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What is Halal?

the word Halal in Arabic script

What is halal? Does it originate from a country or region? You might have wondered what the meaning of halal is when ordering your favorite combo platter or gyro from your local halal food establishment. Or maybe you’ve overheard a friend, co-worker, or classmate of Islamic faith mention the term “halal.”


Well, by definition, the term “halal” means ‘lawful’ or ‘permissible’ under Islamic law. So, in respect, the term “halal food” means ‘food that is permissible.’ Any foods that are not considered halal are then considered haram. The term “haram” means ‘unlawful’ or ‘not permissible.’


Now you’re probably wondering, “Okay, so what kind of food would be considered ‘halal’ or ‘haram’?” According to Islamic law, all sources of food are lawful except pigs and boars, dogs, monkeys, snakes, carnivorous animals with claws and fangs, birds of prey with claws, pests, animals considered as repulsive, all hazardous and poisonous aquatic animals, animals that live both on land and in water, carcasses, blood, and any form of hazardous or intoxicating drinks, including any food sources containing any of the aforementioned products or derivatives.


Think of halal food as just another term for “kosher” food. They both have similar conditions and criteria and are both derived from the Abrahamic religions. Interestingly, any permissible foods prepared by an individual of any of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are considered halal.


The manner in which a lawful animal is slaughtered determines whether it’s halal or haram. The animal being slaughtered should be alive or deemed to be alive at the time of slaughter. The phrase “Bismillah” (In the Name of Allah) should be invoked immediately before the slaughter of an animal. The knife should be sharp and shouldn’t be lifted off the animal as it is butchered. The trachea, esophagus, veins and main arteries of the neck region should never be severed.


When an individual of the Islamic faith (Muslim) rejects foods from certain establishments or from another individual, don’t take offense. This person is simply abiding by the rules of their faith. So, for the holy month of Ramadan, remember that your fellow Muslims aren’t intentionally trying to offend anyone. We all should be mindful of other people’s beliefs and practices.


Ramadan Mubarak!

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