“These weird Muslims with their weird vocabulary and their weird spells. What do they mean with food needs to be halal? What the heck is halal? What is this odd-looking green logo with the Arabic thingy? Is it like a seal for ninjas and they will summon something? And where can these Muslims replenish their thirst for halal food? Can’t we try this magical food too?” (日本語で。 ハラールは説明した。 これをクリックしてください。)
Obviously, I am exaggerating the reactions and questions that I receive from my friends and acquaintances regarding halal food. But it is not far from the truth. Halal food sounds odd to the average person. I receive many questions from my Asian friends regarding halal food, what it is, what it means. I also receive many questions from prospective Muslim students who would like to know where they could buy halal food. At first, I wanted to cover these questions in my FAQ, but this topic is quite delicate and important to me so, therefore, I will spend a blog post on this. This blog is a two-parter; the first part discusses what halal means and the second part goes over the halal food in Beppu and in Japan.
What does halal mean?
Halal is an Arabic word which means allowed, permissible or legal. When we talk about halal food, we mean food that is permissible by the standard of the Islamic religion. Our religion puts hygiene standards very high. Hygiene means good physical health and good mental health which allows us to practice our religion. Without good health, we are not able to pray five times a day, and our primary objective in life is to pray to God. In order, to remain healthy, the religion dictates what is good for us and what is not.
In order to know what is good for us, which is quite an endless list, we need to know what is not good for us, this list is concise. In Islam, some food and drinks are forbidden to us. The opposite of halal is haram. This means forbidden, not permissible or illegal. The things that are absolutely haram (forbidden) are alcohol and pork. We, mankind, tend to try to find loopholes to justify certain things. For alcohol and pork, this is absolutely not possible. Anything that contains alcohol or pork is by default haram and cannot be consumed ever. In Arabic, we say: “Alcohol is the mother of all Fitna (chaos).” The real reason for alcohol being forbidden is health reasons. Alcohol is a poison, and it kills the body. Furthermore, as a Muslim, one needs to stay rational at all times. Alcohol does not allow this.
Pork is forbidden because pig and swine are filthy animals that would eat anything and everything and its conditions are filthy too. If one would give a dead human body to a pig, it will devour literally everything. Both alcohol and pork have been proven as harmful by today’s medical science.
So, the ones mentioned above are zettai dame (absolutely no-go). This is quite easy to understand and easy to live without. Now we enter the tricky part, which is food that is halal and can be simultaneously not halal.
Maybe halal, maybe haram.
All other meat, such as chicken, beef, sheep, horse, camel, and others, are halal to eat; however, it comes with a significant ruling. The animals just mentioned, can only be consumed if they are prepared halal. So the animals are halal, unlike the pig and swine, but the meat is not halal yet. What makes, e.g., chicken meat halal? The meat is only halal when a Muslim person, someone with good faith in Islam, does a small dua (prayer if you would like), cuts the throat of the said chicken with a sharp knife in a quick manner, the animal should not be stressed prior to the slaughter, and after the cut put upside down so it can bleed out. If all the requirements are fulfilled, then the meat is halal. Everyone, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, is allowed to eat halal food.
Why is it done in this manner? In Islam, we believe that all the bad things are inside the blood. The veins in the neck gush out all the bad blood, which makes the meat of the animal not harmful for us. Yes, drinking or eating the blood of any animal is therefore also haram.
There is another ruling regarding other animals. Basically, the animals above are more or less farm animals, and they are halal. The animals that are forbidden for us to eat are animals with fangs and claws. Animals with fangs are, e.g., snakes, wolves, dogs, lions, and etc. Animals with claws are hawks, eagles, bears, squirrels, cats, lizards, and etc. These animals are carnivores, and their meat is also haram. Even if they were slaughtered in a halal way, their meat is not permissible either way.
This is a Muslim’s best friend. In the Islamic ruling, all the fish that are from the sea are halal. So, when offered fish, a Muslim can always eat it. Of course, it cannot be cooked with alcohol or offered with haram food. If any halal food comes in contact with something haram, e.g. alcohol, it becomes haram to eat it. There are some Islamic schools of thought who are arguing that some seafood is not permissible such as sea urchins, or shrimps. But that is another topic. Basically, everything that comes from the sea is halal. When a Muslim is in doubt whether he can eat something or not, he/she can always resort to seafood. Safest choice.
Vegetables and fruits
All vegetables and fruit are halal. Of course, if it comes in contact with haram, the vegetables and fruits become haram too. A salad with chicken that is not halal makes the entire salad haram. Picking out the chicken does not make the salad halal. It came in touch with the haram, and therefore cannot be consumed.
Part two: Is Beppu a Muslim-friendly city?
First and foremost, Japan is not a Muslim country. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and the Dutch people eat pork, but I have never seen so much pork in my life as in Japan. Not just pork, but any animal meat in particular. Meat is provided everywhere and with their written Japanese ‘alphabet’, it is challenging to eat halal food in Japan. I will admit, I had made lots of mistakes when I came to Japan, as I was not able to read all the kanji. Of course, in Islam, when one did not know if it was halal or haram, but did try to his best abilities to investigate, but eats something haram in the end, this person will not be held accountable. However, when the person understands all the kanji and knows something is haram, then the person is held accountable.
You are probably reading this and thinking: “Well, in that case, I never learn Japanese so I can eat anything ignorantly.” Nope, it is the task of the Muslim to expand his knowledge and to learn more about the things that could harm him. If one chooses to remain ignorant, that person will be held accountable.
Therefore, I take it up to me to educate you about the kanji and katakana that are haram for you:
Source: HIJ Blog
“No. = Japanese Reading = Meaning
- 豚肉 – ポーク = Butaniku – Pooku = Pork
- 牛肉 – ビーフ = Gyuuniku – Biifu = Beef
- 鶏肉 – チキン = Toriniku – Chikin = Chicken
- (No. 1~3) + エキス = (No. 1~3) + Ekisu = (No. 1~3) + Extract
- 豚脂 = Tonshi = Pork Fat
- ラード = Raado = Lard
- 牛脂 = Gyuushi = Beef Fat
- 動物性油脂 = Doubutsusei-yushi = Animal Fat
- 加工油脂 = Kakou-yushi = Processed Fat
- 混合油脂 = Kongou-yushi = Mixed Fat
- コンソメ = Konsome = Consommé (soup)
- コンソメパウダー = Konsome Paudaa = Consommé Powder
- ゼラチン = Zerachin = Gelatine
- アルコール = Arukooru = Alcohol
- 酒 = Sake = Sake (alcohol)
- 洋酒 = Youshu = Western Liquor
- 酒精 = Shusei = Ethyl Alcohol
- 味醂 / みりん = Mirin = Mirin (alcohol)
- ラム酒 = Ramu-shu = Rum
- ワイン = Wain = Wine
- ブランディ = Burandi = Brandy
- ウィスキー = Uisukii = Whiskey”
Source: Halal Guide
“Substances that may be Halal or Haram:
乳化 剤 – Emulsifier
シ ョ ー ト ニ ン グ – Shortening
マ ー ガ リ ン – Margarine
油脂 – Oil and Fats”
It is advisable to learn the kanji and katakana of these readings. It will make your life in Japan more comfortable. I wish I knew them before I came here… May God forgive me :p.
OMG, where CAN I buy halal food?
Don’t you worry. Alhamdulillah, Beppu, unlike many other cities in Japan, is quite Muslim friendly, and its friendliness is growing. APU has attracted many Muslims from all around the globe, and they are a big chunk of APU’s society. Beppu’s shops have identified this market and adjusted some of their items to sell halal certified food. It is still not much, but Alhamdulillah it is available nonetheless. I will not go too much in details on all the halal food they sell, but below the list of all the shops that sell halal food:
A-Price (supermarket with items from all around the globe)
The Mosque at Mochigahama
And since recently: Hirose (supermarket)
I advise you to download an app called ‘Halal Navi.‘ With this app, you can look up at the places that are halal near you. This app can be used anywhere! iPhone app and Android app. The shops above sell halal meat and whatnot. The halal items can all be identified with a certification logo which you can find below:
This app also helped me in finding halal food outside of Beppu. When I was traveling with my friends in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, I used this app and was able to locate the halal food. We even found a 100% halal yakiniku (BBQ) place in Kyoto. I was relieved as I was finally able to eat yakiniku in Japan!
“But I need to survive.”
There is something that pains me a lot, and it is not limited to Beppu only, but this excuse can be found worldwide, especially in non-Muslim countries. It might feel like I am preaching here, but I need to get it off my chest, so please bear with me. Let me start with saying that I am not your father, brother, uncle, grandfather, neighbour, halal police, or whatever. I believe that everyone has a choice and you, and only you are responsible for what you do with your life. You cannot blame it anyone else but yourself. I cannot dictate you anything, but since I have been writing this blog post, it is my religious obligation to educate you. What you do with this information is between you and your Creator.
For those who do not know, there is an Islamic ruling that does allow a Muslim to eat a pig. “NANDAKORE?!? Didn’t you just say it is Zettai Dame?!” Yes, I did say that, and the rule remains unchanged. However, if someone is in a place where there is literally nothing to eat, and this person’s life is threatened by starvation, and the only thing this person can find is a swine or a pig, God makes it mandatory for you to kill the pig/swine and eat it. “How come God forces one to eat a pig?” God has given us the most priceless thing there is, and we should take the utmost care of it which is: Life. Our very existence is an act of mercy. When the person is almost dying, and the only thing that one can eat is haram food, that person is obligated to eat it to preserve life.
Now we come to the excuse that I hear most of the time. Lots of my Muslim friends, whether it is in Beppu or anywhere else, eat haram chicken, beef, and whatnot. Because halal food is quite limited in Japan, they go for stuff that is haram and use the excuse: “I need to survive.” Indeed, we all need to survive, but one’s life is not under threat in Japan. In fact, food is in abundance here in Japan, food is thrown out too often. Fruits and vegetables, fish, seafood, and anything else is available, and the only few things one can go without is meat, but yet some Muslim brothers and sisters resort to haram meat and rationalise their decision. Halal food is available, but limited and the shops are sometimes far away. But the meat is not expensive at all! It is merely uncooked, and far away, sometimes even cheaper than haram meat!
I would like to pose a question to my Muslim brothers and sisters whether they would dare to try to say to God on the day of resurrection that they needed the haram meat to “survive” in a country like Japan. It is an absolute insult to Him, as they have forgotten 1 of the 99 names God has which is Ar-Razzaq (The Sustainer). He is the sustainer of the heavens and the earth. He provides you with all the food that is permissible. The vast majority of the food is halal for us, and a few are haram. We say the sentence Ar-Rahman (The Most Gracious) and Ar-Raheem (The Most Merciful) five times a day. Someone who is neither gracious nor merciful would not sustain you. And yet here we are in the Land of the Rising Sun, with an abundance of food and you dare to say “I need to survive”? This sentence cannot stand ground, and I would beg my brothers and sisters to reconsider that excuse they have been using.
I hope my words are not too harsh, and I hope that my readers don’t take things too personally. I understand why some brothers and sisters eat the meat that is haram. Most of the Muslim students at APU are from Islamic countries, and the food provided there is always halal. You don’t need to read the ingredients or ask the seller if it is halal or not. Everything is halal, you buy it, and you eat it. But I have faith in my brothers and sisters all around the world. Insha’Allah (By God’s will) there will be only Khair (Great rewards). I know this is merely a chapter in our lives and we are all being tested. Sometimes we need someone who would wake us up so we can find our way back to Sirat-al-Mustaqim (the righteous path).
I hope this blog post was insightful for those who are interested in the definition of halal, and insightful for those who want to know where all the halal food is available. As always, thank you for reading!