Q. I love your website, keep it up. I just wanted to say I am glad to have stumbled across (or been guided to) this site. I am researching everything I know about Islam and amongst a massive list of things I need to rediscover, the concept of "halal" food is one I need clarification on.

I have read in the Qur’an that all good food is lawful except what has been expressly forbidden. Also before we eat anything, to make it lawful we need to pronounce God's name over it. In my reflection and contemplation, I am inclined to believe that saying “Bismillah” over my food and drink is what makes the food and drink halal to me. But then there's a majority of the ummah that is saying otherwise.

I don't speak Arabic so I have to rely on translation and commentary (and intellectuals) to make sense of things. Please could you point me in the right direction?

A. Thank you for your kind remarks. Muslims often make the case for "dhabihah" meat by quoting the Qur'anic verse (Q6:121) to not consume meat on which Allah's name has not been mentioned. However, our view is that the verse is situational and in response to what the polytheists were doing: they would dedicate meat to their pagan gods, and it is this meat that we are forbidden to eat. The mention of God's name is at the time of consumption, as you correctly noted and the construction of the verse makes evident. Another verse (Q5:5) states that we can also eat meat from the People of the Book, and this is not limited to only Jews and Christians as commonly interpreted.

What Muslims know as and mistake for halal is simply ONE of the ways of slaughtering. It is our view that any form of killing that is deemed humane by the relevant authorities is halal. What makes something haram, apart from the obvious prohibitions, is it being consecrated to a deity other than God. We are allowed to eat the permissible meats even when they are slaughtered by non-Muslims. We utter "Bismillah" at the time of eating and that is what matters. Now having given you our juristic opinion, this may also come down to your situation and personal choice. Dhabihah meat, once a scarcity in the West, is now plentiful in many urban areas. If you live in a city or suburb where there are Muslim markets and dhabihah is readily available for purchase, this option might be preferable for you. On the other hand, if you live in a rural area where there are hardly any or no Muslims and dhabihah meat is unavailable, then purchasing meat from the local supermarket is fine.

Posted May 11, 2013