Concept of Halal (lawful) and Haram (Un-lawful) in Islam
Due to the settlement of the Muslim communities in the Western Hemisphere, the issue of halal food has been subject to much discussion and criticism to a great extent. It seems important to discuss the concept of halal in Islam in the light of its proper perspective in order to dissipate misconceptions around this issue.
Basic concept of Halal food
What is the basic concept and logic behind the notion of halal food? This notion is related to a great principle, and that is, God Almighty has never created anything on earth not conducive to human consumption. Obviously, there are certain species and edibles not suitable for the sake of consumption, either on the ground of their harmful nature, impurity or medical reasons. And this has been widely acknowledged by both religious, as well as secular point of view.
This universally acknowledged view is exactly offering an adequate assistance to understand the concept of Halal (lawful) and Haram (un-lawful in the faith of Islam). We also find certain species have been declared as haram (unlawful) in the faith of Islam, either on the ground of their harmful nature, impurity or on the basis of ethics and commitment to the ruling of God.
Halal in the light of the Quran
There are numerous verses of the Quran denoting the notion of Halal and its nature. The following verse is well known and frequently cited in this respect.
“O people, eat of the lawful (Halal) and pure (Tayyib) things in the earth, and follow not in the footsteps of Satan. Surely, he is your open enemy.” (2: 168)
The above-cited verse contains two important parts pertaining to the definition of the term “Halal”; First, halal is the thing which is useful by nature and wholesome and quite beneficial for the sake of consumption. And the second is “Tayyib” pure and suitable from cleanliness and hygienic point of view.
Welfare and rights of animals
Islam also pays great attention and values the rights of animals by eliminating all savagery – based treatments and usages prevailed at the time of Jahiliyyah (the era pre-Islam) in Arabia. The Prophet of Islam introduced the rules on how to treat animals in terms of providing food, comfort, fair dealing even at the time of slaughter. The following Ahadith (the statements of the Prophet of Islam) sheds some light on understanding the Islamic perspective on this matter.
Suhail bin Al-Hanzaliyyah narrated that once the Prophet of Islam happened to pass by a camel that was looking too weak due to lack of food and hard labour. He passed on the ruling:
“O people, you must have mercy on these speechless animals and be mindful of their rights in terms of food, comfort and labour. Always be just.” (Abu dawud)
There are even rules for slaughtering animals and the wisdom of the rules is to take the animal’s life in the quickest and least painful way. The Prophet of Islam said:
“God has ordained kindness in everything. If slaughtering is to be done, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife and putting the animal at ease.” (Ibn Majah)
Hazrat Ibn Abbas reported that once the Prophet of Islam saw a man who was sharpening his knife after lying down a sheep to be slaughtered. The Prophet rebuked him saying:
“Do you intend to make him two deaths? Why did you not sharpen your knife before lying it down?” (SaHiH al-Bukhari)
Islam as a religion is extremely intended on the welfare of human beings as well as animals in terms of their rights, welfare and food. In this day and age, we ponder and support the notion of “Five Freedoms Rules” for safeguarding the welfare of animals, while Islam had already established the same concept centuries ago.
A brief extraction of the Quran and statements of the Prophet of Islam have been presented here for the sake of genuine understanding of the topic. We as Muslims have to take this task and lead this process as our mission for the sake of humanity