November 2, 2007

Halal Food

This post's story is about Revolutionary Guards of Iran. If you are not patient enough to get the point of this post through step by step introduction I set here, you may go directly to part (iv).
Today, Halal Food (i.e. foods or drinks allowed to be used by Muslims) is to an extent a well known term which belongs to Muslim tradition and means to them what Kosher means to Jews. According to the Islamic jurisprudence, meat obtained from some certain animals is not Halal (including dog, pig, predators, rabbit, etc.). Also alcoholic drinks are not Halal. ‘Not Halal’ in Muslim glossary is equal to ‘Haram’ (i.e. Illegal foods and drinks). Any food which comes into contact with these Haram things would be Haram.
For meat, there are some additional conditions which should be met in order to make the obtained food Halal. For example, Fish is only Halal if it dies out of water. Also a person who kills a Halal animal (like cow, camel, etc.) should follow some certain guidelines: the animal should be killed in the name of God, head of the animal should be directed toward Mecca, etc. No need to mention that water, vegetables (most of them) and things of this kind are considered Halal. Note that if a person is likely to die out of hanger, he may use any kind of food and nothing is forbidden to him anymore.
In addition to Halal and Haram, there are three other kinds of foods: Makruh (i.e. you would better avoid this type of food, though it is not Haram. For example: meat derived from donkey), Mustahab (i.e. you would better use this type of foods, though it is not compulsory. For example: use a little salt before and/or after main dish).
Wait a minute! For sure, I’m not going to describe the details of such Islamic laws in this post. There is another thing I prefer to mention here.
As said above, there are four types (or classes) of foods with regards to their origin and/or the way they are processed. This is a very physical approach to food, and as you well know, religions usually consist of metaphysical features as well as their physical aspects. And Islam is not an exception to this rule. Islam invites people to pay attention to the soul of food as well as its body (i.e. ingredients). From the point of Islam, foods with regards to their souls are also categorized in four classes: Mustahab (encouraged), Halal (normal), Makruh (discouraged) and finally Haram (forbidden).
There are many interesting examples in this field. For example, when a cow’s milk is only enough to feed its calf, people are discouraged to use its milk.
Sometimes the money (which pays for food) matters, not the food itself. Therefore a food might be physically Halal, but spiritually forbidden because the money used to buy this food was Haram (like whatever things obtained through gambling or usury). Here, income plays an important role, and when we speak of income and money, we must refer to the Economic Policy of Islam.
Though some elements of Islam’s economic policy (for example: forbidding usury and gambling) are well-defined/well-known, its general approach to Economics is somehow vague. Almost every Muslim scholar has his own understanding of the subject. Ayatollah Shahroudi, head of Iran’s judiciary system, says that Islam believes in a Free Market strategy and doesn’t allow government to interfere in market’s internal and inherent mechanisms. Albeit there are some exceptions to this general rule, though these exceptions are very rare. An example of these exceptions is hoarding food in the time of famine. In this case, government might use force (even sword/gun) to feed the people.
According to the Muslim Tradition, a case which makes a food spiritually discouraged is when people are reduced to pay something and food is obtained from that money. An example of this case might be this: somebody is in need of something you have, and you require him to pay double. Ayatollah Memar Montazerin, a popular local clergy in Isfahan (usually those clergies not connected to regime are still much popular in society), adds another example: most of the municipalities’ income is of this kind (people go to get permission to rebuild their homes, and municipality usually requires them to pay a fair amount of money).
Few days ago, I met an old friend and he told me a story which came to me as a surprise. He said:

  • There is a mosque in our neighbor. There is a charity in that mosque and I work there voluntarily few hours each week. We gather donations (either money or food) and help poor neighboring families. It was about 3 years ago that we reorganized the whole office and bought a computer to make the most of our activities.
    As you well know, there is a Bassij [i.e. a Militia supervised and supported by Revolutionary Guards] center in every mosque. One year ago, Revolutionary Guard Office of Isfahan announced that it would offer every Bassij center a new modern printer, and they did so. Then, the Bassij office of our mosque gave us that printer they had received: we got a brand new printer, though it was not of a famous trademark.
    After 9 months or so, it got broken. There are three or four centers in Isfahan which are dedicated to repairing printers, and we took the printer to one of them. Manager of the center looked at the printer and laughed. We asked why he laughed, and he said: “few months ago, a cargo of electronic devices (including printers and else) was to be smuggled to Iran [i.e. the owner wanted to import them without paying obligatory tax and duty. Iran is very decisive against smugglers]. Naval forces of Revolutionary Guards found the cargo and confiscated it, then distributed the devices in the country, between their local offices and also between some charities! Your printer’s trademark shows that it was a part of that cargo!”

Whatever the reason (even fighting smugglers), this behavior is not Halal. This kind of ‘income’ for a country is at least discouraged, if not forbidden. And, it will spiritually damage the so-called religious regime, I think.

1 comment:

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