Q: I received an email of concern from a Christian reverend who wants to get some correct information that he can print in his newsletter regarding what is halal in Islam. This is in response to what he sees as anti-Islam bigotry that has been circulating among some people on the subject of halal and the purported harmful nature of halal products. As far as he is concerned, halal rules are similar to kashrut/kosher law. He cannot therefore understand the purpose of all this attack. He would like some help in answering the bigots who are spewing this stuff…. He would like a few or several paragraph response to what [such attacks] so that he can print this corrective information in his interfaith newsletter.
A. For a lengthy answer contact the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce Inc. This is a quick response:
Halal is like the Jewish concept of kosher although not as complicated. The Islamic method of slaughter strictly prohibits the conception of carrion such as the already dead animals your correspondent accuses Muslim butchers of using and explicitly prohibits cruelty to the food animals. The accusations of excessive violations of food codes are imaginary. When I instructed a hotel hosting an event of ours to use a Halal Butcher for the dinner they inspected the shop themselves and told me that they had NEVER BEFORE SEEN SUCH A CLEAN BUTCHER SHOP and were considering using it for all their catered dinners.
The Qur’an spells out clearly what is halal in the opening verses of Surah 5 (The Tablespread, a reference to the miracle of Jesus, peace be upon him, of the loaves and fishes):
1 O ye who believe! fulfil (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals with the exceptions named: but animals of the chase are forbidden while ye are in the Sacred Precincts or in pilgrim garb: for God doth command according to His Will and Plan.
2 O ye who believe! violate not the sanctity of the Symbols of God nor of the Sacred Month nor of the animals brought for sacrifice nor the garlands that mark out such animals nor the people resorting to the Sacred House seeking of the bounty and good pleasure of their Lord. But when ye are clear of the Sacred Precincts and of pilgrim garb ye may hunt and let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part). Help ye one another in righteousness and piety but help ye not one another in sin and rancor: fear God: for God is strict in punishment.
3 Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat blood the flesh of swine and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than God that which hath been killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a headlong fall or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any forced by hunger with no inclination to transgression God is indeed Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.
4 They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food): say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what ye have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by God; eat what they catch for you but pronounce the name of God over it: and fear God; for God is swift in taking account.
5 This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians] is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute