As Muslims in the US, there are a few things we need to consider when making food choices. The term halal denotes what is allowed. Although commonly used only in reference to food it actually extends to all aspects of life. It just means lawful or permissible. It is similar to the term kosher in the Jewish tradition. Islam is a way of life that extends beyond just acts of worship. There is guidance provided on just about all aspects of life from beliefs to worship to personal and social relationships to everyday life to business transactions to everything in between.
Generally most foods are halal but there are three areas of primary consideration:
- Pork consumption is not allowed in any form, this includes the meat and other parts. The meat is usually easy to recognize and avoid but the ingredient we may have to especially look out for is gelatin. Gelatin in the US is primarily derived from pork so foods like jello, marshmallows, and gummy candies are often not allowed. Even many desserts will have gelatin (and sometimes use lard) and lots of supplements too. Contrary to popular belief, we will not melt when sprayed with pig’s blood.
- Alcoholic beverages are also prohibited for consumption as well as foods made using wines and other alcohols. There is some conversation within the scholars on the permissibility of some foods with alcohol like extracts but for the most part, many Muslims avoid any foods that have alcohol in them. Finding a readymade Alfredo sauce is quite the struggle sometimes. Other foods that regularly have some wine are vinaigrette’s and Italian food in general. The idea that it “cooks off” is irrelevant and actually inaccurate.
- The type or source of a meat. Generally, it’s agreed upon that cattle and chicken are allowed for consumption but they must be slaughtered in a certain manner. This includes the method of slaughter, the blessing of the animal, and the religion of the person slaughtering the meat. A live being was sacrificed for us to enjoy meat and therefore steps must be taken to make it halal for our consumption.
There are other considerations, of course, but this sums up most of the conversation. Thanks for reading and please do let me know if you have any questions or would like more information.
Dua Aldasouqi, MA, RDN
Certified Health Coach