HALAAL / HARAAM FOOD AWARENESS
There is no question that food and drink are necessary for the maintenance of our bodies. To put it simply, we will cease to live if these vital necessities have been denied. But not only are our bodies affected by what we consume.
Other vital aspects of our nature are also affected. One of these is our minds. The health and clarity of our minds depend on the health of our bodies and thus also on what we eat and drink. Food together with drink, then can lead a person to vice (or virtue). For instance, a man under the influence of alcohol may easily loose control of his abilities to reason. He can then utter the vilest phrases, behave in activities the loathsomeness of which would have been unthinkable before.
Food also affects our spiritual nature. The spiritual potential of a human being can lead him or her to attain a lofty heights of nearness to Allah, ineffable peace of mind, and profound understanding of the truths that lie behind the veils of nature. Wrong food, however, can inhibit this spiritual development. The Holy Prophet (SAW) seems to hve alluded to this derogative effect when he was reported to have said that the prayers of forty days of someone who has eaten unlawful food would not be accepted.
As we can see then, the right types of food contribute to the overall advancement of our total selves our bodies remain healthy, our minds become refined, and our souls progress unhindered.
Allah, in His mercy to us, in His desire for man to develop fully, has instructed us as to the types of food that are beneficial and those that are harmful. (Certain types of food are also prohibited for reasons that are not easily discernable by us. Allah in His wisdom, is fully knowledgeable about these reasons, however.) The food that is beneficial is lawful for us and called HALAAL in Arabic. The unlawful food is called HARAAM.
Let us look at what types of food are Haraam. Haraam food comes under several categories according to Mishkat. The first comprises of those mentioned in the Quranic verse 6:122 which states “And don’t eat of that on which Allah’s name has not been mentioned. That is surely a transgression.”
According to commentators of the Holy Quran this verse indicates that the meat of a lawful animal or bird which is not slaughtered in the Name of Allah cannot be eaten by a Muslim. Thus, for example. the meat of a chicken, turkey or cow cannot be eaten unkess that bird or animal has been killed Islamically.
The second category of food is everything that is offered to Idols. In some cultures people offer food, for example milk, to idols and then drink it. This milk is not permissable for us to drink if it is offered to us.
In the third category are all animals which die of themselves without the Name of Allah being recited. This would include all animals strangled or beaten to death, or killed after being attacked by beasts or after falling.
In the next category are all beasts and birds of prey. In this category are all four legged creatures that use their teeth to seize their prey and all birds that seize their prey with their talons.
In the final category are all things injurious and repugnant to our health, life, morality and intelligence. These would include unclean animals such as pig, domesticated donkeys, cats, dogs, and also intoxicants like alcohol and drugs.
The prohibitions mentioned above affect us by the fact that ingredients for food and other items we purchase may contain alcohol or may originate from animal sources. Because of this, knowledge of ingredients and how they are derived is very important.