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Khaleejtimes International

Why water is halal-certified in some countries

For the past few days, Oreo cookies being halal or not had set social media on fire – but the debate has now spilled over to whether water is halal or not.

A Twitter user asked a top bottled water company if its water was halal-certified and the answer was ‘no’. The debate continued with questions such as “How can water not be halal?” and comments like “Not that water is halal or haram because water is water”.

But yes, some countries do require their bottled water to be halal-certified, not because of the product but because of the filteration process it undergoes.

And the UAE is not among those countries. However, some of the carbonated drinks consumed here have the halal certificate.

The halal question is very pertinent to Muslims, wherever they are in the world.

But halal is more than just ensuring the specific manner of slaughtering animals for meat consumption, avoiding pork and bovine-based products, and abstaining from drinking alcohol.

The halal market is now a multiple-trillion-dollar global industry across multiple clusters, including cosmetics, halal tourism, modest fashion, Islamic finances, pharmaceuticals and more.

To understand the dynamics behind the growth of the halal ecology, we first need to look at what halal really means. In the Arabic language, the root meaning of “halal” simply means “according to religious law”.

The religious law of Islam applies to all areas of a Muslim’s life. It is not restricted simply to the food items that are religiously permissible to eat. The guidelines of what is religiously permissible in Islam encompasses the entire lifestyle, from how a Muslim dresses to how they earn money.

Why certify water?

So why does water need halal certification – if it’s just simple, plain water?

According to Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimee, director of the Department of Islamic Development’s Halal Hub Division in Malaysia, the world’s biggest halal certification body, the certification is for the process and not for the product.

“The best water filters are made of pig bones,” he said. “Water filteration units use products that are not halal, so before we give a certificate, we inspect all these.”

The UAE’s Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma) has a special Emirati system for the control of products with the ‘halal’ mark.

The body has some 34 food and beverage products, including some carbonated drinks, registered under its Halal certification, but water is not on the list. However, a number of halal certification bodies from all over the world are registered and recognised by the UAE.

As a growing number of affluent Muslims search for products and services that can serve all areas of their lives in the halal manner, the halal market – which once primarily focused on food and beverage – has mushroomed into an ecology of halal clusters that also include pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, logistics, finance, e-commerce, and tourism, to name a few.

Halal coconuts

Again, why would coconut – a natural product – need a certification?

Joe Ling, managing director of the Malaysian company Linaco that produces halal-certified coconut products, explained: “Halal means hygienic . it’s more than a religious process and includes the handling as well”.

Likewise, for many of us who love to eat McDonald’s and think it is halal across the world – that’s not the case unless the specific country requires a halal certification. In the GCC, the fast food chain’s burger and the products that go into its making are halal.

Religious guidelines on the consumption of food without halal ingredients are very clear.

The Grand Mufti of Dubai, Dr Ahmad Al Haddad, said that if anyone finds out that he or she is consuming food that does not have halal ingredients, the person has to throw it up immediately.

“If he or she cannot vomit that non-halal food, the person should seek forgiveness from Almighty Allah.”

The case is different if someone discovers they have long been eating some food with non-halal ingredients.

“They must stop eating that food which does not have halal ingredients, and also seek forgiveness from Almighty Allah,” he added.

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com

What is halal?

According to the Dubai-based International Halal Accreditation Forum (Ihaf), ‘halal’ is “a way of life and choosing halal is choosing right over wrong”.

Arising from core Islamic principles and teachings, halal is an Arabic word that means ‘permissible’ or ‘according to religious law’.

What makes food and drinks halal?

> In general, every food is considered halal in Islam, unless it is prohibited by the holy Quran

> Must come from livestock that has been well taken care of and slaughtered in a humane manner (Islamic guidelines must be followed in slaughterhouses)

> All its animal-based ingredients must also be halal

> Must be prepared and handled using tools and equipment that are halal

(For example, using ‘pig bones’ in a water filter, makes the purified water haram)

Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.



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