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.
Rasulullah s.a.w. has given a guideline concerning Syubhah matters. It is reported by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah and Darimi, as follow:
الْحَلاَلُ بَيِّنٌ، وَالْحَرَامُ بَيِّنٌ، وَبَيْنَهُمَا مُشْتَبِهَاتٌ، لاَ يَعْلَمُهَا كَثِيرٌ مِنَ النَّاسِ. فَمَنِ اتَّقَى الشُّبُهَاتِ اسْتَبْرَأَ لِدِينِهِ وَعِرْضِهِ. وَمَنْ وَقَعَ فِي الشُّبُهَاتِ وَقَعَ فِي الْحَرَامِ...
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.
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 Guideline as food permitted under the Shari’ah law and fulfills the following conditions:
a. 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,
b. does not contain any ingredients that are Najs according to Shari’ah law,
c. is safe and not harmful,
d. is not prepared, processed or manufactured using equipment that is contaminated with things that are Najs (filth or unclean) according to Shari’ah law,
e. the food or its ingredients do not contain any human parts or its derivatives that are not permitted by Shari’ah law, and
f. 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 a., b., c., d. or e. 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.