|Products considered kosher are typically marked with one of the many designating kosher symbols.|
Creating a successful kosher and/or halal dining area is no easy feat. Despite some similarities between the two diets, the differences generally force the kosher and halal ingredients to remain completely separate from each other, and from most other cuisine.
Kashrut—or "keeping kosher"— is the name of the Jewish dietary laws. Foods are kosher when they meet all criteria that Jewish dietary law applies. Invalidating characteristics may range from the presence of a mixture of meat and dairy to the use of cooking utensils which had previously been used for nonkosher food.
Halal is an Arabic word meaning "lawful" or "permitted". The opposite of halal is haram, which means "unlawful" or "prohibited." Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life for Muslims. In America, these terms are most commonly used in the narrower context of food products, meat products, food ingredients, and food contact materials.
There are some similarities between the two dietary laws. Both forbid all pork products, both prescribe certain methods for slaughtering, and both forbid the consumption of blood.
Although the details of kashrut are extensive, the laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:
- Certain creatures (camels, rock badgers, hares, pigs, birds of prey or scavengers, insects, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and shellfish) may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of these creatures.
- Of animals that may be eaten, birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
- All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
- Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
- Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat.)
- Utensils that have come in contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.
- Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.
In order to meet kosher standards and receive the kosher seal, food is typically prepared under a rabbi's supervision. In addition to the kinds of animals considered kosher, the laws also decree that animals be fed organically grown food and killed in the most humane manner possible.
The task of keeping kosher is greatly simplified by widespread kashrut certification. Products that have been certified as kosher are labeled with a mark called a hekhsher that identifies the rabbi or organization that certified the product.
Kosher Quest (www.kosherquest.org) has a searchable database of kosher products as well as an extensive list of reliable kosher symbols. For more information about kashrut, check out The Orthodox Union at www.oukosher.org or the Star-K Kosher Certification organization at www.star-k.org
While many things are clearly halal or haram, there is always room for confusion. Items considered questionable are referred to as mashbooh, which means "doubtful" or "questionable." More information is needed to categorize these items.
All foods are considered halal except the following, which are haram:
- Swine/pork and its by-products
- Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
- Animals killed in the name of anyone other than Allah (God)
- Alcohol and intoxicants
- Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears
- blood and blood by-products
- Foods contaminated with any of the above products
Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, etc. are questionable (Mashbooh) because the origin of these ingredients is not known.
These Islamic dietary laws are defined in the Holy Quran (the revealed book), the Hadith (sayings of the last Prophet, Muhammad) and in the fiqh (jurisprudence) of the Muslim Jurists: Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki and Hanbali.
For more information on the Islamic dietary laws visit: http://www.ifanca.org/index.php
Salient Differences between Halal and Kosher
First and foremost, kosher and halal are different entities carrying a different meaning and spirit. Halal is a term that refers to all matters of life. Kosher is a term associated only with food. It has a similar meaning as halal does in the context of food, yet differences abound.
When it comes to meat and poultry, Muslims use the term zabiha to refer to meat from a halal animal slaughtered by a Muslim in the prescribed Islamic way. Kosher practice does not require Jews to pronounce the name of God in the course of animal slaughter, while Muslims must pronounce the name of Allah during such practices. The hindquarters of the animal are unacceptable under strict kosher dietary restrictions, but acceptable for those eating halal.
Many Jews consider gelatin kosher. However, for Muslims gelatin is prohibited unless it is prepared from zabiha. Therefore, foods—such as marshmallows and yogurt—showing kosher symbols are not always halal.
Cheese must be produced from the stomach enzymes of kosher animals to be acceptable to kosher eaters while halal cheeses must be produced from the enzymes of halal animals.
Halal prohibits all intoxicating alcohol, liquors, wines and drugs, whereas Judaism regards wines as kosher. Hence kosher foods may contain alcohol and are haram.
During Passover, there are additional dietary restrictions for kosher eaters, whereas the same rules apply all the time for Muslims.
If a product is kosher certified, it does not mean that the product is automatically halal. Oftentimes, when halal foods are not available, kosher certification can be used as a tool for eating halal.