As Christians, should we steer clear of “halal” meat, considering that part of the preparation of this meat includes invoking Allah?
James F. Pope
“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning “permissible.” Halal meat comes from animals that have been slaughtered in keeping with Islamic laws of the Qur’an. Included in the slaughtering process is a ritual with prayer to Allah or at least the mention of his name. As the Bible addressed a situation like this in the past, your question illustrates the truth of wise King Solomon’s words: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
A BIBLICAL PARALLEL
The scene is Corinth, Greece. The date is A.D. 50. Two Christians are standing in the marketplace eyeing meat that is available for sale. The grade is good, the price is right, but there’s one potential catch: the meat was involved in idolatrous worship practices. One Christian says, “I could never buy or eat that meat considering it is associated with pagan practices. That would be wrong.” The other Christian responds, “As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing unacceptable about that meat.” Two Christians with differing opinions about something the Bible neither commands nor forbids.
When I mentioned your question to a couple of friends, I received reactions similar to those two Christians in Corinth:
● “I could never buy or eat meat from animals that had been slaughtered as Allah’s name was being invoked.”
● “I don’t have any problem with buying or eating that meat.”
Who was right in Corinth? Who is right today?
IDENTICAL BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
The apostle Paul addressed the situation in Corinth by reminding those Christians that there is only one God—the God of the Bible, the triune God: “We know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that ‘There is no God but one’ ” (1 Corinthians 8:4). The food that had been sacrificed to idols was perfectly fine because, as the apostle pointed out, idols do not exist.
“But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled” (1 Corinthians 8:7). If Corinthian Christians believed it was wrong for them to eat meat that had been associated with idolatrous worship practices, then it was wrong for them. Paul reminded the Christians in Rome of the same truth: “But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean” (Romans 14:14).
On the other hand, a Christian in Corinth who recognized the freedom to buy and eat meat associated with idolatrous worship practices could have consumed that product without sinning. At the same time, that Christian would have wanted to exercise that freedom with a loving eye toward fellow Christians whose consciences were guiding them in a different direction. This is where the apostle’s instruction came into play: “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
So what about halal meat? Slaughtering animals in the name of a nonexistent Islamic god does not spiritually contaminate the meat. Buying or eating such meat is a matter of conscience. And, as was the case in Corinth, Christians will refrain from condemning those who have a different opinion.
Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.
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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016
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