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Halal (Arabic:حلال, alāl, Halaal; means lawful or legal) is an Arabic term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. It is the opposite of haraam. The term is widely used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law (Sharia, الشريعة الإسلامية). It is estimated that 70% of Muslims worldwide follow halal food standards, and that the global halal market is currently a $580 billion USD industry.

"Halal" the word

The use of the term varies between Arabic-speaking communities and non-Arabic-speaking ones.

In Arabic-speaking countries, the term is used to describe anything permissible under Islamic law, in contrast to haraam, that which is forbidden. This includes human behavior, speech communication, clothing, conduct, manner and dietary laws.

In non-Arabic-speaking countries, the term is most commonly used in the narrower context of just Muslim dietary laws, especially where meat and poultry are concerned, though it can be used for the more general meaning, as well.


Islam has laws regarding which foods can and cannot be eaten and also on the proper method of slaughtering an animal for consumption, known as dhabihah. However if there is no other food available then a Muslim is allowed to eat non-Halal food. Surah 2:173 states:
If one is forced because there is no other choice, neither craving nor transgressing, there is no sin in him. Indeed, Allah is forgiving, merciful

Explicitly forbidden substances

A variety of substances are considered as harmful (haraam) for humans to consume and, therefore, forbidden as per various Quranic verses:

  • Pork meat (i.e., flesh of pig) .
  • Blood .
  • All carnivores and birds of prey.
  • Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but Allah. All that has been dedicated or offered in sacrifice to an idolatrous altar or saint or a person considered to be "divine" .
  • Carrion .
  • An animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), savaged by a beast of prey (except that which you may have slaughtered while it was still alive) .
  • The fish must die out of water and because of natural suffocation in the free air, on the ground or on the deck of the fishing boat. Otherwise, it's not halal.
  • Food over which Allah's name is not pronounced .
  • Alcohol and other intoxicants .

All these substances may be consumed as last options in life-threatening situations.

Dhabiha: Method of slaughter

Thabiha or Dhabiha ( ), is the prescribed method of ritual slaughter of all animals excluding fish and most sea-life per Islamic law. This method of slaughtering animals consists of a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck, cutting the jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides but leaving the spinal cord intact.

Halal and Kosher

There is a great deal of similarity between the laws of Dhabiĥa halal and kashrut, and there are also various differences. Whether Muslims can use kashrut standards as a replacement for halal standards is an ongoing debate, and the answer depends largely on the individual being asked.

Halal in non-Islamic countries

Halal certificate issued for dairy products by a German registered merchant
In Dearbornmarker, Michiganmarker, United Statesmarker, home to one of the largest Muslim and Arab populations in the United States, a number of fast food chains like McDonald's introduced halal chicken nuggets.In the UKmarker and United States, halal fried chicken has become widely popular with both Muslim and non-Muslim populations, and thousands of outlets serving this fare, such as Chicken Cottage, Kennedy Fried Chicken, Brown's Chicken, and Crown Fried Chicken have emerged. New Yorkmarker in particular is also home to many halal food carts serving gyros, chicken platters and other fast food, while the UK and Europe more generally have many Muslim-owned Döner kebab shops.

A 2005 law passed in a county in Ohio, United States bans sale, distribution and production of food mislabelled "halal", when it is determined that the food does not meet Islamic dietary standards. Similar laws protect kosher foods . See Kashrut.

McDonald's is intending to offer Halal meals in the United States and some parts of the United Kingdom with two of its franchises currently on trial, offering this service. Six McDonald's Restaurants in Australia (two outlets in Melbourne and four in Sydney) have Halal meals. Restaurants in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa are Halal certified.Mcdonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC have been made Halal in Sri Lankamarker by the Jamiyathul Ulama of Sri Lanka, the only competent authority to give out the certification.

Many other international chains like Pizza Hut, KFC, Wendys, Carls Jr, Burger King, A&W, Dunkin Donuts, Subway also serve halal food in Islamic countries.

While the introduction of Halal meats in local U.S. based restaurants is still ongoing, in early 2004 for the first time in the United States Halal meats began to be offered in local retail chain grocery stores, in particular H.E.B.Grocery. Tex-Med Beef Co. based in Houston, Texas was the first Halal meat/poultry distribution company to offer Halal meats in the United States at the retail store level.

In 2008 and 2009 twelve stores in the Mary Brown's chain in Ontario and Alberta become 100% Halal.

Australian halal certificate for chocolate.

Dhabiĥa Halal

Dhabiĥa halal is relatively difficult to adhere to in a non-Muslim country:

  • The abundance of pork and non-dhabiĥa meats at restaurants presents a rather difficult problem to overcome. While a Muslim will not order a non-dhabiĥa halal dish, there is a concern about cross-contamination. This is likely to occur when the dhabiĥa halal dish is prepared with the same cooking tools as other non-dhabiĥa halal dishes. Food and juices from the two dishes are likely to be exchanged, technically rendering the dhabiĥa halal dish as haraam.

  • Many apparently meat-free dishes, and even some desserts, contain pork, gelatin, or other non-conforming substances. There is also a concern in the Muslim community about food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) that may use enzymes derived from pig fat in the production process. It is very difficult to avoid such food additives as they are widely used and are not declared on restaurant menus. Some Muslim organizations compile tables of such additives which are considered to be halal.

  • Alcohol, especially wine, is frequently used in cooking. It is largely used in sauces and cakes, and is also present as an ingredient in vanilla and other extracts. Alcohol in food flavors will mostly evaporate if it is used as a solvent in food flavors for baked products or heat treated products. One opinion is that food cooked with wine is haraam since it involves paying for the wine and the alcohol does not evaporate totally in some meats. Some Islamic scholars do not consider a food product Halal even if it is made with all Halal ingredients but food flavor in which ethyl alcohol was used as a solvent. But other Islamic scholars recommend food products made with all Halal ingredients even if food flavors containing ethyl alcohol as a solvent.

Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been efforts to create organizations such as the Muslim Consumer Group that certify food products as halal for Muslim consumers.

In Islam, Halal is an Arabic term meaning “lawful or permissible” and not only encompasses food and drink, but all matters of daily life. When it comes to halal food, most people think of meat products only. However, Muslims must ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, pharmaceuticals and non food items like cosmetics are also halal. Often these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslim consumption.

The North American Halal food pioneer in the USA is Midamar Corporation. It has been in operation since 1974. It is based in Cedar Rapids Iowa, home to the oldest surviving mosque in America. The offspring of Muslims who settled in Iowa around the turn of the century discovered a need to begin producing halal beef and chicken products catering to the tastes of American Muslims.

Since 1991, mainstream manufacturers of soups, grains, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, prepared foods, and other industries, as well as hotels, restaurants, airlines, hospitals and other service providers have pursued the halal market. They purchase halal certified products. Halal Certification tells Muslims that their ingredients and production methods have been tested and declared permissible by a certification body. It also allows companies to export products to most Middle Eastern countries and South East Asian Countries. The oldest and most well known Halal Certifier in the USA is Islamic Services of America. For more historical information see . One thing that companies which have intentions to export must keep in mind when choosing a certifier is whether or not the certifier is recognized by foreign government bodies.

  • In 1986, Islamic Meat & Poultry was founded in Stockton, California. Islamic Meat & Poultry is a USDA inspected Halal only, hand slaughter and meat processing facility. Islamic Meat & Poultry follows the principles of slaughter according to Islamic Shariah.

  • In 1993 Ahsan Mohyuddin founded the facility of Halal Meat & Food Corporation in Bladenboro, NC. Contrary to belief, Halal Meat & Food Corp is not the first halal meat company in the US.

Halal food and animal welfare

The ritual method of slaughter as practiced in Islam and Judaism has been decribed as inhumane by animal welfare organisations in the UKmarker who have stated that it "causes severe suffering to animals."

In 1978, a study incorporating EEG (electroencephalograph) with electrodes surgically implanted on the skull of 17 sheep and 15 calves, and conducted by Wilhelm Schulze et al. at the University of Veterinary Medicinemarker in Germany concluded that "the slaughter in the form of a ritual cut is, if carried out properly, painless in sheep and calves according to EEG recordings and the missing defensive actions" (of the animals) and that "For sheep, there were in part severe reactions both in bloodletting cut and the pain stimuli" when Captive Bolt Stunning (CBS) was used. This study is cited by the German Constitutional Courtmarker in its permitting of dhabiha slaughtering.

In 2003, an independent advisory group - the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) - concluded that the way halal and Kosher meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals and should be banned immediately. FAWC argued that cattle required up to two minutes to bleed to death when such means are employed. The Chairperson of FAWC at the time, Judy MacArthur Clark, added, "this is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn't suffer is quite ridiculous."

Halal and kosher butchers deny their method of killing animals is cruel and expressed anger over the FAWC recommendation .

Majid Katme of the Muslim Council of Britain also disagreed, stating that "it's a sudden and quick haemorrhage. A quick loss of blood pressure and the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain."

In April 2008, the Food and Farming minister in the UK, Lord Rooker, stated that Halal and kosher meat should be labelled when it is put on sale, so that the public can decide whether or not they want to buy food from animals that have bled to death. He was quoted as saying, "I object to the method of slaughter ... my choice as a customer is that I would want to buy meat that has been looked after and slaughtered in the most humane way possible.". The RSPCA supported Lord Rooker's views.

For the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Humane Society International, "the animals that are slaughtered according to Kosher and Halal should be securely restrained, particularly the head and neck, before cutting the throat" as "movements (during slaughter) results in a poor cut, bad bleeding, slow loss of consciousness if at all and pain."

See also


  1. Dorothy Minkus-McKenna. "the Pursuit of Halal". Progressive Grocer; Dec 1, 2007; 86, 17;
  2. Marketing of Halal Products: The Way Forward by Dr. Saad Al-Harran & Patrick Low, Halal Journal Mar 03, 2008
  3. World faiths, Teach yourself - Islam by Ruqaiyyah Maqsood. ISBN 0-340-60901-X. Page 204
  6. Religious food gets protection - 08/05/05
  7. Mary Brown's Website
  8. Food additive numbers
  10. Muslim Consumer Group
  11. Halal killing may be banned | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited
  12. BBC NEWS | UK | Halal and Kosher slaughter 'must end'
  13. Schulze W, Schultze-Petzold H, Hazem AS, Gross R. Experiments for the objectification of pain and consciousness during conventional (captive bolt stunning) and religiously mandated (“ritual cutting”) slaughter procedures for sheep and calves. Deutsche Tierärztliche Wochenschrift 1978 Feb 5;85(2):62-6. English translation by Dr Sahib M. Bleher
  14. Das Bundesverfassungsgericht
  15. Halal and kosher meat should not be slipped in to food chain, says minister
  16. Guideline for Humane Handling, Transport and Slaugher of Livestock, Religious or ritual slaughter, [1][2]

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