Is Kosher Halal?

Islamic Dietary Concepts And Practices
by M.M. Hussaini

Often times Muslim consumers tend to assume 'Kosher' is similar to 'Halal'. Although the slaughtering rituals of Jewish people resemble those of Muslims; kosher and halal are two different entities carrying a different meaning and spirit. Muslims, therefore, are provided with the following basic information about Kosher so they can exercise care in distinguishing halal from kosher.

Kashrut (in Hebrew) is the system of Jewish dietary laws. Kosher (kashur in Hebrew) means 'fit, or proper for use' according to Jewish law. Examples of kosher are: the meat of the 'fore quarter*' of the cattle slaughtered ritually, fruits, vegetables, all fish that have fins*, all wines*, all cheeses*, gelatin*.

The opposite of Kosher, as applied to food in Treif (in Yiddish), or trefah (in Hebrew) meaning 'not suitable for use', or 'forbidden'. Trefah literally means 'torn by a wild beast' (Exodus 22:30). Examples of Trefah are: blood, swine, rabbit*, all shell fish*, wild birds such as wild hen*, wild duck*, and the birds of prey.

(*) these food items exhibit a marked difference between kosher and Halal as well as trefah and haram. The differences are explained elsewhere in this section.

Caution to Muslim Consumers:

Halal is a comprehensive Islamic term encompassing not only the matters of food and drink, but all other matters of daily life. Islam being the final and perfect Deen (religion) for mankind, it supersedes all the previously revealed religions including Christianity and Judaism. The rituals in all matters were perfected by Islam (al-Quran 5:3)

According to Islamic Jurisprudence, no one except Allah can change forbidden (Haram) things into lawful (halal) for vice-versa. It is forbidden for people to change the lawful (Halal) things into unlawful (Haram), or vice-versa.

Halal is a unique Islamic concept and eating dhabiha (Islamically slaughtered) meat is a distinguishing part of a Muslim's identity as expressed by Prophet Muhammad (S)

Salient differences between kosher and halal are:

Islam prohibits all intoxicating alcohols, liquors, wines and drugs. kashrut regards all wines kosher. Hence food items and drinks showing the kosher symbol containing alcohol are not halal.

Gelatin is considered kosher regardless of its source of origin. If the gelatin is prepared from swine, Muslims consider it haram (prohibited). Hence foods items such as marshmallows, yogurt, etc., showing kosher symbols are not halal.

Enzymes (irrespective of their sources even from non-kosher animals) in cheese making are considered mere secretion(pirsah b'almah) according to some kashrut organizations, hence all cheeses are considered kosher. Muslims look for the source of the enzyme in cheese making. If it is coming from the swine, it is considered haram(forbidden). Hence cheeses showing kosher symbols may not be halal.

Jews do not pronounce the name of God on each animal while slaughtering. They feel that uttering the name of God, out of context, is wasteful. Muslims on the other hand pronounce the name of Allah on all animals while slaughtering.

The salient differences between kosher and halal have been illustrated so that Muslim consumers can distinguish halal from kosher.

Islam is a complete way of life providing infallible guidance to all its followers in all walks of life. Halal brings immense satisfaction to the Muslim life both now and in the hereafter. Muslims therefore, do not have to depend on any other set of laws for want of convenience.

The final, divine laws of Islam are indeed perfect and the best for all its followers for all time to come.

Muslims in non-Muslim countries should strive to follow the Islamic injunctions in their diet (as well as in every walk of life) and establish their own businesses and institutions to cater to the needs of the Muslim Ummah. By doing so, not only the identity of the Muslims will be preserved, but they will be recognized and respected for their beliefs and practices. What a subtle means of Dawa!

List of Haram Food Ingredients

An alphabetical list of Haram ingredients to look out for:

Bacon: A side of pig meat (pork).

Choletsorol: type of fat always of animal origin. If extracted from Zabiha animal, it is Halal.

Diglyceride: Emulsifier. If of animal origin it should be suspected till the source is known.

Gelatin (Jello Gelatin): Usually of animal origin, mostly from pig. If extracted from a dhabiha animal, then it is halal/

Glycerol (Glycerine): It could be of animal, plant or Glyceryl-Stearate synthetic origin. If animal source is used, it is suspected.

Hormones: Usually animal hormones are used for human consumption. One has to find out the source before passing a judgement.

Lard: Fat from swine particulaly found in the abdominal cavity. Totally Haram for us.

Magnesium Stearate (stearic acid): Used as an active ingredient in medicine tablets. Haram when derived from animal source.

Mono Glycerides: When derived from animal source. (Halal when the source is plant).

Pepsin: A digestive enzyme mostly from pig stomach.

Rennin (Rennet): A protein Enzyme. Usually not labeled. (In most cheeses).

Shortening: Fats and oils of animal origin. Animal/Lard

Vanilla: Extracted using alcohol.

Vitamins: Haram when from animal source. Mostly the source is synthetic or plant and are Halal.

Whey: Used in ice creams and yogurt. Haram when from animal source.

4 Big Reasons to Choose Thabiha over Non-Thabiha Meat

Choose what you will, but thabiha clearly has more advantages over non-thabiha meat available in supermarkets. Here are some MAJOR reasons why:

1. You Can be Sure There's No Pork In It

In the last few years, revelations of pork being mixed with meat have surfaced. According to Ahmad Sakr, Professor Emeritus of Food Science and author of “A Muslim Guide to Food Ingredients”, a group of prisoners in San Francisco sued the food industry after discovering this happened to the meat they were being served.

This type of an incident ensures NO Muslim can consume such beef or chicken, for example, which has been mixed with pork, as the consumption of pork is Haram.

A more recent and widespread example of this is found in an NBC Dateline consumer investigation report that aired recently.

Although in the United States it is illegal to sell “mixed meats” as pure ground beef, the report found it still takes place.

This mixing is called adulteration and it is considered a health hazard. Adulteration happens when lamb, poultry, and of special attention to Muslims, pork, are added to and sold as pure ground beef.

NBC Dateline went to small supermarkets, large chains and discount stores all over the U.S. that sell food. In each of the ten cities sampled NBC Dateline found supermarkets that failed the ground beef test.

Read the whole report at NBC Dateline

2. Support Muslim Businesses

Buying thabiha meat is an almost sure way to support a Muslim business. This way, you’re not only getting your next meal (or meals) by buying straight from a Halal grocery store, but you’re also helping another Muslim gain a livelihood. You’re giving back to the community more than you could if you bought your meat at the nearest supermarket.

Today, there are Halal grocery stores in virtually every major city in North America. These were, in most cases, the second type of “institution” established by Muslims on this continent after the mosque. After all, following our need to worship in the house of Allah and gather together in an Islamic atmosphere, what could be as important as eating in accordance with Islamic guidelines, not to mention buying the necessary spices to make Muslim meals from the Middle East and Indian subcontinent?

We should be giving them precedence, even if it means driving a little farther out of town, or paying an extra dollar or two for items.

3. ARe You Sure It's From The People of the Book?

And the clincher is this: in today’s farms and slaughterhouses, what guarantee does anyone have that the meat they are eating has been slaughtered by a Jew or a Christian?

There is not, to my knowledge, anything in any existing labor code in Canada or the U.S. which allows only Jews and Christians to slaughter meat in “regular” farms and slaughterhouses. That means, it could be ANYONE-Hindu, Sikh, atheist, agnostic, etc. cutting the meat you decide to eat.

So the the people whose meat we think we are eating (the Jews and Christians) may not even be directly involved in the slaughter of the meat.

4. Thabiha is Agreed Upon

While there are a few scholors who reluctantly allow some type of supermarket meat, all Islamic scholors agree that thabiha must be preferred and is clear of all doubts.

The Quran & Hadith About Haram & Halal in Food

Quranic Verses

“O ye who believe! Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you, and render thanks to Allah if it is (indeed) He whom ye worship” (2:172).

“He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swineflesh, and that which hath been immolated to (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (2:173).

“O ye who believe! Fulfill your undertakings.The beast of cattle is made lawful unto you (for food) except that which is announced unto you (herein), game being unlawful when ye are on pilgrimage. Lo! Allah ordaineth that which pleaseth Him” (5:1)

“Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood and swine-flesh, and that which hath been dedicated unto any other than Allah, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been killed by (the goring of) horns, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by the death-stroke), and that which hath been immolated unto idols.

And (forbidden is it) that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination. This day are those who disbelieve in despair of (ever harming) your religion; so fear them not, fear Me! This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you and have chosen for you as religion Al-Islam. Whoso is forced by hunger, not by will, to sin: (for him) lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (5:3)

“They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye teach them that which Allah taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allah’s name upon it, and observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is swift to take account” (5:4)

“This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when ye give them their marriage portions and liven with them in honour, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denieth the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter” (5:5).

“And eat not of that whereon Allah’s name hath not been mentioned, for lo! it is abomination. Lo! the devils do inspire their minions to dispute with you. But if ye obey them, ye will be in truth idolaters” (6:121).

From The Hadith

-On the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: The Messenger of Allah said: “Allah the Almighty is good and accepts only that which is good. Allah has commanded the Faithful to do that which He commanded the Messengers, and the Almighty has said: “O ye Messengers! Eat of the good things, and do right..” (Quran 23:51). And Allah the Almighty has said: “O ye who believe! Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you..” (2:172). Then he mentioned [the case of] a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty and who spreads out his hands to the sky [saying]: O Lord! O Lord!-while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing unlawful, and he is nourished unlawfully, so how can he be answered!” (Muslim).

-On the authority of Abu Ya’la Shahddad ibn Aus, the Messenger of Allah said: “Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters” (Muslim).

-In an incident narrated by Rafi’ bin Khadij, the Prophet told Muslims who wanted to slaughter some animals using reeds, “Use whatever causes blood to flow, and eat the animals if the Name of Allah has been mentioned on slaughtering them...” (Bukhari).

-Narrated Abu Thalaba: Allah’s Messenger forbade the eating of the meat of beasts having fangs (Bukhari).

-Narrated Ibn Umar: The Prophet cursed the one who did Muthla to an animal (i.e. cut its limbs or some other part of its body while it is still alive (Bukhari).

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