This is a question that comes up once in a while. Let us take the time to provide a thorough analysis. In Islam, Halal means ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’ and refers to all matters of life, not just food. So, Islamically, it is proper to refer to pure foods, marriage to a person whose bloodline is sufficiently far from one’s own bloodline, and having marital relations during the nights of Ramadan as being Halal. In the same light, it is proper to refer to pork, marriage to your sister or brother, and marital acts performed between dawn and sunset – a.k.a. the fasting hours – during the month of Ramadan, as haram. In fact, any knowingly shameful deed is considered haram.
When it comes to meat and poultry, Muslims also use the term Zabiha (Dhabiha) to refer to meat from a Halal animal slaughtered by a Muslim in the prescribed Islamic way. (Meat from haram animals does not become Halal, even if it is slaughtered in the prescribed Islamic way, and a Muslim would never slaughter a haram animal.) Conversely, kosher is a term associated only with food. It has a similar meaning as Halal does in the context of food, but there are also many differences. Some of the differences are listed below:
- Islam prohibits all intoxicants, including alcohol, liquor, and wine, whereas Judaism regards alcohol and wine as kosher. Hence kosher foods may contain alcohol. If they do, they are considered haram in Islam.
- Gelatin is considered kosher by many Jews regardless of its source of origin. For Muslims, if gelatin is prepared from swine, it is haram. Even if gelatin is prepared from cows that are not Zabiha, many scholars consider it haram.
- Kosher practice does not require Jews to pronounce the name of God on the animals while slaughtering, but Muslims must pronounce the name of ALLAH on all animals while in the act of slaughtering.
There are other differences between Halal and kosher that make some kosher products haram or questionable with respect to Muslim consumption.
These differences may seem minor to some. However, indulging in acts or cuisine that is haram is a very serious offense against ALLAH. Consuming alcohol or pork is a clear violation of ALLAH’s commandments and should not be taken lightly. The pronouncement of the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter is an act of worship and obedience in its own right. Not only is this pronouncement an act of worship of the most high unto itself, it is also the key to many blessings and bounties. Muslims and non-Muslims alike can taste the difference in meat slaughtered in a benign, humane manner and meat slaughtered while foregoing the rite’s inherent compassion to the animal.
And ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, knows best.