Halal FoodA History

Food trucks announcing “halal” proliferate in many urban areas but how many non-Muslims know what this means, other than cheap lunch? Here Middle Eastern historians Febe Armanios and Bogac Ergene provide an accessible introduction to halal (permissible) food in the Islamic tradition, exploring what halal food means to Muslims and how its legal and cultural interpretations have changed in different geographies up to the present day.

Historically, Muslims used food to define their identities in relation to co-believers and non-Muslims. Food taboos are rooted in the Quran and prophetic customs, as well as writings from various periods and geographical settings. As in Judaism and among certain Christian sects, Islamic food traditions make distinctions between clean and impure, and dietary choices and food preparation reflect how believers think about broader issues. Traditionally, most halal interpretations focused on animal slaughter and the consumption of intoxicants. Muslims today, however, must also contend with an array of manufactured food products–yogurts, chocolates, cheeses, candies, and sodas–filled with unknown additives and fillers. To help consumers navigate the new halal marketplace, certifying agencies, government and non-government bodies, and global businesses vie to meet increased demands for food piety. At the same time, blogs, cookbooks, restaurants, and social media apps have proliferated, while animal rights and eco-conscious activists seek to recover halal’s more wholesome and ethical inclinations.

Covering practices from the Middle East and North Africa to South Asia, Europe, and North America, this timely book is for anyone curious about the history of halal food and its place in the modern world

Febe Armanios is Associate Professor of History at Middlebury College and the author of Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt (OUP, 2011).

Bogac Ergene is Professor of History at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire and co-author of The Economics of Ottoman Justice.

“A lucid, judicious survey of the foods deemed halal (permissible) in the Islamic tradition ranging from the original religious texts to adaptations to contemporary business, gastronomic, and government involvement in different parts of the globe. Timely and much needed.”–Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

“We have waited a long time for a book that approaches halal food with breadth and depth, and Armanios and Ergene masterfully and creatively deliver both. This is the first book that not only introduces readers to all the dimensions of halal food but also delves into its finer distinctions. It speaks to both newcomers to the field and experts alike–a very impressive achievement.”–Kristen Stilt, Harvard Law School

Halal Food admirably fills a lacuna in our understanding of the concepts of halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) foods in Islamic law. Its breadth ranges wide and deep into the politico-cultural and economic implications of halal food for the world’s Muslims. It is rigorous and comprehensive and delightfully readable by the non-scholar and fascinating for the non-Muslim.”--Clifford A. Wright, author of A Mediterranean Feast

“In this lively, engaging, and rigorously researched book, Febe Armanios and Bogac Ergene consider how Muslims have historically understood ‘halal‘–meaning what is permissible according to Islamic law and custom, especially in food–and also, what is ‘tayyib‘–meaning good and wholesome. Taking their study of halal into the early twenty-first century, they show how debates have intensified among Muslims as countries have bureaucratized food regulations; as consumers have become more eager to maintain or assert religious identities; and as rates of meat consumption have increased along with global food imports. With its forays into past history and present-day politics, this fascinating book will stimulate discussion in classrooms and mosques, and around kitchen tables, while appealing to readers who are curious about the ethics of food.”–Heather J. Sharkey, author of A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East

“An understanding of the ideation of halal is probably not something picked up at Halal Guys or some other street-food vendor…This new book by a couple of American scholars covers the subject broadly, beyond just food – the term applies to anything that is lawful or legitimate under Islamic law. The authors address slaughtering methods, ingredients in processed foods, alcohol, the global food trade (halal chickens from Brazil are shipped to the Middle East), food in public settings like schools, the growth in certifying agencies, and how it all relates to the Quran.”–Florence Fabricant, New York Times

“A timely, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched information on all things halal…The book is scholarly in its depth and sources but easy to understand in its straightforward writing style. Though billed as a history, it is also an invaluable guide for anyone who wants to follow-or know more about-increasingly complex halal traditions, which changed as Islam spread and encountered new cuisines…Armanios and Ergene’s Halal Food: A History is a major addition to food studies, historic as well as contemporary.”–Foreword Reviews

“An excellent overview of halal that is largely missing in the current discourse and makes an excellent addition to food studies collections.”–Choice

A Note on Transliteration

Chapter 1. Rules
Chapter 2. Meat
Chapter 3. Slaughter
Chapter 4. Intoxicants
Chapter 5. Business
Chapter 6. Standards
Chapter 7. Manufactured Products
Chapter 8. Wholesome
Chapter 9. Cuisine
Chapter 10. Eating Out