Halal -certified foods, which are prepared a certain way according to Islamic teaching, are becoming more popular every year. Consumers can rest assured that meats slaughtered according to halal practices are “clean” according to Leviticus 11. In addition, halal also certifies that as much blood as possible has been drained out during slaughter. These are both biblically correct principles. However, there is more to the issue.
Information posted online by Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) states that “ halal certification” involves a blessing by a Muslim representative prior to slaughter. It also appears that the actual slaughtering needs to be done by a Muslim.
Let’s first consider scriptural principles. The New Testament discusses an issue of the first century regarding whether or not to eat meats that had been offered to a pagan idol. What Paul wrote on that topic can provide guidance on halal foods. Please see our study guide titled, “What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats?”
In the chapter, “Does the New Testament Abolish Meat Distinctions?” the study aid states, “Paul explained that ‘an idol is nothing’ (1 Corinthians 8:4 1 Corinthians 8:4As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
American King James Version×), clarifying that it was not intrinsically harmful to eat meats that had been sacrificed to an idol. That an animal had been sacrificed to a pagan god had no bearing on whether the meat was suitable for food.”
The study aid discusses 1 Corinthians 8 on the subject of meats that had been offered to pagan idols. The apostle Paul explained that offering meats to idols does nothing to change the nutritional value of that meat—and it can be eaten if it is “clean” meat according to God’s food laws of Leviticus 11.
However, some in Corinth were weak in conscience. That means that eating clean meats that had been offered to a pagan god was offensive to some of the members. In this situation, Paul taught that it was wrong to do anything that might cause them to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:12-13 1 Corinthians 8:12-13 12 But when you sin so against the brothers, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
13 Why, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.
American King James Version×).
Today, nearly 2,000 years after Paul’s time, the same thing can happen due to how meats are slaughtered. Many foods are offered to various gods during the slaughtering process. Halal food laws govern what is slaughtered, how it is slaughtered, and for whom or what it is offered. So do kosher laws for Jews.
We can apply Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 8:4 1 Corinthians 8:4As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
American King James Version×as a principle. Truly the “idol is nothing.” From this we can conclude that meat today is not altered in any way even when it is slaughtered according to halal or kosher laws. The same is true for any practice among peoples around the world where clean meats may be offered to a god, idol or to nature itself.
Foods that are marked halal or kosher will have been blessed by a cleric or priest or rabbi. That does not mean we cannot enjoy the roast, chicken or fish—as long as they are clean meats. The Bible also teaches us that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 Romans 14:23And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.
American King James Version×). If eating foods that are marked as being acceptable according to halal or kosher laws bothers a person, he or she should not consume it or try to coerce others to eat it.
The question above gets into the area of whether a Christian can participate in the regulations included in halal slaughtering. The greatest challenge for a Christian will be the required blessing prior to slaughtering an animal. ISNA states that slaughter is to be done by a Muslim after stating in the Arabic language, “In the name of Allah the greatest.” Paying fees for halal certification are involved.
It should be understood that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not exactly the same as the god recognized in the Islamic faith as Allah. To encourage Islamic halal prayers to be conducted on the farm should be carefully thought through. Even though the meat itself is still “clean” to eat afterwards, the person may be participating in the ritual more than is appropriate for a Christian.
In making a decision, it is important to study scriptural passages such as Romans 14:1-23 Romans 14:1-23 1 Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs.
3 Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him.
4 Who are you that judge another man’s servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live to the Lord; and whether we die, we die to the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now walk you not charitably. Destroy not him with your meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serves Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offense.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Have you faith? have it to yourself before God. Happy is he that comdemns not himself in that thing which he allows.
23 And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 1 Now as touching things offered to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies. 2 And if any man think that he knows any thing, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. 7 However, there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol to this hour eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your’s become a stumbling block to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see you which have knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you sin so against the brothers, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Why, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 10:14-33 1 Corinthians 10:14-33 14 Why, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that you should have fellowship with devils. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. 22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? 23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. 25 Whatever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. 27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and you be disposed to go; whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say to you, This is offered in sacrifice to idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not your own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
American King James Version×, and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 14 Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×, and to pray about this. The farmer should ask God to guide and inspire the decision. It is good to back away from the situation at hand and honestly consider the question, “What am I responsible for before God?” Jesus gave the first and great commandment in Matthew 22:37 Matthew 22:37Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
American King James Version×by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
The United Church of God does not have an official policy regarding whether a Christian can participate in halal certification. Only the person knows his or her own conscience before God. We recommend researching the topic thoroughly.