Halal is an Arabic term which means lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Koran (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 a Muslim’s way of life. They are commonly used in relation to food products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials.
While most of the consumption commodities are clearly defined as halal or haram, some others’ status are not clearly determined because of the lack of global consensus position among muslim scholars regarding them.. Further information is needed to categorize them as halal or haram. Such items are often referred to as mashbooh, which means doubtful or questionable.
In general every food is considered halal in Islam unless it is specially prohibited by the Koran or the Hadith (a collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad – peace and prayers of Allah be upon him - which, with accounts of his daily practice, the Sunna, constitute the major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran).
It is indeed written in the Koran in Sura Al Maidah (“The Table Spread” 5:3): “Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. (…)”
By official definition, halal foods are those that are:
- Free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to Islamic law (Shariah).
- Processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery that have been cleansed according to Islamic law.
All foods are considered halal except for the following (which are haram):
*May be consumed if derived from halal animals
- Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
- Unhealthy food
- Blood (for instance blood sausages are haram)
- Non-Halal Animal Fat
- Enzymes* (Microbial Enzymes are permissible)
- Gelatine* - from non-Halal source (fish gelatin is Halal)
- L-cysteine (if from human hair)
- Lipase* (only animal lipase need be avoided)
- Non-Halal Animal Shortening
- Pork, Bacon / Ham and anything from pigs
- Unspecified Meat Broth
- Rennet* (All forms should be avoided except for plant / microbial / synthetic – rennet obtained from halal slaughtered is permissible).
- Stock* (a blend of mix species broth or meat stock)
- Tallow* (non-Halal species)
- Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
- Foods contaminated with any of the above products.