By Saif Alam Siddiqui
Consumption of alcoholic drinks and other intoxicants is prohibited according to the Quran, as follows:
O you who believe! Strong drinks and games of chance, and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that you may prosper. Quran (5:90–91)
Only would Satan show hatred and strife among you, by alcohol, and games of chance, and turn you aside from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: Will you not, therefore, abstain from them? The Arabic term used for alcohol in the Quran is khemr, meaning that which has been fermented, and applies not only to alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, whiskey and brandy, but to all things that intoxicate or affect one’s thought processes. Although added alcohol is prohibited in any beverages, like soft drinks, a small amount of alcohol contributed from food ingredients may by considered an impurity and hence ignored. Synthetic or grain alcohol is permitted in food processing for extraction, precipitation, dissolving and other reasons, provided the amount of alcohol remaining in the final product is very small, generally below 0.1%. However, each importing country may have its own guidelines which must be understood by the exporters and strictly followed.
HALAL COOKING, FOOD PROCESSING AND SANITATION
There are no restrictions about cooking in Islam, as long as the kitchen is free from haram foods and ingredients. For example, there is no need to keep two sets of utensils, one for meat and the other for dairy, as in kosher food preparation. Alcohol may not be used, even in cooking. In food companies, haram materials should be kept segregated from Halal materials. The equipment used for non Halal products has to be thoroughly cleaned using proper techniques with acids, bases, detergents and hot water. As a general rule, kosher clean-up procedures would be adequate for Halal. If the equipment is used for haram products, it must be properly cleaned, sometimes by using an abrasive material, and then be blessed by a Muslim inspector who rinses it with hot water seven times.