When it comes to food, there are very specific things that make an item halal.
In the case of meat, be it beef, lamb, or chicken, how the animal is killed is the most important thing. The animal must be slaughtered in the most humane way possible, with no unnecessary pain and suffering. Mohammad instructed Muslims to “slaughter well” and sharpen the knife to spare the animal pain.
In regards to haram food, it is well known that Muslims should not eat pork, but many people are unaware of the different varieties of pork: sausage, hot dogs, meatballs, or “meat" sauce can all contain pork. In addition, the main foods that are prohibited by Allah are: any pig-based products, including gelatin, all intoxicants, especially alcohol, and in some Muslim sects shellfish, which include shrimp, lobster, and crab are also prohibited.
So is halal similar to kosher meat?
Halal and kosher have many similarities, but they are not the same. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not a Muslim can use kosher standards in place of halal standards. You will get different answers depending on who you ask, but most Islamic authorities say that halal and kosher cannot be interchangeable.
How strict are halal and haram rules?
Like most things, it varies from person to person. Some Muslims are very strict, only eating in their homes or Muslim restaurants. Other Muslims are more relaxed about their diet.
So when it comes to your Muslim friends, ask them if they follow a halal diet and what their preferences are for food. This will make them feel respected, and when you invite them over, they won’t worry about what you serve.
How to talk about it
Find out what your Muslim friend believes! If you find that they have a strict diet, always do your best to respect it. Here are some questions you can ask to open up this conversation:
- For a conservative Muslim friend, follow up with: Why is eating halal important to you?
- For the less conservative Muslim friend, ask: Why do you choose not to practice a halal diet?
Often, the standard that God wants us to live up to does not line up with our culture’s standards. As 1 Corinthians 10:28 (NASB) says, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” You can share this verse with your Muslim friends, because they will understand the struggle of living counter-culturally! However, our ability to do this does not determine our standing with God – don’t forget to mention this as well!
In fact, God used to require a kosher diet for the Jewish people, but after Christ’s life, He gave Peter a vision to permit the consumption of any animal (Acts 10
). Yet some Christians, especially those with Judaic backgrounds, had a hard time changing their diet. This is why Paul had to write in Romans 14
, “One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him” (verses 2-3, NASB). You can explain to your Muslim friend that under Jesus, we are freed from arbitrary rules and each person is free to choose what diet is good for them. We are commanded to respect others’ practices and we can put this into practice with our Muslim friends – respecting their diet as a way to show that we care about them.