by Receb Said Yıldırım
According to our religion, Islam, the concepts ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ solely and exclusively belongs to our Lord, Allah (swt), and they are clearly expressed in our Holy Book, the Qur’an, leaving no need for the comment of any human. For the parts we may not understand, our Lord has sent our Master, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), to interpret them; and he has explained those parts in detail. Moreover, Allah taught us all the fundamentals, manners and concepts of our religion by sending the madhhab imams and scholars of Islam who have expounded the particulars. Islam has boundaries. It has formed these boundaries by means of the concepts of halal and haram.
Our Exalted Creator commands us in five verses of the Qur’an to not only eat the foods which are ‘halal’ but also those which are ‘good’. 1 For example, in the 168th verse of Surah al-Baqarah our Lord says, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” Then why does Allah use the word ‘good (tayyib)’ along with the word ‘halal’? When we ask this to the scholars of Islamic law, they say that the words ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ refer to the immaterial state of foods, and the word ‘tayyib’ refers to the material condition of them.
For instance, the flesh of swine is haram. (See Al-Ma’idah, 5:3) The only reason is the fact that our Lord commands it to be so. Swine eats filth, it is non-ruminant, it is not jealous of its partner, and its flesh has the trichina; these reasons are just wisdoms behind its being haram. They are not the real reason for the flesh of swine being haram. The real reason is only the Divine prohibition. And the commands and prohibitions of our Lord are spiritual and may differ according to the time. For example, hunting on Saturdays was forbidden at the time of the Prophet Musa (pbuh), but it is not prohibited in Islam. Similarly, eating the tallow (animal fat) was also forbidden at those times, but it is halal in Islam. It would be a mistake, for example, to say that the animal fat was prohibited in those times because it causes high cholesterol. The fact is Allah prohibited it and it became haram. Today animal fat can be eaten, but it causes high cholesterol. But why is it not haram? It means that the only lawmaker and one who determines the exam conditions, Allah (swt), has wished to determine new fundamentals and changed the old rules because of various wisdoms.
What is meant by the word ‘tayyib’ is being clean, healthy and reliable; that is, not being filthy and unhealthy. Therefore, if a halal production is done in a filthy or unhealthy environment, – although we may not say ‘it is haram’ – it can be said that it is not tayyib. Thus, it will be against the verses of the Qur’an. A food which is not tayyib cannot be consumed and that product cannot be given a halal-tayyib certificate. For instance, if a lamb is slaughtered by reciting ‘basmala’ but cut up in a dirty place and unhealthy condition, it is not called haram but it is called ‘not tayyib’. For example, sodium nitrite and sodium benzoate known as certainly being carcinogenic, or synthetic colorants known to cause allergic reactions, or additives known as being neurotoxins like MSG are not given the halal-tayyib certificate. However, they are not called haram; it is said ‘they are not tayyib’.
In this case, Allah does not only commands us to consume halal but also foods which are healthy and clean. In other words, He orders us not to eat things which are not tayyib. However, the mistake we make most is that we underestimate the word ‘tayyib’.
How halal are the things we eat?
Thousands of additives are imported to Turkey and they are all used in industrial production. When we look at the producers of these additives, the majority of them are persons and companies that are not Muslims and cannot be expected to make products based on Islamic sensibilities. Rennet from the stomach of swine or the abomasus of calves and cattle which are not slaughtered according to Islamic methods, emulgators from animal fat, brushes from swine hairs, the additive called cysteine from human hair and swine hair, gelatine from animal skin and bones, some enzymes and hormones from internal animal organs, and so on, are produced and these additives are imported to Turkey just with an auditing of conformity to the Turkish Food Codex and without any auditing in accordance with Islam. Therefore, productions are made in Turkey with all these haram origin or highly possible haram origin additives. For this reason, permissible things, which are licit according to the rule “the essence of a thing is permissible”, have really decreased in number in industrial production. That is, although a thing is halal in essence, it is spoiled due to a lot of additives in industrial production.
The essence of a lot of things is permissible; this is the principle. However, this principle has been harmed in industrial production due to imported and doubtful additives. As a result, they have gone out of the circle of the permissible and entered the circle of the doubtful. And the productions in which additives are not used are almost non-existent. There is no permission but prohibition to doubtful things. And obeying this prohibition is among primary duties of Muslims.
Today no factory waste goes to the bin; they are reused somehow. Molasses which is the waste product of sugar factories is the raw material of yeast factories. Whey which is the waste product of cheese factories is the raw material of the factories of whey powder, lactose and cream. The waste product of oil factories is the raw material of soap factories; and so on. Similarly the animal waste of slaughterhouses is the raw material of another factory: bacteria culture from blood, rennet from abomasus, cysteine from hair, lipase enzyme from pancreas, gelatine from skin and bones, monoglyceride and diglyceride and glycerine from tallow, bologna, sausage and salami casing from the intestine, et cetera.
A pig can give birth two or three times a year. She can bear ten to fifteen piglets at every birth. Every piglet can reach 100 kg at the end of four months. They can eat everything including their own solid waste. When we think of all of this, we understand that raising pigs is much more appealing, much less costly and more productive than other animals and this is why it is so widespread abroad [and even in Muslims countries].
In the light of this we can come to the following conclusion:
For instance, the additives imported to Turkey are doubtful. This is because the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health take samples of the imported products but they audit conformity to only our food codex. And since there is no concept and definition of ‘halal-haram’ in the codex, all of those products are doubtful. (Don’t get me wrong; I do not say ‘haram’, I say ‘doubtful’.) Due to this, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion “All the products (food, cosmetics, medicine and etc.) in which those additives are used or might be used are also doubtful.”
How sad is it in a country where 99% of the population is Muslim? Why did we end up being in this situation? Who caused this? Isn’t it a game of making the Muslims senseless and unqualified?
Nu’man ibn Bashir (ra) narrates: I heard Allah’s Messenger saying, “Both legal and illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (suspicious) things and most of the people have no knowledge about them. So whoever saves himself from these suspicious things saves his religion and his honor. And whoever indulges in these suspicious things is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of someone else and at any moment he is liable to get in it. (O people!) Beware! Every king has a Hima and the Hima of Allah on the earth is His illegal (forbidden) things. (…)” 2
In another hadith it is said, “Whoever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and whoever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal.” 3
But who will tear off this “stamp of doubtful” on these products of food and necessities? Who will get rid of this doubtfulness? How much research can consumers do? Can they know what to examine? Is the sentence “Our product is pork free” written by producers enough? Is it something true and ethical that a producer guarantees its product in this way? At this point the ‘halal certification institute” steps in, which is based on the term “warranty” in Islam, can tear off that label of doubtful on products, will present Muslims halal, healthy, hygienic, genuine products and be a guarantor. It must be apparent that there is certainly a need for an institution of warranty which is competent and qualified.
The existence of such civil initiatives, associations and institutions which do activities such as halal certification in Turkey and around the world relieves the Muslims to some extent. It is necessary and desired that these kind of associations that act sensitively will get stronger and become more institutionalized. (Hereby I congratulate GİMDES which has been active for years.)
We become what we eat
We all know that the first test of Adam (pbuh) and our mother Eve was about food. They ate the forbidden fruit and then were sent to the world from the Paradise in the wisdom of Allah. This result means that the humankind failed the first exam in respect to halal food. And this points at the fact that the food which is not halal is so critical that it may deprive you of Paradise. Haram things attracts other haram things, halal things attracts other halal things. Halal earning becomes relief to the poor and helpless, cure to the sufferer, remedy to the sick. It turns into zakat, alms, waqf, and goodness. It becomes like a yeast for sincere and valuable deeds. While halal earning and food feed good character, chastity, decency and modesty, haram earning and food leads to immorality, waste, rebellion and sins. One who eats haram cannot do goodness; even if he does, he cannot obtain reward. Haram, doubtful, dubious food makes the body clumsy, damages spirituality, causes gloom and heedlessness.
Humans are what they eat. We become whatever we eat. One bite makes you busy with the world; another bite makes you busy with the Hereafter.
When haram enters a body, it undermines human nature. One who makes haram things his food takes a dislike to worship.
The great Ottoman Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim gave a break when he was marching to Egypt with his army. He wanted to eat some fruit and began to wonder whether the soldiers took any fruit from the orchards of people on the way they had been marching. Upon hearing the question the soldiers reacted saying “Does our sultan think that we are robbers?” Hearing this, the great sultan thanked Allah and said “Allah does not give to the soldiers who eat haram. By Allah, if the people had seen harm from you, if you had eaten haram, I would return back.”
Being afraid that it would be haram, our ancestors would not take their stale eggs to the bazaar to sell; they milked their cows and let the milk run onto the ground when the cows ate from someone else’s field.
One day Abu Bakr (ra) drank the milk his slave brought. He asked him right away “Where did you get this?” “I prophesied and got the milk in return.” Upon hearing that Abu Bakr (ra) tried to vomit the milk he drank. Then he said “Oh Allah! I take refuge in you from the part that stayed in my stomach and mixed in my veins.” 4
Condition for the acceptance of prayer: Halal food
It should not be forgotten that a Muslim must be careful that the food he eats must be spiritually clean, halal and tayyib along with being physically clean. Spiritual cleanliness is possible by abstaining from haram and doubtful things. The reason is that being careless on this issue is a big obstacle to the acceptance of and feeling pleasure from the worship a person does. When the verse “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” was recited in the presence of Rasulullah (pbuh), Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (ra) stood up and said “Oh Rasulullah! Pray to Allah to make me a person whose prayer is acceptable.” Upon this the Messenger of Allah said “Oh Sa’d. Eat halal! Your prayer will be acceptable. By Allah Who makes Muhammad live with His power and will, no deed of a servant who eats one haram bite will be accepted for forty days. The most befitting thing for a servant who feeds on haram is Hell.” 5
Abu Hurairah (ra) narrates “There will come a time when a man will not care where his wealth comes from, whether (the source is) Halal or Haram.” 6
The circle of halal is enough for pleasure!
Yahya ibn Muaz al-Razi (ra) says “Worship is a jewel locked up by a valuable lock and buried in the treasury of Allah. The key of this treasury is prayer. Its teeth are halal foods. Just as a key without teeth and notches cannot open a door, in order to reach that jewel in the treasury (reward of worship) and open the lock, the key of halal food is necessary.”
Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) says “Even if you become like a bow [really fit] because of salah, like a stick [very thin] because of fasting, Allah will not accept that worship unless you avoid the haram and doubtful.” Ibrahim ibn Atham said “Those who reached perfection did so by being careful about what entered their stomachs.” There are a lot of statements like these.
Yes, the mischiefs of the end of time have appeared. The days when Satan shares our properties and children with us have come. At such a time, looking for and finding halal is harder than yesterday; observing it is more important than yesterday. This is because it is not possible to do the duty of servanthood properly without observing halal earning and food. In fact, the quality and acceptance of worship are both possible by observing halal. Halal food increases reverence in worship. And worship performed in reverence prevents a servant from immorality and evil. A person who is prevented from misdeeds looks for halal and observes halal. His passion for worship increases further this way. As a result he lives a life in happiness and peace. Pointing at these facts Sufyan al-Thawri said “The religiosity of a person is as much as his earning’s being halal.”
Providing halal food for his children is among the duties of a father; and getting halal food from their father is among the rights of children. The first step and spiritual condition for raising dutiful children who serve their parents, religion, homeland and nation is to make them eat halal food. Someone who wants to be a good father and wishes his child to be a good child must look for his sustenance in a halal sphere and spend his money on halal items.
Our children being in the first place, I wonder how halal are the things we consume as a society? How tayyib are they? Ice cream, coke, crisps, candies, fruit juice, processed foods, chocolates, margarine, cheese, yoghurt, chicken and many other food products which we consume every day. Do we search whether they are halal or not? Do we look for a halal-tayyib certificate sign on them? A Muslim who knows the responsibility for haram food in the Hereafter must do the necessary research. We should not forget that we are responsible for providing halal food to our families and children.
Finally I would like to mention this: we have to protect ourselves and our future generation from food terrorism. The people of the Age of Bliss used to adamantly stay away from haram and doubtful food. Since then, time has corrupted the faith of people so much that the saying “Haram, halal give, oh Allah; both your servant will eat, oh Allah” has become the philosophy of some people today. People who only think of their stomachs and pockets allow prohibited things through false interpretations and eat haram. Let’s not forget the fact that “The circle of halal is enough for pleasure. There is no need for committing haram.”
Then let’s eat halal! Let’s drink halal! Let’s live halal!
Explaining, reading, writing, telling and listening are all easy. May Allah grant us what is difficult in this regard – to live!
Peace be with you.
- Anfal 69, Maidah 88, Nahl 114, Mu’minun 51, Baqarah 168.
- Bukhari, Iman 39, Buyu’ 2
- Bukhari, Buyu’ 2
- Imam Ghazali, Ihya
- Bukhari, Buyu’ 7