Companies engaged in the production of food products have given humanity a wide variety of new and innovative products. With advertising and marketing efforts, these new products become popular among consumers. Years ago, foods were consumed immediately after being prepared. But in these days of path breaking scientific advancements, scientists have developed the gift of preservation, which has greatly reduced the time and effort involved in the preparation of foods.

There are some folks in society who make no distinction between permissible and prohibited (Halal and Haram) food products. These people will make the fullest possible use of these new and varied products. However, these same products are a cause of great concern for Muslims who distinguish between Halal and Haram. One of the key concerns Muslims have relates to the use of those products that have undergone a change from their original state.

Thankfully, jurists and researchers have clearly stated the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) position on this issue. The issue of ‘product change’, which in Fiqh terminology is known as ‘Istihala’ or ‘Ihala’, is of key concern. It means that if the original status of a product changes, either on its own or with external help, then the Fiqh ruling on it also changes. To illustrate this ruling we will consider a couple of examples:

  1. If a pig falls into a sea and dies, then the body decomposes and it becomes salt, the use of that salt, as part of the total salt recovered from the sea, is Islamically permissible. This is because the pig ceases to be in its original form by becoming a part of salt. When it was a pig it was Haram but when it became salt it is Halal.
  2. Wine is Haram as long as it remains wine. However, if the same wine is turned into vinegar, it becomes Halal. The use of the vinegar derived from wine is Halal, as long as no wine remains in it.

From the above examples it becomes clear that if an unlawful food item changes state, then the original Shari’ ah ruling on the food item also changes. It is then judged by the final state in which it is.

Muslims should abstain from giving personal opinions on matters relating to Shari’ah unless they have the training and expertise to rule on these issues. We pray to ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, to make us steadfast in following the directives of Shari’ah and we ask that HE make this task easy for us. [MAK]