What is Halal?
Halal comes from the Arabic root letters ‘H-L-L’ which can be literally translated as permissible or legal. In Islamic lexicology, Halal refers to ‘actions and consumables permitted under Islamic law’; therefore, mandoob (encouraged), mubaah (allowed) and wajib (compulsory) all fall under this category. Recently however, the term Halal has largely become designated to those consumables that satisfy an Islamic dietary standard. In the Quran, Allah (SWT) has instructed mankind, in general, and Muslims, specifically, to consume pure, hygienic, beneficial, wholesome, and healthy diets that are prepared with the noble intention of providing nourishment for an active body and a vigorous soul. This wholesome package of sanitary ingredients is what defines the essence of ‘Halal’ in Islam with relation to foods and beverages.
Allah (SWT) 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” (Baqarah :168). In other words, Allah (SWT) orders mankind to consume only that which is lawful and wholesome lest it leads someone on to the course of Shaitaan (devil). This clearly elucidates that a person’s diet is delicately linked to the way he behaves and the character he displays. A wholesome, pure and clean diet can play a great role in reforming social structures and reinforcing righteous morals. The need for Halal nourishments arises from this basic desire of developing an upright and honest society.
Furthermore, these same sentiments are communicated in Allah (SWT)’s address to the Prophets (peace be upon them) and the Muslim nation: “O messengers, eat from the good foods and perform righteous acts. Indeed, I, of what you do, am Knowing.” (Muminoon: 51). “O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” (Baqarah: 172). And lastly, “O you who have believed, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors.” (Maaida: 41).
Since Allah (SWT) commands us to eat and drink, there is an implicit permission for us to consume all sorts of foods and drinks. Therefore, scholars deduce a general principle that all consumable items shall be considered lawful so long as it is not declared unlawful by Islamic standards (Sharia). A detailed analysis of what is considered Halal and Haram in Sharia shall be expanded upon in the coming posts, InshAllah.