A note on Islamic soul food – just what does <i>halal</i> mean?
Halal is an Arabic word that simply means ‘permissible’, similar to the Yiddish ‘kosher’, meaning fit for consumption in accordance with religious law. Although the concept of halal supervises many aspects of daily life for Muslims, the term is most often connected to food and drink, indicating what is allowed to be consumed as opposed to what is forbidden (‘haram’), or that a given food product has been processed, handled, and prepared appropriately. Halal meat, notably, must be slaughtered by a Muslim. The animal, while it can be stunned, must be slaughtered by having its throat cut with a sharp blade; it cannot be killed by a violent blow or by other methods. Animals that have been killed by another animal or died naturally, i.e. carrion, are not to be consumed. Meat carcasses are then hung and drained of blood. In addition, the carcass must be aligned with the ‘qibla’, the direction of Mecca, and the prayer 'bismillah' ('in the name of God') must be spoken, expressing humility and gratitude for the taking of a life in return for sustenance.