Halalan toyyiban merely means allowed and permissible for consumption with relation to Syariah law as long as they are safe and not harmful. The opposite of halal is haram/ non-halal which means forbidden and prohibited. Any food or drink which lies within the grey area and does not fall clearly under the Halal or non-Halal category is classified as 'Syubhah', alternatively called questionable or dubious. In this category, until the status becomes clear, Muslims should avoid consuming Syubhah food or drinks. The Prophet (peace be upon Him) has given a guideline concerning Syubhah matters. It is reported by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah and Darimi, as follow:
What is Halal is clear. And what is Haram is also clear. And in between those two is a dubious area in which many people do not know about. So whoever distanced himself from it, he has acquitted himself (from blame). And those who fall into it, he has fallen into a state of Haram.
The inanimate and animate sources of halal are viewed inconsiderably different by Muslim Jurists (the 4 main Sunni Jurists: Maliki, Hanafi, Hanbali and Shafeii). You will find more information on this issue in the publication called 'Fiqh al-Islami wa adillatuhu (Dimashq, 1989) vol.3, by Al-Zuhayli, Wahbah. In addition, the decisions on the halalness of certain issues are also well expressed in fatwas (Islamic edicts) from either Malaysia or other countries.
Islam has introduced the concept of slaughter, whereby a naturally halal animal would have to be properly slaughtered prior to consumption. The act of slaughtering is to ensure the quality of meat and to avoid any microbial contamination, which basically covers the toyibban part of halalan toyibban. For example, a dead but unslaughtered animal is normally associated with disease. Most disease originated or carried in the animal's blood. Therefore, slaughtering is mandatory to ensure the complete drainage of blood from the animal's body, thus minimizing the chance of microbial infection. This is compatible with the overall concept of cleanliness that is always emphasized in Islam. Apart from ensuring the cleanliness of foodstuffs, Islam prohibits the usage of any materials that are detrimental to spiritual or mental well-being of a person, such as alcoholic drinks, drugs, etc. Since Islam has always encouraged its followers to choose halal, wholesome and clean foods, this awareness is always propagated in the Muslim society. This awareness is strengthened by the widespread knowledge, extolling the virtues of consuming clean and halal food, and its relationship to our daily religious practices.
Besides fulfilling the Syariah law, which is a must for Muslims, the food safety factor plays a significant contributor in determining the toyibban i.e. wholesome (safe, clean, nutritious, quality) aspects of the food. To ensure that these aspects are not taken lightly, Malaysia has defined halal food through its MS1500:2009: Halal Food - Production, Preparation, Handling and Storage -General Guidelines (Second Revision) as food permitted under the Shari'ah law and fulfills the following conditions:
- Does not contain any parts or products of animals that are non-halal to Muslims or products of animals which are not slaughtered according to Shari'ah law,
- Does not contain any ingredients that are Najs according to Shari'ah law,
- Is safe and not harmful
- Is not prepared, processed or manufactured using equipment that is contaminated with things that are Najs (filth or unclean) according to Shari'ah law,
- The food or its ingredients do not contain any human parts or its derivatives that are not permitted by Shari'ah law, and
- And during its preparation, processing, packaging, storage or transportation, the food is physically separated from any other food that does not meet the requirements stated in items 1., 2., 3., 4. or 5. or any other things that have been decreed as Najs (filth or unclean) by Shari'ah law.
This definition clearly demonstrates that product which is harmful, intoxicated and hazardous will not be certified halal under the Malaysian Standard.
Food safety has already become a significant factor in producing food and other consumable products. More than 200 food-borne diseases have been detected and this figure is very alarming if producers and manufacturers are not aware of the rising numbers. Guidelines and requirements on the food safety are developed around the world to accommodate to this issue. Organizations and agencies such as WHO, FAO, USFDA, EU and even Malaysia have different guidelines to ensure that the food safety aspect is the number one priority.