Under Islamic law, there are food restrictions. For that matter, there are dietary restrictions in virtually every religion – many Catholics, for example, still forego meat on Fridays. That’s why many restaurants, and even fast food outlets typically offer fish burgers as their Friday special!
You’d be mistaken, though, if you think that Muslims are forbidden all kinds of foods. Muslim dietary laws probably compare most closely with Jewish dietary laws, because of the restrictions on pork and blood. When it comes to seafood, though, Muslims have the advantage – they’re able to enjoy shrimp, lobster, crab, oysters, and all kinds of delights that are forbidden to Jewish people.
Muslims are permitted to eat “halal” – in other words, foods that are “good” as defined in the Qu’ran. There is little that isn’t permitted, and Muslims can enjoy many foods that are nourishing, wholesome, and tasty.
Muslims can eat anything that is not specifically prohibited, or “haram.” This is in the interests of cleanliness and health, and also out of obedience to God. Under Islamic law, the following foods are prohibited:
· Dead meat (meaning the carcass of an animal that has been found dead)
· Meat of an animal that has been used as a sacrifice
· Meat from an animal that has been strangled or bludgeoned to death
· Meat from which a wild animal has eaten
· Alcoholic drinks
Many people, regardless of their religion, would naturally shy away from some of these foods. And of course, there are a number of people who don’t drink alcohol for various reasons. With all the other options available, foregoing pork isn’t really all that much of a hardship.
For meat to be Halal, the animal must have been killed quickly and mercifully by having its throat slit. The words “In the name of God, God is most great” must be spoken, in acknowledgement that all life is sacred, and that one may kill only to eat, and only with God’s permission. Then, the animal must be thoroughly bled before the meat is consumed. Meat thus prepared is called halal meat, or zabihah.
Some Muslims refuse meat if they can’t be sure that it was properly slaughtered, placing great importance on humane treatment, proper bleeding, and the remembrance of God. Others, particularly those who live in predominantly Christian areas, hold that it is sufficient to pronounce the name of God when the meat is being eaten. In that way, they’re able to consume commercial meat, with the exception of pork. This belief is justified by verse 5:5 of the Qu’ran, suggesting that the food of both Christians and Jews is acceptable for Muslims.
The Implications of Following Halal
For observant Muslims, observing the dietary laws conflicts very little with work, school, and other activities. There are always healthy, “legal” choices when dining out with non-Muslim friends, going to lunch with co-workers, and attending social functions. When in doubt, one simply avoids meat and animal fats.
So, can Muslims socialize with their non-Muslim friends without awkwardness? Of course they can. They just won’t be ordering a ham sandwich, or drinking a beer.