Friday, August 06, 2010

Are you sure it's halal?

"O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and clean..."(Al-Baqarah:168)
Eating in the UK today is much easier than it was a decade or two ago.  When I boarded the plane to London in 1990, I sat next to a second year A-level student who briefed me about the various types of Malaysians (students) in the UK.  He noted that since there were Malaysians who stayed in boarding schools or halls, eating can pose a big problem.  He studied me closely and asked whether I was a 'ngap sayot' - a term used to describe those who ate whatever they could get their hands on due to the darurah situation.  I laughed and made it clear to him that I believed darurah situations called for more complicated scenarios. 
“He hath forbidden you only dead meat, and blood, and swineflesh, and that which hath been immolated to (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (Al-Baqarah:173).

A few years later, I was taken aback when I saw my friend chomping on a chicken sandwich she grabbed from a nearby shop and remember thinking, 'Oh no, she's a ngap sayot!' A hundred metres away from us was a kebab shop and another 130 metres or so was a vegetarian outlet.  Surely, there were alternatives?  Was she driven by necessity?
I was told by another friend who was in a boarding school how he had nonchalantly accepted Toad-in-the-hole for breakfast one morning, without knowing what it was.  He was ready to dig in when he realised that the toad was actually pork sausages!  Blerghhhhh...!  What surprised me was, even when he had realised the food in front of him was not halal, he continued eating until the very last crumb!  Would you?

Today, halal restaurants and butchers may be found in almost every city in the UK.  In fact, today there are even KFC and Nando restaurants throughout the country which serve halal meat.  Yet, some debate over the issue of halalness as may be found here.  This problem is in fact worldwide and it all depends on the group of scholars which one might want to follow.  Personally, I feel that it is a delicate matter.  Seek knowledge and follow throughout.  This is what I believe.

When it comes to the issue of Halal-ness, the Muslims are divided.  Some take the easy way out, quoting that Islam is simple, it is us humans who complicate it.  I recall a friend of mine who had this very interesting theory regarding alcohol.  If alcohol is put in the food one cooks (on a stove/fire), it is halal because the alcohol evaporates in the air, thus making it no longer there.  Is this so?  Would there be neither trace of alcohol nor flavour?  
On the other hand, there are some who go through all the trouble to ensure that everything is clean and pure because what we consume will become our flesh and blood.  Often, there are lists of ingredients Muslims have to look out for when purchasing produce from the supermarket, especially emulsifiers.  And yet, I have seen friends who grab mousses or chocolates from the shelves without the slightest glimpse at the ingredients.  Wallahu'alam...

“Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood and swine-flesh, and that which hath been dedicated unto any other than Allah, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been killed by (the goring of) horns, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by the death-stroke), and that which hath been immolated unto idols.  And (forbidden is it) that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination. This day are those who disbelieve in despair of (ever harming) your religion; so fear them not, fear Me! This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you and have chosen for you as religion Al-Islam. Whoso is forced by hunger, not by will, to sin: (for him) lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (Al-Maidah: 3)


Anonymous said...


It's not only happen in overseas, here in Malaysia, if we go to Sabah or Sarawak, one must pay attention to what they consume. Not that all food are haraam but the fact that many of rumah penyembelihan owned by chinese, the chicken "parts" (which one has been slaugthered) sold by them too. Would you buy chicken from chinese seller? I won't..huhu~


Anonymous said...

assalamualaikum. nice article btw. i have never heard about the alcohol evaporating and all. but i think i have another almost similar issue. about instant noodles like maggi. there have been debates that chicken instant noodles can be eaten because the fact is they did not use real chicken, or something like it. this is true though.. but in the end, it all depends on how one thinks. either he is confident or not to eat a certain kind of food.

Along said...

When I was studying in the states, this was often an issue among the Malay students. I guess the boys most of them were the "ngap sayot" type, using the "ahli kitab" excuse to eat meat and chicken from questinable sources. Fortunately for us, we had a Farmer's Market near by where there was an Iranian butcher. Whenever I ate at McD, I only ate Filet though I guess one can make the debate on whether the oil was halal or not. Time tu doa je la.

Here in Malaysia, there's no excuse to be a "ngap sayot". Choices are plenty. Every Muslim should be aware of what they eat. Best to check

Shahieda said...

This seems to be a common practice worldwide, I think. Even here in SA with most places offering halaal food, you will still find people eating at restaurants offering alcohol on the menu. Or having chicken because they take for granted that all chicken plants issue halaal certified products. This couldn't be further from the truth! At the other end we find that the authorities issuing halaal certified certificates have been making money in the process, which means that this has become more a money making matter than anything else :(

D.N.A.S said...

we've asked one Ustaz who came to give ceramah in our office regarding the alcohol evaporating. According to him, anything that once exists as 'arak' (he didn't use the term alcohol as alcohol and 'arak' are not necessarily the same)will remain haram to be consumed. Same goes to 'cuka makan'. Some are not halaal as they turned into 'arak' during one of the stages before they became 'cuka' (vinegar). I just knew that there are Islamic ways to process fruits into vinegar. Need to do more research on this. ;)

aidareza said...

'Ngap sayot' - what a phrase. Well, I was once like that in my crazy youth. Now am more careful, of course. I usually check Jakim's website every so often.

Arena said...

I had this talk with my boss the other day. He talked about ahli kitab thing, thus enabling him and his family consumed questionable meat and chicken while he is in UK. Hmmm I am not that convince tough. Maybe because kurang ilmu or what, but the thing is. I take the straight cut road. Furthermore, dekat UK banyak sangat choice of Halal food. Janganlah cepat sangat jatuh darurat, kan. Take care sis.Selamat berpuasa. Ngap sayot? hahahha cute one..

5th_E Taib said...

As Salam. When i was in Edinburgh, knowing that there are halal butchers around, halal take aways and fast food, there is no reason for me to just ngap sayot anything. I clearly remembered a senior Malaysian student there giving me a small card produced by hizbi with all the non halal listing. Alhamdulillah, I survived my 2 year period in Edinburgh! I only went ngap sayot when travelling in europe where i ngap sayoted *bwahaha* in Zurich and Amsterdam sebab x jumpe Islamic centre or kedai halal yang people said easy to find.

Anyways, in Malaysia, please be weary of the food stuff on the shelves, banyak yang contain emulsifiers yang one would not know the origin is from what and where..

Selamat berpuasa to you and kiddos :)

Adam Dilip Mutum said...

I am not an expert but there is always the vegetarian option if you are unsure. reading this article I remember that drug and ganja addicts often use the excuse that these are not mentioned in the Quran. However regarding alcohol, I read somewhere that it is OK if it is used in medicines and for curing disease or illness.