Understanding Halal, Haram, and Mushbooh
The Quran has numerous rules instructing Muslims to choose and consume wholesome foodstuffs. In the selection of food and drink, Islam has laid down three very important guidelines:
- Whether the consumption of foodstuff is prohibited by Allah.
- Whether the foodstuff is obtained through ‘halal’ or ‘haram’ means.
- Whether or not the material is harmful to health.
Halal is a Quranic term which means ‘permitted, allowed, authorized, approved, sanctioned or lawful’. Halal foods and drinks are permitted for consumption by Allah – the Supreme lawgiver.
In Canada, the role of a Halal Authority Certification Organisation is to audit, supervise and eventually deliver a Halal Certificate attesting that the products of a given company do satisfy the halal requirements. Islam has introduced the concept of slaughter, whereby an animal would have to be properly slaughtered to be considered halal. The act of slaughtering is to ensure the quality of meat and to avoid any microbial contamination. For example, a dead but unslaughtered animal is normally associated with the disease. Most diseases originate from an animal’s blood, therefore, slaughtering is mandatory to ensure that complete drainage of blood from the animal’s body – thus, minimizing the chance of microbial infection. This is compatible with the overall concept of cleanliness that is always emphasized in Islam.
Haram is a Quranic term which means ‘prohibited or unlawful’. Haram foods and drinks are absolutely prohibited by Allah, hence, forbidden for every Muslim
All foods are considered Halal except the following :
- Swine/pork/dog and its by-products;
- Alcohol and intoxicants;
- Blood and blood by-products;
- Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears;
- Amphibious animals such as frogs, crocodiles and turtles;
- Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering;
- Food contaminated with any of the above products (The Halal ingredients must not be mixed, or even come into contact with Haram materials, such as products from pig or dog, during storage, transport, cooking, serving, etc.;
- Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, etc. are Mushbooh or questionable.
Mushbooh is an Arabic term which means ‘suspected’. If one does not know the Halal or Haram status of a particular food or drink, such a food or drink is doubtful. An observant Muslim would prevent himself from consuming doubtful things such as stimulants, depressants, smoking, etc…
Halal food certification refers to the examination of food processes in its preparation, slaughtering, cleaning, processing, handling, disinfecting, storing, transportation and management practices. The application of halal should apply to all stages of processing “from farm to table”.
Halal certification provides the following benefits:
- Consumer confidence – it allows the consumers to make an informed choice of their purchase
- Competitive advantage – manufacturers can use it as a marketing tool to secure bigger market share as halal food is suitable for both Muslims and non- Muslims. At the international level, it can enhance the marketability of the products, especially in Muslim countries.
- Quality – it indicates that the food product not only fulfills halal requirements but also strict hygiene practices
- For the authority – it provides a mechanism to audit and monitors halal food.