Question # 265: Is Kosher food same as halal?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Derived from the strict rulings of Torah and the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of kashrut (Jewish dietary law). In English, “Kosher” means “fit” for consumption. In fact, Allah has forbidden to the Jews many kinds of good foods, as a punishment for their disobedience. Consequently, in addition of blood and pigs (which are equally forbidden for Muslims), camel and fishes without fins and scales, are forbidden, among others. All Kosher meat animals must be slaughtered by a trained Jew with a special knife under the watchful eye of a supervisor. Kosher animals undergo a rigorous post-mortem inspection as certain veins and fats from cattle are also forbidden to eat for Jews.
Kosher products are identified by adding particular graphical symbols, known as hechsherim in Judaism, to the label. Due to differences in standards held by different Jewish authorities, there are numerous hechsheirim. A single “K” is sometimes used as a symbol for kosher, but this symbol is not governed by any authority, hence, any manufacturer can use it at will. For this reason, many Muslims when buying anything kosher (say, bakery products, dairy products, etc.) should preferably look for “U” in a circle which is a more conservative Kosher symbol referring to the ‘Union of Orthodox Congregations’. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with the Muslim eating Jewish food described as kosher on its label, unless it is known that any alcohol is added to it.
Long Answer: Allah has forbidden to the Jews many kinds of good foods, as a punishment for their disobedience. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “For the wrongdoing of the Jews, We made unlawful for them certain good foods which had been lawful for them” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:160). As for Islamic shari‘ah, it is an easy-going, tolerant law, as Allah has permitted to us all good foods (at-tayyibaat) and He has not forbidden to us anything but that which is bad (al-khabaa’ith). Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “This day all good things have been made lawful to you” (Soorah al-Maa’idah, 5:5)
Before answering the question, let us understand the meaning of the word ‘Kosher’. Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of kashrut (dietary law), primarily derived from Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Torah and the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Food that may be consumed according to halakha (law) is termed kosher in English, meaning “fit” for consumption. Food that is not in accordance with law is called treif (derived from Hebrew) meaning “torn.” (Wikipedia.org)
Ruling for Kosher Foods
Under the Jewish Dietary Laws, there are four “Genders”, namely, meat, dairy (milk from kosher animals), Pareve (aka neutral i.e., neither meat or dairy) and treif (not kosher; unclean). These are based on the following verses from the Torah:
- Deuteronomy 14:3-10: “Do not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.”
- Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
- Deuteronomy 12:21-25: “If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”
- Genesis 32:22-32: “That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So, Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So, Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore, to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.”
- Leviticus 11:20,22,41: “All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you. …Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind… All creatures that swarm upon the earth are detestable; they shall not be eaten.” Deuteronomy 14:19: “And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten.”
From the above verses, the following is derived:
- The Torah permits only land animals which both chew the cud and have cloven hooves. Four animals are specifically identified as being forbidden for this reason: the hare, hyrax, camel, and pig – although the camel has two toes, and the hare and hyrax are hindgut fermenters rather than ruminants. The Torah lists winged creatures which may not be consumed, mainly birds of prey, fish-eating water-birds, and bats. The Torah permits fish residing in “the waters” (seas and rivers) only having both fins and scales. The Torah forbids creeping things that crawl the earth (Hebrew: sheqets) and “flying creeping things”, with four exceptions: two types of locust, the beetle/cricket, and the grasshopper.
- Meat and dairy cannot be eaten together. This separation includes not only the foods themselves, but the utensils, pots and pans with which they are cooked, the plates and flatware from which they are eaten, the dishwashers or dishpans in which they are cleaned, and the towels on which they are dried. A kosher household will have at least two sets of pots, pans and dishes: one for meat and one for dairy. One must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy. Opinions differ, and vary from three to six hours. This is because fatty residues and meat particles tend to cling to the mouth.
- Blood is forbidden to be consumed.
- The sciatic nerve and its adjoining blood vessels may not be eaten. The process of removing this nerve is time consuming and not cost-effective, so most American slaughterers simply sell the hind quarters to non-kosher butchers.
Conditions of Kosher
- All kosher meat must be slaughtered by a God-fearing Jew (called shochet) who is trained in the art of shechitah (Ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish law as laid out in the Talmud and therefore, modern western practice of electrical, gas, or percussive stunning before slaughter is forbidden). Even the slightest wrong move and the animal is treif, forbidden.
- Kosher slaughter must be performed with a special knife, called a chalef, which is sharpened to perfection, ensuring a smooth and seamless cut.
- Kosher animals undergo a rigorous post-mortem inspection to determine that they were fit and healthy up until the moment of slaughter. This process is called bedikah.
- There are certain parts of animals that Jews are forbidden to eat. These parts must be removed in a process known as nikur (“deveining” which involves removing certain forbidden veins and fats from cattle). Further, “Glatt” means “smooth” and refers to the lung of the Kosher-killed animal, which are examined by inspectors (bodeks) for any adhesion or other defects. If there are adhesions, the bodeks will attempt to blow up the lungs to see if they will hold air. If they can, the meat is Kosher.
- Kosher meat is salted (or koshered), a procedure that removes all blood from the meat; the process is known asmelichah (salting).
- Kosher meat is produced under the watchful eye of a mashgiach, a supervisor who verifies that everything conforms to Jewish law. Kosher supervision and certification also ensure that nothing non-kosher has been added to the product.
- Kosher food must be processed on equipment that does not contain the slightest trace of non-kosher food.
(chabad.org, meat.tamu.edu and Wikipedia.org)
Product labeling standards or Kosher symbols
Manufacturers sometimes identify the products that have received Kosher certification [Jewish religious authorities] by adding particular graphical symbols to the label. These symbols are known in Judaism as hechsherim. Due to differences in kashrut standards held by different organizations, the hechsheirim of certain Jewish authorities may at times be considered invalid by other Jewish authorities. The certification marks of the various rabbis and organizations are too numerous to list, but one of the most commonly used in the United States of America is that of the Union of Orthodox Congregations, who use a U inside a circle (“O-U”), symbolizing the initials of Orthodox Union. In Britain, a commonly used symbol is the “KLBD” logo of the London Beth Din. A single “K” is sometimes used as a symbol for kosher, but since many countries do not allow letters to be trademarked (the method by which other symbols are protected from misuse), it only indicates that the company producing the product claims that it is kosher. Many of the certification symbols are accompanied by additional letters or words to indicate the category of the product, according to Jewish law; the categorization may conflict with legal classifications, especially in the case of food that Jewish law regards as dairy, but legal classification does not.
- DE—Dairy equipment
- M—Meat, including poultry
- Pareve—Food that is neither meat nor dairy
- P—Passover-related (P is not used for Pareve)
According to a fatwa, “Kosher is term used to indicate compliance with the Jewish tradition in slaughtering animals, and it is in a compliance with the Islamic way too. So, it is allowed to consume Kosher products.” (Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America) [Hence,] there is nothing wrong with the Muslim eating Jewish foods on which is written the word “kosher”, unless it is known that they have added any alcohol to it. (Islamqa.info)
[However,] since there are several hundred Jewish Kosher authorities in the US, who certify Kosher based on extremely liberal to extremely conservative rules, it is difficult to come up with one uniform opinion regarding Kosher practices. A symbol “K” for Kosher is not governed by any authority. Any manufacturer can use it at will. A website guiding Jews about Kosher states “it may take a great deal of detective work to ascertain the standard that a particular rabbi is using.” For this reason, many Muslims when buying anything kosher look for “U” in a circle which are more conservative Kosher symbol. (soundvision.com)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.