Can Christians eat Halal? No

Today, we find halal certified foods everywhere, from meat market to restaurants. Many Christians don’t have an understanding of what halal is or if we can eat those food. In this blog, we will explore the Bible to see if Christians can eat halal food.

What is Halal?

Halal is often used in reference to foods that are permissible for Muslims to eat or drink under Islamic Shariʻah (law).  If they are just a segregation of food items like the clean and unclean animals for Jews, there should be no issues for a Christian to consume them. However, halal is more than just a segregation but requires a method of slaughter, Dhabihah.

Dhabihah is, in Islamic law, the prescribed method of ritual slaughter of all lawful halal animals. One of them is the head of the animal must be facing the Qiblah and calling upon the name of their god (bismillah) when slaughtering it.

Hence, halal is an act of slaughtering an animal as an offering or thanking or praising in the name of a pagan god. This makes halal nothing but a disguised form of sacrifice.

Eating halal food?

Matt 15:9,10-11,18-20  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” … When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” …  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Jesus said, anything that goes into the mouth does not defile a man. This is often misunderstood to explain eating food sacrificed to other gods also does not defile a man. Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience who don’t eat unclean animals or food sacrificed to other gods. Jesus is specifically addressing the issue of washing hands as the reference verse itself mentions.

Rev 2:14 “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 

Rev 2:20 “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Jesus is not even remotely suggesting that eating food sacrificed to other gods are allowed. On the contrary, He warned two churches for eating things sacrificed to idols.

Exod 34:13-16 “But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.

In the law, God is against His people being invited and they eating sacrifices of other gods.

Ps 106:28-29 They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, And ate sacrifices made to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, And the plague broke out among them.

We also see that eating sacrifices made to dead provokes God’s anger.

As we saw both in the law and what Jesus Christ said in Revelation to John, God is strictly against eating sacrifices made to other gods. Hence, God is strictly against eating halal food.

James’s Advice to Abstain

Acts 15:20 “but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

James also advice us to abstain from thins polluted by idols. This obviously includes things sacrificed to idols.

Advice of the apostles, elders, and brethren

Acts 15:28-29 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

The above verse was from a letter send by apostles, elders and brethren being assembled with one accord, which clearly mentions the need to abstain from things offered to idols.

Contradiction in Paul’s Letter

1Cor 8:1-13 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

1Cor 10:19-31 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.” If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness.” Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Paul however, in his first letter to Corinthians wrote it is okay to eat things sacrificed to idols, referred them as liberty for Christians. He also warned this liberty should not be a stumbling block for others who are weak. He mentioned this not in context of Christians partaking in sacrifices to demons but in context of meat sold in markets or being served to them to eat that are already sacrificed to idols which they did not partake.
Hence, based on Paul’s teachings, it is okay to eat halal or anything that is sacrificed to other gods as long as we did not partake in the actual sacrifice. 

1Cor 10:7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”

In other words, Paul warns us that this eating sacrifice should not make us idolaters.

Conclusion

  • God is against eating things sacrificed to other gods as we see in the law.
  • Christ is against eating things sacrificed to idols as mentioned in the book of Revelation to His servants through John.
  • James advises us to abstain from things polluted from idols.
  • Apostles, elders and brethren being assembled with one accord mention the need to abstain from things offered to idols.
  • Paul however said, it is okay to eat sacrifices made to other gods as long as it does not make us idolaters.
As we see, the Law, God, Christ, James, Apostles, Elders – all teach it is wrong to eat things sacrificed to other gods except Paul. Many Christians use Paul to justify eating things sacrificed to idols and other gods who argued God being powerful, idol is nothing in this world and eating things sacrificed to idols is a liberty for Christians. Christ in His message to His servants through the book of Revelation, warned against eating things sacrificed to idols.
One might ask, what’s really wrong in eating just a meat that enters not the heart but the stomach and goes down? The issue in eating halal is not about the meat itself but the zeal for God in not having any part in anything that is to do with the devil and his schemes. If a church serves halal either knowingly or unknowingly, should we reject eating the meat thus avoid having fellowship with fellow Christians for the sake of meat? Absolutely not! Here, fellowship is important than meat and the zeal of God must not hinder the building of His kingdom for the sake of meat. This is where Paul explains on a case by case basis depending on the situation. At the same time, you go to a shop to buy meat and have halal you must avoid it and have the zeal of God to abhor anything that has to do with the devil.

Therefore, let us obey and have the zeal of God by not eating halal, but let it not hinder building His kingdom.