So, this post is slightly off Bint Battuta’s beaten path, but I just had to share it with you as a whole new world has opened up for me and I am so excited to tell you all about it! This particular gem came about because, being here in California and spending time with my nieces, I decided that this was the year that I would roll up my sleeves and try the recipes that I had documented from my precious and late aunt, Yusra. Bless her housekeeper, Estela for knowing them so well and for participating in documenting them so that, this summer, I could feed myself and my nieces nourishing homemade meals that were made within the family for us with so much love growing up. Good usually comes through the generosity of loved ones that God has Blessed us with as friends or family. I am a firm believer of the Arab proverb: “Heaven without people can’t even be stepped in!” hehe.
To assist and guide me on this particular journey, I went to Basema, the dear friend who opened up her home to me while I was studying my bachelors in California and fed me her deeelicious home cooking. She was like an older sister to me and if you have read my other posts that mentioned her, you will recognise what a special soul she is. I couldn’t have asked for two better mentors than Basema and Estela.
Always up for a challenge, I decided to dive into the deep end by dealing with meat and poultry, lol. So, Basema and I set off to find our Halal and free range, grass fed meat. Turns out that Basema gets her chicken meat from Restaurant Depot and oh my what an experience that was! In true American XXXL super-size efficiency, Restaurant Depot is a wholesale market where restaurants go to get their ingredients in large quantities. I already had been introduced to Costco that is loved by families and all you need is a membership for the doors to open wide! What an economical and smart way to feed a family!
The shop where we went to get our Zabiha meat was what really got my attention and I felt like I had found a true gem to share. Just from watching the meat being cut and listening to Basema describe the integrity of the owners and the quality of the meat, I realized that I wanted to talk to the owner if I could. His wife was there, a gracious welcoming woman, she gave me her husband’s number and card. I called him and he asked me to come in in person, and I did. I ordered a couple of sample dishes to-go from the restaurant attached to his shop and waited, excitedly anticipating tasting the food later as the restaurant was rated a high 4.5.
Mir came and sat with me in the restaurant once he was done in the kitchen, and graciously began to answer my questions and explain to me an industry I barely knew anything about. Mir came to the US with his family in 1987 and opened the shop a year later. This is the craft that was handed to him from his late father who taught him all he knew about the trade and ensured that his son understood that this is never just a business. His father, as well as his mentor, would both say:” we are here to serve the community first and provide halal meat for them to eat. This is not just a business.” Aaah if all trades and professions had that code of honor what a world this would be!
As it turns out, the halal meat industry like any other service,industry requires a deep understanding of its effects on the community. Mir explained to me that from a jurisprudence perspective, for the meat to be Halal, the following conditions must be met and he told me that he had taught a few shuyookh on how Zabiha is done.
- The knife must be very sharp. He repeated, very sharp. Please understand the mercy to the animal in that.
- One says: “Bismi Allah, Allahu Akbar wa lil Allah alhamd”
- The animal is cut in one swoop from bottom up at the throat, to cut most of the four veins, without the cutting all the way to the spine and removing the head. Why? Because if the spine is touched the connection between the heart and brain is lost and the animal dies instantly without the blood pumping out properly. Then the blood stays inside the animal and is unhealthy for human beings to eat. One must cut the throat and wait for 3-5 minutes for the animal to die in peace then can start cutting.
- The animal is to be hand cut.
- Some animals panic, as they should not smell blood. That is what frightens them, versus seeing another animal slaughtered. But the most important thing is that a panicking animal should not be slaughtered as its agitated state interrupts the circulation of blood making it unhealthy again.
- The same principle applies to hunting, When people hunt deer for example, they do not shoot it in the brain or heart to kill it instantly as then it is not halal. They must do the act of cutting it to bleed properly and follow each step of the process clearly.
Now just to be clear, it turns out there is a difference of opinion among the scholars about hand slaughtered vs. machine slaughtered animals. I asked a scholar I know just to be sure and he said that a layman person can just trust when it says halal but if one wants to go to another level of scrupulousness then of course they can. I love this about Islam, that it means to keep choices and actions easy that please God. The scholar also mentioned that God does not Place his punishment in matters where there are issues between the scholars. How merciful is that!
Now back to our story. Each animal that is sold at Miawand is sourced personally by Mir and his team from private auctions Then they go to an Islamic slaughter house, to make sure that there is no cross contamination with pork.
Mir spoke passionately about learning the trade from proven experts to ensure that the purity of halal is preserved and to be wary of imposters who falsely claim to be educated or licensed. What is right, is right and it is clear. I loved how he spoke of the wholesome nourishment of Halal meat and how it is Blessed with Baraka at the both the body and soul level. He advises people to eat Halal meat but to more importantly feed and teach their children about Halal meat.
What touched my heart deeply and made me want to share this post with you, is that the animals can not speak up for their rights and they are being killed in ways that are distressing to them and unhealthy for us to eat according to the clear teachings of the Prophet Peace and Blessings be upon him. It breaks my heart to think of animals being subjected to the inhumane treatments, which we have all heard of, so I won’t go into details here. It was such a coincidence that just that morning, I had gone to a lecture by a scholar who said a hadith I hadn’t heard in so so long: “Yes, in every living being with a warm liver is a reward for charity.” Warm liver here stands for that every living being has a right to a dignified life and end and treating them such is an act of charity that will be rewarded by God. How beautiful is the religion that stands for the rights of those who can not advocate for themselves.
I walked away with a new resolve to eat Halal where both the rights of the animals and the rights of my body and soul are upheld. I am ready to take this journey of eating Halal and tayyib one step at a time as the scholars say so that the lifestyle changes are sustainable and easy to make. What is important is to always be moving in the right direction. Even as I put away the pieces of cut meat in the freezer, with each touch, I could imagine the life that was given for me to be nourished and nourish my loved ones and words of thanks and gratitude sprang unbidden from somewhere deep in me, offered to that animal and to God for this incredible gift. I hope I never lose the sense of wonder and blessing of the first time given my heightened awareness of what Halal meat really means.
Maiwand Market - Kabab House of Santa Clara
Maiwand Market is the supplier of 100% fresh Halal foodstuffs including beef, lamb, goat, chicken, grocery, produce and halal food that is personally sourced from reputable halal suppliers.
Crescent Food Halal Chicken
Crescent Foods manage their supply chain from farm to fork. They provide poultry in a variety of forms and packaging to retail stores, restaurants and institutions. Crescent chickens are fed and all natural, USDA certified 100% vegetarian diet or pure grains and soy, free of any animal by-products and processed animal protein
Restaurant Depot is a wholesale cash and carry foodservice supplier where you’ll find quality products at low prices. We sell a broad selection of products for independent restaurants, caterers and non-profits.
Costco is a membership warehouse club, dedicated to bringing our members the best possible prices on quality brand-name merchandise. With hundreds of locations worldwide, Costco provides a wide selection of merchandise, plus the convenience of specialty departments and exclusive member services.
I am not a scholar nor a scientist. I did my best to bring you information that is valid and up-to-date.
Please forgive me any mistakes, as they are entirely my own and God Knows best.