Halal rules of Islamic law schools


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Farhan Tufail
Photo: Kemal Calik
Most Muslims, about 85 percent, are Sunni. The rest of the Shiites. Every believer belongs to one of the different schools of law – and is guided by their dietary requirements. This poses a difficult task for companies.

In the course of the long history of Islam, different law schools have emerged. The Sunnis have four different law schools: Hanafi (31 percent of Muslims), Shafii (16 percent), Hanbali (4 percent) and Maliki (25 percent). There is another Shiite, the Jafari.

How did the different law schools come about? After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the jurists discussed the accepted sources, such as the Koran and the Sunnah (the entirety of the Prophet’s traditional sayings), and issued a legal recommendation. “Due to differences in the assessment of these foundations, the scholars then came to different conclusions regarding the details of the legal provisions,” said Farhan Tufail, CEO of Halal Certification Services, at the GDL Symposium “Ethics and Responsibility in the food industry” in Gerlingen. Today Muslims belong to one of the schools and follow the religious rules of the law school.

“The four Sunni jurists agree on the dietary laws on most legal issues,” Tufail said. Nevertheless, there are questions where one school of law allows it (halal), while the other proscribes it (makruh) and the third prohibits it (haram). A few examples: Eating pork is prohibited at all law schools. “There is no discussion,” said the Halal expert. In the case of the Hanafites, however, horse meat is considered haram, and halal for the sheep and hanbalis. For the Jafaris it was frowned upon, so makruh.

Production process must be halal-compatible

There is also a different interpretation at slaughter. The omission of prayer before slaughter would be considered by law schools to be haram. It can still be halal for the sheepdog if it is a mistake. In the Malik law school only a Muslim may butcher, the Hanafis accepted a believing Jew, Christian or Muslim.

The Hanbali law school would consider anything containing alcohol as Nadjs (ritually contaminated) – and thus haram. For the Hanafiten only the alcohol, that also dates, grapes or raisins is won, Najs and therefore not allowed. If the alcohol is made of other substances, it is not haram and should be used in an amount that “does not look intoxicating.” The point is, however, that the alcohol is not produced deliberately. “The entire production process has to be halal-capable,” emphasized Tufail.

“The difference in the design of law schools puts the companies that want to certify into an almost impossible task,” Tufail said at the meeting. His tip: “Always take the strictest interpretation, then you are on the safe side.”