Halal is an Arabic word, which means lawful or legally permitted. Under the religious Islamic Law, Halal diet refers to all foods that a devout Muslim is allowed to eat; the opposite of Halal is Haram and refers to the things that a Muslim is prohibited from consuming. The Halal food culture is followed as a rule in almost all Islamic countries and many non Islamic countries are slowly opening up to Halal food labeling. Halal recipes include all vegetarian preparations and the non-vegetarian dishes prepared using Dhabiha meat (meat processed in accordance to Islamic rules).
History and Islamic Significance of Halal Food
Halal is a universal term that refers to everything that the religious texts of Islam permit a Muslim to engage into and Halal food is the dietary manifestation of this rule. According to these rules, all foods can be divided into 3 categories – Halal (the permissible foods), Haram (the forbidden foods), and Mashbooh (the questionable foods or foods that may be termed Halal depending on the ingredients used.)
However, an exception to the Halal food laws does exist. According to Surah 2:173 of Holy Quran, if a devout Muslim is faced with a starvation situation and has no other food available for consumption then, in such a condition a non-Halal food may be considered as Halal.
According to many religious scholars and food historians, the rules of Halal recipes were constituted as a means of ensuring purity and cleanliness of food. The Halal food laws have a lot of similarities with Kosher food Laws practiced by devout Jews.
Dietary Laws Governing Halal Food Consumption
The Sharia clearly demarcates all foods that are Halal from the foods considered as Haram. According to these rules, the following are considered as Haram or prohibited from consumption:
· Pork/swine and its by-products.
· Blood and any meat or food consisting of blood.
· Carnivorous land animals.
· Animals slaughtered as a sacrifice to anyone but Allah.
· Animals not slaughtered in accordance to Dhabiha rules (the Islamic rules for slaughtering animals).
· Animals killed or savaged by animals of prey (other than humans).
· Alcohol and other intoxicating drinks and food substances.
· Seafood with fangs (crocodile, certain catfish, etc.)
· Amphibians like frogs and crocodile.
The Mashbooh is a category of food products which might contain ingredients that may or may not be Halal. Foods like food flavorings (at times contain alcohol as solvent), enzymes (may be derived from pork), and emulsifiers are Mashbooh foods and can be eaten only if the origin and process of manufacture is known.
All foods other than the aforementioned ones are considered as Halal and can be freely consumed by Muslims or the followers of the doctrines of Islam. Along with these food restrictions, according to Halal dietary practices, one should eat only when hungry and fill himself only to two thirds of his capacity.
Dhabiha – the Islamic rules for Slaughtering Animals
The prescribed method of slaughtering all “land animals” in Islam is called Dabiha or Tabiha. According to these rules, stunning, strangling, beating, or poisoning an animal before death is forbidden. According to Sharia a single swift, deep incision with a sharp knife must be administered on the neck of the animal, so that the jugular veins and carotid arteries are slit but the spinal cord is left intact. This causes the severe bleeding leaving negligible traces of blood in the animal. Moreover, since the spinal cord is not damaged the respiration, pulse, and muscle contractions continue, which results in thorough bleeding of the animal.
The concept of Dhabiha is based on the belief that blood is impure and harbors several germs that are unhealthy and hence, the animal must be freed from all blood before processing the meat.
Dietary Routine Based on Halal Recipes
A typical diet plan or diet routine of a person following the doctrines of Halal diet may include:
Breakfast: Breakfast cereals with milk, fruit juice, eggs, and tea or coffee,
Lunch: Bread, beef/chicken stew, mixed salad, and stir-fried vegetables.
Evening Snacks: Oatmeal cakes, a fruit, and tea/coffee
Dinner: Lentil soup (daal), rice preparation, curried vegetables, and yogurt.
Dessert: A single serving ofJalebi/Kheer/Sevayya/Malpua/Baamiya
This is merely an example and a follower of Halal diet may include many other Halal dishes depending upon his/her taste preferences. However, while purchasing ready-made food products or eating out, one must be wary of inconspicuous or indirect usage non-Halal dishes. It is always recommended that you purchase food and food products only from Halal certified outlets.
Health Benefits of Halal Recipes
According to the doctrines of Islam, following Sharia and consuming Halal recipes is more about obeying the sayings of Allah and the apparent health benefits are all secondary. However, according to some studies conducted, Halal dishes and Halal meat are less susceptible to microbial contamination and more sustainable forms of food processing.
Halal Food Trivia
The Tex-Mex Beef Co., a Huston based meat and poultry distribution company, was the first to supply Halal meat at retail store level in USA.