BE AN EMPOWERED HALAL CONSUMER

By Firdaus Yahya

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What would be the first thing that comes to mind when the word Halal is found on a product or on the premises of a restaurant?

Generally, it means that the food is permissible for Muslims to consume. To many others, the product or food served are considered safe irregardless of its nutritional value and its suitability on one’s health condition.

To the more discerning., the word Halal on a food label or displayed on restaurant premises may not automatically mean that the food can be purchased and be consumed as Halal. Other factors that need consideration will include the authenticity of the Halal claim, the reputation and reliability of the Halal certifying body, and, even perhaps, the short and long term impact of the product or food served on their health. Ultimately, the onus is upon us, the consumer, to do that bit of checking before committing to a purchase.

The human mind can be a very creative one, in the bad sense that is. And the heart, can be filled with greed. For a little profit or save on cost, unrealiable manufacturers, producers and retailers can find a million and one ways to have the Halal-ness of food they prepare and produce compromised, or even, ignored. Thus, to rely solely on a label for our consumption without doing a bit of our own homework, can be a pretty risky thing to do.

But if you cannot put 100% of your trust on any Halal certifying body, that would render the whole matter of issuing Halal certificates and labeling food products as Halal, pointless, you might say? You may as well live without any hassle of looking out for Halal marks on products when reading food labels, right?

That is, a pessimistic way to think, I must say.

We may trust the Halal certifying bodies that they do their job. You must trust Halal certfying bodies will review all ingredients, processes and practices and they perform audits and inspections to ensure businesses follow closely to the Halal guideline in producing their food. And of course, you should trust them to issue Halal certificates and allow the use of their Halal marks to only compliant businesses.

But is it possible for the Halal certifying body to ensure that the food manufacturer or vendor abides by the guideline every time, all the time?

As consumers, you have an important role to play!

As a conscious and informed Halal consumer, you will need to always be alert to observe the the food product and retailer. For instance, in a restaurant or in the market, quietly observe how the vendor conduct the general running of his business, his attire, his cleanliness and his way of preparing food. Are you generally satisfied that the food prepared is indeed Halal? Are you satisfied that you can trust the vendor for not compromising on the Halal status of his food? Do you have a lingering doubt on the vendor and his food? If you do, then it is better not to make that purchase.

Good Halal certifying bodies should have a good feedback gathering system. Call the Halal certifier that certify them to lodge a complaint or make an enquiry,

The Prophet Muhammad pbuh guides us through his saying:

Leave those that doubt you to those which you do not have any doubt”

We have been endowed with fitrah, that primordial Adamic spiritual being. This is the internal compass on which we can depend on to decide whether something is good for us or otherwise. Some call it instinct. Some label it as the sixth sense. Nowadays, many would use the term “thin-slicing” to describe this.

Whatever the term is, this internal compass in us will send negative signals if the things we are about to do or products we are about to purchase, is not good for us. This feeling of uneasiness can be utilized to help us make decisions and be conscious of our role as a consumer.

We do not just consume food and products for the sake of consuming, do we?

If the uneasiness lingers, it means that our internal compass is urging us to avoid that product, even though people around us give us the assurance that the product is Halal and wholesome.

This is in conjunction with the Prophetic guideline:

Ask deep inside yourself (for your guidance) even though people around you give their opinions (which maybe contradictory to your feeling).”

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