In a global market, the types of exports are constantly changing, and some in the Gulf region are predicting larger volumes of halal food and consumer goods may be exported from India with halal production being promoted as a way to set a quality standard.
Haji Shakeel Qureshi, chairman of the India exporting firm Marya Day Group, is working on more public awareness of halal around the world, something he calls an underappreciated concept in India.
Halal is an Arabic word meaning permitted or lawful. But halal has a broader meaning within Islam, referring to practices that are ethical and allowed under Islamic rules. It is contrasted with things that are forbidden, or haram.
"Halal is about setting a direction for life in accordance with ethics and good practice,” Qureshi said in a July press statement on Indian production trends. “The real meaning of this term should be made understood to all consumer segments and people from all walks of life. Leading a moral life and following halal in our day-to-day life will not only help us become a good human being but uplift the society as a whole."
Qureshi also suggested that India should make halal production universal in order to promote the export of more goods to markets like the Gulf region.
"Halal standards have become the backbone of international trade and export business, ensuring safety and quality of the products and services.” Qureshi said. “The halal mark also facilitates international trade and improves the environment in which we live in.”
Putting a halal label on goods brings up all sorts of questions about the traditional Islamic designation and how it's applied in the modern world.
Yasir Mohamed is a Muslim living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who has previously spoken with news media such as the local Lancaster newspapers and the Gulf News Journal about modern manifestations of traditional Islamic practice.
In a recent interview with Gulf News Journal, Mohamed said halal can refer to lots of different kinds of products.
“Food is one of the things that it applies to,” Mohamed said. “But it can apply to many other things.”
Mohamed discussed several standards for halal, saying first of all, pork is forbidden entirely. Halal also means consuming only animals that have been ritually slaughtered, with the blood removed from the body prior to butchering.
“Blood is forbidden to be consumed.” Mohamed said. “Blood is a carrier of pathogens.”
Other types of halal standards, Mohamed said, are more of a gray area, For example, he said, some Muslims may not use cosmetics or personal care products with alcohol, although technically, alcohol is only forbidden to be consumed under Islamic practices.
“One should not enhance beauty to a point that's unnecessary.” Mohamed said, suggesting that breast enhancement and other cosmetic surgeries can be considered prohibited.
In terms of halal meat consumption, a cornerstone of halal exports, Mohamed said in some ways it's all about health and being humane to animals.
“It's important to eat healthy … something that comes fresh, the way it's meant to be.” Mohamed said. “Anything that is altered can be unhealthy.”
As for the prospect of universally halal Indian exports, Mohamed is skeptical. Noting that India is a large market, he also pointed out that Muslims are a minority in the country and that certain Indian governments have acted to ban the consumption of beef, in an evident conflict with Islamic standards that accept beef but prohibit pork.
For those reasons, Mohamed said, he's not convinced that India will be pursuing only-halal production anytime soon.