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What is Halal Food? A Comprehensive Guide

Dec 2019

The Importance of Halal in the Muslim Consumer Market

With the growth of the Muslim consumer market, there is a need to understand the terms used to describe the many services, needs, and practices related to this segment of consumers. Understanding these concepts, terms, and definitions will help stakeholders to navigate the segment better. One of the most important terms to grasp is "Halal," an Arabic term that holds deep significance in the Islamic faith.

What is the meaning of Halal (حلال)?

The term "Halal" is commonly used in Arabic to indicate permissibility or acceptability. Within the Islamic faith, Halal refers to actions and behaviors that are considered permissible according to Islamic teachings. Conversely, "Haram" denotes actions or behaviors that are forbidden within the context of Islam. 

What is the meaning of Halal food?

Halal food is any food deemed permissible under Islamic law, as defined in the Quran. The Islamic dietary laws specify that all food and beverages are considered Halal unless explicitly stated as forbidden. These laws guide Muslims around the globe in identifying what foods are Halal, thus fulfilling their dietary requirements in accordance with Islamic teachings. Muslims worldwide accept the Quran as the book of perfect direction and bearing for humankind and believe the Quran to be the last revelation of God. 

God says in the Quran (a translation)

  • “Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” (Quran 2:172)
  • “O humanity! Eat from what is lawful and good on the earth and do not follow Satan’s footsteps. He is truly your sworn enemy.”  (Quran 2:168)

Although some specific teachings vary, the consensus is that food/drinks must be free of pork, alcohol/intoxicants, poisons, harmful ingredients, or unhygienic elements. The animals that are allowed for consumption must be slaughtered per the methods prescribed under Islamic law, known as Zabihah. 

Islamic Dietary Laws and Zabihah

The method of slaughtering animals for meat in Islam is known as Zabihah. It is considered the most humane and purest way to slaughter animals for consumption. This process is integral to Islamic dietary laws, including prohibitions against consuming pork, alcohol, and other intoxicants.

What is Muslim-friendly food or Halal-friendly food?

In some cases, these terms are used by restaurants to indicate that the food is suitable for Muslims to consume. However, these terms do not convey the level of assurance Muslims require. The food has to be either Halal (permissible for consumption) or not Halal (not permissible for consumption). It cannot be just Muslim-friendly or 'permissible-friendly.'

Health Benefits of Eating Halal Food

Increasingly, people are recognizing the health benefits of eating Halal food. Halal meat is often considered cleaner and healthier because of the strict Zabihah slaughtering process, which ensures that most blood is drained from the veins as part of the slaughtering process.

Halal and Tayyib: Beyond Just Permissible

The Quran not only instructs Muslims to eat Halal but also Tayyib (Quran 2:168). The literal translation of Tayyib is good/clean/wholesome. Muslims commonly use it to refer to food, but often that of a higher quality or purity, such as organic or even simply healthy food. It also encompasses universal concerns such as being natural, environment-friendly, eco-ethical, non-cruelty to animals, socially responsible, and reducing over-consumption. Thus, food can be Halal (made of permissible ingredients) but not Tayyib.

What is Halal Meat

Halal meat is the meat of animals permissible for consumption and slaughtered according to Islamic rules, known as Zabihah. There are minor differences of opinion within the Islamic law on which animals are considered Halal, but the consensus is that all seafood is Halal, and those herbivorous land animals are Halal provided they have been slaughtered according to Islamic rulings of Zabihah. For a detailed discussion on Halal meat, please read the article What is Halal Meat?

What foods are Haram or non-Halal in Islam?

All foods and beverages are considered Halal except for those that are explicitly forbidden in the Quran, as listed below:

  • Alcohol and other intoxicants, such as narcotics
  • Any animal that has died (except fish and sea creatures) before being slaughtered in the Islamic manner
  • Blood
  • Pork
  • Meat that was slaughtered for idols
  • All carnivores with teeth, such as lions and tigers
  • All winged creatures that have claws, for example, birds of prey, hawks, vultures, falcons, and so on
  • Domesticated donkeys, mice, scorpions, snakes, frogs


What are the conditions for food and drinks to be Halal?

For the food or drink to be halal, it must also fulfill the following parameters:

  • It does not contain anything that is haram in Shariah law (as outlined above)
  • It was not prepared, processed, or contaminated with anything haram
  • It was not prepared, processed, transported, or stored using any facility contaminated by anything haram.
  • It does not contain najis (unclean) material according to Shariah law
  • It must be safe for human consumption, non-poisonous, non-intoxicating, or non-hazardous to health.
  • It must not be prepared, processed, or manufactured using equipment that was contaminated with najis or haram foods according to Shariah law
  • The meat(s) must be slaughtered as per Islamic rites.


What is Halal Certification for Food?

Halal certification is a formal recognition by a credible organization that a food product, its ingredients, and the process involved in its creation comply with the principles of Islamic dietary laws. This certification is a reliable indicator for Muslims, identifying permissible products for consumption according to Islamic law. When it comes to ensuring that food is genuinely Halal, certification plays a pivotal role.

Why is Halal Certification Important?

Halal certification provides consumers with greater confidence, particularly in non-Muslim countries where it can be challenging to identify Halal food. Additionally, obtaining accreditation can create new market prospects for businesses targeting the significant and expanding Muslim consumer base worldwide.

Who Provides Halal Certification?

Various organizations and agencies worldwide provide Halal certification services. These organizations conduct rigorous audits to ensure that the food production process adheres to Halal standards, from the sourcing of raw materials to the methods of preparation and packaging.

What is the Halal Certification process?

The process of obtaining Halal certification involves several rigorous steps. It typically begins with an application to a reputable Halal certification body. This is followed by an audit where experts evaluate the sourcing of raw materials, the manufacturing process, and the handling and preparation of the food to ensure they conform to Islamic dietary laws. Other specific requirements may be required based on the Halal certification body. The process also includes a review of the packaging, labeling, and even the cleaning agents used in the production facilities to ensure complete compliance. The steps of the process are:

  1. Application: Submitting an application to a recognized Halal certification body, providing necessary details about the product and the manufacturing process.
  2. Audit and Inspection: Undergoing a thorough audit by the certification body to evaluate compliance with Halal standards at every production stage.
  3. Certification: Once compliance is confirmed, the certification body issues a Halal certificate and allows the use of a Halal certification mark on the product.
  4. Renewal: Regular inspections and renewal of the certification to ensure ongoing compliance.

How to Identify Halal-Certified Products?

Halal-certified products usually carry a logo or symbol on their packaging that indicates they have been certified as Halal by a recognized authority. Always look for this symbol when shopping for Halal food products.

Is Halal Certification Universal?

It's important to note that Halal certification standards may vary from one country to another due to different interpretations of Islamic dietary laws. However, international efforts are underway to harmonize Halal standards to ensure greater consistency.


FAQs: Answering Your Questions on Halal Food

What Does Mashbooh Mean?

"Mashbooh" is an Arabic term that means "doubtful" or "questionable." If the Halal status of a food item is not clear, it's considered to be Mashbooh.

How Do I Know If a Restaurant Serves Halal Food?

Many restaurants indicate that they serve "Halal-friendly" or "Muslim-friendly" food. However, these terms may not offer the level of assurance that many Muslims require. It's best to ask for Halal certification or consult community resources.

What Are the Conditions for Food to Be Considered Halal?

In addition to being free from Haram ingredients, the food must be prepared, processed, and stored using Halal-compliant methods and facilities.


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