Halal, Haram, and Negis
If you walk at random in a Muslim district in the West, especially in Western Europe, you will certainly find somewhere, at least in one corner, an Islamic butcher’s shop with the word “halal” written on its shop-window. For the products of meat, the word “halal” is a badge of Islamic quality.
Muslims believe that since blood is not ritually a pure substance, slaughter is necessary to promote the thorough draining of all of the animal’s blood. Furthermore, the verse “Bismillah al Rahman Al Rahim”, in the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful, is necessary to render the meat halal or lawful to eat.
The word halal refers, here, to meat killed and prepared in line with Islamic dietary laws. Jewish and Islamic religions require slaughter to be carried out with a cut to the neck or throat, rather than the more widespread method of stunning with a bolt into the head before slaughter.
Generally, halal means anything permissible under Islamic law, in contrast to haram, that which is forbidden. This includes behaviour, speech, dress, conduct. The term halal is also used to judge the right of sexuality after marriage, even temporary marriage, that is a Shiite tradition called “Sigheh,” which is blamed by other sects of Islam as a “legalised” prostitution. Vaginal intercourse or rape by a man of his female slave, a married woman whose husband has been killed by Muslim invaders, and a non-Muslim prisoner of war is halal — in this light, many political female prisoners of the Islamic Republic of Iran who were considered “non-Muslims” were” legally” raped by their guards before being executed.
In an extended sense, halal means fairness of business dealing or other types of transaction or activity. Therefore, it represents values that are held in high regard by Muslims. It contains standards for social norms, morals, foods and other services that meet Islamic regulations. Needless to say, in Islamic countries, these are the only available standards for Muslims and non-Muslim minorities alike.
Slaughter is an old tradition of Jewish and Islamic clan society. As a matter of best practice, the killed animal is supposed to be distributed among the members of the clan right after being slaughtered so that each family can have fresh meat to eat. Like many other traditions, this one was also taken over by Islam.
Halal bloodshed can be also a reason for honour killing in Islamic societies. Honour killing is committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family. A female can be targeted by her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, having sex outside marriage, or even being the victim of rape.
Halal has nothing to do with prophylactic, hygienic, precautions or medical meaning. To better understand halal, we must see what its opposite term “haram” means. Haram has roots in revulsion which is an old instinct of evolution. Revulsion is a sense of loathing without any logical reason or clear explanation. As an instinct, it was a necessary reaction of early human beings when exposed to an unknown food, unknown object, or an unconventional situation.
The object of revulsion is culturally conditioned. It means whatever is repulsive for the members of a given society do not necessarily provoke the same revulsion for others. In a historical sense, the terms like halal and haram are nothing but the instinctive reflections which were integrated into Islam. In many cases, Islamic commandments and rituals are not only the traditional reflections of desert dwellers of pre-Islamic Arabia, but also based on the Prophet Muhammad’s habits, his sexual preferences, his favourite things, and his dietary habits.
Since sexuality is taboo in Islam, sexual organs, vaginal secretion and sperm are considered as “negis” (loathsome and impure). Therefore, they should not be touched – if they are unintentionally touched, ceremonial washing and rituals must be done. Not only urine and excrement of human and carnivores, but also blood and any slimy substance secreted by a mucous membrane of the body have more or less a similar sense of negis. Needless to say, all these secreted or mucous substances, regardless of their odour and colour, belong to healthy functions of our bodies.
Not only non Muslims, ethnic groups, slaves and women, but even animals in Islam are not free from this discrimination. Dogs and pigs are the most negis animals. Term of “negis” characterises their absolute and unchangeable impurity. Pork meat and alcoholic drinks are absolutely haram. The dog as a “negis” animal can never be proper pet in a Muslim house. Touching a dog, especially a dog’s saliva, requires ritually hygienic procedure to get the hand clean — if a dog eats from a dish, the dish must be ceremonially washed seven times, the first time with sand. The dog, despite all its uses in many ways and its irrefutable faith in its master, is discriminated as a negis creature.
While marriage of Muslim men with women of the Book (Muslims, Christians and Jews), based on Islamic rituals, can be permitted, all other varieties of marriage between Muslim women and non- Muslim men are considered haram. As a patriarchal religion, Islam granted a concession only to Muslim men. Muslim women are not allowed to marry men outside of Islam (unless they convert to Islam). No marriage is permitted between Muslims and “Mushriks” (atheists, polytheists, other members of belief systems which are considered by Muslims negis). The Koran says, “A believing slave woman is better than a mushrik woman”!
As mentioned, terms like halal, haram, and negis are not more than rituals of particular conditions and environment. These terms have no logic and scientific credentials at all. They are only the legacy of per-Islamic values of the Arabian clan- society which still impose themselves on today’s society.
About the Author
Jahanshah Rashidian is an Iranian-born German writer in several languages.