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“If a product is made in South Africa, but the raw material for the product is only available in Israel, (we) will certify the raw material provided it is halaal.” In a compellingly crafted interview with spokesperson for SANHA (South African National Halaal Authority) Muhammad Saeed Navlakhi reiterated the above, amongst various other explanations regarding his organisation’s certification process. The interview was conducted after social media erupted in debate regarding the certification of “Israeli chocolate cake” as halaal by SANHA. As the most revered Halaal authorities in South Africa, SANHA and the MJC (Muslim Judicial Council) find themselves facing a dilemma many other international halaal certification organisations face too: How to successfully amalgamate the issue of Halaal and Haraam with that of modern day politics?

From the above statement issued, it is easy to conclude that it is common practice for materials manufactured on the land of Israel and imported to South Africa to be certified halaal; a fact that I find appalling. The shallowness of jurisprudential insight in most of the discussions regarding this subject has intrigued me to the point of comprehensive research, and I will try to discuss this issue from various angles.

There is a vital aspect to this issue which I find often over-looked: It is haram to purchase stolen goods if one knows that they are stolen. Israel has illegally confiscated and occupied Palestinian lands, making the produce of that land and its natural resources usurped and stolen goods. Therefore, even though the actual materials have no haram ingredients about them, they most certainly cannot be halaal. How are halaal authorities, therefore, comfortable with certifying raw materials from occupied lands? Further, it is repeatedly poignantly highlighted in arguments brought up with local halaal certification organisations that “we have a problem with the Zionist regime… and when it comes to Israel that’s a separate matter.” It should be remembered that modern day Israel is officially run by Zionism, which is instilled within the Basic Constitution of Law that governs the country.  Israel is also the same country that systematically humiliates Muslims, particularly, in an entrenched manner. To separate Israel and Zionism in 2015 is pure ignorance.

Second, whenever the issue of the boycott of Israel and halaal status is debated, there is always the undertone of the “Palestinian activists” versus the “Islamic Law”. I, personally, am only an advocate for justice and human rights in Palestine (and globally) because Islam has entrenched within us the fundamental respect and belief that justice and human rights is empirical! We use no democracy-dictated definition or secular-inspired ideal of activism to guide us, but rather the life of our beloved Muhammed (SAW) and the commandments in the Quraan to lead the way in the struggle for the freedoms of our fellow human beings. Therefore, for any halaal organisation to justify certifying Israeli/ Israeli-associated products halaal based purely on their ingredients and not making their decisions based on “political expediency” is a contradiction of the fundamental principles taught to us as Muslims. There is no divorce between Fiqh and politics; especially when it is concerning the third holiest Masjid in our history. There is no divorce between Fiqh and politics; one merely has to study the seerah of our beloved Muhammed (SAW) with insight to recognise this. We have in the Sunnah a precedent for boycotting the enemies economically. It is the case of Thumama ibn Uthal (RA) who was one of the chiefs of the Banu Hanifah tribe; that when he accepted Islam he enforced a wheat embargo on the Makkan pagans, until they were so hard hit that they implored the Prophet (SAW) to ask Thumama to lift the embargo. (Al-Bukhari/Muslim/Al-Bayhaqi). Economical means were used in a political setting to advocate for religious rights, and our Prophet (SAW) had no problem with it.

A large number of educational organisations and Islamic scholars have issued the fatwa to boycott Israel to be obligatory. The fatwa from the Rabitah of Palestinian scholars state that it is a national and religious duty to fight in any lawful manner that is required against the oppressor, including boycotting Israeli goods. Dr Husin Shahatah, a professor of the University of Azhar stressed that this boycott is a religious duty while Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi states that anything that can weaken the oppressor and subjugate them must be implemented. Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Sa`di , Dr. Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti, Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman al-Sahim, Shaykh Hamud `Uqala al-Shu`aybi, Shaykh Salih Lahidan, and Shaykh `Abd al-`Aziz Rajihi are all reputable scholars who have spoken up regarding the obligation of boycotting Israel. They have used the outline for guided logic based on evidence and Islamic method called Fiqh al-Waqi’ (an understanding of contemporary problems). Fiqh al-Waqi is a discipline that discusses the current state of jurisprudence in terms of factors that affect the community, state and also about ways to protect the Muslim people and Muslim community’s progress at the present and future.

The time is ripe for international Halaal authorities to apply the above principles to Israel- a regime that murdered 551 Muslim children in Ramadhaan last year. Being a “Palestinian activist” is not confined to the boundaries of a secular political struggle, but it is a humanitarian crisis which automatically classifies it as a religious obligation upon us all. I am a Palestinian activist because I am a Muslim, and as a Muslim I have a deep respect for Halaal authorities and the role they play in our society today. It is for this reason that I implore them to take the step taken by so many scholars globally already, and to be bold in refusing to certify products halaal with raw materials coming from Israel as well as by manufacturers who we know directly fund the Zionist state of Israel and any other products associated with the regime that regularly bars Muslims from praying at Masjid Al-Aqsa. It is time for our Ulema to implement the marriage of Fiqh and human rights.

Written by:

Aayesha J Soni

Vice Chairperson of the Media Review Network

Aayesha Soni

Aayesha J Soni is a medical doctor, qualified from the University of the Witwatersrand. Her passion is combatting injustice globally, and her particular focus of challenging the growing trend of Islamophobia is done through her various written and oral critiques.