In light of the recent meat contamination issue that has shaken Europe, I would like to touch upon the subject of ḥalāl and ḥarām. For a Muslim, life revolves around doing only what is permissible (ḥalāl) and refraining from the impermissible (ḥarām). This applies when deciding what food, we consume and in every other aspect of our lives too.
In the Qur’ān Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى addresses the best of humanity, the Ambiyā عليه السلام, saying, “O Messengers, eat from the good things and act righteously… (23:51)”
The importance of the command to eat only what is good can be realised when we consider that in this āyah Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى directs the command to His Messengers u, and through them addresses the believers in general, as explained by Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم: “O people, Allāh is pure and only accepts what is pure; Allāh has commanded the believers to do [the same as] that which He has commanded His Messengers to do: “O Messengers, eat from the good things and act righteously. I am fully aware of what you do.” And He has said, “O believers, eat of the good things We have provided to you…” (Muslim and At-Tirmidhī)
If the Ambiyā عليه السلام – those who are already pure and immune from sin – are given this command, it is all the more important for normal believers to adhere to it.
Ḥalāl and Ḥarām Affects Your Deeds
The Mufassirūn state that the reason Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى mentions consuming pure things together with doing righteous deeds is that one assist and leads to the other: consuming only what is ḥalāl and pure results in the tawfīq to do good deeds.
Once Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ t asked Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم to make du‘ā that Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَىmake him from the mustajāb-ad-da‘wah (one whose du‘ās are always accepted). Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “O Sa‘d, make your food pure: you will become mustajāb- ad-da‘wah.” (Aṭ-Ṭabrānī and Al-Bayhaqī)
Conversely, consuming ḥarām creates serious obstacles to accomplishing good, as can be understood from the ḥadīth in which Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم describes a weary traveller, unkempt and dishevelled, who raises his hands to beseech Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى, saying, “O my Rabb, O my Rabb!” Despite the fact that Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى readily accepts the du‘ā of someone in that state, his pleas are not accepted because his food is ḥarām, his drink is ḥarām, his clothes are sourced from ḥarām and he has been nourished with ḥarām.
Further, the ‘ibādah of someone who consumes ḥarām is not accepted for forty days. Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “A person tosses a ḥarām morsel into his stomach, and [as a result] his deeds are not accepted for forty days.” (Aṭ-Ṭabrānī and Al- Bayhaqī) In another ḥadith Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Whoever’s flesh has grown from ḥarām, the Fire [of Jahannam] is more deserving of him.” (Al-Ḥākim) And he said, “That body will not enter Jannah which has been nourished with ḥarām.” (Al- Bukhārī)
On the basis of this ḥadīth, Sahl ibn ‘Abdullāh v said, “Salvation lies in three things: eating ḥalāl, fulfilling the farā’iḍ and following the sunnah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.” Learn the Rules of Ḥalāl and Ḥarām
Therefore, it is essential to know the rules of ḥalāl and ḥarām, and to make sure we follow them. We need to refer to authentic ‘Ulamā to acquire this knowledge, without which we cannot be sure that what we are consuming is ḥalāl. Sahl ibn ‘Abdullāh v said, “Consuming ḥalāl will not be correct except with knowledge.”
We need to know what it is we are eating and drinking. It is our responsibility to check the lists of ingredients on products we buy and to be familiar with which ingredients are ḥalāl and which are ḥarām. We should take heed from the meat contamination scandal and be ever vigilant that the food we buy really is what it is claimed to be. It is not sufficient to take at face value any company or authority that claims to certify food as ḥalāl. We need to know that the criteria and processes such authorities use are fully compliant with the Sharī‘ah and rigorously implemented. Whether food products are certified or not, it is ultimately our responsibility and religious duty to check thoroughly and to the best of our ability, that what we purchase is ḥalāl. We must be content at heart that we are buying ḥalāl, and not just ignore the doubts in our hearts and be complacent. Being negligent in matters of ḥalāl and ḥarām is one of the signs of Qiyāmah. Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “There will come a time upon the people when a person will not care where he takes from, whether from ḥalāl or ḥarām.” (Al- Bukhārī)
Cautiousness in the Matter of Ḥalāl and Ḥarām
It is reported in the ḥadīth that one night, Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم found a date under his side and ate it. He then spent the rest of the night awake and restless. When his wife asked him about it he replied: “I found a date under my side and I ate it. [Then I remembered that] we had some ṣadaqah dates [in the house] and I feared that it was from them.” (Aḥmad)
Such was the cautiousness of Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم in matters of ḥalāl and ḥarām. The Ṣaḥābah y too went to great lengths to ensure they only consumed what was pure and ḥalāl. Abū Bakr t had a servant who used to bring him food. On one such occasion, after Abū Bakr t had eaten some of the food, the servant asked, “Do you know what that was?”
Abū Bakr t replied, “What was it?”
He said, “I used to practice divination in the times of Jāhiliyyah (ignorance), and I was no expert. I deceived a person, and he came to me and paid me for it, and what you just ate was from that [payment].”
Hearing this, Abū Bakr رضي الله عنه inserted his hand into his mouth and vomited out the contents of his stomach. (Al-Bukhārī)
Our pious predecessors also shared this concern. Shaykh Mawlānā Ya‘qūb An-Nānotwī v was once invited to a meal at a person’s house. He had eaten only one morsel when he felt that there was something wrong with the food: possibly it had not been purchased with ḥalāl earnings. When he queried the origin of the food it turned out that indeed it was not from ḥalāl, but he had unsuspectingly swallowed that one morsel. The respected Shaykh states that he did tawbah and istighfār but continued to experience the negative effects of that ḥarām morsel for months. For months he was haunted by urges to commit various sins. Such pure-hearted people such as the Shaykh can identify such feelings and understand them. Those whose hearts are accustomed to sin will not be able to understand this as their hearts will not feel the effects of ḥarām.
Earnings Must be Ḥalāl Too
Normally, when the subject of ḥalāl and ḥarām is discussed, we assume it only applies to food and drink. However, it is evident from this ḥadīth that the Sharī‘ah requires all that comes into the possession of an individual to be pure and ḥalāl, starting with the wealth he earns. Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
When a servant [of Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى] earns anything from ḥarām and spends from it, he is not blessed in it; and if he gives it in charity, he is not rewarded for it; and if he leaves it behind [after death], it becomes his provision for the [journey towards] hellfire. (Aḥmad)
Indulging in usury, deceit, theft and dealing in ḥarām commodities, such as alcohol and drugs, are all examples of ḥarām and illegitimate sources of income. This means that if someone earns a living through ḥarām, then no matter if the food he buys is not ḥarām in itself, it will be ḥarām due to the earnings with which it was bought. And if he bought ḥarām food with this ḥarām wealth, its severity will obviously be two-fold.
May Allāh سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى grant us all the true understanding of ḥalāl and ḥarām and make us from amongst those who always consume ḥalāl, and may He save us from all types of ḥarām.