H is for Halal and Haram

So is kosher halal, or vice versa?

I was watching ABC News (US) last month, and there was a piece about Air National Guard members from Illinois putting pallets of meals onto a C-130H at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The Meals Ready to Eat would be delivered to Pakistan as part of a relief mission after the devastating floods. What I noticed is that every single box I saw was labeled, in a very large font, HALAL.

So what IS halal? The best site I’ve come across is from IFANCA, the Islamic Food and Nutritional Council of America, which defines it: “Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. The opposite of halal is haram, which means unlawful or prohibited.

Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life.” So the terms are not in reference to food, though this discussion will be. “While many things are clearly halal or haram, there are some things which are not clear. Further information is needed… Such items are often referred to as mashbooh, which means doubtful or questionable.
All foods are considered halal except the following (which are haram):
Swine/Pork and its by-products
Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
Carnivorous animals, birds of prey, and certain other animals
Foods contaminated with any of the above products
Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavors are questionable (mashbooh), because the origin of these ingredients is not known.”

There is a growing number of businesses in countries that are not predominantly Muslim producing foods that are certified as halal. This is less a function of cultural sensitivity than good business practice. A market research report from Packaged Facts suggests that food manufacturers consider kosher and halal certification for wider appeal, driven not just by religious considerations. “Companies should consider the marketing push and public perception of safety that comes with kosher certification and the far broader export opportunities that come with halal certification.

“Regarding halal foods, the market researcher said that there is ‘a dearth of reliable market data’ but cited the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry – where halal trade is of increasing importance – which estimates the market value for halal foods in the US at $11.6bn, and $548bn worldwide.

“The report also suggested that Canada presents broadening market opportunities for halal foods, with the number of Canadian Muslims set to double from 600,000 in 2000 to 1.2m in 2010, and a lack of convenient outlets for halal foods.”

KFC is going halal in the UK, and there are hundreds of halal Subway restaurants there. The US halal product directory includes foods from companies ranging from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Cabot Creamery to General Mills, Gerber and Kraft. Here’s the list of organizations accredited by the Halal Certification Authority in Australia – which means Vegemite is halal. (Not that I would ever eat it again.)

So is kosher halal, or vice versa? Well, yes and no. Certainly, both sets of food laws come from Abrahamic traditions, though there are specific rituals involved in slaughtering meat, e.g.; not incidentally, the rules for both kosher and halal are exceptions to the general rule in the United States that animals should be stunned before being killed. PunkTorah asks, Can Jews Eat Halal Meat, and if so, might that be a way toward peace?

Muslim-American Demographic Facts

ABC Wednesday – Round 7


Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

52 thoughts on “H is for Halal and Haram”

  1. This made me aware of how inaccurate “kosher” can be used! ie we say “It is Kosher” if things appear to be OK! Again, learning facts on abc Wednesday!

  2. A Pakastani co-worker who is a Sunni Muslim, told me that if a food is labeled “kosher” it is also considered halal.

  3. You’re right, Roger. Once is enough for vegemite, halal or not. However, I understand there are many people who eat vegemite and its Brit cousin, marmite.
    And RuneE, agreeing on something is a start. I wonder.
    Anyway, good H words, Roger, and a helpful history lesson for my learn-something-new-every-day policy. Thanks.
    Alberta, Canada

  4. I’ve noticed more and more ‘halal’ foodstuffs appearing in our supermarkets. And as you said: perhaps halal and kosher foods are the way to peace. Because how can you be angry with each other or fight if you’re eating from the same table?

  5. whoa.. what a choice for H, Roger 🙂 like it.. i knew the meanings of course, with many friends of the Islamic faith sharing it with me before 🙂

    thanks for sharing!

    My H Post

  6. Interesting take on the H word. Learnt a little more than what I had know…
    Thank you Roger. Your posts are always educative.

  7. I loved the last part about the Muslim and Jewish people coming together when really there is so much in common. I never knew about “halal” and I always find your posts so informative and they always teach me about views I would never have considered. All is heavenly! Thanks Roger

  8. Interesting facts Roger! How complicated life is if you have to live by these rules. I try to eat what I think wholesome and full of vitamines.
    Still I believe that what goes into the mouth does less harm than what sometimes comes out of the mouth.
    Thanks for sharing this Roger.

  9. Very interesting Roger, – I can see this labeling being imortant in a number of ways, economically for marketing and export, and as a way of recognition and awareness of other’s customs

  10. I always learn something new from you, Roger. And that’s a GOOD thing. First, I had to look up “verklempt” – ah, you sweet guy getting all sensitive over my stories. And then of course the word “halal.” Very intriguing concept of what is allowed and banned in both the Muslim and Jewish worlds. I know nothing of this, but you’ve made me aware now so thanks for that. Have a great week! 🙂

  11. I have heard of “kosher” but was unaware of the term regarding Muslim dietary restrictions. Reminded me a little of my cousins, Hiram and Harim…

  12. Good choice Roger!In my country where muslim are a minority, getting halal food and restaurants are easy. McDonald, KFC,Burger King,Pizza Hut, Swenson…got their halal certificate from the Muslim Religious Council long time ago. There are even Chinese restaurant, Western, Italian- which had been issued certificate too. So friends from different faith can eat together in our multi-racial society.
    By the way, I’m a Muslim.

  13. A very nice comprehensive post. Here in India, halal mostly means killing a chicken the right way (i.e. for the chicken to be halal it has to get a slit on the neck and then bled to death).
    However, there were Halal marks on just about every packaged food product when we holidayed in Malaysia which has a very large Islamic population.

  14. Nice post Roger.In India halal food is available since Muslims eat only halal food. I also think that most Indian people must be knowing what halal means as the people are knowledgeable about Muslim dietary habits.

  15. my background of living in malaysia and Sinagpore,

    Halal means no pork, and when they slaughter the animal, they must say a prayer.

  16. Halal also refers to the way the animal is slaughtered. I live in India which is also is the country with the second largest Muslim population in the world.
    Like in Kosher, in halal too the method of killing is by slitting the throat of the bird. It is called Halal karna or killing by halal method. Another method for killing which is used by Hindus and Sikhs is Jhatka. In Jhatka the head is severed in one swipe.
    Muslims don’t eat Jhatka killed meat and Hindus and Sikhs don’t eat Halal. Even the shops are different and they specify on their boards whether the meat they sell is Jhatka or Halal.
    It sounds silly but it is true. You can cause religious riots in sensitive areas if you are not careful.

  17. A number of commentators have noted that the common Abrahamic practices are one of the ways to cross over the current distrust between Jew and Muslim. Thanks for dropping by. My H is a poem about a hollow hearted man. Hope your week goes well.

  18. I do like the sound of the ‘questionable’ word, mashbooh. Think I’ll add it to my vocabulary. Although as I avoid gelatin it won’t help me having to scrutinise sweet packets. Great research Roger.

  19. Always a fascinating and educational post here at Roger’s! I’ve been to Saudi and have seen the word, halal, but never knew what it meant or thought to ask what it meant. It would seem that much of what we American’s consume would fall in the category of haram!

  20. You really did a lot of research on this one. I agree with Molokai Girl…fascinating as well as educational. You always leave the most complimentary comments each week. Thank you.

  21. An interesting post! We have a large Indian population here, so we’ve had Halal butchers and food shops for a long while, and I knew it involved that method of slaughter, but not that it emcompassed so many different types of food!

  22. Although I’m familiar with halal, I’ve never seen it explained in such detail. (I’ve never aquired a taste for vegemite, either!)

  23. I knew that only Christians eat everything or nearly, Chinese budhists are even worse. Jews and muslims are more selective. Fortunately you didn’t do a typing error by writing harem instead of haram, lol !

  24. I’ve learnt a lot from this post – thank you! I think foods labelled halal and kosher are generally perceived to be more wholesome, hence their growing popularity, just as many people will eat chocolate made for diabetics, in the belief that it is healthier.

  25. The resistance towards the construction of the Moslem Community Center and its mosque “near” The WTC Memorial is insance. The Community Center isn’t being developed by terrorists, it is being built by peaceful Muslims who love America.

  26. Here in Davao City, Philippines, since 30% (approx.) are Muslims, some of the restaurant displayed their certificate of being a HALAL restaurant or store and that means, the Muslims are safe (from sin and not to commit the HARAM) to buy their foods. I love to eat at the HALAL restaurant for I am sure that there is no pork meat, no oil from the pork meat, chicken are fresh and not doubled dead. Ha ha.

  27. Hmm. Although I do not keep kosher, there are very specific religious rites involved in determining whether a food is kosher or not…
    Fascinating post and thank you for teaching me Muslim food words. I had no idea the food was stamped that way. It is similar to food that is marked kosher or not kosher. (There are symbols used as well for that, which I learned even though I do not practice kashruth.)

    Peace among us all is my wish.

  28. hmmm, from what i know, Halal meat means, it requires the person who slaughtered the animals to be muslim, because before the process took place the person needs to pray to Allah, like saying Bismillah. so how come kosher meat is halal? ok maybe the way they slaughter the animals is the same but they are not muslim, so how. any explanation here?

  29. Kosher has its own standards of separating milk from meat, etc., and halal meeets those standards. Halal is kosher, but kosher is NOT halal, for the reason you indicate.

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