When an ignorant person sees a product marked Halal on the counter, it is unlikely that he or she will pay any attention to it, taking this inscription as a simple company trademark. In reality, it would be worth thinking about it, because this word (from Arabic al-halal – allowed) means that this product does not violate Islamic prohibitions (haram). Today we will find out what these prohibitions are and whether we Orthodox may eat halal food.
What is halal food?
In Islam, “halal” means allowed food. It mostly refers to meat.
Muslims are not allowed to eat:
- meat with blood,
- animals that died on their own,
- the meat of animals that were slaughtered without the name of Allah.
There are also some other aspects: for example, animals must not be strangled, some parts of animals must not be eaten (genitalia, endocrine glands, gallbladder, etc.), carnivorous terrestrial animals (tiger, wolf, etc.) must not be eaten.
Experts from the Halal Meat Preparation Committee describe the production algorithm:
- The butcher must be an adult Muslim. Some sources say that representatives of other faiths, provided that they believe in One God – Jews and Christians – are also permitted to slaughter an animal. (Except that it is not clear how one of the following points is implemented in this case).
- The animal should be in consciousness and be able to feel pain. Stunning before slaughtering is not allowed.
- When slaughtering an animal, the prayer “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar” (“With the name of Allah, Allah is great!”) is said.
- At the same time, the throat of the animal is slit and the bulk of the blood flows out.
Halal Food Stores
Halal food first appeared in the capital of Russia in the 1980s in a kiosk at the Cathedral Mosque. Today, more and more new shops with halal products are opening in every district of Moscow. Halal meat is very popular among consumers, because it is considered to be the safest meat product. It is believed that the animal is grown on environmentally friendly forage without hormones and other hazardous admixtures.
We may also find the label Halal on confectionery products. In this case, it means that no pig fat was used in making the product.
I have to say that halal food is more expensive than regular food. There are instances of falsification of halal products, when, for example, pork is found in so-called halal dumplings. So now, in order for the product to be marked halal, you must obtain a special certificate.
Poland made it illegal to kill cattle by halal methods
Since 2013, the Polish government has banned the ritual slaughter of cattle such as Muslim halal and Jewish kashrut. This has caused dissatisfaction in those countries to which Poland supplied meat that met the ritual slaughter rules for Jews and Muslims, as well as Jewish and Muslim organizations within the country itself.
The rationale for the ban is that this way of killing animals is contrary to the Polish Constitution. Ritual slaughter without stunning the animals is considered cruel, and animal rights activists are absolutely opposed to it. It should be noted that the animal, as mentioned above, must be conscious and feel pain when slaughtered according to the standards of halal and kashrut.
Poland was one of the largest exporters of halal and kosher meat until 2013. The ban on the production of such foodstuffs foreshadowed millions of dollars in losses for this European country. However, this fact did not make Poland to change its views and cancel this ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Frederick Fred, the head of a French society for the protection of animals, said in an interview about the ritual slaughter process: “It is associated with greater suffering. I regularly visit slaughterhouses and I can say that when you see a bull whose throat is slit, you witness the agony of the animal. It is not the act of throat slitting that is shocking, but the agony of the animal which can last up to 14 minutes”.
Now that we have enough information about halal food, let us proceed to answer the main question: may we eat halal or not? For this purpose, let’s first find out whether the halal food is sacrificed to idols.
Muslims sacrifice animals at certain times by reading a series of prayers and performing ritual acts. These acts are not performed during the production of halal meat, nor are those prayers offered at the sacrifice recited. For example, during sacrifice it is necessary that the animal lies on the left side and the direction of its head is also determined. This is not required for the production of meat allowed for Muslims.
Thus, halal meat is not considered to be an idol sacrifice in the Biblical sense (in contrast to the ritually slaughtered ram on the feast of the Eid).
Still, we have to pay attention to the fact that the same words are pronounced both when slaughtering an animal for sacrifice and when producing halal meat while cutting the throat of an animal: “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar” (“With the name of Allah, Allah is great!”).
It is unlikely that the religious feelings of an Orthodox Christian will remain at peace when consuming such products. But what happens when an Orthodox Christian is visiting a Muslim? Would it not seem as though he dislikes his neighbor if he refused to eat in such a situation?
It happens that an Orthodox Christian lives in a country where it is impossible to buy products other than the halal ones. What can we do?
The guideline is found in 1 Corinthians 10:25-33.
Based on this passage, we can offer the following advice: an Orthodox Christian may eat halal food only if it is impossible to buy other food (or if the Orthodox person is visiting Muslims), and if he does not buy food in a mosque (meaning that the Orthodox person himself must not buy food in a mosque).
Of course, you should eat food only after prayer and making the sign of the cross (which is the case for any food).
In such cases, do not be embarrassed and afraid to taste this kind of food. If you can buy an ordinary product without the inscription Halal, an Orthodox Christian should go for it.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds