactly is “halal” food:
Forbidden to you are Maytatah (carrion or dead animal, animal not slaughtered with Tasmiyah i.e. reciting ‘Bismillahi Allahu Akbar’), flowing blood, the flesh of swine, and that slaughter on which was invoked name other than Allah, as well as the (animal) killed by strangulation or beaten to death with violent blow or falling (from a height) to its death or gored to death (through fighting) or by falling to a predator (and about to be consumed) – unless you are able to slaughter before it dies… (5:3) [see also (16:115)]
From a Muslim food point of view, one of our clear tenets of faith is that we must not just engage in halal acts, but also consume halal food and act in a manner that is becoming of our faith.
From an Islamic perspective, we are all compelled by faith and religion to have our food meet various, rigorous standards from a halal point of view before we are able to consume it.
Many believe that halal refers only to the prayer read for the animal upon the moment of sacrifice, however, it is so much more than just that. The quality of the life of the animal and the manner of its slaughter before eating is crucial.
There are many questions taken into consideration that decide the halal status of a food item or an animal intended for sacrifice.
Now that you have a better grasp on the concept of halal food and what it is, let’s look at some guidelines and tips that will assist you in finding halal food near you. There are a number of challenges that Muslims go through when it comes to eating out and finding halal food in their vicinity. Here are 5 tips to help you in this regard:
Sayyiduna Ka`b Ibn Ujrah (radhi allahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “A body nourished with Haram will not enter Jannah.” (Tirmidhi 614)
It always helps to know the source of everything that you eat. Does the fish, mutton, chicken and other meats that you consume come from healthy and ethical sources? While it may not always be practical to have every single authority on speed-dial, it is helpful to know that at very least the butchers and grocers in your neighbourhood stock goods that are certified.
Are halal standards being adhered to in that environment? These are just some of the questions that you would have to ask yourself when you come into close proximity with your food.
There are nowadays a number of resources available for those who wish to buy halal meat online.
Although it might seem like a minefield out there when it comes to choosing halal foods, it also does help to know that there are still some safe foods out there that are deemed acceptable for consumption provided that strict protocol is observed and followed.
These are seafood and vegetables. By a rule of thumb, seafood eaten should be of the variety of fish that have scales. Sea creatures such as whales, eel, shark and other non-scaled variety of seafood are strictly forbidden.
Even though these foods by themselves are acceptable in Islam, it helps to note that there are strict criteria at play for how these items are consumed. There are ways in which these food items need to be prepared within halal and acceptable means.
Consider that if you are moving to a country where halal foods are less accessible that you may have to adapt your lifestyle accordingly. Trim off meats and chicken and adopt apescatarian approach in life. Yes this may seem like a compromise in taste, but what you will not compromise on is your iman and your Islamic values.
“Halal is clear and Haram is clear. Between Halal and Haram lays some doubtful things. Many people do not know whether it is permissible or not. Whoever leaves out these doubtful things in order to protect his religion and honor, then he is safe. Whoever indulges in these doubtful things/matters it is very possible that he will fall into Haram, similar to a person who grazes his animals near the royal pasture it is very possible that one day he will graze in the royal pasture. Behold! Every king has a royal pasture and the royal pasture of Allah is those things which have been made impermissible.” (Tirmidhi 1205)
When in doubt, leave it out. There will be times when we are uncertain of the status of a restaurant or the source of food from a supermarket. The human mind is such that when we really truly want something, it is easy to justify why we would like to eat it and then build up a case for why we should eat it and turn a blind eye. If there is even one grain of uncertainty or doubt about the food that you are about to eat, it is better to not partake of the food in front of you; rather look for the alternatives instead.
Rather than feed your taste buds, focus instead on feeding your soul and the needs of your iman and religion. On certain matters you simply have to exercise restraint in the name of putting your faith to practice.
In addition to joining groups online and subscribing to newsletters, it also helps to get out there and actually meet people who are actively participating in Islamic groups. In groups where people are more inclined towards deen, there would be a greater energy and information flow.
So the next time your local Masjid holds a social gathering or an event, it would be a good idea to participate. Use the opportunity to network and find out more information about where to access halal food this way. Access bulletin boards, join men or ladies groups dedicated to Islamic activity, volunteer and connect with people who you know; this will prove to be an invaluable resource.
Often times we lose perspective on life based on the people that we surround ourselves with. Our company, particularly from an Islamic perspective does have an influence on who we are and what we’re about.
Due to the influences of modern technology and the amount of information that we now have available, there are often conflicting ideals and pieces of information floating around.
If you are feeling doubtful if a certain thing is halal or haram, it does help to speak to an elder or a cleric about it. Seek advice. Establish relationships with the elders; seek their counsel not just on matters on the consumption of halal food but also on matters that relate to your general queries regarding Islam.
Wherever you are in the world, there will most likely be a Muslim population in that country. Try immediately to make contact with the halal authorities in that place. Once you make contact, have an official e-mail you a list of halal organisations in your vicinity that you can refer to. Be sure to update that list and even subscribe to their social media profiles so that you can get up to the minute information on the status of restaurants and food in your surrounds.
With the advent of technology and the digital age, there are now a number of new and exciting developments in the tech world, which allows us to know the halal status of food items simply at the touch of a button.
Different countries around the world use different halal authorities to certify their food. Here are some useful digital resources that will help you along the way in different localities, should you need a little guidance on availability of halal food near you.
This is an Android App, available on Google Play. The app has a database of over 750,000 products. It enables you to scan a barcode of food products and items and check the precise ingredients on a product and its halal status before you buy it. Products on the database will either pop-up as halal, haram or musbooh (doubtful).
The creators of this app are continually updating their information and database. So, even if there are new products that Muslims may encounter, they can send through their pictures and product information to Scan Halal and they will investigate the halal-status of the product at hand.
The initiative is run by UmmahLabs led by an entrepreneur Anas Razzaq from Chicago, Illinois.
Visit ScanHalal.org for more information.
This website contains useful information and critical news about halal certification around the world. This Jakarta based council seeks to standardize halal certification and accreditation in different countries around the world. The organisation boasts a number of wide-reaching members from across the world, such as Namibia, Kenya, Asia, Philippines, Hong Kong, South Africa, Europe and more.
The website is an invaluable source of information on many frequently asked questions regarding halal foods and certification, and provides the latest on information exchanged in halal workshops and summits around the world and more.
For more information visit their official website: www.worldhalalcouncil.com
This particular organisation has grounded itself on the premise of being an NGO (Non- governmental organisation). It seeks to eradicate doubt, multiple messages and misinterpretations of the concept of halal from different voices around the world, by creating a platform for people and organisations to collaborate and speak with one voice.
It has previously showcased dynamic events such as halal auditor training, World Food Istanbul 2014 and halal industry seminars.
Being a Muslim is serious spiritual business. There are a number of areas of practice that are very specific in how they need to be executed and how Muslims need to follow the faith. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by all the criteria in Islam, but we should rest assured that our Creator has not left us in doubt about any matter.
Perhaps one of the most relevant and specific observations that we should hold true to when we are searching for halal food, is that we need not do so in isolation. Islam is a faith that encourages us to seek out knowledge and in no other area should that be more practiced than when it comes to finding halal foods and halal food outlets near us.
If you know of anybody who needs help in finding halal food online or near their local vicinity, as well as finding alternatives in situations where none may be available, feel free to share this article with them.
Irfan Ullah Khan is a Marriage Transformation Coach helping married Muslim couples achieve happiness in their marriage by learning and adopting the beautiful Islamic ahkam related to family. He is also author of two books: "The 8 Love Languages" and "Better Love with Better Half". >>> Click here to connect with him on Facebook!