HALAL EAT-OUT: IS IT MATTER?

Muslim Globetrotter

I was born in the Netherlands, live a year or so in Belgium, visited Germany and other Western Europe countries, stayed for months in the US, and wandered even more to the east such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.

For someone who travels quite a lot, HALAL food is essential. I have to be very specific at this matter because as a practising Muslim I have to follow a certain diet as part of my religion which called HALAL [1].

While some of the countries I’ve visited are Muslim-majority countries, most of them aren’t.

So how did I survive the diet? The answer is…, I NEVER lacked halal food, ever! Halal food is everywhere even in the midst of southern Thailand where everything is written in the Thai alphabet and almost nobody speaks English!


The Will

The key is strong will. You need to be willing to seek halal-labelled food in an unfamiliar country. It’s not that halal food is rarely available, maybe it does for some remote areas with low population diversity, it is because there are so many local delights right in front of you that look so scrumptious that you can’t stand but buying it and being ignorant.

It’s like, “Oh there’s the cheese biscuit store that is viral on the IG! Let’s have a bite!”, and not even bother to check if it’s halal or not. Desire is so powerful, and most of the time, it tore down our life principle and we’re not even aware of it. But if you’re willing to keep yourself out from haram (non-halal) stuffs Allah will pave the way out for you. You’ll Google for halal food and it will feed you with tons of result to inspire you.

Where does the strong will come? It comes from here…
يَخَافُونَ رَبَّهُمْ مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ

They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded. [16:50]


Blurry Boundary

I reside at Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world [2]. This place is the melting pot for the various race of the world and tribes of Indonesia. We can expect a variety of food choices across the city but expecting halal-labelled food is another thing. The tricky thing.

I was once hang-out with my friends at a shopping mall which almost all its tenant is food and beverages. There are around 30 restaurants, yet only three of it have the halal label, so the option is surprisingly limited.

But hey, you’re at the capital city of the most Muslim-populated country right? What can be wrong?

Now, this is the tricky part. In my experience, when I’m in a non-Muslim-majority country, everything is crystal clear. The non-halal-labelled restaurant must serve something haram, be it pork, lard, or alcohol, and usually the owner and waiter, according to my observation, are not a Muslim. On the other hand, the halal restaurant has the halal sign and usually, the owner and waiter are Muslim.

Contrarily, in Jakarta many people are Muslim and all food seems to be halal. However, not all non-halal-labelled restaurant specifically mention the haram substance in the dishes unless we ask and sometimes the waiter probably not even aware of that. What’s more confusing is that because, in my observation, there are Muslim waitress wearing hijab both in the halal and non-halal restaurant. That’s why it is so blurry.


Massive Ignorance

In fact, many popular restaurants favourited among Jakartans, either Muslim or not, are not halal certified even after operating for years. That delicious sushi, sauce, chocolate, ice cream, bread, doughnut, all of that may contain or process with haram or unclear substances.

But many still eat it anyway, even the practising Muslim. Why? Based on my experience there are at least 3 reasons:

  1. They simply don’t bother to check or care to find out themselves, unless someone told them.
  2. They consider something haram only if the dish contains pork. Halal means anything without pork.
  3. They refer the halal status on blogs, the restaurant social media, and food finder web, not the legitimate institution MUI.

“Hey, the management said that they don’t have a halal certificate but they can assure us that the dishes are using halal ingredients guys!”

“That’s ok. Look, many Muslims also eat there. I think it is halal.”

Those are some of the silliest reason I got when asking about the restaurant halal status. Is self-proclaim count? Of course, not :/


What Can We Do?

Undang Undang Jaminan Produk Halal [3], a law that assures a product halal status which mandatory for every consumable product, is expected to be applied next year. Yet, the government hasn’t shown a positive progress for the law verification.

Surely the government support is essential for customer assurance of halal products. But while we wait for the uncertainty, we can do things, at least to raise awareness.

  1. Educate yourself. Find information about what considered halal and what doesn’t. Don’t forget to source it from reliable sources.
  2. Educate and remind others. When you eat out with friends or families bring awareness by reminding them to check the halal status. Be gentle and show that you care.
  3. Ask, ask, and ask! Seriously ask and be critical! Does the sushi contain mirin? Do you use wine when cooking the fish? Do you source the meat from a halal certified slaughterhouse? Does a self-proclaimed halal status legitimate enough? A customer is everything for any industry, that’s why almost every product has a customer service medium, both online and offline, so you can make use of it. Ask the status and show your concern. The more customers aware and concern about the halal status, the more they will likely to consider certification.

If you want to know a bit more about the critical point of food preparation and other detailed stuff inside foods, I found a blog that I think useful from The Gastronomy Aficionado.


It Matters

So, why does opt for halal is important?

It does make your body healthier, and it does help you avoid haram substance flowing in your bloodstream. Of course, you don’t want the flesh inside your body built from nutrients of the haram. How would you purify and get rid of it?

But no, it is not just about the food, it is ourselves competing over our desires because of having fear of committing sins that displeased Allah. That’s the sign of Taqwa.

And do you know what Allah has promised to the Muttaqien (Taqwa people) [4]?

  • A way out of problems and difficulties

[…] And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him a way out. – Quran 65:2

  • Unexpected sustenance

[…] And He will provide for him from sources he could never imagine. – Quran 65:3

  • Ease in matters

[…] And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him ease in his matter. – Quran 65:4

  • Remove misdeed and multiply reward

[…] And whoever fears Allah, He will remove for him his misdeeds and make great for him his reward. – Quran 65:5

May Allah Guide us all.


إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا

Indeed, for the righteous is attainment. [78:31]

Source:

[1] (1997). GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR USE OF THE TERM “HALAL”. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y2770e/y2770e08.htm

[2] Nag, O. S. (2018, April 19). Countries With The Largest Muslim Populations. Retrieved from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-largest-muslim-populations.html

[3] Soraya, D. A. (2018, October 22). Menanti UU JPH. Retrieved from https://www.republika.co.id/berita/dunia-islam/islam-nusantara/18/10/22/pgzo4f396-menanti-uu-jph

[4] Moosa, K. (2017, March 13). 5 Benefits of Adopting Taqwa from the Qur’an. Retrieved from https://rayyaninstitute.com/5-benefits-of-adopting-taqwa/