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What does halal mean? | Halal meat & slaughtering explained simply

What does halal mean?

The word "halal" comes from Arabic and means "allowed" or "permitted" in German. Thus, halal means all ways of life, deeds and food, which are permitted under Islamic law. The counterpart of "halal" is "haram", which in German means "verboten". For example, the consumption of pork and also pork gelatine in sweets is haram - i.e. forbidden for Muslims (for Muslims allowed sweets without pork gelatine click here). Which actions and foods are halal (allowed) and haram (forbidden) for Muslims is derived from the writings of the Qur'an and the way of life of the Prophet Muhammad (s).  

Halal and haram are two principles that apply to the whole of human (co)life. It concerns everything that belongs to life. Rights between people, family and neighbourhood relations, the treatment of animals, the treatment of the environment, but also finance and banking are only a few examples, as well as the topic of nutrition, which are regulated by the helal-haram principle.

 

Halal meat and the concept of Islamic slaughter

When considering halal-haram classifications, meat often receives the most attention. In order for a certain type of meat or meat-containing food to be classified as halal (Which foods are halal? ), not only the choice of the animal but also the procedure for preparing and carrying out the slaughter and the processing of various meat products plays a significant role. In this article the focus on the preparation, as well as the conditions and the execution of the slaughtering shall be explained in more detail.

 What is halal meat? How is the Islamic slaughter carried out?

Islamic slaughter equals slaughter?

Linguistically, it has established itself in German usage for the Islamic procedure of slaughtering, to use the "Schächten", known from Judaism. In principle, there are great similarities to the concept of "kosher", but in order to avoid misunderstandings and overlapping of contents, some certifiers differentiate and summarize the "Muslim set of rules" under the name "Islamic slaughtering".

 

The Rulebook for Islamic Slaughtering - A Guide

As with permitted (halal) and prohibited (haram) food, there are also guidelines from certifiers for the slaughter itself. These are based on the Koran, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s), as well as numerous legal opinions and take into account the geographical conditions and technological possibilities in the age of industrial standards and automated processes. According to the following guidelines of the European Halal Certification Body

 

  • only permitted (halal) animals may be slaughtered (i.e. no pork).
  • the person slaughtering must be Muslim.
  • the slaughtered animal must be alive during this time.
  • anaesthetic methods may be used to protect against pain and suffering* (see below for more information on this point). 
  • the animal must not have died as a result of stunning or otherwise before the decisive cut was made.
  • must be slaughtered in the name of Allah.
  • the animal must under no circumstances be tortured or subjected to stress and/or suffering.
  • any transport to the slaughterhouse should be as gentle as possible.
  • the butcher's knives should be as sharp as possible in order to make a quick clean cut.
  • it is undesirable to break the neck of the animal during slaughter.
  • bleeding of the animal must be guaranteed. 

The Islamic slaughter under halal criteria is completed when the trachea and oesophagus, as well as both arteries below the larynx, are cut quickly. At least three of the four points mentioned above must be cut through.

In principle, the following guiding principle can be followed:

During the keeping, transport, preparations, slaughter and post-slaughter treatment, care must be taken to respect and treat the animal with dignity as a creature of God.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) underlines this statement with the following tradition:

"If any one is ruthless (to the living being), he will receive no mercy (from Allah ta'ala).

The tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s) makes it clear once again that the question of halal does not only concern the choice of the animal and the technique of slaughter, but also requires an animal-friendly and species-appropriate treatment.

 

Halal is a universal concept that covers a broad spectrum from the keeping of the animal to the processing into products. Since the idea of halal covers such a deep and broad area, the next article will illuminate all important aspects of the production and processing of a halal food.

 

Note on stunning methods

The criteria mentioned all seem somewhat abstract. For better clarification, two concrete examples are given. The Koran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s) are the first two sources that define Islamic principles. These were already transmitted to mankind several hundred years ago. The stunning before slaughter is a classic example of the attempt to apply these principles to current technological standards and possibilities. That is why stunning, which did not play a role at the time of the Prophet, is an often discussed aspect today. In the opinion of some scholars and certifiers, stunning is not permitted for various reasons. One of these reasons is the possible danger that the animal may already die as a result of stunning (cardiac arrest due to electro-short time stunning, allergic shock to the stunning agent, etc.) Thus, with the subsequent slaughter, the meat would no longer be classified as halal. For this reason, some Muslims avoid meat and other products from animals that have been slaughtered with the help of stunning methods. 

 

1Tradition of Al-Bukhari

 

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