Halal: A Global Way Of Life

In the recent furor of “halal” issues pervading the media, one must surely pause to give due consideration and effort in understanding this term. In Arabic, the term halal means allowed or permitted by Islamic law. The criteria specifies what food is allowed and in what manner this food is prepared which also includes processing and storage stages.

 

In Malaysia, JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) is the governing body which issues halal certificates for local and export markets. It is also the monitoring and enforcement body for halal guidelines.

 

Malaysia has defined Halal food through its MS1500:2004: Halal Food – Production, Preparation, Handling & Storage – General Guideline (First Revision) as food permitted under Shari’ah and fulfills the following conditions:

• Does not contain any parts or products of animals that are non-Halal to Muslims or products of animals which are not slaughtered according to Shari’ah law,

• Does not contain any ingredients that are Najs according to Shari’ah law,

• Is safe and not harmful,

• Is not prepared, processed or manufactured using equipment that is contaminated with things that are Najs (filth or unclean) according to Shari’ah law,

• The food or its ingredients do not contain any human parts or its derivatives that are not permitted by Shari’ah law,

• And during its preparation, processing, packaging, storage or transportation, the food is physically separated from any other food that does not meet the requirements stated in any above items, or any other things that have been decreed as Najs (filth or unclean) by Shari’ah law.

(Source: Malaysian Halal Directory)

 

However, it would be remiss to view halal within the confines of our own boundaries. To date, the global halal market is worth more than USD 2.3 trillion and the halal food industry over USD 700 billion. This is no surprise as the Muslim population has reached an impressive figure of 1.8 million worldwide. In essence, halal is a way of life for Muslims everywhere and encompasses not only food, but also healthcare, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and chemicals. This industry is also growing to include Shari’ah-compliant financial services, fashion and e-commerce. Muslims consume products and services based on their faith and this in turn influences the choice of products, the suppliers, the way it is consumed and is strongly connected to whom they will recommend these products to. It is a powerful and intrinsic synergy which connects an international consumer market and serves to be one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

 

From another perspective, the growth of the global halal market is also breaking down religious and cultural barriers. Trading communities everywhere are waking up to the fact that this is a market with huge potential. As such, the understanding of halal has stretched beyond the Muslim community. Non-Muslims are also seeing the benefits of consuming halal products due to the aspects of safety, quality and cleanliness.

 

To our credit, Malaysia is at the forefront of this progression. The Malaysian Halal certificate is one of the most sought after certifications worldwide. Our role as one of the key players in the global Islamic finance drives and establishes our government as a leading authority for Shari’ah-compliant finance globally. It also opens our doors to collaboration with new untapped markets for halal products and services. Major international players recognise Malaysia’s commitment which greatly strengthens our opportunity to be a leader in Islamic matters and finance.

 

Within this international context, we should approach the meaning of halal to be more than just a set of religious rules governing the lives of the Muslim community. It should be, instead, viewed as a global platform for open communication and a better way of life.

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