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Mar 3, 2002 05:51 AM


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Sorry for the ignorant question, but can someone explain to me what Halal is? I've seen it on the signs of many restaurants but never understood what it means. Is it Halal to Muslems like Kosher is to some Jews?

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  1. You got it. It is ritually slaughtered meat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: zora

      It's my understanding, it's not just ritually slaughtered, but also ritually butchered, with halal approved knives (sharp, which are more humane.)

      1. re: berkleybabe

        I also think that there's also something to do with draining/not-draining the blood as well ...

    2. The following is put together from a variety of sources. Hope it helps. Jonathan Forester

      The arabic word Halal means lawful or permited. In the Holy Quran (Koran), Allah commands Muslims and all of mankind to eat of the Halal things.

      The following products are definitely Halal:
      1. Milk (from cows, sheep, camels, and goats)
      2. Honey
      3. Fish
      4. Plants which are not intoxicant
      5. Fresh or naturally frozen vegetables
      6. Fresh or dried fruits
      7. Legumes and nuts like peanuts, cashew nuts, hazel nuts, walnuts, etc.
      8. Grains such as wheat, rice, rye, barley, oat, etc.

      Animals such as cows, sheep, goats, deer, moose, chickens, ducks, game birds, etc., are also Halal, but they must be Zabihah (slaughtered according to Islamic Rites) in order to be suitable for consumption. The procedure is as follows: the animal must be slaughtered by a Muslim. The animal should be put down on the ground (or held it if it is small) and its throat should be slit with a very sharp knife to make sure that the 3 main blood vessels are cut. While cutting the throat of the animal (without severing it), the person must pronounce the name of Allah or recite a blessing which contains the name of Allah, such as "Bismillah Allah-u-Akbar".

      The opposite of Halal is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life. However, we will use these terms only in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, food ingredients, and food contact materials. While many things are clearly Halal or clearly haram, there are some things which are not clear. These items are considered questionable or suspect and more information is needed to categorize them as Halal or haram. Such items are often referred to as Mashbooh, which means doubtful or questionable. All foods are considered Halal except the following, which are haram:
      1. Swine/pork and its by-products
      Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
      2. Animals killed in the name of anyone other than ALLAH (God)
      3. Alcohol and intoxicants
      4. Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears
      5. Blood and blood by-products
      6. Foods contaminated with any of the above products
      Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, etc. are questionable (Mashbooh) because the origin of these ingredients is not known.

      3 Replies
      1. re: The Rogue

        Fantastic job explaining! Thanks.

        I grew up in a neighborhood that had a lot of Halal butcher shops, and the things I saw were frightening and far from what I would consider humane. One that I would pass on my way home from school had its meat delivered in an unrefridgerated van. The doors would be flung wide open on the side of a very busy NYC street, and in the back of the van were the whole, skinned carcasses of what I can only assume were cows, all piled wrecklessly on top of one another. (Although to my young mind they looked like 4-legged ostriches.) The carcasses were then thrown into a regular supermarket shopping cart and pushed into the butcher's storefront. I saw this practice outside many of the Halal butchers in the neighborhood, but this particular one stands out because I passed it every day for 6 years. The sidewalk outside this shop was always filthy, and the smell that came from the van was atrocious. I can still remember it to this day, more than 25 years later.

        Frightening to learn that their meat should be slaughtered humanely, yet this is the treatment it got.

        1. re: Lori

          I know this is a bumped thread, but luckily there are a lot of places such as the one listed below that are gaining popularity and not just with Muslims.

          1. re: adrienne156

            I am SO bad with those links...

            Alhambra Halal Meat Company
            3111 24th St, San Francisco, CA

      2. Halal is essentially what a Muslim is allowed to eat, and in that light it is similar to Kosher to practicing Jews. Besides the rituals involved in slaughtering/butchering, it also means no pork or alcohol and possibly a number of other things that I can't recall at the moment.

        What constitutes Halal bears some overlap with Kosher, but it's not identical.

        Hope this helps.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Limster

          The topic has been pretty well covered. A few more minor points:

          "Halal," "haram," and "mashbooh" are terms of Islamic jurisprudence. They are most widely applied to the permissibility of food for consumption by Muslims, but they actually describe a number of other spheres of life under Shariah, such as whom one may marry, permitted professions, how and when to perform ritual acts, such as prayer, etc.

          There are slight differences between the schools of Shariah in regards to the procedure for slaughter. The 12th Imam Shi'ite school mandates certain steps that are considered optional by the four Sunni schools.

          There are three main differences between Islamic halal and Jewish kosher meat. First since alcohol is forbidden (haram) in Islam, then strictly speaking the addition of cooking wines and/or other alcoholic beverages to a dish renders it haram. Secondly. Jewish kosher is more specific as to the cuts of meat that are permitted for consumption -- they must come from the front half of the animal. Muslims are not bound by this restriction. Thirdly, Kosher meals cannot include both meat and dairy products; there is no analogue to this for Muslims.

          Jewish kosher meat is considered halal for Muslims, but it doesn't necessarily work the other way around.

          Jewish kosher laws apply to other foods than meat, including wine and grape juice.

          I hope that I'm not getting too esoteric.

        2. Products that often have gelatin in them (marshmallows and other candy products), which often comes from pigs in the Western world can also get the Halal stamp.

          7 Replies
          1. re: cresyd

            Halal marshmallows and marshmallow products (as well as other products that usually contain gelatin) are very common at most halal markets given their popularity in the States (at least in most major metropolitan areas). I actually had a halal marshmallow treat for the first time just the other day. Further, most mosques have lists of halal products and in my experience, those who make the effort to eat halal are pretty aware of what they put into their bodies.

            May I ask where you are that this is an issue? You can always check out IFANCA's site if you aren't sure...

            1. re: adrienne156

              I think that the OP had just seen the reference to halal on restaurant signs & was curious as to what that meant. It's always better to ask & learn than to guess in ignorance. I'm glad I popped into this thread -- I learned something! Thanks to all for the enlightenment.

              1. re: PattiCakes

                I was specifically responding to Cresyd's gelatin comment so others who may not know where to get halal gelatin products would know where to look as the gelatin issue is one that is fairly well known to those who eat halal. Was also curious if the products I thought were halal are actually not (bootleg gelatin - now there's a concept).

                Glad you learned something!

                  1. re: adrienne156

                    I currently live in Jerusalem, so finding halal products isn't an issue. I've just found it more common to see products that are known to contain gelatin to get halal marks. Unlike kashrut where everything needs a label, I haven't found that to be the case with halal.

                    I just was mentioning it as apart of the general halal discussion. Growing up, I had a friend who's mother was very strict with halal and she wasn't allowed to eat some items (Poptarts and Oreos come to mind) because while they had been certified Kosher, but the gelatin was still not considered halal. I want to say that there's a process that pig gelatin can go through to become kosher - but still is not considered halal - but I'm just responding to a fuzzy memory.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      Wow! A process that makes pig gelatin kosher?! That is amazing, how does that pass kasrut?? Can you describe the process?

                      1. re: adrienne156

                        I have no earthly clue, nor do I want to go too far out on a limb and say I stand by that story as absolute fact. But if I troll back to the recesses of my memory - it has something to do with a chemical process that the rabbis have claimed makes the substance entirely different from its pig origins. All I do remember well enough to stand by is that most of the times food that is considered kosher is halal (though not the other way around), with the exception to kashrut concerning gelatin.

                        Or it could have just been my friend's mother. All I know for sure, is that unlike kashrut where for all packaged goods that little sticker is very important it's not at all like that for halal. But given gelatin related issues, foods that often contain gelatin but are halal occasionally end up with a marking.

                        As a sidenote, I'm completely addicted to halal marshmallows as well.