Halal is a term widely used today and is not foreign to the global world. However, it's not surprising that many people today, even Muslims themselves, may not fully understand what Halal actually is. Why are Muslims very observant and invested in Halal food consumption?
These questions can be justified and understandable given that the discussion on what is Halal and what is not Halal continues to be a relevant point of conversation with the increasing production of the food industry as well as its supply origin from all corners of the world.
Here are 12 questions about Halal and Halal certification in Singapore:
We can share with our non-Muslim friends, just like how people of other groups and faiths may have their own specific dietary, like kosher for Jews and vegetarian diet for some Buddhists, Islam too teaches its followers a dietary requirement called Halal.
A point to note is the difference between Halal and Halal certified.
Halal is an Arabic word for ‘permissible’ or ‘lawful’. In other words, it is permissible for food consumption. On the other hand, Halal certified means audits and checks have been done by a certification body to ensure that the establishment is Halal-compliant. In Singapore, Halal Certification is regulated by Muis.
Many people think that Halal has so many restrictions. The truth is, there are many more options for permissible food consumption than there are restrictions.
We can share the verse that speaks about this in Surah Al-Baqarah:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ كُلُوا۟ مِمَّا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ حَلَـٰلًا طَيِّبًا
“O humanity! Eat from what is lawful and good on the earth”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:168)
In this verse, Allah s.w.t. have made the consumption of what is lawful become obligatory for Muslims. The word halal is often emphasised while we forget the other word described in the very same verse above, ‘Toyyiban’, which can be translated as ‘good’.
Scholars vary in defining the term ‘Toyyiban’. For example, Al-Imam Malik views that ‘Toyyiban’ and ‘Halal’ are essentially the same because Allah s.w.t. would only allow good food to be lawful ‘Halal’. Al-Imam As-Syafi’i views that ‘Toyyiban’ refers to lawful food that is desirable and is not generally appalling.
Al-Imam Ibn Kathir explains in his tafsir that ‘Toyyiban’ refers to food that does not cause harm to the body or the mind. As the food we eat is a significant part of our lives, Islam guides us to eat a balanced diet which is best. Such examples can be seen in the life of our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Halal food may be lawful to eat, but it should also be good and nutritious and mustn’t bring harm to the consumer. A healthy and nutritional diet is definitely a factor to consider.
The verse brings light to the meaning of being responsible in choosing what to consume. In our current age, we should consider sustainable sourcing of food supply and avoiding food wastage. This is now even more relevant with increasing environmental issues and endangered animals.
Read: 5 Things Prophet ﷺ Taught Us About Protecting the Environment
Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ ٱلْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُۥ مَتَـٰعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ
"It is lawful for you to hunt and eat seafood, as a provision for you and for travellers."
(Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:96)
From the general implication of this verse, our scholars have viewed that seafood is Halal to consume except that which is specifically prohibited from the tradition or can bring harm to the consumer. It's also important to note that animals that can live in both land and sea but are predominantly on land are not implied here.
Seafood can be allergic to some people and this should be avoided as well. Hence, don’t eat while knowing you are allergic to it.
Often when we are dining at a non-Halal establishment, seafood is a safe choice to consider. However, do request for no alcohol nor animal fat to be used in the cooking.
Although it is generally viewed to be permissible, not all vegetarian or vegan food is Halal. This depends on the ingredients involved in the cooking. Just like seafood, if we are dining at a non-Halal establishment, do inquire for no alcohol and animal fat to be used in the cooking.
When we are overseas, we may often end up in places where Halal-certified establishments are hard to come by, unlike in Singapore. In such situations, we may consider Kosher as an alternative meal to continue our day. Kosher food refers to food that is suitable for consumption by Jews. Just like Halal is the dietary requirement for Muslims, so is Kosher for Jews. In the Quran, Allah s.w.t. mentions:
وَطَعَامُ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ
“..Similarly, the food of the People of the Book is permissible for you and yours is permissible for them..”
(Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:5)
Al-Imam Ibn Kathir explained that ‘the people of the Book’ in this verse refers to the Jews and Christians. Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. and many other scholars were then quoted in the same tafsir commentary, that ‘food’ here specifically refers to the slaughtered animals of the People of the Book.
In another hadith, the Prophet s.a.w. was offered meat by a Jewish lady and he ate from it. Although it was later known that the meat was poisoned, this Hadith illustrates the permissibility of eating meat from slaughtered animals of the people of the Book.
أَنَّ يَهُودِيَّةً، أَتَتِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِشَاةٍ مَسْمُومَةٍ، فَأَكَلَ مِنْهَا
“A Jewish lady brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet s.a.w, which he ate from it.”
That being said, not all Kosher food is Halal for Muslims. For example, non-slaughtered food like alcoholic beverages is Kosher for Jews but not Halal for Muslims. Here is a table to help identify the difference between the two dietaries:
|Muslim Dietary Requirement||Jewish Dietary Requirement|
|Consumption of swine of blood is prohibited|
|Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited||Consumption of alcoholic beverages is allowed|
|Rabbit, shellfish, wild hens, goose and ducks are Halal (Some items are required to be slaughtered according to Islamic law)||Rabbit, shellfish, wild hens, goose and ducks are forbidden|
|Gelatin must be obtained only from Halal animals which are slaughtered according to the Islamic law||Gelatin is Kosher, regardless of its source of origin|
|Enzymes (i.e. rennet) in cheese-making must be derived from Halal animals slaughtered according to Islamic law||All cheese is Kosher regardless of its source of enzyme used|
|No restriction in consuming meat and dairy products together||Meat and dairy products cannot be consumed together. Cooking & dining utensils for meat and dairy products to be kept separate|
The quick answer is yes. An Arabic script, usually citing the name of Allah s.w.t. is indeed a clear indication of a Muslim establishment. However, that doesn’t mean that we should be irresponsible. In other cases, some identical symbols may not necessarily mean that it is Halal or if it is Muslim owned. Whatever the case is, we should make our own assessment in all events accordingly.
In general, one of the ways for Muslim consumers to confirm the Halal status of a food premise is via Muis Halal Certificate. But the absence of a Halal Certificate does not mean the food is not Halal. In Islam, food is Halal when the ingredients used are Halal and the premise and utensils used to prepare the food are dedicated for the preparation of Halal food. In addition, Halal food need not necessarily be prepared by Muslims.
Companies that are applying for Muis Halal certification are informed to engage at least two Muslim staff to assist them in ensuring compliance with Muis Halal Certification Conditions (HCC). However, it does not mean that all stalls hiring Muslim staff are applying for Halal certification.
It is up to each individual to decide based on his or her own assessment and comfort.
If it's referring to the Halal Muis Logo, eateries must always display it with a valid Halal certificate. Otherwise, it can be a legal offence under the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
On another note, if the establishment is only displaying a non-Muis Halal logo, Muslim consumers are advised to be responsible and observe their own assessment. If we are uncomfortable after our own assessment, we may inquire respectfully out of goodwill but should avoid judging others who are dining there.
Halal certificates are granted for a year or two. Companies shall submit a renewal application at least 3 months after their certificate expires. Upon successful audit, their application for a renewed Halal Certificate shall be granted.
As informed, our food consumption is our own responsibility. If we are confident after making an assessment, we may choose to consume it. Nevertheless, consumers may also consider waiting for the Halal certificate as greater assurance. This is especially so when the company deals with ingredients like meat and poultry.
It is a religious obligation for all Muslims to only consume food that is Halal. Muslims can consume food that is prepared and/or sold by non-Muslims as long as they are Halal. Today, it's a common sight for Muslims to buy food from McDonald’s or KFC, which are Halal certified and are commonly served by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
In a narration, the Prophet s.a.w. was invited by a Jew to dine in together, to which the Prophet s.a.w. accepted the invitation and ate from what was served.
أَنَّ يَهُودِيّاً دّعّا النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِلَى خُبزٍ شَعِيرٍ وَإِهَالَةِ سنخةِ فَأَجَابَهُ
“A Jew invited the Prophet s.a.w. to dine in barley bread and condiment, to which he accepted”
Yes, you may. In Singapore, it is a common sight to see people of different faiths sit beside one another and enjoy their meals. This can be seen in familiar settings like hawker centres or food courts.
What’s important is to ensure that the place is clean before and after we dine in. At the end of the day, it is an individual responsibility to assess and find comfort in our respectful choices.
Today we often use delivery services to send out food to our doorstep. This is especially so since the Covid period. It is ok for Halal food to be delivered in the same bag as non-Halal meals. What's important is that the food is packed properly and sealed accordingly to avoid any unnecessary contact between the delivery items.
We are grateful and blessed that there are many kinds of Halal food around us in Singapore. Alhamdulillah.
The need for us to eat Halal does not prevent us from joining social events in a non-pandemic context, be it in a workplace, school or dining with friends and family of various cultural backgrounds.
In choosing what and where to consume, we need to be conscious of our decisions and make our best assessment. In our search for Halal food, let us not be judgemental towards others and impose the same standard for everyone. Ultimately, let us be respectful to other people’s dietary needs.
Of course, having a halal-certified option will always be the best, but in the absence of it, we know there are other ways in determining if the food can be consumed or otherwise.
We are responsible for what we eat. And we can make the best decision, Insya’Allah.
And Allah knows best.
 Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 168, and Surah Al-Ma'idah, Verse 4
 Tafsir At-Tahrir Wat-Tanwir, Muhammad At-Tahir Ibn Asyur