In today’s world, the word ‘Halaal’ has become very famous and is commonly used by many throughout the world. While it may be something which really does not matter to the non-Muslims, it is a matter which is extremely important and significant for a Muslim. A Muslim has become accustomed to hearing the word Halaal in many aspects of his religion, whether it be food, drink, wealth, business, clothing, etc. But how much does he really understand from this word, about its implication and significance in his life as a Muslim?
The word Halaal is an Arabic word which literally means that which is allowed, permitted, permissible, lawful, legal and legitimate, and according to the technical meaning used in the Shariah of Islam, it means that which has been ordained as lawful by Allah and His Messenger (S.A). In its literal and technical usage, the word Halaal would be applicable to many things, hence, wealth which is not achieved in an unlawful manner will be called Halaal wealth. Sales which are not unlawful will be called Halaal sales. Businesses which are not unlawful will be called Halaal businesses – and the list goes on to include many different things. The concept of Halaal (in Islam) is a very broad one which basically refers to everything which is allowed and permissible in Islam. Muslims are therefore commanded to use only that which has been made lawful in their religion.
From its broad understanding, an area which is of great concern to the Muslims at present, is that of Halaal and Haraam (lawful and unlawful) in food and drinks. In this regard, Allah’s commandment in the Holy Quraan is: “O mankind eat from the earth that which is permissible and good and do not follow the footsteps of the Satan. Indeed he is for you an open enemy”. (Chapter 2 Verse 168).
Mankind has been placed on this earth for a period of time during which he is supposed to worship his creator the Almighty Allah. The instrument of worship is this physical body which we all possess. The human body is the vehicle for the soul which lives on after death. To be kept alive the body must be nourished with food and drink. Allah in His mercy has filled the earth with an immense variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and drinks from which the human being can draw his sustenance. He says in the Holy Quraan, “Say, see what things Allah has sent down to you for sustenance……” (Chapter 10 Verse 59)
WHY ARE SOME THINGS NOT PERMISSIBLE?
It is often asked why Allah has permitted some things while others which belong to the same species may not be allowed for consumption. For example, many types of animals can be consumed but some such as the pig, reptiles, etc are not for food. Allah says about this: ‘They ask you about what is permitted for them, (it is) pure things.” (Chapter 5 Verse 4). It means that Allah has directed towards mankind the consumption of things which are beneficial for him and has prohibited those things which are impure, unhealthy, and bad for him. (It does not follow necessarily however that everything prohibited for man is also bad for other creatures. For example the jellyfish is dangerous and obnoxious for man to consume but it is the favorite and main food for sea turtles). Allah therefore in His wisdom has placed on the earth sustenance for all His creatures and has directed man to eat the pure things which have been indicated to us by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A).
EXAMPLES OF HARAAM
The main categories of foods which are not permissible for consumption by Muslims are: Intoxicants; animals slaughtered while a name other than the name of Allah is mentioned; animals killed in a fight, accident or a fall; pigs; animals such as carnivores which are prohibited by the Shariah; flowing blood etc.
Allah says: ‘O you who believe, intoxicants, gambling, altar stones and divining arrows are filth, the works of Satan. Refrain from them so that you may be successful.” (Chapter 4 Verse 91)
This is a clear ruling from the Holy Quraan which prohibits among other things the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants. There are many ahaadith which explain this verse. For example the Prophet (S.A) cursed ten categories of people who are in some way involved with intoxicants: the person who distills it, the person who paid for its distillation, the one who drinks alcohol, who carries it and the one to whom it is carried, the server of the alcohol, one who benefits from its price, the purchaser and the one for whom it is purchased.
EFFECTS OF INTOXICANTS
It is enough as Muslims that Allah has prohibited alcohol and intoxicants for us, but it is for our benefit to look at the effects of alcohol on human beings and our society.
The Prophet (S.A) has said, “The addict is like one who worships idols”. It is a trap of satan and a gatherer of sins. We can see the effects of alcohol and other intoxicants on our society in many different ways. Some of these are:
· Alcohol destroys the mind and body of one who consumes it.
· It relaxes the moral limits of a person and leads to fornication, adultery, lying, stealing etc.
· It breaks up families and puts the dependants of alcoholics under tremendous pressures and difficulties.
· It increases the chances for serious accidents due to drunk-driving and operating of machinery.
· It causes a great economic burden on the state as those whose lives are destroyed by alcohol need to be rehabilitated, are non-productive members of society and their families need to be supported. Since the effects of other intoxicants are very similar, all of them are prohibited also. Illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, fall under this category.
The Prophet Muhammad (S.A) also indicated that those things which intoxicate in large amounts are also prohibited in small amounts. It means that Muslims must be careful not to consume any quantity of alcohol at all, otherwise they would be committing a grievous sin.
There are many products being sold today which are not alcohol themselves, but contain it as an ingredient. This makes the entire product haraam. Some of these include Angostura Bitters, Dijon mustard and non-alcoholic beer. Additionally, in some areas where food is cooked and sold, cooking wine is added. This contaminates the entire item which cannot be used by Muslims. It is also totally prohibited to use items like Ponche de Crème, Rum and Raisin Ice-cream, fruitcake with wine etc. As Muslims, we must be aware of what we do, lest we contaminate our bodies with haraam things.
PORK AND ITS PRODUCTS
Allah says: Verily it is made prohibited for you dead meat and the flesh of swine……..” (Chapter 2, Verse 73).
This verse of the Holy Quraan along with other traditions make it clear that all aspects of swine are prohibited, its meat, skin, bones, fat, hair, the rearing of pigs and the buying and selling of it. It is sufficient for us to know that Allah has prohibited it, however, if we look closely at this animal, many reasons for its prohibition become apparent. Some of these are:
· The swine itself is a dirty animal which lives, feeds and enjoys filth and mud.
· It is a scavenger and eats all kinds of foul matter.
· It is a host to and transmitter of dozens of diseases causing micro-organisms and parasites. It is one of the few animals capable of transmitting diseases to man through its meat even after it has been thoroughly cooked.
Muslims are generally aware that pork and pork containing products are prohibited. However, it must be noted that there are some products in which pork ingredients are used indirectly, such as the use of pig fat in the frying of foods, or rennet from pigs being used to produce cheese. Even snacks containing gelatin or the hormone insulin may be derived from haraam sources. Of course, there are many snacks without gelatin and there are other sources of insulin except pigs so that it is only a matter of being vigilant. Muslims should also be aware of the fact that utensils are used in which pork is cooked. This has implications for many restaurants, especially Chinese restaurants which serve pork since their method of washing the cooking utensils does not conform to the Shariah law of washing. It would not be permissible therefore to consume food cooked in these vessels.
OTHER ANIMALS, FLOWING BLOOD, ETC.
While the scope of this article is not to enumerate all the categories of animals which are prohibited, it is important to note that all of them are considered by man to be obnoxious, foul, offensive and below the dignity of a human being. Allah has created man as the best of all creations and it is not becoming of man, and certainly Muslims, that they consume dead animals, or blood etc.
Secondly, these things have been shown to be dangerous to one’s health. Blood for example, contains many waste products, toxins and bacteria. Similarly, animals which may have died accidentally, the blood left inside their bodies can contaminate the flesh with disease- causing organisms and toxins. The Shariah therefore protects us from these harms.
Many scholars have also written that what we consume has an effect on our personalities and character. Therefore, man is prohibited from filthy animals like pigs, from carnivorous creatures which hunt other animals such as tigers as well as offensive creatures such as frogs and worms.
In fact, Allah refers to the effect of consuming only that which is pure and halaal on the good deeds of a person. In Chapter 23 Verse 5, He says: “O Messengers eat from the pure things and do righteous deeds”. Here, we can see the command to be righteous in deeds refers itself back to the command to eat what is halaal.
The Prophet Muhammad (S.A) also refers to this connection between our food and drink and our creator, in a hadith which describes a traveller with disheveled hair who is dusty and who raises his hands in dua to Allah and the Prophet (S.A) questions Allah’s acceptance of such dua when the person’s food is haraam, his drink is haraam and his wealth is from haraam sources. If it is that the whole purpose of life is to worship Allah, then it is senseless to do such things that will cause our worship to be refused. If we consume prohibited food and drinks, we contaminate the body that is the means of doing these deeds and we risk the refusal by Allah of our efforts in this world.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, we should strive to be concerned, informed and aware of all that we consume so that Allah will accept our efforts and grant us Paradise.