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Having a basic understanding of halal extends beyond Muslim dietary preferences


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As the “boycott halal products” campaign intensified in Karnataka, five Bajrang Dal activists were arrested in Shivamogga district for allegedly attacking a Muslim trader for selling halal meat.

Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday appealed to people to celebrate Ugadi, the Telugu New Year, and Hosa Tadaku festivals peacefully without disturbing law and order.

Shivamogga Superintendent of Police B M Laxmi Prasad said that a group of 10 to 15 men, including the accused, went to a butcher’s shop around 12.30 pm on Wednesday and asked for non-halal meat. When owner Syed Ansar’s relative Tousif asked them to leave, the accused allegedly assaulted the Muslim men.

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VIDEO: What Exactly Is Halal?
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About an hour later, the Dal members went to a nearby hotel in the Old Bhadravathi area and confronted hotelier Osama Hunain over the sale of halal meat, said the police. They allegedly assaulted both Hunain and his friend Aditya, who had tried to intervene.

On the same day as the Shivamogga arrests, two right-winger leaders visited a market in Bengaluru’s Chamarajpet area to urge people not to buy halal meat. As they were distributing pamphlets, locals confronted the duo and asked them to go back.

With so much brouhaha going on in Karnataka, we take a look at what is halal meat, its significance and history.

What is halal meat?

The Islamic way of slaughtering animals or poultry involves killing through a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe. Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood should be drained from the carcass. During the process, a Muslim is expected to recite a dedication, known as tasmiya or shahada.

The simple meaning

“Halal” is an Arabic term that, in the Islamic context, means “lawful, permissible by Sharia or the Islamic law”.

As it might seem that the word is restricted to food or dietary items, but the concept of halal is something that Muslims are supposed to live their lives by. It connotes lawful, cleanliness, integrity, and self-restraint and it extends beyond food.  So everything from the source of income to relationships come under the purview of halal for practising Muslims.

Logic dictates that everything that is not halal will be haram or unlawful and not permissible. This idea of haram is applicable to Muslims in the way they lead their lives. Actions, such as bribery, cursing, fornication, murder, disrespecting your parents and usury among many others are considered haram.

Is all food halal?

But food in Islam is divided into four categories: halal (permissible as we discussed above), haram (forbidden), mushbooh or mushtabahat (questionable or doubtful) and makruh (offensive).

To elaborate, if something is mushbooh, that is if one does not know whether a food item is halal or haram it should not be consumed.

Makruh is less severe than haram, but it is recommended that it be avoided. Makruh food, determined by the Quran, states that man should only eat pure food, and anything that is impure is regarded as makruh. This includes food that is spoiled or rotten. Into this comes now prawn, shrimp, crab — all of which are carrion eaters.

What does the Quran say?

Surah Al Baqarah, the second and longest chapter of the Quran

He (Allah) has forbidden to you only carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which any name other than God’s has been invoked; but if one is driven by necessity – neither coveting it nor exceeding his immediate need, no sin shall be upon him: for, behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

Surah Al Nahl, the 16th chapter of the Quran

One verse in it says:

Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah , and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows… But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Beyond food

While the principle of halal is often linked to the aspect of food, the concept is more holistic, there are several aspects which the concepts cover besides how to select food or the quality, hygiene and safety aspects of the food consumed. Therefore, the term “halal lifestyle” was coined. It includes wearing clothes or dressing appropriately, halal socialising, halal occupation, and a halal way of life, all according to Sharia law.

This should also explain the demand for halal products not only in the food industry, but also hotel, tourism, fashion, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries as well as the banking sector and everything that involves the Muslim lifestyle.

In contrast to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and fashion, halal food, of course, is more common. But the halal pharmaceuticals market is expected to boom. According to a report by Adroit Market Research an India-based business analytics company, the global halal pharmaceuticals market is projected to reach USD 174.59 billion by 2025.

The halal cosmetic industry is becoming all pervasive. According to a 2017 report by Grand View Research, the global halal cosmetics market was valued at $16.32 billion in 2015 and it’s expected to reach $52.02 billion by 2025.

Muslims comprise more than 23 per cent of the global population, according to a Pew Research Centre estimate, and the younger generation is emerging as a more conscious lot.

Halal products in India

As the halal meat controversy snowballed in Karnataka, the Himalaya Drug Company's “halal policy”, a multinational pharmaceutical company, went viral on Twitter on Thursday. Himalaya’s “halal policy” states, “Our products comply with Islamic Law/Shariah and free from any forbidden ingredients under Islamic law”.

“We have set up the Internal Halal Management Team comprising of senior executives (including Muslim) from various disciplines to be responsible for all matters pertaining to Halal certification," it addedIn no time, #BoycottHimalaya started trending on social media.

Interestingly, Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali received a “halal” certificate last year for its Ayurvedic medicines, which are in big demand in Arab countries.

India has the world’s third largest Muslim population at close to 200 million and a ban on halal products will come with serious social and economic consequences.

With inputs from agencies

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