Concepts And Practices
by M.M. Hussaini
Often times Muslim consumers
tend to assume 'Kosher' is similar to 'Halal'. Although the
slaughtering rituals of Jewish people resemble those of Muslims;
kosher and halal are two different entities carrying a different
meaning and spirit. Muslims, therefore, are provided with
the following basic information about Kosher so they can exercise
care in distinguishing halal from kosher.
Kashrut (in Hebrew) is the
system of Jewish dietary laws. Kosher (kashur in Hebrew) means
'fit, or proper for use' according to Jewish law. Examples
of kosher are: the meat of the 'fore quarter*' of the cattle
slaughtered ritually, fruits, vegetables, all fish that have
fins*, all wines*, all cheeses*, gelatine*.
The opposite of Kosher, as
applied to food in Treif (in Yiddish), or trefah (in Hebrew)
meaning 'not suitable for use', or 'forbidden'. Trefah literally
means 'torn by a wild beast' (Exodus 22:30). Examples of Trefah
are: blood, swine, rabbit*, all shell fish*, wild birds such
as wild hen*, wild duck*, and the birds of prey.
(*) these food items exhibit
a marked difference between kosher and Halal as well as trefah
and haraam. The differences are explained elsewhere in this
Caution to Muslim Consumers:
Halal is a comprehensive Islamic
term encompassing not only the matters of food and drink,
but all other matters of daily life. Islam being the final
and perfect Deen (religion) for mankind, it supersedes all
the previously revealed religions including Christianity and
Judaism. The rituals in all matters were perfected by Islam
According to Islamic Jurisprudence,
no one except Allah can change forbidden (Haraam) things into
lawful (halal) for vice-versa. It is forbidden for people
to change the lawful (Halal) things into unlawful (Haraam),
Halal is a unique Islamic concept
and eating dhabiha (Islamically slaughtered) meat is a distinguishing
part of a Muslim's identity as expressed by Prophet Muhammad
Salient differences between
kosher and halal are:
Islam prohibits all intoxicating
alcohols, liquors, wines and drugs. kashrut regards all wines
kosher. Hence food items and drinks showing the kosher symbol
containing alcohol are not halal.
Gelatine is considered kosher
regardless of its source of origin. If the gelatine is prepared
from swine, Muslims consider it haraam (prohibited). Hence
foods items such as marshmallows, yoghurt, etc., showing kosher
symbols are not halal.
Enzymes (irrespective of their
sources even from non-kosher animals) in cheese making are
considered mere secretion (pirsah b'almah) according to some
kashrut organizations, hence all cheeses are considered kosher.
Muslims look for the source of the enzyme in cheese making.
If it is coming from the swine, it is considered haraam (forbidden).
Hence cheeses showing kosher symbols may not be halal.
Jews do not pronounce the name
of God on each animal while slaughtering. They feel that uttering
the name of God, out of context, is wasteful. Muslims on the
other hand pronounce the name of Allah on all animals while
The salient differences between
kosher and halal have been illustrated so that Muslim consumers
can distinguish halal from kosher.
Islam is a complete way of
life providing infallible guidance to all its followers in
all walks of life. Halal brings immense satisfaction to the
Muslim life both now and in the hereafter. Muslims therefore,
do not have to depend on any other set of laws for want of
The final, divine laws of Islam
are indeed perfect and the best for all its followers for
all time to come.
Muslims in non-Muslim countries
should strive to follow the Islamic injunctions in their diet
(as well as in every walk of life) and establish their own
businesses and institutions to cater to the needs of the Muslim
Ummah. By doing so, not only the identity of the Muslims will
be preserved, but they will be recognized and respected for
their beliefs and practices. What a subtle means of Da'wah!