Most American people are informed that Muslim society has certain limitations for eating, but they are not sure, what exactly these regulations are. Most of the people know that the alcohol and pork are forbidden, but without that nothing much more recognized for the major society. When starting to learn about laws of Muslim diet you shouldn't start with the limits, but better begin with things that are allowed to Muslim people that actually give much more information than all the restrictions. As Qur'an mentions:
"Oh, people! You should eat of what is permitted and good on the earth, and don't follow in the footsteps of the devil; truly; he's a true enemy to you." (2:168)
The purpose of God isn't to separate Muslim people from food or restrict it. Contrariwise, God's rules in regard to food limitations are to ensure that Muslim people eat what is good and not what is noxious to them. Food can be split into three categories, first, halal, that includes all permitted products, haram that includes forbidden items that you can't eat, and makrooh, that includes uncertain and suspicious meals. Halal, which is allowed, is healthy for Muslim, so we should eat all halal foods. The milk products are also a halal group of foods, so cheese, milk, butter, and yogurt can also be eaten. Vegetables and fruits are also regarded as halal except if they are known to be harmful to your health.
You can pickle vegetables in vinegar or brine, but they can't be fermented because then they contain an alcohol that is not allowed. Grain crops are also considered as halal. All kind of bread products and grains are allowed, but the meat group divides into two main sorts, (halal and haram) depending not only on the type of meat but also how it was obtained. Amongst meats that are allowed and halal is anything that is taken from the sea, like, for example, a fish, unless it's poisonous or harmful. The only prohibited animal that is mentioned specifically by its name is the pig. The Qur'an notifies:
"Oh, believer! Eat all the good things that we have created for you, and be thankful to God if it is he alone you adore. Certainly, what Allah has prohibited to you is the blood and the flesh of swine, and flesh of dead animals and that, which has been sacrificed to others that are not Allah. But if one is compelled by necessary, neither transgressing nor craving, there is no sin on you; indeed, God is forgiving."
The meat of the pig is not allowed for many reasons that are mostly related to health issues. Sakr and Hussaini have discovered microbial proof that there are many of bacteria and parasites that exist in pig's flesh that can transmit into disease when eaten by people. Among them are tape worms, round worms, hook worms, paragonimus, fasciolopsis buskin, erysipelthix rhnsiplathius and clonoclus senesis. These parasites may cause also many other diseases, like trichinosis, dysentery, pneumonia, jaundice, enlargement of the liver, intestinal obstruction, emaciation, acute pancreatitis, typhoid, high fevers, spontaneous abortion, retarded growth development in children and sterility. This reason is significant enough to stop eating an impure animal, like a pig, however, Al-Qaradawi notices that "Since the swine eats offal and filth, its flesh is disgusting to people of sharp taste."
Although the pig is the only animal that is mentioned specifically as forbidden meat in the Qur'an, there are also other meats that can be considered as haram. Among these limitations are animals that are not slaughtered accordingly to Muslim rules. If animals were killed in the following ways they can't be eaten by Muslim believers:
Torsion - Animals that have been strangulated or suffocated can not be eaten.
Fall - Animals that die as a result of a falling into a ravine or gully or may not be consumed.
Beating to death - Animal that has been hit with a blunt instrument and died in this way can not be eaten either.
Found Dead - If you find a dead animal, you can not eat it for sure, because you don't know, how it died.
The last limitation follows from logical sense. If you find a dead animal it might have died from the disease that can be harmful also for you. If the illness killed that animal, then it means it was harmful and the flesh of the dead animal can contain it. Accordingly to that, those who would eat that meat might harm themselves and this is surely not a reasonable step so it's better to leave this kind of meat uneaten. Other meaningful reasons not to eat an animal that is already found dead are the fact that by respecting this forbid of the carrion that is left behind will be providing a meal to other birds and wild animals. This limitation helps to prompt the owner of the animal to take care of it and keep him well fed or to kill it mercifully if it's needed for survival. Finally, the eating of a dead body is disgusting to civilized society. The other principles arising from God's care for all animals as living creatures. It's God's desire that we take care for what he gives to us. If he gifts us with sheep, goats or cattle we have surely not taken care of them well enough if they have died by having been bitten to death by another animal or by falling into a gorge.
In addition, we haven't been kind to any animal if we need to kill it for food by beating or strangling it to death. Not noticed in the Qur'an is the slaying of animals by electric shock. This way of killing animals is becoming more popular within today's meat packing industry because it's very effective method for them. Also, Muslim people contempt this method as it's painful to the animal and this way of killing doesn't let the blood to drain from the carrion and it clots inside. This damages the meat.
The right way to kill an animal is to say a prayer loudly by facing a Mecca while doing it. Meantime the animal should not be thirsty or hungry and your knife can't be sharpened in front of that animal. This is to not evoke excessive pressure to the animal and to show a dignity to other creatures of God. Also, there is a rule that an animal can be killed only by a Muslim man.
When an animal is killed, the knife should be pricked in the neck by jugulating the animal in this way. This is the fastest way to die with the least amount of suffering to the animal. In addition, the animal should be treated with respectful attitude also after its death. An animal can't be cut open or skinned until the carcass is permitted to cool and its neck shouldn't be broken. All the blood must be drained from its carcass and it should also be cleaned with pure water.
Meat as a sacrifice to idols is not allowed, but meat killed by Christians and Jews is allowed if it's done humanely. As you can't be sure how the meat has been produced in large supermarkets, many Muslim customers still choose to buy meat at local butchers where it has been slaughtered according to Muslim religious laws.
Drugs and alcohol, unless they are used for medical purposes, are forbidden, or haram. As the Qur'an states:
"Believers! Gambling and intoxicants, raffles and idols are only a dirty work of the devil, turn away from them so that you could thrive. Devil only wants to awake jealousy and hate among you with different forms of gambling and intoxicants, and to prevent you from praying and remembering God; so will you not desist?"(5: 90 - 91)
Many things have been written about how drug abuse and alcoholism today. You don't have to look quite far to see what drug abuse and alcohol have done to the individual people and to the whole society. You just need to watch the nightly news or read a daily newspaper to see how drugs are affecting today's society. In addition, alcohol causes liver ailments, stomach cancer, ulcers, and neurological and digestive disorders.
As Muslim people aim to use what is good and abstain from what is harmful, consumption of non-medical drug and alcohol is forbidden. In addition, money that you spend on these harmful items is wasted as it is not spent on healthy food, besides a man who is drunk and does not act appropriate can't be respected by others.
Abbdullah ibn Umar, who is a son of the second caliph of Islam announced that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that, alcoholic beverages are the mother of filth and abomination. He also noted that the Prophet (PBUH) meant that, alcohol is the most shameful way of evils; anyone who drinks alcohol will take no account to prayer, and many will make mistakes and incestuous offenses.
Although it's not our purpose to inform about all the physical dangers of drug and alcohol addiction and there are many books published on these subjects, we would like to underline how much alcohol is abhorred in the Muslim community. It is considered as an evil that should be avoided in any case. Sakr and Hussaini mention the following reasons why all the Muslims should avoid using alcohol:
Alcohol is regarded as something disgusting.
Alcohol is part of Devil's plan.
Getting drunk causes hate and enmity among people.
Alcohol distracts people from remembering God.
Alcohol hinders Muslim people from doing their daily prayers. Even if they do praying they might not understand the significance and meaning of it.
Those who drink have no place in paradise.
As Islam claims, those who drink alcohol are similar to those who adore idols that are totally forbidden in Islam.
If a person drinks alcohol, he can not be considered as a Muslim believer.
Alcohol is the most harmful evil in our society.
Muslim people think that the prophets of God didn't use alcoholic drinks and that alcohol was forbidden in the original scriptures of divinely discovered religions.
Alcohol has some benefits, but harm and sin resulting from its using is far greater than its good sides.
Alcohol causes Allah's curse on those who get drunk, as well as on those who produce, sell or develop its products, and those who take part in drinking events.
Alcohol is a reason of many accidents on the road.
Alcohol has broken many families.
Many criminal activities, like murders, raping, and other offenses are done under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol is considered harmful and should be removed in any way, even in medicine. It was mentioned that once Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), gave her daughter some wine because she felt sick. The Prophet (PBUH) became angry with her and told her that Allah didn't create sickness so that Muslim people could treat themselves with haram items.
Nowadays, for many remedies against cold and over-the-counter flu the alcohol is one of their ingredients. Muslim must be accurate to read the description of these products to be sure that these remedies are not haram, for using such a medicine would be just as forbidden as the drinking alcohol itself for medicinal reasons, like drinking hot toddy against cold.
As alcohol can not cure an illness it shouldn't be used to hide or make the pain of an illness insensitive. The only exception that might be made is when all of these circumstances are met:
The patient's life is at risk if he does not use the remedies.
There is no alternative medication available that would be made from completely halal ingredients.
The medication is determined by a Muslim doctor who is well educated as well as God fearing.
But even with these exceptions, most of the Muslims who respect their religion would still not consider using this type of medication and would not consume any alcohol, preferring to better die free of this sin.
So far halal, that means permitted and haram that means forbidden have been discussed, so next, the terms mash-boob and makrooh should be described further. Makrooh means discouraged in the Arabic language. Food that fits into this category is allowed because it has not been specifically determined as harmful, but this food isn't distinctly favorable so it can't be considered as halal. A Muslim who subsists of makrooh meals might be condemned for it on the day of judgment, but they may not be punished for its usage. A Muslim should, therefore, try to desist from food or drinks that are considered as makrooh or haram. Makrooh products are, for example, a coffee, any soft-drinks that contain a caffeine, teas, depressants, and stimulants. All these drinks and items can cause an addiction and are not advised for a reason. Tobacco is also not the best choice for the same reason. But onions and garlic are considered as makrooh only on Friday because they can cause a bad breath. Since the Friday is the day of common prayer called Juma, food that might cause bad breath should be avoided on this day to not offend other believers.
Mash-booh means doubted in Arabic. Products are suspected when a Muslim is not quite sure is this food haram or halal. Each Muslim should do his best to make the right decision about this kind of products. To be completely sure about his choice, a real Muslim avoids using also all the mash-booh type of products.
Years ago, it was easier for Muslim people to choose between halal and haram foods and there were only a few meals that were considered as makrooh or mash-booh food. As food was made from natural ingredients that was easily recognized. But today, particularly in the western societies it has changed a lot. Even if you take a package of bread and read the list of ingredients it's hard to fully understand what all these ingredients are. Many other frozen, microwaveable or canned products include tens of preservatives. That's why it is a necessity for Muslim believers to check food ingredient on their packages carefully because many of these foods might be considered mash-booh, or suspicious until it's completely clear that this product and all its ingredients are not haram.
If a Muslim reads an information what is written on labels of the product, he can better conclude if this food or product should be considered haram or halal. One of the ingredients that should be considered as haram, if it's mentioned on a label of the product, is cholesterol that is a type of animal fat, so you can't be sure if the animal that was used to get it was a pig or another meat and if it was slaughtered suitably. Shortening is not accepted for the same reason, unless it confirms that vegetable shortening is 100% pure, otherwise, vegetable shortenings may contain up to 10% animal fat. Gelatin (Jello) is haram because it's made from products of pork and other animals, bacon also is always haram because it comes from pigs. Pepsin is not allowed as it's made from the gastric fluid of pig's stomachs, so a Muslim should be cautious because pepsin might be not labeled as an animal product. Rennet, usually called rennen, is also haram for the same issue. It's a product that is used in cheese for souring the milk.
Content that should be marked as discouraged or makrooh are cyclamates, artificial sweeteners, coloring additives, aspartame, and saccharine because they don't have any calories. Also, caffeine as a stimulant is makrooh because it also can make addiction problems. The diuretic drug should be discouraged, unless it's used for only medicinal objectives. Nitrites, usually called nitrates, are commonly used as preservatives, but they also are discouraged as is phosphoric acid that can cause tooth decay when used through different soft drinks. Apart from reading the information on labels of food products about their ingredients, Muslim people should also make sure about the expiration date of the product to be sure that it's fresh. Sakr and Hussaini recommend Muslims to practice the following steps to ensure that their eating habits are halal:
Eat vegetables in each meal.
Eat fruits, not pies and cake for a dessert.
Drink juice that is fresh not made with preservatives. Fresh juice is better than any soft drink.
Avoid tea and coffee, prefer herbal teas instead.
Frozen foods are worse than fresh foods but better than canned ones. Finally, all the canned foods are better than dried ones.
Frozen and dried foods should be high-quality.
Don't use hydrogenated vegetable oils or fats, prefer to use raw vegetable oil.
Pressure cooking is a better method than ordinary cooking.
Using a microwave oven is a quite good method how to save all the nutrition.
Look for mountain natural water, spring water, or even hard water, but avoid any soft water.
Whenever possible, replace sugar with a honey, but if you use sugar, try to prefer brown sugar.
Don't use refined grains, but better eat whole cereal ones.
Prefer a brown bread, not white.
Use natural flour instead of bleached flour.
Eat brown rice instead of eating white rice.
Search for "zabiha" products and meat in all meals.
Use pectin and jello that is produced from plants, not from animal products.
Instead of brewer's yeast, prefer a microbial leaven.
Choose plant enzymes or a microbial rennet instead of animal rennen.
Look for natural preservatives, colorings, and flavorings, not synthetic adds.
If Muslims still feel unsure about what their food contains they can ask for more detailed information from the food industries. People can also overview available references and talk to specialists that can explain more about these products before making final conclusions is this food a haram or halal for Muslim people. Finally, they should inform the food manufacturers about their dietary issues on these products so that they can be well informed about consumer needs. If a Muslim pays attention to the type of food he's putting into his mouth, he will ensure maintaining a healthy life. In addition, if they do not buy food that is discouraged, as well as communicate with a food industry, they can help to ensure that halal food and products become more widely accessible.