A religiously exclusivistic model of economy
What is “Halal”?
“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. Things and pratices that are permissible under Islam are referred as Halal. Conceptual explanation of this term has strict religious connotations governed by the direct references from the Quran and the Hadith. Antithesis of Halal is “Haram” which basically refers to things and practises that are prohibited, sinful in Islam. However it is noteworthy here that between these Islamic categorisations of do and don’t a grey area exists that refer to those things and practices which are not clear in terms of being “Halal” or “Haram”. Further information is needed to categorise them as such, so a separate terminology is being coined out for them in the name of “Mashbooh”, which means doubtful or questionable. Islamic Shariya law always recommends Muslims to avoid consumption of items that fall in the category of Mushbooh in order to protect their religion.
Operational domain of Halal network.
It is usually a misconception that the concept of Halal is only restricted to food items. The truth of the matter is that the operational domain of Halal network includes a whole range of subjects like medical services, cosmetics, housing, tourism, service sector etc. The current stats regarding economic outreach of Halal network precisely outlines the fact that this religiously exclusivist business module is operating as a parallel economy across the globe keeping the interest of muslims paramount while placing every other on the receiving end as a consequence of it. As per the report of International Market
Analysis Research and Consulting (IMARC) Group titled “Halal Food Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2018-2023” revealed that the global halal food market reached a value of US$1.4 trillion in 2017. The report projected market value to reach US$2.6 trillion by 2023, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 11 percent during the period between 2018 to 2023. The above stated fact is just a glimpse to show at what scale this whole Halal business module is currently operating.
What is Halal Food ?
In reference to food, Halal is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Quran (the Muslim scripture). In general every food is considered halal in Islam unless it is specifically prohibited by the Quran or the Hadith. By definition, halal foods are those that are:
- Free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to Islamic law (Shariah).
- Processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery that have been cleansed according to Islamic law.
Religious significance of Halal food to Muslims.
Religious significance of Halal food to muslims could be understood by these references of the Quran and the Hadith, which read as follows:
“Eat of that over which the name of Allah hath been mentioned, if ye are believers in his revelations” (Chapter VI, Verse 118).
“And eat not of that whereon Allah’s name hath not been mentioned, for lo! It is abomination. Lo! The devils do inspire their friends to contend with you. But if ye obey them, ye will be in truth idolaters”. (Chapter VI, Verse 121).
“He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked any other name besides Allah’s……..” (Chapter II, Verse 173).
“Forbidden unto you (for food) are: carrion and blood and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked the name other than Allah, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been gored to death, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by slaughter) and that which hath been immolated to idols and that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination….” (Chapter V, Verse 3).
The Prophet (s) said: “Halal is clear and the Haram (unlawful) is clear. Between the two there are doubtful matters concerning which people do not know. One who avoids them in order to safeguard his deen (religion) and his honour is safe, while if someone indulges in it, he may be indulging in the unlawful……” (Bukhari)
The Prophet (s) said: “The prayers of whoever eats one bite of a forbidden meal shall not be accepted for forty nights and his calls and supplications shall not be recognized for forty days. Flesh grown from a forbidden meal deserves to be burnt in Fire.” – Safinat ul-Bihar, v.1, p.24.
Islamic slaughter pre-requisites.
In Islamic law “dhabīḥah” (pronounced as “zabiha”) is the prescribed method of ritual slaughter of all lawful halal animals. This method of slaughtering lawful animals requires several conditions to be fulfilled as a prerequisite.
The general prerequisites for slaughtering an animal reads as follows:
- The animal must not be a forbidden one as per the Quran.
- The Slaughtering must be performed strictly as per the Islamic procedure “Dabhiyah”
- If in case manually then slaughtering must be performed by a Muslim of sound mind, mature and he fully understands the fundamentals and conditions related to Islamic way of slaughtering, or
- If in case of the abattoirs or factory it must be under the close and constant supervision of an Islamic religious organisation.
- Animals must be slaughtered in the name of Allah. Textual evidence in Quran suggests that no other name than Allah be pronounced while slaughtering.
- The conventional method used to slaughter the animal involves cutting the large arteries in the neck along with the esophagus and trachea with one swipe of a non-serrated blade. Care must be taken that the nervous system is not damaged, as this may cause the animal to die before exsanguination has taken place. During the swipe of the blade, the head must not be decapitated. While blood is draining, the animal is not handled until it has died. While this is an acceptable method. .
- The animal must be allowed to bleed out and be completely dead before further processing.
This method adheres to Islamic law (it ensures the animal does not die by any of the Haraam methods) and helps to effectively drain blood from the animal. This may be important because the consumption of blood itself is forbidden in Islam;[Quran 2:173] however, it is not clear that bleeding the animal removes all traces of blood from the carcass, so the meat may remain unclean.
WHY HALAL FOOD SERVICES NEEDS TO BE THOROUGHLY QUESTIONED.
1. Preparation of Halal food is a religiously exclusivistic practise.
Manufacturing, processing and serving of Halal food is out and out a religiously exclusivistic practice which debars people of other faiths to become a part of this process. Preparing of Halal food requires that animals must be slaughtered in the name of Allah and the person who is doing it must be well versed in Islamic way of slaughtering animals. So the entire model of this Halal food chain engages only people of a particular religion to thrive upon this economic model while others will always remain on the receiving end. In other words, Halal food network is pushing forward a sophisticated form of monopolistic market module, which escapes all statutory obligations that normally applies to any such market module, in the garb of religious freedom. And if such a market module is allowed to operate freely in India then it will bound to breed institutionalised discrimination in economic activities.
2. Halal food module is violative of Constitutional rights of Indian citizens, especially those who are non muslims.
Second most important point is that the Halal food network poses a clear threat to the Constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms of Indian citizens.
a) Breeds institutionalised discrimination based on religion.
As mentioned earlier manufacturing of Halal food requires prior knowledge of Islamic way of slaughtering animals and such slaughtering must be made in the name of Allah, which therefore requires to be performed by the person of a particular faith (Muslim) only. So in that sense it clearly restricts people of other faith to have stakes in the manufacturing process, which therefore directly stands in violation of fundamental rights like right to equality, right to equal opportunity and right against religious discrimination as gurranteed by the Constitution of India.
b) Absence of informed consent – Violative of Article 19 of Indian Constitution.
Not only the manufacturing of Halal food is problematic but the manner in which Halal food is served to the consumers (especially non-muslims) in India stands in clear violation of Article 19. The said Article demands that before a person is subjected to do anything there must be an informed consent from his side. But the information which we have gathered so far through RTIs clearly suggest that before serving Halal food to the consumers, food authorities do not bother to mention that the food is Halal or non-halal. Majority of people in India are subjected to eating Halal food without even getting informed about the nature of food so served to them, neither in the food menu nor otherwise. So the aspect of informed consent is completely lacking on that count which therefore attracts clear violation of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
3. Issue of Animal cruelty.
The Islamic procedure of slaughtering animals essentially implies inflicting unnecessary pain on animals. It requires that the animal must bleed to death by leaving its spinal cord intact with the body during the process of slaughtering so that maximum amount of blood must drain out its body. Pro-animal laws and organizations who work for animal rights in India are largely ignorant on this subject or they hesitate to question it due to the fear of being bullied and branded with certain tags. European laws on the other hand are very clear on this subject, they require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered. The exemptions which were earlier granted on religious basis are now being heavily criticised and as a result of it several European countries have taken down those exemptions. In 2014 the Danish government joined Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland in voting to remove this exemption and ban religious slaughter on the grounds that “animal rights come before religion”. Moreover animal rights organizations like PeTA remarked that halal slaughter is “a prolonged torment”, saying that the animals have to “fight and gasp for their last breath, struggling to stand while the blood drains from their necks”. The British Veterinary Association calls for all animals to be effectively stunned before slaughter, while the Farm Animal Welfare Council says cutting an animal’s throat is “such a massive injury [that it] would result in very significant pain and distress in the period before insensibility supervenes”. So the current scenario in European countries is rapidly changing in terms of granting exemptions to slaughter animals on religious basis.
4. Halal business network is prone to promote economic jihad.
Halal business network is basically meant to serve the interests of muslims all across the globe. In particular to the interests of gulf nations who are the biggest financers and promoters of this business module. And the gravity of this religiously exclusivistic module could be understood by the fact that in 2017, the global halal economy amounted to $2.1 trillion as the world’s roughly 1.8 billion Muslims warm up to halal lifestyle products. According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2018/19 by Thomson Reuters and DinarStandard. Halal food and beverage products make up the largest category, with consumers worldwide spending $1.3 trillion, followed by halal clothing at $270 billion, halal media and entertainment at $209 billion, halal travel at $177 billion, halal pharmaceuticals at $87 billion, and halal cosmetics $61 billion. And as per the future forecasts the report projects the global halal economy to hit $3 trillion in 2023.
So even if for a moment we set aside our concerns regarding the religiously exclusivistic nature of this Halal business module, there is one more challenge that demands attention which is the frequent use of gulf finances in promoting Islamic fundamentalism. Many entities and individuals have flared warning regarding use of halal network in financing terror activities. It is a bitter reality that the world has not yet recovered from the after-effects of petro-dollars which is widely regarded as the backbone of promoting Islamic fundamentalism. So considering the growing economic influence of Halal network it would not be an exaggeration to say that this will further provide an arsenal to gulf nations which are known for promoting Islamic fundamentalist ideologies like Salafism and Wahabism.
 Reference source: https://www.jamiathalaltrust.org/mashbooh-doubtful-items.html
 Reference source: https://theaseanpost.com/article/booming-halal-industry
 Reference source: https://halalcertification.ie/islamic-method-of-slaughtering/
 Reference source: https://theaseanpost.com/article/booming-halal-industry