What does Halal/Haram mean?
Halal is an Arabic term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to the Islamic law. The term is widely used to designate food seen as permissible according to the Islamic law.
In contrast to Halal, Haram means forbidden. Haram designates prohibited objects such as food products and actions.
The following food products or nutritional elements are considered to be Haram:
- Pork meat and all food products which contain elements of pork meat
- Alcohol and food products with alcoholic components
- Meat from animals which died of natural causes
- Meat from carnivorous animals
- Blood and its by-products
- Meat from animals which have not been slaughtered according to the Islamic norms
- Meat and meat products from predators with fangs
- Meat and meat products from raptors with claws
Examples of Quran verses concerning the nutrition:
Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and those animals killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you are able to slaughter before its death, and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and prohibited is that you seek decision through divining arrows. That is grave disobedience. (5:3)
He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. (2:173)
Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist? (5:91)
O you who have believed, fulfil all contracts. Lawful for you are the animals of grazing livestock except for that which is recited to you - hunting not being permitted while you are in the state of ihram. Indeed, Allah ordains what He intends. (5:1)
Does Halal/Haram only apply to food products?
No. The concept of Halal and Haram is very comprehensive. It can be applied to nearly every aspect of life. Haram for example applies to certain behaviours such as adultery, abuse or the abstention in general elections. Furthermore, Haram also applies to wealth obtained through sins. Examples include money earned through cheating, stealing, corruption, murder or any means that involves harm to another human being. It is prohibited in Islam for a true Muslim to profit from such Haram actions.
What is the base for Halal/Haram?
The base of these commandments and interdictions is the holy Quran and the Sunna.
Are there different perceptions of what is Halal and Haram?
Yes. Depending on how the Quran is interpreted, there might be different views on certain topics. There are different opinions on the Halal-status of animals who were anaesthetised before they were slaughtered for example. The reason for these different interpretations are the Islamic law schools.
There are several recognized Sunni law schools:
- The Hanafi: build upon the teachings of the Persian scholar Abu Hanifa and also named after him, the fiqh with the largest number of followers, predominant in the countries of the former Ottoman Empire, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and also the Balkans
- The Maliki: predominant in North African and West African countries, named after the Medinese jurist Malik ibn Anas, whose work named ‘’Al Muwatta’’ (The frequently confirmed) is held as the foundational text of the Maliki school
- The Hanbali: the smallest Sunni Islamic school, based on the teachings and works of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, an Islamic scholar. His most known work named ‘’Al-Musnad’’ is a collection of approximately 30000 Hadiths, the school is predominant in Saudi-Arabia and some countries in the Persian Gulf area, who are mainly influenced by Saudi Arabia
- The Shafi’i: predominant in South-East Asia and East Africa, based on the Islamic jurist Muhammad ibn Idrīs asch-Schāfiʿī, whose most important work named ‘Risala’, analyses the methods of the jurisprudence and the principles of the school.
There are also recognised Shia law schools:
- The Ja’fari: the oldest Islamic law school, based on Dschaʿfar as-Sādiq an imam and scholar, the adherents of the law school are also known as the Twelvers, the school is predominant in Iran and also some parts of Iraq
The different views on sea animals is one topic which shows us the differences between the law schools. The adherents of the Hanafi law school believe that not all sea animals are allowed for human consumption. They base their view on the Islamic Catechism, which indicates that only sea fish are allowed for consumption. Other sea animals like crabs and mussels are forbidden.
On the other side the adherents of the other three law schools rely on the Quran verse 5:96, which does not mention any forbidden sea animals as an exception. There are also other sources like Ibn Abbas statements’ (‘’What the sea throws up and is left by the tide you may eat’’) that indicate that all sea animals are allowed for consumption.
Does the concept of Halal exclude people of different faith?
No. Contrary to many speculations the concept of Halal does not exclude any non-Muslims from the consumption of the ethically produced, high quality Halal goods. Taking a closer look at the Halal-standards, it is not surprising that there are customers, who don’t profess to Islam but still buy and consume Halal-certified goods, because they have to meet higher standards of hygiene.
Are the boundaries between Halal and Haram clear or is there a grey area?
There are certain things and actions which tend to be Haram but are not explicitly forbidden.
These things are referred to as ‘Mashbooh’. The term is representative for the grey area between Halal and Haram and literally means undesirable. As a precaution this area should be avoided because it’s boundaries are not clear.
Are there any foods which are basically considered to be Halal?
Yes. Foods or food products which are made from herbal raw materials are considered to be Halal, as long as the Halal-requirements were adhered during the production.
Fish, Fruits and vegetables in their natural state are also considered to be Halal.
However, the Halal-status can be questioned if ethanol is being used during the processing or if the alcoholic fermentation is already in process.
Is milk Halal?
Cow’s milk is considered to be Halal. However, the dairy industry uses some raw materials, which have been classified as critical such as the additives or aromas which are being used during the production of yoghurt or even flavour enhancers and preservatives.
What rules have to be followed during the slaughter of an animal?
- The aim of the Islamic regulations regarding the slaughter is to end the animal’s life in a sympathetic, quick and painless manner.
- The slaughter always has to be held in the name of Allah, since the animal is also god’s creature. In this way we ask God for his permission.
- The knife needs to be sharpened.
- During the slaughter the cervical arteries, the jugular veins and the trachea of the animal have to be cut through with one incision. The aim is to let as much blood as possible flow out of the body. The spinal column can be cut through once the skin is removed and the body is opened.
- Every practising Muslim who is trained in the slaughter and knows the Islamic law, can carry out the slaughter.
- The Islamic slaughter is viewed as a purification process. Therefore only those animals which are allowed according to the Islamic law, can be purified in the name of Allah.
- Sea animals are considered to be pure and halal. It is not necessary to slaughter these kind of animals.
- The Islamic slaughter (Zabiha) is forbidden in some European countries.
- The usage of stunnings which do not lead to the death of the animal nor affect the bleeding, is approved by the majority of Muslims. By now stunning are used in industrial slaughtering all over the world.
- Muslims are required to treat the animal with respect and dignity. During the slaughter much emphasis is placed on ensuring that an animal is not able to see other (slaughtered) animals nor blood. The knife should not be sharpened in front of the animal. Also the animal should be rested and well-fed before the slaughtering.
What is the difference between Halal and Kosher?
While there are many similarities and overlaps, there are still some significant differences between the two concepts.
The Jews for example are allowed to consume wine, if the wine is produced by a Jew or the production is overlooked by one, whereas Muslims are not allowed to consume nor to sell or possess alcohol or any other foods with elements of it.
Another difference is the way they slaughter and process the meat. Jewish people sprinkle the slaughtered animal with a gritty salt in order to draw out the remained blood. They also cut out some fats and hip sinews which will not be consumed later on.
During the Passover (Pessach) there are special rules and commandments which only apply for that particular festival. Food and food products which are allowed for consumption during that festival, are labelled with a special logo and certificate (Passover-certificate).
In Islam there are always the same restrictions and rules.
If there were non-Kosher substances used on a Kosher production line, there is still a possibility to kosher the production line. A rabbi has to clean the production line with boiled water and cleaning agents.
This possibility does not exist with a cross contamination of Halal food with non-Halal food. In this case the production would have to be stopped.
Also Jewish people are not allowed to consume milk and meat at the same time. Depending on local customs milky food may be consumed only about three to six hours after the consumption of meaty food. Vice versa the waiting period amounts between one and three hours.
This kind of restriction does not exist in Islam.
What is the point at certifying foods and food products?
For Muslims who don’t live in a predominant Muslim country, it is hard to avoid prohibited food. Most of the food products nowadays consist of various components such as aromas and colouring agents.
The consumer often lacks information about the components and their composition. There might be components of pork in a poultry sausage or the apple juice might contain pork gelatine, which got into the apple juice during its purification for example.
Because of these issues a growing number of Muslims all over the world expressed their wish for a bigger transparency in that area. The first certification bodies emerged out of that desire.
How does a certification look like?
After the company has filled out and submitted an application form, the certification body will determine if the company has the intention to produce Halal-products, based on the supplied documents.
After the company and the certification body have negotiated an agreement for the Halal-certification, the actual process begins.
As a first step the certification team examines all the used raw materials, additives and processing aids on their Halal-compliance. If there are any raw materials based on animals, a Halal-certificate is required.
In the second step the implementation and the effects of the steps already taken are examined. In order to verify the Halal-compliance of the production site, the facility undergoes a very strict and precise examination. This should guarantee that cross-contamination is avoided and the traceability is secured. The company is obliged to separate the whole grocery chain, from the raw material procurement to the goods issue, in order to guarantee the Halal-compliance.
Both examinations are rounded off with a report, which will be submitted to the Halal-committee. The committee makes the final decision based on the recommendation of the auditors and their consultation.
Are there any other products that can be certified besides foods?
Yes. Besides the food products, there are also non-food products that can be certified such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetic products and even products that are a being used in the production such as lubricants, cleaning agents, disinfectants or animal feed.
Which steps does a company have to take concerning the certification?
First of all, the decision-makers have to formulate a clear strategy for the Halal-production. Halal-production may imply an additional effort. Initially it must be decided whether the whole company should be converted to a Halal-compliant environment or only parts of it, which means that Halal-compliant products and non-halal-products are produced next to each other.
In the first case all machines, vessels, containers, as well as lines and all the other aids have to be cleaned thoroughly before the first Halal production. Thereby, all possible residues from the previous (not Halal correspondent)-production must be removed in a traceable way. Afterwards the Halal production can begin. In addition, the staff must be trained in the usage of the food according to the Halal standards.
The second variation is substantially more complicated and more difficult to realize. A complete physical separation of the storage, the cooling of the raw materials, the preparation zone, the production zone and the distribution has to be ensured.
It must be guaranteed under all circumstances that no mixture of the vessels, utensils, containers or other used aids can occur during the preparation or ablution.
All used utensils must be marked with colours to exclude mistakes. If the whole company is geared towards Halal production, the possibility of a cross contamination does not exist. That makes it easier to certify the products.
Furthermore, all raw materials used in the production have to do be Halal correspondent.
Are there any special requirements for the packaging?
The packaging materials that are being used, have to be Halal, which means they can not contain any health hazardous components or components of alcohol, pork meat or any other meat which is haram. This arises from the additional standards of the suitable norm to the packaging in contact with food.
How is the process documented?
The audit-summary-document which contains the most important points of the audit, is created right after the audit and is based on the notes the auditors made during the audit.
Furthermore, the evaluation of the documents and the audit itself are documented very precisely.
Who determines the Halal-standards?
Muslim scholars who are well versed in the interpretation of the Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and Muslim scientists of food technology, organic chemistry, biotechnology, pharmaceutical chemistry and biochemistry develop the Halal-standards.
How long is the Halal certification valid?
The certification has to be renewed yearly.
How often must audits be carried out during that period?
- Once a year an audit is carried out which serves for the issue or for the renewal of the certificate. Within this year it is possible that we carry out unannounced audits to make sure that our demands are still kept.
What does a certification cost?
The costs depend on different factors. On one hand the size of company is a determining factor. On the other hand, the number of the offered products, the complexity of the processes and the required time for the controls are also important factors. Every company is judged individually and receives a personal offer based on the provided information.
What kind of added value do I receive as a client with a certification ?
The Halal certificate offers a marketing advantage towards competitors. For Muslims the Halal certification provides the guarantee that the products have been produced according to Islamic guidelines.
Is the certification recognized worldwide?
Because there are no sole, internationally approved certification standards, the certificates are not recognized by all Muslim authorities.
How big is the Halal market?
Due to the more conscious approach of Muslim customers to their purchases, Halal certification has become lucrative.
The number of Muslims is expected to increase by 70% – from 1.8 billion in 2015 to nearly 3 billion in 2060. They are expected to make up more than 31.1% of the world’s people.
Expenditures in the food and lifestyle sector of the Islamic economy will attain $ 3 trillion by 2022. This means significant opportunities in Halal food and beverage brands, with spending expected to reach $ 1.93 billion in 2022.
The pharmaceutical sector is expected to reach $ 132 billion by 2022 and the Halal cosmetics sector $ 82 billion of dollars.
In Asia, non-Muslim majority countries such as Singapore and the Philippines are important markets for Halal-packaged food and beverages at $ 1.4 billion and $ 7.5 billion respectively.
In Europe, the value of the Halal market is estimated at between 40 and 100 billion euros. In any case, it is undeniable that the Halal food market is a multi-billion-dollar contributor to the European economy.
Are Halal products more expensive than others?
If other raw materials or ingredients must be used to meet the Halal standards, Halal products can be more expensive under circumstances. Otherwise the certification does not affect the price which the final consumer will pay