"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)