What does “halal” and “haram” mean?
The word halal is Arabic which means lawful and permissible. The opposite word for it is haram meaning of unlawful and not permitted. These words come from the Quran (holy book of Islam) and have a relationship with Islamic dietary law. For Muslim people, eating and using halal products is a must and haram products must be avoided at all times. Halal and haram things can be found in food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, healthcare, and tourism.
As for the food to be halal, there are some rules that need to be obeyed at the same time. Even if one of them is missing or have not done correctly by the Islamic law, the food is then considered as haram. Before describing the process and storage of halal food, we would like to share commonly used halal and haram food & beverage items below;
Meat: Fish, seafood, cow, veal, lamb, sheep, goat, turkey, chicken, bison, duck meat.
Grains: Rice, pasta, and baked goods (considered as prepared without haram ingredients)
Vegetables and fruits: Any kind (juiced, raw, cooked, dried)
Milk products: Milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream (made with bacterial culture or microbial rennet)
Others: Nuts, tofu, eggs, legumes like lentil and beans, tea & coffee, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, vegetable oils, spices, pickles, jam alternatives, honey, sugar, and desserts based on agar or carrageenan.
Meat: Rotten meat, blood, birds with talons, pork and pork-related products (such as ham, bacon, and lard), donkey, snake, cat, dog, bear, lizard, scorpion, and mice.
Beverage: Intoxicants and alcoholic beverages.
Others: Gelatin and pure vanilla extract.
The process of halal:
The process of slaughtering the meat, from the start till the end is very important by the Islamic law. Because of the belief within the respect of an animal's life, the death of it must be very quick for not to torment the animal. It should not feel a thing. That is why a very sharp knife is used during slaughtering. Also, the slaughtering must be done by a Muslim who should face Qibla (if possible), by saying "Bismillah" (in the name of God) and give water to the animal beforehand. Qibla is a place where Mecca is and it is the same place as the birth of Prophet Muhammad. When a Muslim prays (does not matter the place), he/she must turn to the way of Qibla. In addition to this process, the slaughtering must be done at a place separated from others because the animals should not be seen by each other. Also, the animal must be fed by its nature for its whole life, and not be suffering from any illness or injuries.
Fish and related seafood products are not included in this process as they die quickly when coming out of the water and they do not have that much blood to be drained.
The reason for this process and furthermore the storage is based on the Islamic law which has a priority on living, hygiene, and safety. Nowadays, non-Muslim countries pay attention to this entire process and producing halal food as much as Muslim countries. Malaysia is known as a modern Muslim country and an important location for its neighbors for supplying and trading halal food. As a result, the country now is a nominee of being the Global Halal Hub. Also because of the population, it allows many restaurants, cafes and food courts serving halal food.
Halal food certification:
There is no standard labeling for stating halal in food places, but all of them put a sign on their window or menu to be seen. If you do not see any signs, you may always ask if they provide halal food or not. The only important thing is the process, storage and cooking of the food. If the halal food is not cooked with haram ingredients (like lard, gelatin, alcohol, etc.), it should be fine for the cooking process. When you explore the Malay cuisine, you will see that halal food alternatives are actually countless and finding it is not hard at all. If you even have a special diet to follow or food allergies, you can always find halal food to have up to your taste.
For manufacturers and places which produce and sell food, halal food certification must be provided to be able to indicate food as halal. This food certification is well-known around the world and processed for hygiene and safety reasons in order to follow Islamic law. It is also available for non-food halal products in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, healthcare, tourism an more.
Jakim (the Malaysia Department of Islamic Development) has become the one which provides halal certification in Malaysia. For the import and export between countries, print of Jakim’s logo has become the necessity of labeling halal food. In order to get this certification, an online application has to be made to Jakim. When the application is made, Jakim provides the list of raw materials that can be used to make halal products. The manufacturer has to provide the source of these raw items that they have. If they get the pre-approval, the payment should be made as the next step. After the payment, Jakim arranges an unannounced visit to the manufacturer in order to control the source of raw materials, general preparation methods, packing, labeling, hygiene, and safety standards. Additionally, laboratory testing might be required.
To be able to get this halal food certificate, there are some requirements that need to be followed;
- There must be no contamination between halal and non-halal products.
- Manufacturing place must fulfill the regulations of cleaning and hygiene standards.
- If there is not any, the employee should hire Muslim people in order to sustain halal food requirements.
- Only halal products can be certified as halal. If the manufacturer also produces non-halal products, those items should be separated from each other and the place must be cleaned according to Islamic law.
If the manufacturer can meet the requirements, Jakim gives the approval for certification. However, these standards and regulations may vary according to the country. There are many government agencies, religious establishments and companies exist to provide the halal food certificate all around the world. For instance, the Islamic Food Research Centre Hong Kong (formerly known as IFRC Asia) can help and provide the halal certificate. It is a private Malaysian company and an active member of WHC (World Halal Council).
This certification has started to become a very important marketing tool as well because it gives people trust, hygiene, and safety. There are millions of Muslim people or who believes in Islam that need to follow the Islamic dietary law. Besides, this certification is not only for food, but also available for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, logistics, and consumer goods. According to the Malaysia Department of Islamic Development, halal certification is much in demand and highly recognizable.
Malaysia, the food paradise
As the country is known as a food paradise, it is always easy to find halal food. If you do not want to ask anyone, just follow the crowd! Local people know where to eat and what to eat. If you do not want to do it this way, you can always ask the restaurants or other food places if they provide halal food or not. In Islam, eating is very important to worship God, in order to eat for survival and maintain good health. It states that a person should eat for survival.
As well understood, finding and eating halal food is not hard even if you have a special dietary to adapt. The unlawful and forbidden food items are clear, easy to adjust and provide an opportunity for countless varieties of food.
Please find a couple of halal food alternatives below which are commonly popular in Malaysia;
Nasi lemak: A traditional rice dish which is served with anchovies, peanuts, and a boiled egg. Fried chicken, meat, fish or the combination of chicken and meat can also be added. Just to be on the safe side, you may ask if the meat is not pork when ordering.
Ayam bakar: Known as spicy and grilled chicken. It is marinated with sweet soy sauce and coconut oil. It can be served with rice, tofu or sambal; and the taste can be enriched by adding spices like garlic, chili pepper, salt, etc.
Murtabak: This dough-based food is usually stuffed with meat such as beef, chicken or mutton and served with curry sauce, cucumbers, and ketchup. Shallots, carrots, and chilies are sometimes added.
Wajik: This traditional snack is diamond-shaped. It is made of glutinous rice which is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves.
Goreng pisang: Commonly preferred dessert within the country. Deep fried bananas are really tasty with being crispy on the outside.