The Love to visit distant and beautiful places is deep rooted in our nature. It has been with us since we checked into this world and so will it remain till we will check out from here. To many, it is hard to resist the temptation of visiting tourist destinations, enjoying a cool time with our dear ones, seeing the beautiful surroundings, and savoring the yummy cuisines. The outstanding development in the communications and transportation industry has intensified our desire to travel abroad for business or recreational purposes. Being Muslims, we sincerely try to remain obedient to Allaah and His Rasool, whether we live at home or stay abroad, travel to a Muslim country or to a non-Muslim one. This obligation can cause committed Muslim travelers and holidaymakers to face few concerns. The top most among them is the availability of Halaal food.
Describing its Islamic significance, the religious scholars have written that the acceptance of our Du’aas, greatly depends on eating Halaal food. Their statement is well supported by the saying of Rasoolullaah (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), who used to teach:
“Indeed, Allaah is pure and He accepts only what is pure…Then towards the end of this Hadees Shareef, he made mention of a man who travels to a remote sacred place. Facing numerous hurdles on the way, he reaches there in a messy and shabby state. Having reached there, he spreads his hands towards the sky, praying, “O my lord, O my lord”. But, his food is Haraam, his drink is Haraam, his clothes are Haraam and he has been nourished with Haraam. So, how will his Du’a be accepted?”(1)
Rasool-e-Akram (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) used to further warn Muslims, who do not mind eating Haraam food:
“…..that body will not enter Paradise which has been nourished with Haraam food and indeed Hellfire is the proper place for it”(2)
It was this extra ordinary significance of eating Halaal food that the noble Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) never intentionally took a Haraam morsel throughout his blessed life. Once, a Companion gave him a bag of dates, requesting him to spend them in charity on his behalf. While going to sleep, he saw a date near his pillow. He ate it and lay down. Soon, he realized that the date eaten by him “might have” fallen from the bag of charity dates. He got so deeply disturbed with this thought that he could not properly sleep the whole night.(3) It was not confirmed that the date (he ate in semi sleepy condition) was Haraam for him and certainly there was no intention involved to eat Haraam morsel, still he was so deeply worried that he could not sleep the whole night. Under this context, it is so sad to see some of his travelling followers, carelessly eating whatever new dishes they find appealing and scrumptious. May Allaah give them Hidaayah to take a lesson from the examples of their beloved Nabee, Aameen!
Anyway, I was discussing some Halaal food concerns that Muslims, who travel abroad, face. Many times, availability of such food, can be quite difficult especially when they dine out and like to enjoy non vegetarian eats. The religious scholars allow us to consume such food, provided we ask the hotel staff about its Halaal certificate. If we feel shy of asking them about it, we should feel equally shy of taking the risk of violating Allaah’s rule. On our investigation, if we find that such a non vegetarian food is NOT properly certified by a reputed and reliable Halaal certifying agency, we must avoid it. When a Brahmin Hindu can avoid all non vegetarian food throughout his life, just to please his lord and Bhagwaan, can we not avoid it to please our Lord, Allaah.
Addressing similar Muslims, He has remarked in the noble Qur’aan:
“They did not respect Allaah in the way, which suits His majesty”.(4)
Praise be to Allaah who has not prohibited all non vegetarian food, available in such countries. Out of His Grace, he exempted the sea food from the strict Zabeeha conditions, imposed on beef, mutton, and chicken etc. So, no matter who catches the fish, cut and dress them, they remain Halaal for us. Same is the Islamic ruling on eating eggs. So, whenever such Muslims like to eat non vegetarian food in such places, the only safe option is the sea food, eggs or vegetarian dishes for them.
But here also, they may encounter one more ‘discrete’ danger. I am talking about the possibility of cross contamination between Halaal and Haraam food items. The deep fryers, cutlery and even frying oil used for Haraam food (say pork or non Zabeehah meat etc), can be used to fry fish or vegetarian eats as well. Therefore, they should dine out only at those restaurants or hotels, where the possibility of such cross contamination is minimal.
When this is the Islamic ruling on the food, which “might have” been subjected to a cross contamination, the ruling on eating flambé dishes(5) is obvious. Those who enjoy such items, wrongly think that the alcohol poured and lighted on such dishes to caramelize or to enhance their flavor, evaporates before the flame dies down. But the reality is that the considerable amount of alcohol still remains in such dishes. Instead of describing the prohibition of flambé dishes, in my words, I will quote an important Fatwaa from a very reliable Fatwaa site:
“Question. Is it permissible to eat dishes cooked with alcohol? It is well-known that alcohol evaporates with heat.”
Text of the Fatwaa:
Praise be to Allaah. It is not permissible to eat dishes cooked with alcohol, as ALL the alcohol is not evaporated with cooking or heat.(6) Many people believe that because alcohol is sensitive to heat, it is eliminated with cooking. However, not all the alcohol content of alcoholic drinks is removed with heat; it depends on the type and time of cooking. For instance, if you add beer or wine to boiling liquid, then immediately remove it from the heat, 85 per cent of the alcohol content will remain. If you light the alcohol, as in flambé dishes, 75% will remain. Even after simmering the dish for an hour and and a half, it will still have 20% of the original alcohol content. It is only if you simmer the mixture for two or more hours, (as you would with a wine-based beef casserole), that as little as five to 10% of the original alcohol content remains.”[Hence, It is not permissible to eat flambé dishes](7)
While wrapping up, let me tell you an authentic story of Abu Bakr (RadiyAllahu Anhu). It is so authentic that even Imaam Bukhaarie has quoted it in the most authentic Hadees book. We all know that Abu Bakar (RadiyAllahu Anhu) was the most senior Companion of the noble Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). Among men, he was the first to embrace Islaam. From then on, he remained loyal to Rasoolullaah (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) through thick
and thin. Seeing his great services for Islaam and his unconditional obedience to Allaah, the noble Prophet had predicted that he will enter Paradise.(8) Now, read how careful he was to eat only Halaal food. Once, he returned home hungry and inquired about food. A glass of milk was given to him. Out of hunger, he immediately drank it. But (perhaps due to its different taste), he asked about the source of milk. He was told that it came as a gift from a person. Sayyduna Abu Bakr (RadiyAllahu Anhu) was some how sure that the income of that person was Haraam. So, he immediately got up, inserted a finger in his mouth and puked the entire milk.(9) Allaahu Akbar.
This touching story offers a great lesson for us and especially for the Muslim travellers and holidaymakers. During their stay in non-Muslim countries, when they crave for dubious dishes, similar to the flambé and cross contaminated ones, they should refresh this incident. It will give them courage to stay away from eating Haraam in shaa Allaah. May Allaah guide us to avoid Haraam and doubtful things and protect our bodies from Haraam food and drink items, Aameen Yaa Arhmar Raahimeen.
1. Saheeh Muslim, Hadees No. 2346.
2. Sunan At-Tirmizie, Hadees No. 614 & Silsilatul Ahaadeesis Saheehah, Hadees No. 2609.
3. Musnad Ahmed, Hadees No 6720. Shiekh Ahmed Shakir has authenticated this Hadees.
4. Sooratul An’aam, Verse 91.
5. Flambé is a cooking technique that utilizes alcohol to create a fire within the cooking pot or pan. This is done for both; the dramatic effect as well as the flavor enhancement.
7. http://islamqa.info/en/1814 and http://islamqa.info/en/103881
8. Sunan At-Tirmizie, Hadees No. 3747.
9. Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree, Hadees No. 3842.