Food is one of the basic human needs. In the absence of food as a necessity of life, people can experience the threat of famine. In the perspective of human rights, for example, food is included into the basic human rights that must be met. In various international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it is stated that the right to food is part of the right to have a decent standard of living, and the right to be free from hunger (UNHR, 2010). Therefore, the food has a very important meaning for humans to survive.
Speaking about the importance of food, it is also talking about the importance of choosing the food. As we know, not everyone has the same preferences on food. Selection of food depends on a variety of reasons, such as taste, health, and even religion. Talking about religion, how can religion be used as a reason for a person in choosing food? Are there regulations governing the provision of food based on the religions? In response to this, this paper will explain the food selection on the basis of religion, particularly for Muslims.
What is Halal Food?
Islam is the second largest religion in the world. At least, there are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, with Indonesia as the country with the most Muslim population in the world (Pew Research Center, 2012). Islam is a religion that has rules and meanings in each of the activities undertaken by their people. Not only about tradition, Islam has principles that govern the way they life the live for those who have confidence in it. In the context of food, Islam puts food into the very complex and detailed discussion. All activities, including foods, sourced from the Qur’an (holy book) and the Sunnah, that all speech and behavior of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him good to put into practice. In the Qur’an and the Sunnah, Islam has arranged the food and drinks which are allowed to be consumed (halal) and forbidden to be consumed (haram). For non-Muslims, the food and drinks, based on the teachings of Islam, are defined as the selection of the best quality food (Riaz, and Chaudry, 2003).
In Islam, there is the term Halal and Haram. Halal has the same meaning as Tayyib in Arabic, which means good. In particular, Halal is defined as something that is allowed or permitted to do, while haram is something that is not permitted or prohibited. In terms of food, Islam also recognises the terms halal and haram. Halal Food is for food that does not contain substances or animal extracts that are prohibited to be consumed. It can be categorized as Halal Food if the food is prepared in a hygienic manner in Islam way (see Wahab, 2004). Islam sees the Halal Food as a whole big process, start from the process of raising animals, process of animal slaughtering, process of cooking, until the process of preparing the food on the table. However, the most important thing is to maintain and guarantee the entire production process is not contaminated from things that are categorized as Haram (Zulfakar and Ab Talib, 2014).
Which one is halal and non halal?
Basically, all foods can be consumed unless the food is non-halal or haram as it is mentioned in the Qur’an. At this point, Islam provides the best food choices through the food that categorised as Halal. While the rule not to eat non-Halal or Haram foods, is the Islamic way to protect people from things that may harm themselves, for example, to protect them from the content of foods that are endanger health. According to Soesilowati (2009), the Haram Foods and Drinks can be categorised as follows:
A. Food by Animal
- Pork and products containing pork
- An animal that has fangs, claws and carnivores, such as elephants, tigers, cats, dogs.
- Animals that disgusting like flies, and worms.
- Animals forbidden to be killed in Islam such as ants, bees and frogs.
- Animals which are toxic or poisonous
- Animals that eat dirt
- Foods made from carcasses and blood
- Animals that are not slaughtered Islamic and without the name of Allah, the Almighty God.
All species except lawful nature of plants that are toxic and can harm one’s health.
All kinds of drinks containing alcohol and drinks that can make people drunk.
Halal Food Challenges
The concept of Halal Foods is one of the biggest challenge to be understood for everyone. It is mentioned before that Halal Foods is not only set the rules of food or things that are permissible in Islam. In this case, “Ensure the quality of food” is the basic principle of food safety in which is applied. Halal Foods provides assurance that the food can be consumed safely, free from disease, healthy, and highly nutritious, according to the sustainable policies in force (Midgley, 2013). From these explanations, we can understand the principles of food security and food safety in the concept of Halal Foods that equally prioritize the health of consumers. On the other hand, all the foods that forbidden in Islamic law are the foods that are not good or endanger health. Therefore, foods in Islamic way is certainly not going to harm anyone as it is can protect everyone.
The next challenge is the availability of halal food in everyday life. Many kinds of food that sell in countries with little Muslim population, difficult to be ascertained whether the food is halal or haram. If there is no Halal label on food or restaurant that serving food, we need to be doubt to eat the foods as we do not know what food ingredients used in the food, how they cook the food, and how they prepare the food. Until now, it is still quite difficult to find halal food in Europe, except in countries with many Muslim populations. One of the countries in Europe that has a big Muslim is the United Kingdom (Hacket, 2016). At least, the growth of Muslim population Non-Muslim countries, will increase the demand for halal food so that the community will become more familiar with the concept of Halal Foods.
Halal Foods is one principle of life by choosing foods that are good for the body, instead of choosing foods which are not good and endanger health. Halal Foods are not just talking about good food for Muslims, but for all people, as the concept is to protect every human being. The cleanliness and health of Halal Foods can be guaranteed. In the future, hopefully people will be more familiar with the concept of Halal Foods so that the quality of life, health, and well-being of human will increase.