Meeting The Challenge: Halal Foods For Our Everyday Needs
Nathaniel Omar, Chairman, National Halal Association
Meeting The Challenge: Halal Foods For Our Everyday Needs
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
QUESTION: In reading the Holy Qur'an there are many references that tell the believers to say Allah's Name before slaughtering meat. Would you have some comments on these instructions from Qur'an?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Bismillah Ar-Rahman-Ar-Raheem: First of all, the Islamic society is a very practical society. Because of this feature, it stands out from other religious societies, such as Christian society. So, it is a practical society, but it also is a very serious one, and in a sense, a conservative one. It's conservative in that there is no provision made in our religious teachings from the Qur'an (the Holy book of the Muslims) or in the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), for changing that which was established by The Word of G'd and His Prophet.
I've heard some criticism from western people who say, "Well your religion doesn't allow progress. You have no provision in your religion for changing the rulings that say Imams should be men, and making it possible for women to be Imams." They say these things and I say, "Yes you're right." Whatever is established by The Word of G'd and His Prophet cannot be changed. It is universal and (timeless) for all times.
First of all, we have to understand the above. Secondly we must understand that whatever Allah has established for us in the Qur'an, regarding halal that's it! We can't change it. Whatever G'd has obligated for the prophet He has obligated the believers too, according to The Word of G'd.
"Ya Yu hal usri,"O you Messengers, eat of that that is halal, and good and pure. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in his address to the believers, pointed to this verse, and said, "Whatever G'd has obligated His Messenger to do, He has also obligated the believers to do." He quoted a verse from Qur'an where G'd obligates the messengers to eat that that is halal and good. And the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quoted the same Qur'an where G'd obligated the believers to do the same.
So we can't be lax in our religion and feel that, "Oh that strict diet is just for priests." There's no priesthood in our religion. "Oh it's just for the Imams." There is nothing just for the Imams in our religion. What is for the Imam is for everybody else. So, first of all I think w« should understand these things.
Now, let us look to more-verses from Qur'an concerning requirements for food- G'd tells us in Qur'an, our Holy Book, that we should eat that which is halal and tauyub, meaning that which is lawful and good. Now I've heard some established scholars and religious people speak on this verse and they say that halal means permissible under Islamic law and Tauyub means that it must also be a good quality and also in good acceptable human taste.
Suppose there is something that is not mentioned in The Book? Maybe one day we will become acquainted with an animal that is not mentioned in The Book, and maybe that animal will meet all the requirements of The Book, such as not being an animal that preys on other animals. For example, G'd says whatever is of the sea is acceptable you don't have to halal a fish or a shrimp. But, suppose there is something of the sea that is offensive that doesn't meet the requirements for Tauyub What if it is of such quality that my own human nature, my human sensitivity tells me I shouldn't eat it, that it's of poor quality or it's not a fit creature to eat? Then, I'll reject it.
So we have Halal and Tauyub foods that are lawful for Muslims. Someone will say, "That's halal." However, if it has some decay, if it smells bad, or if it's a creature that's offensive to my eye and to my taste, to me it's not halal.
Halal and Tauyub go together. It must be lawful, of good quality, of good taste, and it must measure up to the demands of the excellent taste in the human being, not the savage taste.
The savage has a taste too. He wants blood, he wants to grab something alive and eat it without slaughtering it. Some savages are like that, you see. So it must measure up to the civilized taste, the most excellent and civilized taste in the human being, in order to be acceptable. So we should understand that.
Yet, there are other qualifications. G'd says do not eat an animal that was killed by another animal. So, Muslims are allowed to hunt with animals. We are allowed to use dogs for hunting and the protection of our property. However, we shouldn't keep dogs in the home for just pets. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) forbid that dogs be kept in the house as domestic pets.
So, say we take our hunting dogs out to hunt a rabbit or something, and the rabbit is killed by that dog. If the dog has not eaten part of the animal, and just killed him by pressure, say he broke the animal's neck or something like that but actually he hasn't eaten or drawn blood from the animal (or even if he has drawn blood from the animal, if the animal is still living, still warm and rigormortis has not set in) we can say Bismillah and cut the jugular vein of the animal. If the blood will flow then it is just as if we slaughtered it, even though it was helpless when we got it from the dog.
Now if we find an animal that's dead and we don't know how it was killed, we are not to consume meat from that animal. If it dies of itself we are not to eat it. According to The Word of G'd in Qur'an, if an animal receives a blow maybe a heavy rock hits it and it dies from that blow, we are not to eat that. If the animal falls down a cliff, a hill, or a steep incline, and in the fall he kills himself, we are not to eat that animal. Some authorities in the religion say you can eat the animal if you get to him in time. If you saw him and you know he died in that way if you can get to the animal, say the Bismillah, and slaughter him and the blood comes forth when you cut him, then you can eat the animal.
As I mentioned earlier, we are not to eat animals who prey on other animals, such as sharks. A shark is of the sea, but attacks other fish.
There would be some debate, I'm sure. Some Muslims may say, "Well the shark is of the sea, and G'd Says whatever is of the sea is acceptable." Some Muslims even among the learned will agree that you can eat shark meat, even though the shark preys on other animals. But I think this is where wisdom comes in.
G'd says the food of the sea is acceptable, but G'd also says do not eat an animal that preys on other animals, that is, kills and eats the flesh of another animal. So here's where wisdom comes in. Now the shark is in the situation for halal, for acceptance, but he has a form, a character, a life behavior that is unacceptable. Therefore, in my opinion, Muslims should not eat shark.
I ate some shark once. I was at this restaurant, and I didn't see any shark in a fish container. The image of the shark was not before me, it was only a nice brown piece of meat that was before me, they said it was shark and I tasted it. Since then I have had time to reflect and think back over it, and I have decided I will not eat shark meat; for, I feel that even though the shark comes from the sea, it is an aggressive animal that kills and consumes other animals, even man. I feel that we shouldn't eat shark or any other creature that is of such a vicious nature.
Now I wouldn't start a campaign to discredit or embarrass someone that eats shark meat. I think that's quite a delicate matter and it's better to leave it alone than to make a big issue out of it. I'm sure there are things of the sea that none of us want to eat. For example, I wouldn't want to eat sea urchins.
QUESTION: Are there any sayings of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that we should be aware of as we prepare for the halal business?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: I have hardly touched upon the things that Allah says in Qur'an about acceptable foods and objectionable foods. So actually we need to thoroughly go through the Qur'an and pull out all the information on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for the Muslim diet.
What I would like to mention from the Sunnah of the prophet (PBUH) is the need for the slaughterers to keep themselves from becoming so accustomed to taking the life of an animal that they lose the compassion in the human nature for helpless creatures.
We are to slaughter thosl3 animals because of need our necessities and because G'd has created them and made them lawful to us for consumption, and because there is a great market for them. So, we slaughter them, but at the same time we have to remember that G'd gave us the animal; He created those things and it is by His grace that we have them. G'd made it possible for us to capture them, to have them and also to slaughter them.
We should never slaughter without following the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH); We should always say Bismillah before delivering the death blow with the knife, and upon completing the stroke with the knife, we should say Allah-U-Akbar. That makes the slaughtering halal.
The animal is already halal if it meets the qualification from Qur'an and the slaughtering is halal if it meets the requirement that the Prophet (PBUH) established.
The prophet (PBUH) said that G'd had prescribed excellence for everything. Therefore, he said,' "So when you slaughter, see that your knives are very sharp, so that the cut that you make is good." The prophet didn't say so that you don't cause needless suffering and pain to the animal, but there are other teachings from him that forbids us to torture animals or cause unnecessary suffering to them.
So we are also to understand then, that there is not only concern for the clean and excellent cut by the slaughterer, but also concern that we do not cause unnecessary suffering or pain to the animal.
QUESTION: I remember when I first came to you about halal, I got the impression that you were telling me that the person who halal's the animal should also be a good Muslim. Would you speak on that?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, the person who halal's the animal for others, for outside of the family, should be a Muslim of good character. If we buy or obtain halal meat from a person, we should seek to know that the person is a Muslim of good character, there's the likelihood that he, in secrecy, might not carry out the steps or the requirements of halal. Another reason is that Muslims are to support the elevation into the establishment of persons who are of good Muslim character, and they are supposed to deny their support to persons of notorious of infamous character.
QUESTION: What is the history of halal? Did it begin in the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or was there a similar method before his time?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, Peace and Blessing be upon the Prophet, according to the teaching of the Qur'an and the words of the Prophet, there were other people who were preparing their foods who were instructed by their religious teachers, who in turn received their instructions from their prophets who came before Prophet Muhammad. There was the Jewish community.
They had a way of preparing their foods, but the term for the Jews' method is not halal, its called kosher. But if the Jew prays over his food and he carries out the steps of purity for the food as given to him in his religion, or if a Christian abides by the original strict teachings for Christian dietoriginally they were not allowed to eat pork or consume blood. Originally they had to eat foods very much like the Jews prepare their foods. If they do thatif they pronounce the name of G'd, when slaughtering and they prepare it in accordance with their purest religious traditions, then that food is acceptable to Muslims. In the event that we are their guest at such occasions, and they invite us to eat, it would be acceptable for us to join them.
But still, there is no reason for us to have their food in our kitchen or on our dining room table; if we are Muslims we are suppose to have our own food on our dining room table.
So that's just a provision for eating so that if you happen to be the guest of someone, or in a situation outside of your country. In the days of the Prophet (PBUH) Muslims did a lot of traveling, they were encouraged to travelif they were not where they could get their own food, they could eat the food of those people.
Allah says in the Holy Book, the food of the people of the Book is acceptable. That is providing that they have met the purest and most strict requirements for their own food. Not these modern ones, who do everything and then say, "well all you have to have is faith, just believe on Jesus.
So I would say that, in a real sense, the tradition was existing before the Prophet (PBUH) but the Prophet gave us the best tradition, in giving us what was revealed in the last revelation, the Qur'an.
QUESTION: Once I saw a brother, before halaling a lamb, lay the lamb on his left side, turned it toward Qibla and then halaled the animal. Was there any particular significance to that? Was it required that you face qibla with the lamb?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: No, it's not required that you face the qibla with an animal for slaughter, and it is not required that you put the animal on his left side; just handle the animal with human compassion and follow the steps of slaughter that are Sunnah.
QUESTION: I was once in this big discussion about halaling the animal with the right hand. There were some who thought that if a person was left handed, that he should learn how to use his right hand for halaling. Are there any provisions for that?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: You should halal the animal with the right hand. We should halal or carry out any order requiring the right hand with the right hand, unless the left hand has been named in the tradition of the Prophet.
As you know, there are certain things that Muslims are suppose to do with the left hand, especially regarding their own personal hygiene.
In certain private matters they are to use the left hand, that is because the right hand is extended to your guests, to the public to shake, and you use your right hand with your food. Now, the left hand may be perfectly clean. Yet, if the society practices using the right hand for certain things and the left hand only for certain private things, then if you receive that cookie or whatever it is out of the right hand, you'll feel a little better eating it than you would from the left hand.
But we have to also be aware of a tendency to go into extremism, fanaticism, or fanatical puritanism or fanatical ritualism. So, I would say lets search the Qur'an and the Sunnah again and make sure that the Sunnah is a sound Sunnah (Sahih) very sound established Sunnah, before we start insisting that the animal be put on its left side, and that it be turned toward Qibla or some other requirement that may turn up.
QUESTION: Is there a psychological benefit to eating halal foods? And please explain the nutritional benefits.
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, there is a psychological benefit. The first benefit we are to see is the benefit of the law. The law is intended to protect us, but our protection is Taqwa. G'd says when you go on a journey take with you your provisions, and the best provision is Taqwa, the remembrance of G'da deep sense of devotion, obedience fear, love and respect of G'd. The first thing that we should understand is that the benefit is to keep us conscious of an obligation to G'd. Then the next benefit we should see is the benefit to human society. If we follow these traditional habits for halaling our animals for food we will be protecting the interest of society, and there will be less chance of disease from consumption of food.
In connection with the halaling dietary law of Al-Islam, I will say that I have, as a student of science (I consider myself a student of science) not formally, but on my own I have continued to study books, and science magazines. I have come to believe that environment effects us psychologically, and what we consume affects us psychologically. I believe that there is some connection between the wild nature and rough, wild look of certain animals and the nature of their hunting. We find that the nature of animals that eat grainsuch as the animals that are permissible for us to eatthe cows and the sheep and goats look more peaceful. On the other hand, animals that attack another animal or prey, and especially those who have to live on big animals, have to be very strong and vicious. They develop a vicious look so they are not as peaceful. As long as their stomach is filled, you can trust them. But once their stomach get a little empty, then your life is in danger if you are anywhere within their reach. So I believe there is a psychological effect that goes along with diet, or anything we consume. If we follow the prescription that G'd has given us for halal and haram, those things that G'd has given, those things that are permissible, it will benefit us in many ways, in more ways than we know. I'm only speaking now with limited knowledge. I'm sure that someone has done some scientific work, and maybe one day we will benefit from that scientific work.
QUESTION: Because of the dynamic way in which you dealt with the subject of halal in your book, "The Challenges that Face Man Today," we have selected as our theme, "Meet The Challenge" would you speak to that idea?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: I have to go back to the days when we were denied an opportunity for establishing ourselves in business or in any other way. I have to go back to the days of the plantation, the days of slavery, when we were a community of slaves in this country.
That period lasted longer than the period of our freedom. We have enjoyed freedom for a little better than a hundred years. But that period of enslavement and plantation life lasted nearly three hundred years or more.
During that period, we were existing as mere property of other people, with no opportunity to meet any of these challenges. We weren't free to meet any challenge.
After being freed, there was still the lingering condition in the spirit of the peoplethe condition that allowed them to look to others as they had looked to their slave master for their needs. And there had to be a gradual process of change.
We've been impatient, very impatient since Frederick Douglas, Dr. King, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and others who lived between these two periods. During this time there were many who were impatient with the spirit of Black people for freedom, for establishment, and for free enterprise. But, really, this impatience in us is because when a man is born, he's born with the dignity and he's born free.
Now I don't want to be constantly looked at as someone who says his people are not enthusiastic enough or excited enough about freedom and opportunity. I don't want people to look at me that way. We will never be excited enough for me about freedom and the obligation to move into opportunity! We'll never be excited enough!
But when we say this, don't think we are impatient or that we are seeing our achievements as mediocre or inferior. No! In many ways we have great achievements as a people since the Emancipation Proclamation. In this last one hundred years we've seen great achievements, great strides, on the part of the African American people, or the indigenous African American man. But, at the same time we were born with this right and dignity.
So, no matter what we have done individually, we are still vexed and pained inside because the whole race doesn't have the comparable worth, when it comes to business progress, of the Jews for instance. This is not to single out the Jews because they are ahead of everybody, given the number of Jews in this country. But, when compared to those of English descent, Irish descent, even the Asian newcomers, we feel in us a burning kind of vexation, because we are not measuring up to the pace of time.
We seem to look at individual achievement and isolate it. It's as if we use that as a salve to soothe the burning sores of neglect in our lives. However, we can't do that when we know that, really, what we have taken decades, almost a century to reach is really the right of every man when he's born.
G'd has given us the same nature that He has given to every other man. He has given us the same capacity, the same yearning and the same ability to achieve. Now that's what makes me still say we are not doing enough. We need to do more. We need to make greater and more impressive efforts to achieve.
I feel that because of the past conditions of slavery in our lives, we are not in the condition to respond to that obligation as a people. That condition (slavery) just changed the spirit of a whole people, from that of depending upon their own resources to depending upon outsiders.
The slavemaster provided for the slave. The slave was not allowed to carry the burden of his own welfare; the slavemaster carried the burden for himself, for a free society, and also for the slave. There is a tendency in us, because of past experiences, which makes us vulnerable. We accept that other do for us, many times unaware of that tendency in our psychology. We are not aware of the effects of it. If an individual or a family experiences the same kind of neglect in their lives for a long period of time, the same kind of restrictions on their expression, what will that do to them psychologically? That field of science (psychology) says it will cripple them.
So, if it will cripple an individual, when the same conditions are created for a whole people it will cripple a whole people. And though we are free, we have to realize that there is a crippling experience behind us and much of the effect may still linger.
In fact, we have to believe that much of the effect still lingers. Sure, it's less in some than in others, but for too many of us, there's just too much of the conditioning from slavery days, from plantation days, still on our spirit. It's not in our mind; it's on our spirit an our spirit is weakened because of it. And there's a tendency to accept the easy way out, to accept that others do for us as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad used to say those things that we can do for ourselves.
I think it is very necessary that we be aware of that. Even the halal business groups should be aware of that and not only present these things, but carry a little educational material with them. Make available to your customers these brief educational materials on the need for this to not only be a halal project, but for us to see this as a project to establish, dignify and bring us to have comparable worth as business people in this country.
QUESTION: What makes the halal business so significant for African-American Muslims?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: First of all, to have our own halal business we meet our obligations. Actually, if we just want to get halal food, we can go to the Albanian community, the Pakistani community, the Syrian community or perhaps an Arab area and find halal meat.
I know of certain places operated by the Indian or Pakistani Muslims in the Chicago area where you can get halal meats. But if you go outside your own communityget in your car, travel through your community, then leave it to get halal products, you are fulfilling the obligations to eat halal food but you are not fulfilling the obligation to be responsible for halal foods for your own community.
There is also an obligation to be responsible for halal food for your own community. You must be responsible to G'd and to your own community for halal foods.
So the community that goes outside to get halal foods is only meeting part of its obligation. They are only meeting the obligation to obtain halal foods, but they are not meeting that other very important part of the obligationthe obligation to yourself as a community. You are responsible to yourself for obtaining the food, growing the animals (actually one day we hope to have land and grow the animals ourselves) to meet the full obligation. Then we must bring the animals and slaughter them ourselves.
What this means to the business man (the business community) is an added incentive. We already have a need as a struggling under-class and under-rated people (under-rated, because I know we can do much better than we have done so far.) We already have the burden of proving ourselves, as you know, and competing with the other business people for a share in the business life of our communities, our districts, our neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities. But, now there is an added incentive; that incentive is here because we are Muslims and we have a religious obligation. We have a Muslim community obligation to provide halal foods to our community.
What it means to business men is an added incentive for business development and business investment.
QUESTION: Now you often say that going into the halal business is going to be hard work; you say it's not going to be easy. Is this natural or is this because of our special circumstances.
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Well I think it's not easy for any people to really establish a business from its very beginnings. In most countries where Muslims are eating halal foods, the families have been slaughtering, preparing and cooking the meat for generations. They are experts at doing all that, because it has been in the family many years. Therefore, it's easy for them to continue that. But, for us, we are starting from the very beginning an Islamic tradition of diet and business. So, it's going to be difficult for us because we don't have capital. We don't have a history for achieving these things. We have tried to do business as Muslims, but we have never really decided to establish a halal business. As for Muslim recipes, we have some experience with them. In fact we were doing very good with that.
Many non-Muslims were attracted to the Temple of Islam's food: The bean pie, the brown rice, the bean soup, and the many fine dishes that the sisters and brothers learned to prepare.
We called it Muslim food, but really it was only Muslim food with respect to the way it was cookedthe seasoning etc. It was seasoned nice, it was seasoned for Muslims; but, as far as it being Muslim food it was not always because the meat was not halal. The fish dishes were halal. That was Muslim food, because no halal is required for food of the sea, according to the Qur'an.
So really I think that what we are doing is establishing a new Islamic tradition in America for newly converted Muslims. And we are really setting out to give ethnic uniqueness and ethnic character to our community.
I see us having difficult times for the first year or two, maybe, but after the first year or two, I think it's going to be a pleasure.
After that we are not going to sense the burden; people are going to be supporting this business operation and involving themselves in it. The customer will be the whole Muslim community. I think we will be rejoicingand many of our cooks will be excited. They'll come up with new recipes. I'm looking forward to happy days with halal.
I hope that this spirit, the involvement, and the actual work will get bigger and bigger, and I do believe it will. As more people become aware of it, more Muslims are going to be involved in supporting it and more of us are going to be looking to this halal project to make possible halal meat purchases for daily food consumption for ourselves and our family. And I hope that you all will be aware of the need to send out feelers, or at least seek to know what is going on in other cities, other states, by Muslims to provide their locality with halal foods. Because as this grows there will be a need for an association of Muslim halal producers.
There's money in local business, but there is more money in national business. One day I see us as being national distributors of halal foods in association with others who have the same interest. We can find ways to supply the area and find ways to cooperate with each other for a bigger national business.
QUESTION: How do you think we should approach the halal business? What should be our priorities?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Our priorities should be to provide, first of all to provide the Muslim community, our membership here in Chicago with halal products: fowl, birds, chickens, sometimes turkey or whatever we are able to obtain in the line of poultry and, we hope, lamb. One day we hope to occasionally be able to get beef on a regular basis. So, the primary goal of the halal business would be to provide suitable, proper halal foods to the Muslim market; however, I think the duty of those in the halal business, as business people, would be to encourage business growth so that the people will have jobs, income, and dignity.
QUESTION: When we cut the jugular vein of the animal and the blood rushes out I understand that this procedure causes the least suffering in the animal. I have also been told that the complete draining of the blood is very important. Can you tell us why this complete draining of the blood is so important?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Its important because many diseases are carried in the blood. Muslims who have recently studied the scientific benefits of halal meats some of them degreed doctors, scholars, or students in the field of sciencehave said that the draining of the blood while the animal still has life in him makes the meat more tender. Now whether that is an established fact or not I don't know. But I know from experience that it is more tasty. The process seems to improve the quality of the meat in terms of taste. I know I prefer the taste of this meat; the more blood there is the less I care for it. I believe that halal meat has great nutritional value and as I said, there are scientists among the Muslims who have attempted to establish that.
QUESTION: In the summer of 1985 I was in Mississippi. While there, I visited a farm to halal some lambs for my family. This farmer had a beautiful herd of goats, a nice little herd of sheep and I could see he was building the herds. He told me that he was cross-breeding one kind of goat with another. He told me what a milking goat and another kind of goat was going to produce. It really fascinated me. Possibly you would like to talk on the Muslim way of raising livestock.
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Well, Muslims should raise their livestock just as any other caring farmer should raise them. First of all, he should be one who loves animals. The farmers should be people who love animals. Yes, we are raising them for the market. We know that's a necessity and G'd has made it lawful for us to have them for our food. We should still understand that even though we are perhaps going to slaughter many of them for food, we are still to care about all of G'd's creatures, including his animals. We should not abuse them. We should keep them healthy. We should raise them so they are quality when they hit the market, not just out of interest to get more money for them, but in the interest of doing the job well and doing it in a very excellent way and presenting the finest product to the market. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says that G'd has prescribed excellence for everything, so that include the growing of the animal as well as the slaughtering of the animal. We should take care and have pride in growing fine animals.
QUESTION: I remember once hearing you talk about the things that are injected into animals to make them grow fast, and the problems that practice caused the beef consumers: the quality of the meat, effect of the foreign chemicals on humans, etc.
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, we learned some years ago that some countriesand I understand that among them are certain European countrieswere questioning the condition of cattle that were grown in the United States which were injected with a certain kind of hormone. I think the purpose was to bring a bigger yield in weight and volume and speed up the growth. There some questions coming from certain countries concerning the suitability of meat grown like that for the market. I also 'understand that there were some countries who refused to buy the cattle that had received those injections.lt made me wonder if our own community should take a position on such problems for the consumer. So, I told my family I wouldn't be eating that much beef and I started limiting the amount of beef that I (myself) ate. I encouraged my family and even the community to eat less beef at that time. I think even the country was being advised to eat less beef at that time. Now I don't know just how serious that is, but I know one thing, I don't care to eat beef if I have knowledge that the beef has been given those shots.
QUESTION: So that would be your advice to Muslims?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, that we stay away from that kind of risky method of producing fast grown animals and getting them quickly to the market, or, getting the size for the market in a quick way. Before accepting any new method of improving the meat volume or the quality of the meat, it should be very clearly proven that there is no danger, no risk to the health of the consumer. Even if it is something that makes the meat more tenderand they claim to have suchwe should still be slow to accept that for ourselves. That is another reason why we should want to be in the halal business; so that we wouldn't have to eat animals that have that risk.
QUESTION: You mentioned that we should search thoroughly through the Holy Qur'an. I didn't do a very thorough search, but I did some searching and there are many things that you already covered. Now, there is something I read in the Qur'an this morning about superstition, that certain animals were taboo. Would you have something to say about how the Qur'an addresses that?
IMAM W DEEN MOHAMMED: As you know the religion of Al-Islam, the religion of Qur'an, is the pure religion and it's the religion revealed by Almighty G'd; therefore it doesn't include any guess work or speculation, and there is no opportunity for it to carry falsehood from superstitions. It takes into account the whole life of man and all of his needs, especially his essential needs, his basic needs. This includes a need to grow economically. If we have superstitions that hurt in someway or burden the business growth, then we should appreciate the religion even more when we see that the religion is limiting the chance of superstition denying us the products in business and growth that we would have if we didn't have those superstitions. Certain animals that could be accepted if the young was of one sex but if it was of a different sex, you couldn't use it for consumption. If it was still in the womb, it was for a certain class or a certain order of people and it wasn't available to the ordinary people who would be growing or selling the animals. So, it looks like a certain class of superstitious people had gotten the confidence of the public, the masses of people, and perhaps they were coming into possession of their properties by that deceit. That's what it seems to suggest. So superstitions are forbidden in our religion and people in the days of ignorance did have many superstitions that interfered with this normal course of business.
EXCERPTS FROM IMAM WARITH DEEN MOHAMMED'S SPEECH TO THE HALAL CONFERENCE DEC. 14, 1985
I feel that his has been a successful halal convention. All results are with Allah. Sometimes we can do a little and get a lot and sometimes we can do a lot and get a little. I would like to offer my congratulations to those who worked with this convention to see that it was a success.
I was present to witness the halal slaughtering and I felt very good at first. But then, as I stood there with the crowd, it brought to my mind pictures I saw of lynching's at which a black person was being lynched and a lot of white people stood around watching the slaughter, watching the action. I said to myself, "Everyone witnessing halal should have his own animal and be ready to slaughter his own animal." Everyone should be busy doing halal rather than being spectators. But that was necessary, I guess, to get us started or to introduce halal to us.
But I hope I don't have to be a spectator again for something like that, unless I'm halaling an animal and then getting right out. I want to just do my job and get right out.
Now we expect that these brothers will be halaling food for us in the future in great quantity. They won't be spectators they will be workers and they will be doing their job.
The beautiful thing about the slaughtering of the animal the Muslim way is this: we say "Bismillah" before giving the death stroke with the knife. We say Bismillah and then, upon giving the stroke that severs the windpipe and the jugular vein, we say "Allah-U-Akbar." If we do that it gives us the protection we need from becoming insensitive.
I used to work at a poultry market right in the neighborhood in which Masjid Elijah Muhammad is now located. I was working for a Jew. My brother Elijah Muhammad II, along with Brother Carl and his children, Leroy and Darnell, worked there too. We all worked together.
During the holidays we would kill chickens quickly, at the snap of a finger. As fast as you finished one, you would do another. The Jew didn't require that we know his kosher procedure.
We didn't know anything about kosher. We were just slaughtering chickens, turkeys, or whatever there was to slaughter.
After a while something happens to you. You forget you're handling life and it becomes routine. You become insensitive. But what we (Muslims) do keeps us sensitive. It keeps us knowing that we couldn't do this without G'd.
So we say "Bismillah." And when we take life, we say "Allah-U-Akbar." When man kills a cow, halals a bull or another big animal, it makes him feel macho afterwards I'm sure, right? The man feels macho and pretty soon he'll think that he's The Almighty, that he gives life and takes life. He loses his sensitivity for the Ijfe that he's taking. But the halal procedure keeps the human being sensitive, keeps him knowing that G'd is above all and that he has allowed you to do this.
You are not taking this life; G'd has allowed this. The Muslim is not to think that he is taking the life of some chicken or that he has the power to take the life of a pigeon, a squab, or a little quail. We are supposed to believe that G'd made possible for us and we are accountable to G'd. We have to remain conscious of G'd throughout the halal procedure.
I'm sure participants in the workshops learned many things about halal. As the brother told us, the animal has to be halal, the slaughter process has to be halal, and the eating has to be halal.
Did you say "Bismillah" before you ate? If you didn't, it's not halal. But if you did, it's halal.
The animal has to be halal. the slaughtering and the consumption has to be halal. Say "Bismillah." You don't have to say it outwardly, just say it inwardly.
I was in a restaurant once where there were about fifty to seventy-five people. It was a big restaurant in the big business area. We sat down to the table and he (the brother with me) made his prayer, (holding his hands to his face). I looked at him. I never gave an explanation at all. I just ate.
There's nothing in our religion that requires all of that, You say "Bismillah" that's all. Do not eat anything without pronouncing the name of G'd. So as long as I said "Bismillah," I didn't have to say it for the brother to hear it. I don't have to answer to him if I don't say it. I answer to G'd! So, I say "Bismillah" in my own heart and I eat.
Now why do we want to make a big spectacle, a big show, a big scene? Suppose all of us did that out in the street. We would bring a lot of burden on ourselves.
G'd says in our holy book, (Qur'an) that He didn't make all those laws prohibiting the Jews from eating these things. They did it themselves and G'd allowed it as a punishment on them for that.
Since they claimed that G'd told them to do that, G'd didn't check them on it. He let them go on into itnot eating this, not eating that. A thousand foods they were not eating because they said G'd said it wasn't permitted.
They (the Jews) were denying themselves all those good things. But really only a few of them keep those laws. Most of them break them. If not publicly, secretly.