Say “Cheese”!!!

Who does not love cheese???. The man who never enjoyed life, I believe :lol:. A few of my favorite foods involve cheese and pasta. My thoughts fly back to a tasty piece of lasagna I had at a potluck party. :-P. So one might be thinking what is the topic of cheese doing in the ‘Halal Food’ section. Please do check out. Is your cheese halal???

cheese, food, market

Say cheese!!! If it is halal 😦

Yes cheese can sometimes be haram. This world is so suspicious that, at times one cannot even trust himself, leave alone cheese. I always was of the view that dairy items are spared from being quizzed about their halal status. Then came a time when I picked up some Cheddar from a local grocery story, and my hubby eyed the ingredients and declared that the cheddar was non-halal. And the reason???. It had animal-rennet.

What is meant by rennet???
Google defines rennet as “the curdled milk from the stomach of the unweaned calf, containing rennin and used for curdling milk in cheese production”. Rennet is a primary ingredient in cheese, as it helps in separating milk into solid curds and the liquid whey.

From where is rennet extracted???
Rennet is most commonly extracted from the fourth stomach of an unweaned calf. Most of the times the calves are slaughtered for veal (the flesh of young calve). And during the process of slaughter, rennet is also extracted from the stomach, to be used in the task of cheese making. In some cases rennet is also extracted from the stomach of lambs and kids.

Classification of halal and haram rennet:
Rennet is not a haram ingredient in itself. If it is obtained from the stomach of calves and lambs that have been slaughtered as per the Islamic law of halal slaughtering then there is no doubt that the rennet extracted from the animal is halal. But if one is not sure about the validity of the slaughter of the animal, then it is best to avoid the by-products of the slaughtered animal.

Alternatives to animal rennet:
The good news for cheese lovers— there is always the alternative of vegetable rennet. This type of rennet is obtained from plants that have coagulation properties— a few examples include ground ivy, nettles, thistles and mallow. Most of the times it is vegetable rennet that is used in the production of cheeses that demand to be met by the halal and kosher food guidelines.

Besides direct plant sources, rennet is also extracted from microbial sources of mold. The rennet extracted from this source is also classified under the vegetarian section. One main drawback of microbial rennet is that it gives a bitter taste to the cheese.

To overcome the defects of animal and microbial rennet, a new variety of genetically engineered rennet is often used as a replacement. In this method rennet genes derived from animals are injected into plant and microbial sources to produce the substance. This type of rennet is classified as halal, kosher and vegetarian only if it is extracted from non-animal sources that have been genetically engineered.

Finally, after much scrutiny  I have found a few brands in London that produce cheese from non-animal rennet. To name a few— B J cheeses, tesco, asda, all produce non-animal rennet sourced cheeses. The best thing to do is to assure one’s self by buying cheese that specifically states that the rennet is from non-animal source, or an even easier method is to look out for the for vegetarian symbol. Rest, Allah should guide us.

References: Wikipedia


The dilemma of halal food.

The term ‘Halal’ is one commonly used word in the Islamic community. It has now become so popular that the halal logo is stamped on any food item stupidly enough. Recently I received a pamphlet of some local eatery— the menu consisting of pizzas, spicy fried chicken, burgers, fries and then the highlight was pepperoni and bacon pizza. Every item on the menu was stamped halal. MashaAllah halal pepperoni and halal bacon!!!. That’s one of a kind. Pepperoni— an American variety of salami made from a mixture of cured pork and beef is what Wikipedia defines it as. Bacon— cured meat from the back or sides of a pig, is what Google defines it as.  And here this eatery is selling halal pepperoni bacon pizza. I surely should go see those halal pigs. This nonsensical fashion of printing the halal logo on each and every food-item is really ruining the true meaning of the word.


What does ‘halal’ truly mean???
The word ‘Halal’ is of an Arabic origin. In Arabic language Halal means ‘Permissible’. And this word is not concerned only to the areas related to food. In its true sense the word halal is related to the entire sphere of human existence. Anything Allah(swt) has made permissible for mankind is halal. And that which Allah(swt) has asked us to refrain from or has made impermissible is termed as “haram”. A few simple instances— gambling, usury( interest), murder, suicide to name a few are all what Islam terms as haram. These things are not allowed in Islam. Yet such a shame, Muslims are so obsessed with halal food that the concept of halal acts pertaining to life, have all gone into complete oblivion.

What does ‘halal’ relate to in food???
Well I think even a Muslim kid might be well aware that pig or swine is a haram animal in Islam. Rest is, you eat what Allah has made permissible to mankind but in matters of meat Islam has certain rules. There are foods that are halal and haram, and in matters of meat the term halal pertains to the method adopted for slaughtering the animal. Let us explore what the holy Quran has to say about foods permissible in Islam.

“He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced(by necessity), neither desiring(it) nor transgressing(it’s limit), there is no sin upon him. Indeed Allah is forgiving and merciful”.
Quran 2:173 (Surah-al-Baqarah).

“Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and (those animals), killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you are able to slaughter before it death, and those which are sacrificed on stone altars”.
Quran 5:3(Surah-al-Maidah)

Haram foods mentioned in Quran:
• Dead animals
— carcasses, carrion or any animal that has died naturally before being slaughtered, or animals killed or gored to death by other animals.
• Blood— of any animal is prohibited.
• Flesh of swine— meaning flesh of pig. (be it halal pepperoni or halal bacon) :lol:. Even if the pig is slaughtered in a halal way its meat shall remain haram.
• Meat of any animal that has not been dedicated to Allah when slaughtering it— this includes meat sacrificed and offered to idols or any other being or for any other cause.

But then again Allah says in the noble Quran that if you are driven by necessity and have been forced to consume anything haram, it is no sin and InshaAllah he shall surely forgive. But that necessity should be a genuine one. Nothing like you are famished and you see a KFC outlet and are not sure of its halal status, but still consume it. That is not necessity. That is Satan humming in your head and testing your emaan.

Halal way of slaughtering (dhabihah):
Whilst most meats are permissible to eat except for a few like pigs, boars, dogs and other clawed animals, the method adopted to slaughter the permissible meats is also important. Islamic slaughtering is what is known as ‘dhabihah’(pronounced zabeehah). This process of halal slaughtering excludes aquatic life. There are certain necessary conditions for the halal slaughter of an animal. A few main ones include.
⇒ The slaughter should be done by a Muslim most preferably but certain sects of Islam also agree on slaughters done by people of the book— Jews and Christians.
⇒ Name of Allah should be recited while slaughtering the animal. Or rather one should recite Bismillah.
⇒ The animal should be slaughtered in one sharp swipe which severe its arteries and jugular vein draining out all blood.
⇒ The head of the animal should not be decapitated until the animal is dead.

What science says about halal slaughtering:
It has been scientifically proven that the halal method of slaughtering the animal is better, where the animal feels little to no pain as the arteries are cut and hence oxygen flow to the brain is stopped. The animal shakes and writhes not due to pain but due to muscle spasms where the body is draining out blood. And once the blood is drained out there is not a chance of disease spreading through the meat.

So on a larger scale the term halal comprises of food and the manner in which this food is prepared or slaughtered. Many Muslims specially the youth of today in Western countries is  easily carried of when one says “Yay! it is halal”. And as I mentioned earlier about the halal pepperoni pizza— even if really they do serve halal slaughtered poultry or meat in a restaurant that even serves pork, does not your brain ring a bell? that the halal meat might be in some way contaminated?. And there are surely few eateries out there that serve real halal meat. All it takes is patience and dedication to one’s own religion to put into practice what has been prescribed for us.

Meats that are permissible and slaughtering the animals for meat in a permissible way are two completely different concepts. And the entire concept of ‘Halal’ is does not just apply for non-vegetarian food. It even applies to our non-vegetarian thoughts. 😆