The Sunday Mail
Many aspects within the Muslim lifestyle, among them the halaal food, have been viewed with suspicion by those outside the community.
Muslims only consume halaal food. As a result, it has been shrouded in mystery as most people are clueless on what differentiates this type of food from any other.
Others even speculate that certain rituals are done when preparing halaal food, particularly when slaughtering animals.
Sheikh Abdullah Sikacha from the Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe Council of Islamic Scholars dispelled the misconceptions surrounding halaal.
“As Muslims, we are required to eat pure food only. That is what is called halaal. It means something pure. In terms of animals, halaal is something that is slaughtered in the name of God and for the sake of the Almighty,” Sheikh Sikacha said.
He said food is part of their worship lifestyle.
Within the faith, there is firm belief that animals should only be slaughtered when there is a need to consume. Besides that, they have to be watched over with utmost care.
The way in which the animal is slaughtered deems it halaal as there are basic principles of doing so.
Sheikh Sikacha said it is critical to slaughter the animal in a manner that is as calm as possible, done in acknowledgment of God as the creator of the animals.
“Many people believe that we perform rituals when slaughtering animals but that is not correct. They do not understand what we say when slaughtering animals because we usually recite it in Arabic. We say, ‘ln the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful, the greatest.’ Then we cut,” Sheikh Sikacha said.
“Once the animal is calm and laid down, you need to have a very sharp knife so that you exert minimum pain on it. And as you slaughter it, you mention the name of God and cut all the veins so that enough blood comes out.
“Blood carries a lot of impurities so you have to make sure that you cut all the veins so that as much blood comes out,” he said.
Only Muslims who have been taught these principles and know how to recite the afore-mentioned prayer are fit to slaughter animals for halaal.
Sheikh SIkacha said back in the days, elder men would teach the younger ones how to slaughter the animals. He added that some of the elder men were workers in abattoirs and had to ensure that animals were slaughtered in the best possible manner.
lf an animal is beaten to death or collapses and dies, it does not pass for halaal as its blood does not come out in the right quantities.
Cruelty to the animal also deems it unfit for halaal.
Sheikh Sikacha went on to explain that a verse in the Koran allows the consumption of domestic animals like cattle, sheep and goats. Fish, with the exception of sharks, is also permissible.
ln the Arab world, camels are also included on that list.
Grazing wild animals, like antelopes and elands, can also be consumed while those that prey on other animals are forbidden.
Added to the list are all fruits.
Sheikh Sikacha said Muslims do not consume pork and animals that are not slaughtered in the name of God. They also do not drink the blood of slaughtered animals as is done in some cultures.
Halaal food, he said, can be consumed by anyone.
And after all is said and done, Muslims only use three fingers when eating.
This is an etiquette to avoid any spillages and to ensure that the consumer only takes what they can chew well at any given time.
“We are also taught that when we eat, one third of the tummy is for food, one third is for water while the other third is for air. You need to manage that space well otherwise you might fill the whole tummy with food and find it difficult to breathe,” said the Sheikh.