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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Need for Halaal Awareness

Every Believer who has some degree of iemaan knows the importance of consuming halaal. For those with stronger iemaan and intensified taqwa, the consumption of halaal is of primary importance, and for very good reason.

In a narrative delivered by Hazrat Abu Hureira (radhiyallahu anhu) Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is reported to have said: “O People! Verily Allah is Pure and only accepts that which is pure. And verily Allah has commanded the Believers with that which He commanded the Messengers; He says (to the Messengers): “O Messengers! Eat from pure, wholesome foods and perform righteous deeds.” (Surah Muminoon, verse 51) And He says (to the Believers): “O Believers! Eat from the pure, wholesome foods that We have provided for you, and offer thanks to Allah if indeed it is He Whom you (truly) worship”. (Surah Baqara, verse 172 ).

Then Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) mentioned a man who travelled a far distance, was dishevelled, weary and tired. This weary traveller stretches out his hand to Allah in dua, and exclaims: “O My Lord! O My Lord!” Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) says: “But his food is from haraam, his drink is from haraam, and his clothes are from haraam, so how can his dua be accepted?

Aayat 51 of Surah Muminoon underscores the importance of eating halaal and pure foods and by following up the command to eat halaal with the command to do righteous deeds, there is a distinct connection between the two. Ulema of tafseer say that this verse (23:51) is clear proof that eating halaal is the catalyst for good deeds in the life of a Believer. This natural habit remarkably propels man towards piety. These Ulema then infer that since halaal food can produce good deeds in man, it logically follows that haraam food prevents good and induces the perpetration of haraam acts. The verse cited from Surah Baqarah makes reference to this very fact; that the command to eat halaal foods is followed by the instruction to make shukr and to offer true worship. There is, therefore, no room for doubt, that halaal food plays a huge role in the fulfilment of good and the shunning of evil. By the same token, haraam food stifles the predilection of man towards good, whilst creating an insatiable appetite for sin.

The narrative of Abu Huraira mentioned previously highlights another calamitous consequence of consuming haraam, and that is the rejection of dua. Here, too, countless Auliyaa and Ulema have concluded beyond all shadow of doubt that the chief cause of our duas not being accepted is the consumption of haraam.

One the one hand, the Ummat-a-Muslima (Muslim Nation) has undergone an outward resurgence of iemaan, but on the other hand, inwardly they have either retrogressed or temporary stalled in spiritual achievement. We sometimes wonder why Muslims are so lethargic when it comes to performance of good deeds, just as we look on aghast at the numerous vices committed by Muslims. There appears to be an increase in the appetite of Muslims for evil and vice, and decline in their desire for good. One reason this retrogressive pattern of Muslim behaviour can be attributed to is the consumption of haraam. Haraam food has the capability of blackening the heart and eroding its (the hearts) iemaani lustre and glitter. With a heart filled with darkness, one loses the inclination for good and hankers after evil. Consuming haraam creates laziness in the rooh and disinclination towards good a’maal. This lethargy towards a’maal-e-saaliha (righteous deeds) then makes one predisposed towards evil and sin. The nafs of man, though ingestion of haraam food, develops an insatiable desire for sin and vice. When this spiritual cancer sets in, it becomes extremely difficult if nigh impossible, to reverse the process and make man more inclined to good than evil. The only way, really, to achieve this, is to wean off the nafs from haraam. It is with this motive and objective in mind that we perceived the need to highlight the importance of halaal consumption.

At this juncture, let it be known that we are focussing on one aspect of haraam consumption, and that is haraam foods, particularly meat and poultry. Many Muslim families and individuals will consume meat and chicken served at non-Muslim restaurants or roadhouses without the least concern for haraam and halaal, just on the basis of a certificate.

It is important for the Muslim public to understand the nature of halaal certificates that non-Muslim outlets possess. A non-Muslim’s main concern is to rake in as much money as possible through his business. He has absolutely no concern for halaal and haraam. In reality a disbeliever could not care less whether a Muslims eats halaal or haraam; instead some of them are bitter opponents to the halaal and haraam industry. We thus discovered in the past that some non-Muslim food establishments produced faked certificates just to hoodwink Muslims and capture their business.

Recently, in Port Elizabeth a certain fast food outlet issued leaflets advertising their products. In one corner of the leaflet there appeared, in small print, the halaal logo of a famous national halaal certifying body. This obviously created the perception to Muslims that the products of this outlet were certified by a Muslim Body and were thus halaal. However, upon investigation it was revealed that this outlet was never ever certified by the Halaal Certifying Body. Somehow, this Port Elizabeth outlet managed to obtain leaflets that were distributed by its Johannesburg branch, which is managed by Muslims and certified halaal, and issued these to local consumers. Obviously, this created the impression that the PE branch was also halaal certified.

On another occasion, tenders were given out for halaal food to be supplied to a certain prison. One of the tenders came in from a non-Muslim food supplier who produced photo-copies of an original halaal certificate that they had managed to procure from a Johannesburg branch, yet the certificate clearly states: PHOTO-COPIES NOT VALID. These are just a few examples of how non-Muslim establishments will hoodwink Muslims just to win their patronage. Theses atrocities in the halaal industry will continue to plague our Muslims for they have become so accustomed to eating out and dining at non-Muslim restaurants and food establishments. Muslims will purchase meat and chicken from non-Muslim chain stores on the flimsy (and totally absurd) grounds that “the till slip says ‘halaal’!´ This is indeed atrocious, and laughable had it not been so serious.

Many Muslims are victims of consuming haraam unknowingly. But being unaware of the permissibility of a product is no excuse when strong grounds of doubt exist. Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Halaal is clear and Haraam is clear. Between the two, there are doubtful items. He who avoids these doubtful items has purified his honour and his Deen. And he who indulges in items of doubt, will soon fall into haraam.” (Bukhari Shareef) This hadith shareef refers to those items or acts that have become doubtful on the basis of strong reasons. Can there be a stronger reason for doubt than the fact that kuffar are procuring, preparing, cooking and serving these meat and chicken products that we Muslims consume?

Some may argue that these kuffar are in possession of halaal certificates. Well, we have answered this conclusively above, where it was established that reliance cannot be placed anymore on mere certificates when there is neither Muslim supervision nor thorough inspection by the halaal certifying body.
Muslim consumers must understand the halaal certifying process. The Jurists of Islam have laid down a strict principle for meat and poultry sold by kuffar to be considered halaal for Muslim consumption, viz., that there must be strict and continuous Muslim supervision of such products. Should this be lacking in any department, the hillat or lawfulness of such products become severely compromised and doubtful. It then becomes compulsory on Muslims to abstain from the consumption of such foods. We are aware that not all halaal certifying bodies maintain strict standards of inspection and monitoring. It is for this reason that we warn Muslim consumers to exercise extreme caution, for the sake of their iemaan and righteousness.

Today Muslims freely visit Nandos, Kentucky, Macdonalds, and a host of other non-Muslim owned franchises and consume the food manufactured by these establishments, with little or no concern for the halaal status of such food. It is ironical and deeply saddening to see Muslims piously offering their salah in a musjid, and soon thereafter end up at a non-Muslim restaurant to enjoy with relish the meat or chicken served there. Do they not realize that such injudicious behaviour puts their a’maal or good deeds at serious risk? The deeds of one who consumes non-halaal food are not accepted by Almighty Allah as long as the effect of that haraam remains in the body. In a hadith of Bukhari it appears that as long as one wears clothes earned through haraam, one’s salaah will not be accepted. It is high time we Muslims learnt self-discipline and control. Another hadith of Saheeh Al-Bukhari teaches that for a person to reach piety it is incumbent that he or she shuns that which is doubtful and opt for that which is doubt-free.

We once again, emphasize, that part of our spiritual retrogression must be attributed to the ingestion of foods that are either doubtful or clear-cut haraam. Once Muslims have cultivated the taste of fast-food outlets, and consume this without much conscience about halaal and haraam, it becomes an almost Herculean task to break the habit and abstain. Even now, we believe, there is still time for us wake up to this reality and begin developing a resistance to the fast-food eating style. “The fire is more deserving to flesh that was nurtured through haraam” was the stark warning issued by Our Beloved Master (Bukhari shareef). Let this hadith, as well as our God given iemaani conscience guide us to the right choice – Allahumma aameen.