What does Halal mean?
“Halal” is an arabic word which means permissible or lawful. When used in reference to diet, ‘halal’ simply refers to the food and drink that is permissible for a Muslim to consume.
Rooted in the religious texts of the Quran and prophetic teachings, this diet is intended to compliment the Islamic ethos of protecting all aspects of one’s life. This includes an individual’s health, wealth, property, and intellect. Those who follow this diet do so for the purpose of avoiding harm in these areas.
The general premise behind a halal diet is that all foods are permissible, unless specifically singled out as unlawful, or “haram”. Only foods that are considered pure, clean, and not harmful to the body are designated as halal.
What a Halal diet includes
A halal diet includes all domestic birds, cattle, sheeps, goats, camels, buck, rabbits, fish & shellfish, locusts, fruit & vegetables, dairy, eggs, pulses, and legumes. Of all of these food groups, meat is the most regulated.
With the exception of fish and locust, the aforementioned animals are only halal if a ritual slaughter takes place. This involves reciting God’s name, and quickly and efficiently severing specific arteries with a very sharp knife. This is intended to render the animal unconscious and minimise its suffering.
What a Halal diet excludes
Unlawful foods are specified within the chapters of the Quran. Chapter 5, Verse 3 explicitly lists which foods are prohibited, while Chapter 5, Verse 9 also calls out the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants as impermissible.
The following animal meat and by-products are not allowed to be consumed by those with a halal diet. Any animal that has not been ritually slaughtered (including those that have died by natural cause or injury), pigs, carnivorous animals with fangs, birds of prey, reptiles, mules, donkeys, pests, and insects. Specific organs and animal by-products are also prohibited, including testicles, bladder, pancreas, and flowing blood.
Ingredients that have been contaminated by or derived from non-halal animal products are also not allowed. This includes some of the more obscure ingredients such as L-Cysteine (animal hair), calcium phosphates (bone), rennet (stomach enzyme) and gelatine (connective tissue).
Whilst for many this may seem like a restrictive list, for Muslims these are divine orders.
To reduce the chances of consuming non-halal foods and drinks, many muslims will avoid places where alcohol, pork and non-halal meat are prepared and served. They may also prefer to stick to pescetarian or vegetarian menu options and avoid dishes with alcohol when eating out.