By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
One of the ongoing problems for majority of Muslims living in the west, is the issue of ingredients of products consumed during everyday life, as Muslims are obligated to assure these products don’t contain anything taken from animals or alcoholic ingredients. It might seem that due to this obligation, Islam has placed a heavy burden on the shoulder of its followers, since majority of products in the west contain such ingredients, which means this law makes it hard for Muslims to live an easy life.
Quran’s 24th verse of chapter 80 states: “Then let mankind look (watch) his food”. The notion of watching the things that we eat goes beyond the physical aspects of human body, as every single product we consume has a certain effect and impact on our characteristics and personality as well. For instance, there are numerous narration by Prophet Mohammad about eating Fish only on Wednesdays or Fridays, or refraining from eating and drinking while in washroom. Other narrations by the Prophet, suggest eating Camel’s meat has spiritual and characteristics effects on humans, as Camel is known to be an honorable animal. It is known in Arabia and other places, where Camels are found, these animals are very private and secretive, when it comes to their private life, where they tend to hide from public, if they want to unite, they choose a place, where no one is able to see. Therefore, eating the meat of this animal is believed to increase this sense of a human’s behavior and characteristic.
Nonetheless, the responsibility to watch the ingredients of all products is linked to the physical aspect of human’s anatomy and his/her spiritual and behavioral characteristics. In addition, this obligation is a jurisprudential responsibility like any other notion during every day conducts, consumption, interactions and proceedings.
Ingredients produced from animal body
The consumption of any product that contains ingredients from animals is only prohibited and ruled as forbidden or what Islamic law calls ‘Haram’, when the animal was not slaughtered according to Islamic law. This notion obviously applies to the consumption of beef and lamb as well, which means Muslims are only allowed to consume the meat of an animal that was killed according to the Islamic rule. The notion of eating an animal that was killed according to the laws of Islamic jurisprudence is similar to the law followed by Jews, where they only eat kosher meat that was killed according to Jewish law. Therefore, if a product contains ingredients taken from animals killed according to Islamic law, the consumption of these products is totally legit, allowed and acceptable. In addition, it should be noted that any product, which contains ingredients taken from pork is completely prohibited and forbidden, as pork is one of the primary prohibited products in Islam.
The products that can contain ingredients taken from animals are:
- Cheese (especially cheddar cheese products)
- Chips (chips with cheddar cheese, beef, chicken, pork flavours)
- Gravy (Beef, Chicken, Pork)
- Cereal Products
- Salad Dressings
- Milk Shakes & smoothies
- Packaged and canned food
- Processed foods
- Margarine and some pastries
Whether a Muslim, a vegan or someone, who is against any type of animal cruelty, the following ingredients are extracted from animals. However, some of these ingredients are taken from plans and vegetables, which will be the responsibility of the consumer to contact the producers and clarify the source of the ingredients.
- Lard (This is an ingredients, which is fat taken from the abdomen of pigs)
- Gelatin (a protein taken from bones, cartilage, tendons and skins of animals)
- Glucose (animal tissues and fluids. However, some glucose are extracted from fruits)
- Glycerides (Mono – Di, this ingredient is taken from animal fats and plants)
- Lactylic Stearate (Salt of stearic acid)
- Lecithin (Phospholipids, which can be taken from animal tissues, plants and egg yolks)
- Lutein (Deep yellow coloring from marigolds or egg yolks)
- Oleic Acid (Animal Tallow)
- Pepsin (an enzyme taken from pigs stomachs)
- Stearic Acid (Tallow and other animal fats or oils)
- Suet (Hard white fats around the kidneys and loins of animals)
- Tallow (solid fat from ships and cattle separated from membranous tissues)
- Glycin (taken from Gelatin)
- Cholic Acid (taken from beef)
- Riboflavin (since the isolation of this ingredient is very expensive from milk, many producers take this ingredient from organisms, which can be from animals)
In addition, some producers use codes and numbers to disclose the ingredients used in their products, which also becomes the responsibility of consumers to contact producers and determine, whether the ingredients are taken from animal or not. As far as whip cream, frosting and similar products, some contain Vanilla extract, which is believed to contain alcoholic ingredients. Therefore, it would be best to contact the producer of Vanilla Extract and ask them about this matter as well.
The information provided in this article seem to be over whelming and ‘too much’, as some might think, but the benefit of living in the west lays in the ability of accessing the producers and them answering honestly. This issue is not exclusive to Muslims, as there are many individuals and groups, who refrain from any product that contains animalistic ingredients, which becomes the responsibility of all producers to be transparent about their products and their ingredients. Therefore, taking few minutes to contact the producers and making sure the products we consume are ‘Halal’ and legit will help us in many ways beyond our expectations.