Each of the great world religions has its own individual principles which concern, among other things, the consumption of a particular type of food, its origin or the way in which it is prepared. These rules are more or less restrictive depending on the religion. Some of them indicate the exact types of products authorised or completely prohibited for consumption by their followers.
To what extent can religion influence respect for the principles in the act of consumption itself? It depends on the type of religion, the interpretation of the rules and the determination of believers to follow its teachings.
One of the most interesting religions, whose doctrine defines in detail the rules of consumption, among other things, is Islam. The concept of ‘halal’ is a determinant of the Islamic doctrine in the area of food that is acceptable to be consumed by the followers.
What is Halal?
Halal is a set of rules concerning the life principles of Islamic followers and ‘Muslim morality’. It includes, among other things, nutritional standards in accordance with the Islamic law of Shari’ah. Halal means everything that is allowed or in compliance with Islamic law.
The opposite of halal is the concept of ‘haram’, which in Arab culture means things that are unacceptable or illegal in Islamic law.
Please note that halal (allowed) and haram (prohibited) refer not only to consumption but also to other areas of human life.
There are four types of Halal, which are distinguished by Islamic followers:
- wajib (compulsory) – avoidance of mandatory acts is considered to be a sin (e.g., prayer, monthly post, observance of Ramadan);
- mustahabb (permitted and recommended) — voluntary acts, but highly recommended. The avoidance of these acts is not punished, but for their strict observance, a person will be rewarded (e.g., care for poor and sick people, deep respect for the elderly);
- mubah (neutral) – acts for which there are no legal indications or contraindications. They may be completed or not;
- makruh (allowed but not recommended) – acts to be avoided, although acceptable. However, committing them too often leads to sin.
Acts known as halal (permitted) or haram (prohibited) are classified into the appropriate group by an authorised scholar called the mujthaid. A judgment classifying a particular act is called a fatwa.
Differences between halal and kosher
In European culture, Halal is usually identified as a restrictive way of eating followed by Islamic believers, which in principle is similar to Jewish kosher. The similarity ends with the general existence of a ban on the consumption of a certain group of food products and foods prepared from them.
Muslims generally allow kosher products to be consumed, but not all halal foods can be consumed by Jewish communities. Why? Because the kosher guidelines prohibit, for example, the combination of different types of food (such as meat and dairy).
The difference between the halal and the kosher lies primarily in ritual slaughter of animals, although slaughter is similar, Jews do not speak the name of God with every animal that they slaughter. However, they recite a special prayer for the first and last animal they slaughter. Muslims who obey the halal rituals always speak the name of God over every animal slaughtered.
A key issue in the kosher slaughter of terrestrial animals and birds (Shechita) is also the person who carries it out. This role is played by a specifically educated, religious and pious man, with a knowledge of the Talmud (Shochet). During the Shechita, he recites a special blessing addressed to God (Hahn). At the time of halal slaughter, there is no such procedure. According to halal, every adult and pious Muslim can perform a slaughter ritual.
Muslims consider cattle or sheep as a whole to be a halal, provided they are killed according to the ritual. The Jews, on the other hand, regard only the rear quarter of the animal as kosher.
In addition, Islamic followers are looking for a source of enzymes before they are obtained. If these substances originate from an animal which is not halal, their use in any form shall be prohibited. In the case of kosher, the origin of enzymes is irrelevant, as Jews consider all enzymes, even those from non-kosher animals, to be kosher.
Halal rejects all alcohol, wine and drugs. However, the kosher law permits, for example, wine as a kosher product.
Although Islamic law recognises rabbit meat, wild hens, crustaceans, ducks and geese as halal, they are not considered as food allowed under the kosher rules.
Why does Islam prohibit certain food products?
Islam has a very interesting food legislation, but it is also a very complex and comprehensive subject. As with other known religions, the rules were established and written to protect followers from the spiritual danger of eating certain products and foods prepared from them.
Halal cuisine is naturally linked to Muslim culture and the Quran. Islam is the second religion in the world in terms of the number of followers. Moreover, the number of the Muslim population is still increasing. Halal cuisine is therefore also popular.
The reason for the popularity of halal is that foods authorised for consumption by Muslims are associated with high quality and safety. As a result, not only Islamic believers have a positive attitude toward it. Halal products are readily purchased by both Muslims and followers of other religions. This is particularly the case in regions where Islam is the dominant religion. Therefore, the production of Halal food is increasingly popular and is growing rapidly.
The nutritional requirements according to halal usually have their genesis in history. Although today some of the exclusions appear to be unrelated to specific prohibited products, the bans have survived to this day.
Importantly, not all individual dietary restrictions were introduced at the same time. They were introduced gradually, and some of them were revealed as haram (forbidden) long after the death of the prophet Muhammad, who died in Medina in 632. This is how the doctrine of halal developed over the centuries.
Scientific basis for the halal guidelines
The Quran guidelines indicate that all food products are halal (allowed) except those explicitly mentioned as haram (not compatible with Islam law or prohibited).
We already know that meat is the most rigorously regulated food. The Quran definitely prohibits the eating of pork as well as the blood and meat of dead animals and that of animals that have been sacrificed without compliance with the Islamic religion. It is required to pronounce the name of Allah over every animal during its ritual slaughter.
According to the halal rules, products intended for consumption by Muslims must not contain narcotics (alcohol, drugs) or other unauthorised materials.
So how do Muslims explain the prohibitions associated with the consumption of certain non-halal products? Below are some examples cited on the basis of scientific reasoning:
- The pig is an incubator for pathogenic worms and micro-organisms which, along with its meat, enter the human body, wreaking havoc there.
- Fatty acids, a fat composition in pork, is not compatible with human fat and biochemical systems. They are therefore harmful to human life and health.
- Dead animals are not fit for human consumption due to the progressive process of natural degradation that produces harmful chemical substances (toxins) dangerous to human health and life.
- The blood discharged from the animal body is harmful because it contains bacteria, toxins and metabolic products.
- Intoxicants such as alcohol, narcotics, and drugs in various forms are extremely harmful to the human nervous system. They lead to social pathologies, diseases and, in many cases, even death.
Despite the fact that these arguments have scientific foundations, religious grounds remain the main foundation behind the bans, and thus the provisions of the holy book of Quran. Muslims therefore allow all food as a halal, provided that it is ‘clean’. Only then is it fit for consumption. The decision on the purity of the various products is made by Islamic case law, based on the Ahadith principles, which determine whether the animal or bird is halal (allowed) and legal, or haram (prohibited) and illegal.
Haram – what food is not halal?
According to Islam, most foods are halal (allowed) already by their nature. However, there are a number of exceptions that do not meet the halal requirements. They are then included in the group of haram (prohibited) products. These include, for example:
- food of plant origin, i.e., plants presenting a danger to human life and health, which have narcotic effects. The exception may be plants in which the elimination of toxins is possible.
- food of animal origin, including:
- raptors with claws (falcons, eagles, vultures),
- all animals for which water and land are the natural environment of life (frogs, crocodiles, hippopotamuses),
- pigs and wild boar,
- monkeys, dogs and snakes,
- carnivores having fangs and claws (bears, lions, tigers),
- rats, mice and other pests,
- bees, brood and other insects,
- animals used for transportation by man (horses, donkeys, mules),
- all animals which have not been slaughtered in accordance with the rules of Islam.
- beverages containing alcohol (vodka, beer, wine and other intoxicating beverages).
- food additives, i.e., all substances and liquid additives belonging to the prohibited product groups.
The growing popularity of the ‘halal economy’ is a function of various economic and cultural incentives. Among these, the certification of halal (allowed) products and services that are in compliance with the rules of Islam plays an important role.
This compliance is confirmed by a halal certificate. Certification generally begins with verification of the raw material manufacturing process. Each step in the process of the production of a given product, from raw materials to finished goods, must comply with the rules of Islam. This applies in particular to production technologies, cross-contamination, the origin of ingredients, additives contained in recipes and other important areas, such as storage and confectioning.
The following entities may be included in the halal certification:
- food producers and sellers, food additives, materials and packaging,
- manufacturers and sellers of cosmetic products and personal hygiene products,
- manufacturers and dealers of household, industrial and institutional detergents,
- manufacturers of chemical, pharmaceutical, and medical printing products,
- logistics companies,
- service companies: garbage collection and utilisation,
- producers of animal feed and feed additives,
- producers and traders of chemical and biochemical agents, pesticides and fertilisers,
- manufacturers of machinery and processing equipment,
- producers and distributors of drinking water dispensers,
- farm and fishery owners,
- hotels and restaurants.
These entities, companies, or legal entities may also require halal certification from their suppliers to certify their products or services. When they certify their products, they have the opportunity to gain an additional competitive advantage in the growing halal food market.
One of the suppliers of halal certified products is the PCC Group, a manufacturer of a wide range of raw materials and chemical additives for various industries. Chemical producers belonging to the PCC Group structure offer a range of chemical substances and formulations for the food industry, the cosmetics industry and the detergent industry, among others.
The dedicated line-up for these industries includes both halal certified products and products that comply with the ‘halal-friendly’ Islamic rules. They can therefore be used by the Muslim Community for application or further processing. Their production, packaging and storage are carried out without the use of haram (prohibited) raw materials and products, including alcohol or animal fats not authorised by Islam, produced, e.g., using any part of the body of a pig (regardless what it is) or of other excluded animals.
Due to the dynamic development of the halal economy, the PCC Group is constantly developing its portfolio of halal products. This is also the case for kosher products dedicated to Jewish communities around the world.
At present, the global market for halal products has around 1.6 billion Islamic consumers who prefer specific product groups, according to their religion. Today, it is known that the global food market has been one of the most dynamically developing areas in the food industry. Therefore, the certification and safety assurance of PCC products in relation to the requirements of halal is very important, especially for companies offering raw materials and additives for the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical packaging industries. The Halal certification and the fulfilment of its requirements is the ticket for PCC companies to trade with customers seeking products that conform to the principles of Islam.