Alcohol, cooked = Evaporated. Halal? No!

So it’s called flambé -ing. Now I know. (image source)

I admit, I love watching cooking shows, especially the new ones styled after reality-TV. They make me hungry, but it’s still fun to watch. In many segments, the chef/cook will throw a splash of wine in the frying pan and it will seem to burn off almost instantly. Many times I ask myself, if the alcohol burns off, is the food halal?

Short answer: no. Apparently even after cooking for hours, there’ s still some left.

This is a good table (source) showing the length of time cooked and traces of alcohol left in the food. Even after it’s flamed in the frying pan a la celebrity chefs, 25% alcohol still remains.

Alcohol that has been… …has this much ethanol (alcohol) remaining
   added to boiling liquid, then removed from heat
85%
   set on fire, flamed, ‘flambé’
75%
   left uncovered at room temperature, overnight
70%
   baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture
45%
   baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
      for 15 minutes
40%
      for 30 minutes
35%
      for 1 hour (60 minutes)
25%
      for 1.5 hours (90 minutes)
20%
      for 2 hours (120 minutes)
10%
      for 2.5 hours (150 minutes)
5%

And yes, the references checked out. See the USDA report here, page 14. Even Wikipedia has a page dedicated to cooking with alcohol.

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The (Long) Road to Racial Understanding

Forget about racial/religious harmony. To reach that pinnacle of give-and-take, basic understanding must take place. This, one assume, is basically a given in Singapore; most people from other groups know that the void deck is being used by Malays to hold marriages, Chinese for funerals, and Indians to hold birthdays and other gatherings.

But we are in trouble if that is all we know, especially if we are part of the organizing personnels involved in multi-racial multi-religion events.

For instance, I’ve been to events which were supposed to provide lunch and dinner for the participants, of which include Muslims. The organizers know a bit about Muslim diet; we aren’t allowed to consume pork. So they prepared chicken wraps and salads. In such cases, the chicken is avoided, and the salads usually come to the rescue.

No Pork No Lard ≠ Halal

True, Muslims can’t eat pork, and it’s no rocket science that chicken isn’t pork. Unfortunately, another aspect of the Muslim diet which most people do not know is that all meats must be slaughtered in a specific manner, thus the term halal meat. Alcohol should also not be served, and that includes tiramisu.

The importance of details in planning such events are so vital that most attendees just assume that their needs are catered to. Here in Singapore, organizers are usually aware of the particularities of those involved, and just choose to conveniently cater from halal-certified providers, or go vegan.

By the look of things in Singapore, I would say most passed the food test, except for the tiramisu which I really suspect isn’t alcohol-free. But, they’ve still got a long way to go.

Firstly, the “no pork no lard” phrase has just gotta go. It may work well for someone who has allergy or adverse reaction to pork, but it is sometimes confusing for those who doesn’t understand that “no pork no lard” ≠ halal. Though one may not entirely fault the shopowners (usually bakeries which doesn’t use no pork/lard but uses non-halal sausages etc) as they are merely stating facts, the Muslim consumer should also be more aware of his decisions.

no pork no lard

“No pork no lard” ≠ halal! Religion is not to be dictated by the rumbling stomach. (Image credit)

Such diluted understanding is prevalent here in Singapore, but apparently in other countries. Take this biscuit produced in Korea, sold here in Singapore.

19092009037

The highlighted part actually translates into: Free from pork products and its derivatives. While this may put some hearts at rest, other may question does the E-4xx emulsifiers contain gelatin from non-halal beef? Here’s what the local religious body’s got to say on the matter.

Food claims such as ‘No Pork, No Lard’ do not necessarily imply that the food is truly Halal. Halal food must not contain and/or come into direct contact with non-Halal items. Examples of these include alcohol, pork and meat deriving from sheep which are not slaughtered in accordance with the Islamic Law.

Calendar and Events

Besides food, some religion also possesses their own calendar system. Nothing too hard to ignore, as major religious events are widely reported here, such as the Deepavali, Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, and Thaipusam. Event organizers should therefore take note of the dates, else the targeted crowd may not come.

This is a banner of what is supposed to be “Racial Harmony Sports Day”. At first glance, all seems to be okay; everyone from all races are invited to participate – a wonderful thought.

11092009024

The true test of endurance: Sports + fasting.

One little issue though, the date 13/09/2009 is the final week of the fasting month of Ramadan, prior to the Muslim Hari Raya celebration.

One may say that I’m being too picky by pointing these out, but in reality, a fasting person would do as much to conserve his energy as even a drop of water is not allowed. Furthermore, for the event organizers to call it “Racial Harmony” is unfortunately oxymoronic if it is not suited to the racial groups’ observances.

And here’s a reader’s letter from today’s paper on Deepavali. I share his thoughts on the issue.

Diwali is essentially known as the festival of lights, as it marks the return of King Rama to reclaim his throne after a 14-year exile in the forest, and his victory over Ravana, a legendary evil king who abducted his wife Sita, and lights were put up in celebration.

It is also celebrated by Sikhs, who commemorate the return of Guru Hargobind, who had been imprisoned with 52 other princes at Fort Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir.

It is a major symbolic festival, but the proper greeting should be simply ‘Happy Diwali’ or ‘Happy Deepavali’, and more good times ahead, not ‘Happy New Year’.

While I do appreciate the nice gesture from my non-Muslim friends when they send me greetings on Hari Raya, it slightly bugs me that most of them choose to greet by saying “Happy New Year”. Hari Raya is not a new year. It falls on the 10th month of the lunar calendar. That’s like wishing someone a happy new year in October.

<Given-Name> <Family-Name> <Father’s Name>

Each culture also has their own name structure convention. Chinese and Western names usually have a <given-name><family-name> convention (or vice-versa). Malay and Indian names (at least in Singapore) meanwhile doesn’t include family names, their names consist of <given-name> <father’s name>.

I had naively expected this to be common cultural knowledge, knowing that the word bin and binte in the Malay/Arabic naming convention correlates with the Indian s/o and d/o. Well, I thought wrong.

Here’s a passage from the local daily, which mentions a politician’s name. The politician, a Malay,  is Hawazi Daipi. According to the Malay naming convention, he should be called by his first name, and not his last name; his last name is actually his father’s name and not his family name.

Apparently the reporter doesn’t get it, and reported here:

…Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi in Parliament on Monday afternoon.

Mr Daipi was responding to questions by MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Baey Yam Keng who asked what help do bosses who can’t afford to pay the full medical bills of their maids get. He also asked if the Government would consider capping the maximum liability of bosses.

Mr Daipi said to reduce the burden of these large medical bills…

Sloppy, as a quick google would have produced his CV and given clues to his ‘surname’.

But this example is not a rarity. I have been many times, in situations when formality ensues, called by my ‘surname’; I don’t have one, so they were actually calling me by my father’s name. So much so that I got used to it.

In fact, my previous workplace requires the work email address to be a combination fo the first letter of my first name, and my last name in full. Which in this case will be x_FATHERSNAME@xxxxx.com. It truly was irritating. My request to have it changed wasn’t accepted. I do not mind if I actually do have a surname, but I simply don’t.

And it sounds really idiotic to have my email address based on my father’s name instead of my own. Just what can I do then?

Understanding, then Harmony

Until we have these issues being understood by everyone of different racial and religious background, the word “racial/religious harmony” will amost always be viewed like some propaganda horn blown by from the top. True, to an extent is does coerce a nervous and artificial form of tolerance, with the main objective of avoiding trouble and confrontations, while gulping down the occasional uneasiness.

But when one look closely, these trivial issues are not really so trivial, they form the very basis of harmony. How can a society truly achieve this “harmony” if it doesn’t even know what to call its neighbour? Or what to serve when hosting them? Or when to hold meet-ups or gatherings?

Culture is deeply rooted for generations. Religion is a way of life. They influence names and name structure, possesses their own calendar system, practices, and rituals.

In the end, one must remember that religion and culture is not just all about food.

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White gold dilemma

In my culture, it is customary for the bride and groom to exchange rings on the wedding day.

The norm that most people go to is just to purchase a “couple ring” wedding band, a matching pair of rings which is made for both the bride and groom. For the female, there is no objection whatsoever to the kind of ring that she wants.

Well, except for budget, and a concious consideration of tabzir or wastage due to the cost of the ring. If it costs 8k, definitely the money can be put to beter use than a piece of overpriced rock which price is controlled by cartels. (At least according to some. Read: Have You Tried to Sell a Diamond?)

For me, the male, I have only one requirement: No gold. Numerous hadiths, which provides the backbone for Islamic legal rulings as we know it today have mentioned its prohibition, and together with ijma’, it is a definite no-no.

Among the hadith is one narrated by ابن زرير الغافقي, from Sayyidina علي رضي الله عنه who said:

أَنَّ رَسولَ اللهِ صلّى اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَسلَّم أَخَذَ حَريراً فَجَعَلَهُ في يَمينِهِ وَأَخَذَ ذَهَباً فَجَعَلَهُ في شمالِهِ ثُمَّ قَالَ: إِنَّ هذَيْن حَرَام عَلى ذكُورِ أُمَّتي

“The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) took a silk with his right hand, and took a gold withhis left hand, and then said: These two are haraam for the men of my ummah.”

– An-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah

Furthermore, Al-Nawawi said:

وأما خاتم الذهب فهو حرام على الرجل بالإجماع

“Rings of gold are haraam for males, with ijma’ (consensus of the scholars).”

Deciding to get one of those “couple rings” wedding bands, it was dissappointing to find that these rings come in white gold.

Preferred scenario:

“Yes, that couple ring in the display. The female ring should be white gold. Mine, please have it made in platinum or silver.”

Real scenario #1:

“…What? Add another $1,800 to have it made  in platinum?”

Real scenario #2:

“…What do you mean I can’t have it in silver?”

So I found out that platinum is way too over-priced for a piece of man-ring. Silver, ridiculously enough, isn’t available at major jewelry shops.

Even at my request, the choice that was given by these big jewelry shops is that it can only be made in another form of white gold, in which the mixture of gold is reduced.

Note that the white gold that I’m referring to here is made of gold + other alloys. While some people do refer to platinum as white gold, that’s not the case in the shops I visited, apparently. So you need to do your homework and ask the jeweller whether that ring you’re eyeing is either made of white gold white gold or platinum.

Choices

So I found that gold are rated in k, or carat. If an item is rated:

24k gold: 100% (or close) of its content is gold.

18k gold: 75% (or close) of its content is the gold.

12k gold: 50% (or close) of its content is the gold.

9k gold: 37.5% (or close) of its content is the gold.

Etc, etc.

The shops did give me the choice to have the ring made in 12k or 9k gold, reducing the gold content to 50%and 37.5% respectively. While I prefer not to have mine in white gold, I just really must know:

Can a Muslim wear white gold?

To answer this question, we need to differentiate the types of white gold according to the prohibited content, which is real gold.

To simplify, perhaps we can categorize it into two:

1. White gold which contains more than 50% gold.

2. White gold which contains less than 50% gold.

For the first one, i.e. items of white gold which has more than 50% of gold; the answer is of course to avoid them. Furthermore, the hukm or ruling of an issue always follows the ghaalib (aka الحكم للغالب), the issue/item/material of which overwhelms. Since gold overwhelms, and men can’t wear it, its kinda clear-cut that #1 should be avoided at any cost (or the lack of it).

But what about #2, which is items which consist of less than 50% gold? This, the answer is not so simple. If you’ve ever tried looking for answers on the net, you’ll realize that not only must you be a proficient googler, but also familiar with the websites which the  answer is found on. Some websites may be overly c0nservative, others liberal.

In this case, of course, there are the khilafs:

1. Opinions which say that if the content of gold is less than  50%, it is okay for Muslim men to wear it. This view is also shared by Imam al-Nawawi (in his book المهذّب). Ibn Hazm (in المحلى بالآثار) expands the argument by saying that when different minerals/materials are mixed, they form a new substance and thus it doesn’t matter what its content is. [citation needed]

2. However, there are also others which states that white gold is not permissible.

Why the difference?

Basically, those who say that it is permissible for Muslim men to wear white gold, is basing is basing their views on the reason stated above: the rule follows the dominant content in the mixture (الحكم للغالب).

Meanwhile those who disagree tends to take the general view on the issue. As the initial ruling states that male cannot wear gold, their decision stems from a much more cautions approach to deriving the ruling. Furthermore, gold in Islam have a function in the monetary system; it should not be hoarded and its intrinsic value remains even when the jewellery is melted. Islam has clearly made an exception for the ladies to enjoy gold as jewellery, and not for man.

Conclusion

So, in the weeks that followed, I was trying hard to decide whether to have my ring made in 9k white gold (37.5% gold content), or get that piece of exhorbitant platinum plating from some space shuttle and cheaply fabricate it into a ring (aka an attempt in fitulity). Finding a silversmith was unexpectedly near-impossible; weeks of search, calling up jewellery-crafting schools, and coaxing goldsmiths didn’t garner any result.

Then I came across quote by which goes something like: Know what is halal and what is haram, and by all means avoid that is haram, and Allah will help you.

And the killer, narrated by the Prophet’s own grandson الحسن بن علي بن أبي طالب (RA), that the Prophet said:

دَعْ ما يُريبُكَ ، إلَى ما لاَ يُريبُكَ

“Leave what doubts you, to [take] what doesn’t doubt you.”

– al-Tirmidzi, al-Nasa’i

So I decided to have it made in platinum to avoid all the shubhah. But lo and behold, by Allah’s grace, I found me a nice silversmith at the last minute! She was kind enough to did it for a minimal fee, and even threw in a nice diamond!

Now, what about Muslim men and diamonds? We’re okay with it. The default ruling on anything is that it is permissible. الأصل في الأشياء هو الإباحة. Except if there are adillah which say otherwise. ;-)

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