What is “Halal?”

Halal is an Arabic word meaning permissible or lawful or allowed having to do with requirements for food which Muslims are allowed to eat. The examples of halal foods are fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, honey, nuts, legumes, milk (without fortified vitamins) from cows, goats, camels and sheep. The meat from Halal animals such as cattle, calves, sheep, goat, camel, deer and poultry are Halal after they are slaughtered according to Islamic law. This type of meat is called Zabiha meat.

What is “Haram”?
Haram is also an Arabic word meaning non-permissible or not allowed or unlawful. It is the opposite of Halal. The example of Haram food are pig/swine/pork/lard and its by-products, blood/blood by-products, reptile, crocodiles, turtles, carnivorous animals, insects and animals slaughtered in the name of any other than Allah (God), alcohol, alcoholic beverages and human hair by-products.

Why is Halal Certification Needed?
The Halal certification program helps Muslim consumers to comply with Islamic dietary requirements on a daily basis. The Islamic dietary requirement tells Muslims what is lawful and what is prohibited. Halal certified food products in supermarkets would fulfill these requirements.

There are 8 million Muslim consumers in United States and their numbers are growing every year. They need halal certified processed food products with halal symbol on the package in supermarkets so they do not have to worry about hidden ingredients in the food product. They need not call or write to food manufacturers about their products or go to supermarkets with fear of bringing the haram products home and to places of worship. A certain percentage of Muslim consumers do not shop at supermarkets because of this fear. Halal certified food products encourage Muslim consumers visit supermarkets and remove their fear about Haram food products.

Kosher is Not Always Halal
Not all kosher certified food products meet the Islamic dietary requirements concerning the presence of alcohol, wine, rum, rum flavor, L-cysteine from human hair, gelatin from pork, kosher gelatin and vanilla extracts in kosher certified food products. There is a difference of interpretation of kosher laws among kosher certifying organizations. So Muslim consumers need halal certified food products to avoid the above issues.

Muslim Consumer Group
The Muslim Consumer Group is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1993 as an educational organization for Muslims about Halal food products in supermarkets and to provide the service for Halal certification of food products.

This group was also organized to educate food companies about Islamic dietary requirements for halal food products. Our Halal symbol appeared on a few bakery products in supermarkets and currently appears internationally on many food ingredients.

Only those products are certified Halal when they meet the Islamic dietary requirements from raw material to finished products including processing, processing aid ingredients, packaging material and sanitary practices.

More information can be obtained from the Muslim Consumer Group. Our address is P.O. Box 8538 Rolling Meadows, IL 60008 or calling at 847-392-8960. web site www.Muslimconsumergroup.com

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Islam and Interest Free Loans

By Shira J. Boss

The Qur'an explicitly forbids “riba”, an Arabic word that Muslim jurists have defined as usury; it was banned to protect poorer classes from exploitive money lenders. But many observant Muslims and experts in Shariah, or Islamic law, do not agree whether that prohibition bans any interest at all or only excessive interest. “Shariah scholars have ruled both ways,” said Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and the King Faisal professor of Islamic thought and culture at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “It's been a persistent controversy.”

Because of that ambiguity, observant Muslims until fairly recently either financed their businesses and purchases in cash or agreed to pay and receive interest. Those who paid riba could invoke a necessity clause in the Qur'an; many who accepted it on savings would donate the interest earned to charity.

“It wasn't until the 1970's that this issue was even discussed, that there could be an Islamic, or interest-free, banking system,” said Mahmoud A. El-Gamal, a professor of Islamic economics, finance and management at Rice University in Houston. Many Muslims were simply paying and collecting interest “and not worrying about it,” he added.

A growing number of Muslims, however, are seeking an alternative that adheres to the stricter interpretation of Islamic law.

“In the United States, there is a larger degree of conservatism among American Muslims, so there is more demand for Islamic banking,” said Khaled Abou el Fadl, who teaches Islamic law at U.C.L.A.

One goal in Islamic finance is to have both partners of the bank and the buyer share equally in the risk of a transaction. Because Islamic banks invest with their customers rather than lend to them, the risk of losing principal is greater and there is no fixed rate of return. In some cases, such transactions amount to nothing more exotic than the sort of lease that is familiar to many Western car buyers: the finance company buys a car and lets the customer drive it in exchange for monthly payments over a fixed period. When the term is up, the customer can buy the used car at the market price or enter another lease.

For homes, however, different approaches are used. To conform to Shariah, homebuyers and finance companies effectively become partners, either through lease-purchase agreements that resemble conventional financing or through self-help groups that pool money from Muslim investors to help one another buy houses.

Under lease-purchase programs, for example, a home buyer and the finance company pool their money to buy a house. The home owner agrees to make monthly payments that are split between repaying the company its capital and paying a fair-market rent on the property. The rent is split between the buyer and the financial institution according to how much each has invested in the house.

If, for example, the finance company put up 70 percent of the purchase price, it would receive 70 percent of the rent that is the return on its investment. As the homebuyer repaid part of the capital each month, however, the institution's ownership stake in the house and, therefore, its percentage of the rent would decrease. Eventually, the homeowner would repay all the capital and the rent payments would cease.

At American Finance House-Lariba, an Islamic finance company in Pasadena, California, the lease-purchase program is similar in structure to a traditional mortgage so that a portion of each payment would qualify as tax deductible under the section of the tax code that covers interest payments. That allows Lariba to qualify for financing from Freddie Mac, the government-chartered private company that helps to finance home purchases.

Lariba is the first Islamic institution to receive Freddie Mac financing. It receives about 15 requests for loan applications every day, three times as many as last year, said M. Maguid Abdelaaty, the company's president.

“We're required to calculate the implied rate of return,” he said, adding that the financing structure his company uses eases customers' mind about paying interest, “but the documentation, the note and the mortgage forms are the same” as for loans.

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What Does Islam Mean?

The word ISLAM has a two-fold meaning: peace, and submission to God. This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to the one Almighty God. It is believed one must consciously and conscientiously give oneself to the service of Allah. This means to act on what Allah enjoins all of us to do (in the Qur'an) and what His beloved Prophet, Muhammad, encouraged us to do in his Sunnah (his lifestyle and sayings personifying the Qur'an).

It is believed once we humble ourselves, rid ourselves of our egoism and submit totally to Allah, and to Him exclusively, in faith and in action, we will surely feel peace in our hearts. Establishing peace in our hearts will bring about peace in our external conduct as well. Islam is careful to remind all that it is not a religion to be paid mere lip service; rather it is an all-encompassing way of life that must be practiced continuously for it to be Islam.

The Muslims must practice the five pillars of the religion:

  1. The declaration of faith in the oneness of Allah and the prophet hood of Muhammad,
  2. Prayer,
  3. Fasting the month of Ramadan,
  4. Alms-tax,
  5. The pilgrimage to Mecca;

and believe in the six articles of faith: belief in God, the Holy Books, the prophets, the angels, the Day of Judgment and God's decree, whether for good or ill.

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Islam: Beyond the Myth

By Nabil Maalej

Islam is one of the largest religions in the world, with an estimated one billion followers. Almost one in every five people is a Muslim. In the United States, the Muslim population is about 7 million, and is the fastest growing religion. Yet, there has been so much misinformation and prejudice about Islam and Muslims in the west, that a virtual wall has been built—like the Berlin Wall—to separate the people. The words Islam and Muslim are tagged with bad connotations and used in the most negative contexts. For instance, the August 30th, 1993 issue of Time magazine flashes the headline "ISLAM: Terror Strikes Again in Egypt." The caption under a bloody picture on the same page says: "ISLAM: A terrorist bomb bloodies a Cairo street." Like the Berlin Wall, this misinformation campaign can be dismantled by education, communication and mutual understanding between the peoples.
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"Like the Berlin Wall, this misinformation campaign can be dismantled..."

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The word "Islam" means both peace and submission. It means achieving peace through submission to God the creator and sustainer of the universe. The word "Allah" is the Arabic word for God, like "Dieu" is the word for God in French. The main article of faith in Islam is that there is only one God worthy of worship, and he has no partner or associates that share deity with him. God sends prophets and messengers to guide humanity to the true path of virtue and success in this life and hereafter.
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Among the great prophets are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed; may the peace and blessings of God be with all of them. They were chosen to be models of virtue and were supported with miracles and clear signs from God.

Islam encompasses all aspects of life of the individual and the group. God has laid down in his last and final revelation, the Koran, the basic principles and guidelines for society and individuals to live in the virtues of peace, freedom and justice. Prophet Mohammed and his teachings are another source of guidance and inspiration for the Muslims. He even taught his companions the etiquette of eating, sleeping and mating.
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Many of the stereotypes of Islam are about women. Surprisingly, in Islam, both Adam and Eve were equally blamed for eating from the forbidden tree. Both men and women are equally responsible in the sight of God, and educating oneself is an obligation for both men and women.

Women have full economic freedom and authority over their wealth. Khadija, the wife of prophet Mohammed, was a business woman until she hired him to manage her wealth and proposed to marry him. The prophet Mohammed said to his companions, "the best among you is the most compassionate to his family." In his last sermon to all Muslims he said, "Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers."

In Islam, like in all religions, aggression is prohibited. Prophet Mohammed ordered his companions not to cut a tree, hurt a woman or a child or an old man or an animal, and to fight only those who fight them.
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The mosque is always a visible focal point in every community.
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The fact that some Muslims do not abide by these guidelines does not make Islam or the whole Muslim community guilty. If these standards were to be applied to all, Christians and Christianity would have been blamed for the action of Jim Jones or David Koresh. A simple review of historical atrocities would show that the Muslims were not responsible for World War I, World War II, the holocaust, nuclear or biological warfare.

More recently, under the new world order, the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in Bosnia is taking place with the rest of civilization watching. Perhaps if everyone would try to understand all the people and their cultures we would realize that most of us strive for justice, freedom, independence and a better future. Given that belief, we would all be living in a better world.

Nabil Maalej is a Muslim who studied in Madison, Wisconsin as a doctoral student in medical physics. He is a Tunisian who is now located in Saudi Arabia.

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Understanding Ramadan

By Mourad Chaouch

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when “it is believed the Holy Quran was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation.”

It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation.

During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning.

According to the Holy Quran: “One may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night”

The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things — the telling of a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind his back, a false oath , and greed or covetousness
These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, it is common for Muslims to go to the Masjid (Mosque) and spend several hours praying and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan Muslims recite a special prayer called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer). The length of this prayer is usually 2-3 times as long as the daily prayers. Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.

On the evening of the 27th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. And according to the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year.

When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray in congregation and for large meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadan.

Mourad Chaouch is on the board of directors of the Habiba Chaouch Foundation

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The Myth of Islamic Holy War

EDITOR'S NOTE: Studies show that the less people knew about the Arab world, the more likely they were to approve of military action in that area. Vincent Kavaloski of the former Ecumenical Partnership for Peace and Justice (Wisconsin) confronted that lack of knowledge in an article which sheds light on the myths. A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 1991 issue of Metanoia, the partnership's newsletter. "The Myth of the Islamic Holy War" is examined.

“Jihad” is usually mistranslated from Arabic as “holy war.” Yet it literally means “striving.” There is a “jihad” of preaching and persuasion, a “jihad” of the “heart” and “hand,” as well as a “jihad” of the sword. Moreover, the Qur’an, the Islamic Holy Book, puts strict limits even on the “jihad” of the sword. It cannot be waged against believers, or for political or territorial gain, but only in defense of Islam. This is why the overwhelming majority of Muslim jurists and clerics rejected Saddam Hussein's call for a “jihad” against Israel and the U.S.
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Badshah Khan, often called the “Islamic Gandhi,” claimed that “Islam” actually meant “submission to the peace of Allah,” and that active nonviolence was “the weapon of the prophet.” Tens of thousands of Muslims followed him in the pledge of lifelong nonviolence in the 1920’s and 30’s, according to Khan's biographer Eknath Easuaran (author of A Man to Match His Mountain: Badshah Khan, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam, Nilgiri Press, 1984, p. 117).
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"Islam actually meant 'submission to the peace of Allah' ...nonviolence was the weapon of the prophet."
There is in the Qur'an, as in the Christian and Jewish holy books, the source of a genuine peace tradition, as in Book II, 205: “And when he turns his back on peace, he runs along in the land that he may cause mischief in it and destroy the tilth and the stock, and Allah does not love mischief-making.”

A skeptic might well point to the Arab conquest of North Africa and the Middle East in the 7th and 8th centuries as fueled by religious passion. But one must also keep in mind that Muslim rule, tempered by the Qur’an’s emphasis on acceptance of Jews and Christians as fellow “people of the Book,” was “on the whole, one of tolerance, not religious persecution,” according to Ferguson's War and Peace in the World’s Religions (Abingdon, 1960, p. 127). Ferguson shows that virtually all major world religions embody both a war and a peace tradition, and most contain some concept of holy war.

It is also good to keep in mind the long history of war (including the two greatest wars of history) occurring in Christiandom, in order to avoid double standards of judgment about “violent Islam” versus “peaceful Christianity.” When Raymond of Agiles “liberated” Jerusalem on the First Crusade in 1099 he rejoiced that “men rode in blood up to their knees...it was a just and splendid judgment of God, that this place should be filled with blood of unbelievers.” (From Roland Bainton, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace, Abingdon, 1960, p. 113).

While Americans remain fixated on their version of “jihad,” how many know of the peaceful Arab Golden Age, when Baghdad (recently bombed back to “pre-industrial levels”) was the scientific and philosophical capital of the world? As Professor Desmond Steward argues in Early Islam (Time-Life, 1967, p. 121), “Between the 9th and 14th centuries, Muslim chemists, physicians, astronomers, mathematicians, geographers, and others not only kept alive the disciplines of Greek science, but extended their range, laying and strengthening the foundations on which much of modern science is built.” How many are aware of the great Muslim contributions to civilization: algebra, Arabic numerals and phonetics, the concept of zero, etc.? How many are even aware that four-fifths of all Muslims are not Arab, the majority living in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan?

Many of the stereotypes of Islam are about women. Surprisingly, in Islam, both Adam and Eve were equally blamed for eating from the forbidden tree. Both men and women are equally responsible in the sight of God, and educating oneself is an obligation for both men and women.

Women have full economic freedom and authority over their wealth. Khadija, the wife of prophet Mohammed, was a business woman until she hired him to manage her wealth and proposed to marry him. The prophet Mohammed said to his companions, “the best among you is the most compassionate to his family.” In his last sermon to all Muslims he said, “Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

In Islam, like in all religions, aggression is prohibited. Prophet Mohammed ordered his companions not to cut a tree, hurt a woman or a child or an old man or an animal, and to fight only those who fight them.I

The mosque is always a visible focal point in every community.
I

The fact that some Muslims do not abide by these guidelines does not make Islam or the whole Muslim community guilty. If these standards were to be applied to all, Christians and Christianity would have been blamed for the action of Jim Jones or David Koresh. A simple review of historical atrocities would show that the Muslims were not responsible for World War I, World War II, the holocaust, nuclear or biological warfare.

More recently, under the new world order, the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in Bosnia is taking place with the rest of civilization watching. Perhaps if everyone would try to understand all the people and their cultures we would realize that most of us strive for justice, freedom, independence and a better future. Given that belief, we would all be living in a better world.

Nabil Maalej is a Muslim who worships at the Madison, Wisconsin mosque. Maalej is a doctoral student in medical physics. He is a Tunisian who will return to his country at the end of his studies.

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