Chocolate should never be an issue of contention- at least that is the universal understanding of chocolate , yet last week we had contradictory statements coming out of our Halaal certification bodies – one stating that certain chocolate products were haram whilst the other stating that it was not so.
Now as South Africans we have perfected the ‘three-day-reaction’ and the outrage that builds up a huge social media storm and then we promptly go on to other more pressing issues for the next few days. The chocolate wars quickly took on funny memes and we all had a good laugh at the “PS: I’m haram” and then a few memes later “PS: I’m no longer haram”.
On some groups people were quick to call out the Ulema bodies and find fault in the handling of this saga. In writing this article my focus was drawn to a completely different angle. We could focus on the fact that different bodies disagree with each other, or we could look at the drama of which body is more acceptable. But this immediately made me think of the absolute ni’mah of having bodies that first and foremost take care of me ever worrying about the halaal status of any product. Having lived in South America for almost a decade, this is not a ni’mah that can be taken lightly. Having to check E-numbers yourself and being unable to purchase bread for fear of the coating being made of lard, made us extra vigilant.
The joy of shopping for basics quickly lost any appeal as you had to put back much of what you love and recognized but were not halal. Yoghurts, cheese, even something as basic as nuts you had to be sure were not coated in lard. Loving sweets as I did, it was always heartsore to take little kids to a store and repeat that they could not purchase ANY of the yummy sweets in front of them. Many a times we would be in Madrassah and a well- meaning parent would send sweets for the kids and after googling and checking numbers we would find they were once again haram.
I could list innumerable occasions, not only in South America but in many other countries of the world where halaal consumption is consumer based and at the discretion of everyone. However, coming back to South Africa it has been an absolute pleasure to let go of the stress and worry of consuming any haram. Just yesterday I noticed even the water that I purchased was certified halal!
The importance of the task of establishing halal:
Allah Ta’ala has outlined the direct command of eating halal in the following ayah:
وقال تعالى: ﴿ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ ﴾ [البقرة: 172].
Oh You who believe eat from that which is pure and wholesome (halaal) from that which we have sustained you and be grateful to Allah if you worship Him alone.
وقال تعالى: ﴿ يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ ﴾ [المائدة: 4].
They ask you: What is permissible for them ?” Say ! That which is wholesome is permissible for them.
The importance of your halal food being a concern is further highlighted in the hadith wherein it has been mentioned that a man is long out on a journey and he is disheveled and dusty from the journey , he then stretches out his hands to the sky (calling out): “Oh my Rabb , Oh my Rabb” – whilst his food is haram and his drink is haram and his clothes are haram and he is nourished with haram- so how can his dua be answered ?
ثم ذكر الرجل يُطيل السفر أشعث أغبر، يَمد يديه إلى السماء: يا ربِّ، يا ربِّ، ومَطعمه حرام ومشربه حرام، وملبسه حرام، وغُذي بالحرام، فأنَّى يُستجاب لذلك).
The pious predecessors were asked regarding the gaining of a soft heart and the reply was – “with the consumption of halaal”.
وسُئِل بعض الصالحين: بِمَ تلين القلوب؟ فقال: بأكل الحلال
Umar (ra) has advised: “Duaa and Tasbeeh is accepted by abstaining from that which Allah has prohibited”.
وقال عمر بن الخطاب بالورع عما حرَّم الله يُقبل الدعاء والتسبيحُ
Sahl bin Abdullah (ra) has said : “Success lies in three things :
- Eating Halaal
- Fulfilling the Faraaidh
- And following the Holy Prophet (s)
وقال سهل بن عبدالله النجاة في ثلاثة: أكل الحلال، وأداء الفرائض، والاقتداء بالنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
Differing bodies are in reality a mercy:
Looking at the halaal certification bodies with the lenses that they are wrong to differ, and it would be ideal for every certification body to agree – limits the massive understanding of the differences of opinion of the rules of Fiqh and the mercy of differing opinions
- It allows for differing schools of thoughts and the unique mercy of Allah upon our nation in creating different schools of thought- so that every law of Allah can be taken into consideration.
- It also is reflective of the intense study and research that is applied into each certification process.
- It is reflective of the differing opinions that were a massive part of the lives of the Sahaba as well – and should never be focused on breaking the person or body holding that opinion.
- It is a great mercy upon us as an Ummah that there are bodies that hold each other to a high level of accountability and allow our food consumption to be so closely vetted and checked. It may seem as if they are not agreeing – yet this allows for being vigilant and taking care of this huge responsibility upon their shoulders
- Our halaal consumption plays a massive role in our ibaadah and the effect on our sustenance and as such we thank Allah that there are those who have undertaken these roles and go to such lengths to take this worry off our plates.
The next time you enter an establishment, and you see a halaal sign never take it for granted – nor look down on any one establishment as they are responsible for upholding an immense part of our Deen and allowing us to shop with ease and peace of mind.