Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted, the same word is spoken in other languages people speak in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa and so on.
In reference to the food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Qur’an (the Muslim scripture). The opposite of halal is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life. These terms are commonly used in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials.
In Islam, a dietary requirement is to have no pork or pork products, alcohol, and for meat to be slaughtered in accordance to strict guidelines in the Qu’ran. For meat to be halal, the animals need to be cared for with compassion and consideration too. As well as halal, Muslims are commanded to eat food that is Tayyib meaning pure or wholesome.
Halal food can be cooked in any style as halal doesn’t refer to any specific cuisine, hence a Thai, Italian, Chinese or Vietnamese or BBQ can be halal food as long as halal food and ingredients are used.
Similarly, Halal drinks cannot contain alcohol. There are many soft drinks are available which are marked as ‘Halal’ so these drinks should not contain any ingredient of alcohol or alcohol type of chemicals.
Many consumers of halal foods believe that if prepared in the correct way, halal and tayyib (lawful and pure) foods can lead to health and well-being benefits too.
Islamic Halal Meat Preparation and Supervision
In Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC – the peak Muslim body) certifies and trains Islamic slaughtermen for the meat and poultry industry. AFIC’s Halal Service Manager travels throughout Australia to various abattoirs/farms, meat and non-meat food companies, drugs, cosmetic establishments to perform Islamic supervision, audit/inspection, and halal preparation.
Halal products are derived from animals and/or poultry that have been prepared according to Islamic law under the following statement, “In the name of God – God is the Greatest/BismillahiAllahu Akbar”.
Halal products and production are properly separated and clearly identified from non-halal products.
Life is sacred
Islam places great emphasis in the way in which an animal’s life ends, which has to be in accordance with Islamic regulations. Life is a sacred blessing of God to creation, animals as well as humans.
If the life of an animal has to be ended for human survival, then its life should only be taken in the name of God. Hence, the phrase bismillah (‘in the name of God’) must be uttered just before slaughtering an animal.
Muslims cannot consume the meat of animals that are sacrificed in a name other than God. Any animal slaughtered in the name of a person alive or dead, any deity or idol will be considered as haram and therefore it is not permissible for Muslims to consume that meat.
Muslims are only allowed to eat meat that has been prepared according to Islamic law. This method is often challenged by animal rights activists as ‘causing unnecessary suffering to the animal’. Muslims disagree and say that Islamic law on killing animals is designed to reduce the pain and distress that the animal suffers.
AFIC has strict rules with regards to Islamic slaughter. These rules state:
- The slaughterer must be a sane adult Muslim.
- The slaughterer must say the name of God before making the cut.
- The name of God is said in order to emphasise the sanctity of life and that the animal is being killed for food with God’s consent.
- The animal must be killed by cutting the throat with one continuous motion of a sharp knife.
- The cut must sever at least three of the trachea, oesophagus, and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat.
- The spinal cord must not be cut.
- Animals must be well treated before being killed.
- Animals must not see other animals being killed.
- The knife must not be sharpened in the animal’s presence.
- The knife blade must be free of blemishes that might tear the wound.
- The animal must not be in an uncomfortable position.
- The animal must be allowed to bleed out and be completely dead before further processing.
The argument that halal slaughter is inhumane because animals are allowed to bleed to death is scientifically untrue.An animal’s throat is cut in one swift motion with a razor sharp knife. Unconsciousness is achieved within seconds and death occurs due to cerebral hypoxia not blood loss. (Source; Islamic Council of Victoria)