Obsessing without understanding: trace elements in food and drinks

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Often taken as being a sign of religiosity, querying the nature of food and drinks seems to have become a peculiar feature of contemporary Muslim behaviour.  Some would argue that behaviour isn’t necessarily about a conscious adherence to the Sharī’ah rules, but rather borders upon obsessive behaviour.  A behaviour that isn’t grounded in a thorough understanding of the Sharī’ah rules, but one which falls back upon peer pressure; an over-cautiousness, and at times, a willingness to be taken in by hearsay.

At the extreme end, the obsession goes to the point where questioning another Muslim as to whether the food they eat is in fact lawful (alāl) becomes not only acceptable, but expected.  Shared messages, particularly on social media platforms, routinely declare various foodstuffs and drinks as being impermissible (arām) allegedly for containing certain trace elements.  Although the source of many such chain-messages lack veracity, not to mention are bereft of picture of burger and chips with a pink question mark in the middleany accompanying empirical evidence to substantiate the exaggerated claims, they seem to play upon the mind-set that has fostered this behaviour.

Yet there is a pressing need for sanity to return to this debate.  For an actual appreciation of the Sharī’ah rules and how they apply to products that contain trace elements of either alcohol or animals.  As is clearly outlined in the Qur’ānic injunction [4: 59], where differences arise, there must be recourse to Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him).

To try and help redress the balance on this, we present the summary findings and main conclusions from a detailed study, that was originally undertaken in April 2004 for a major pharmaceutical company, on this very topic.  Given the sheer size of the research findings, we have opted to present this short summary to begin with.  The total research contains a further seven-appendices and runs to several hundred pages in length.  It is our intention to publish this incrementally.  The summary refers to these various appendices which set out the exhaustive analysis of the Sharī’ah rules and evidences, as well as various laboratory experiments conducted as part of this study.

Permissibility-or-Impermissibility-of-Foods.pdf (1369 downloads )

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