Definition of Halal Food
Halal is an Arabic word meaning “lawful” or “permitted,” but it is generally used in reference to food that fulfills Muslim dietary rules.
It is similar to the Hebrew word “kosher,” which references food that is permissible to eat according to Jewish dietary standards.
In Arabic, the opposite of “halal” is “haram.”
Most food falls into either the halal or haram categories,
but there are certain items, such as processed or man-made foods,
that are called “mashbooh,” or “doubtful.”
Further research is needed before classifying them as halal or haram.
An important distinction when it comes to using the word “halal”
Halal is that it does not always refer to food. In Arabic,
anything in accordance with the Sharia is halal.
However, outside the Arab world, including by non-Arab Muslims,
the term is used almost entirely as it relates to food.
In fact, in many places it has an even narrower definition,
referring only to meat that is permitted under Islamic law.
Halal and Haram Examples
Natural fruits, vegetables, juices, fish,
and natural ingredients such as sugar and honey are halal.
For meat, the animal must be slaughtered by a method called “dhabiha.”
Foods that are definitely haram include
all products from pigs; meat from improperly slaughtered animals;
alcohol and intoxicants; carnivorous animals; birds of prey;
land animals without external ears (snakes and reptiles for example);
blood and blood by-products.
Foods that are mashbooh include gelatin, and enzymes
and emulsifiers of unknown origin.
Dhabiha, like the kosher “schechting, ” is a swift incision made with
a sharp knife on the animal’s neck, cutting both the jugular vein
and carotid artery. The spinal cord must remain intact…
Many Muslims do, in fact, consider kosher meat halal,
though stricter adherents do not. Orthodox Jews,
however, do not consider halal meat as kosher, because
kosher schechting does have other requirements.
The Sharia forbids the eating of pork; the meat from birds of prey
and land-based carnivores; the meat from animals
that were killed by strangulation or beating;
the meat from animals from a variety of named sources
that effectively precludes scavenging a carcass; and blood.
The latter might seem morbid, but many medieval recipes
were efficient about getting nutrients from an animal,
and used blood as an ingredient.
Also, any animal killed without the act being in the name of God
are also not halal. Alcohol is also expressly forbidden.
What is Permitted?
It is guessed that 70 percent of Muslims live up to the halal standards.
This permits poultry, water foul, beef and the flesh of many other
herbivores with cloven feet, assuming that all of it has been killed
and butchered correctly. Fish are also on the menu,
with there being no special requirements for their preparation.
All shellfish are also halal.