Gelatine – Halal or Not

Gelatine is a substance widely used in the food industry and can also be manufactured using the hides of cattle.

What is Gelatine?

Gelatine, protein substance obtained by boiling animal bones and connective tissue containing collagen in water or dilute acid. It is colourless, transparent, brittle, odourless and tasteless in a purified form. Gelatine dissolves in hot water and forms a gel or jelly upon cooling. It is insoluble in organic solvents, such as ether, chloroform and benzene. When placed in cold water, gelatine takes up five to ten times its own weight and swells to an elastic, transparent mass.

Gelatine in its purest form is used as a constituent of foods, being highly nutritious and easily digested and absorbed. It cannot, however, completely replace other proteins because it lacks some essential amino acids. Gelatine is used in making jams and jellies, ice cream and marshmallows and as a setting for other foods in aspics. It is employed in photography in the preparation of film, plates and paper; in bacteriology as a culture medium; and in medicine as a coating for capsules, pills and some surgical dressings. It is also used in dyeing and in photomechanical printing processes.

Glue is an impure form of gelatine. A purified form of gelatine obtained from the air bladders of certain fishes, including sturgeon, cod, catfish and carp, is called isinglass.

Halal Status of Gelatine

Gelatine manufactured from the hide of animals slaughtered by Muslims would be Halal. However, it was established that a company manufacturing gelatine in South Africa used both cattle hide that was slaughtered by Muslims as well as hides from animals that was not slaughtered according to Islamic Law. Members of the then Independent Halal Trust conducted an inspection at the Leiner Davies Gelatine Plant in Krugersdorp (SA) to establish and investigate the process of manufacture of gelatine. This inspection was conducted in 1998.

Initial Process:

Material used for the process is derived from cattle hide. These are obtained from various abattoirs and tanneries. This included hides from animals, which were not slaughtered according to Shari’ah regulations. This raw material is firstly cut into smaller sizes and cleansed of all impurities. It is then placed into huge cement pits containing a mixture of lime and water. This assists in separating the hair from the hide and impurities are further removed. This is then further transferred to another pit containing water, which is aerated with sulphuric acid/alkalai acid. At this point the hide is transformed into a jelly-like substance. This process lasts for a period between three to eight weeks.

Further Process:

The jelly-like substance is transferred into the factory area where it passes through a heating process. This causes the collagen protein to be further liquified and dissolved as gelatine. Hereafter a series of filtration and evaporation and a chilling process comes into effect. The chilling causes the gelatine to be solidified and thereafter it is crushed into granules.

The dilemma faced by the inspection team was that research was needed to be done at a molecular level for a proper understanding of the process of the manufacture and effects of the chemical on the hides used. The investigation team then submitted their report to Dr. Mohamed Loonat who was at that time a Senior Lecturer of Chemistry at the University of South Africa. Samples of the hide used as well as the final gelatine product was submitted to him for analysis.

In conclusion he noted that Gelatine is not a true protein but is derived from collagen: via a process of acid hydrolysis or base hydrolysis. The Davis gelatine is derived from the base type of hydrolysis since lime is used in the process. It is also a protein derived from collagen which comes from hides; but the gelatine has undergone a hydrolysis which gives completely different properties and chemistry from the collagen. So this irreversible process has made the collagen into gelatine. The two different in structure, molecular weight, gelling properties and solubility. Collagen has been metamorphosed into gelatine.

Islamic Perspective

The necessary documentation in terms of the report of the inspection as well as the findings of Dr. Loonat were then submitted to a number of Ulama around the world and their opinions was studied by the Ulama Council of the Independent Halal Trust. It was then found that because the collagen which makes up the hide had changed in nature and had become a protein which in fact did not exist in nature, Gelatine could then be deemed to be Halal because of this process and drastic transformation.

Proof of this principle was supplied from the book Raddul Mukhtar : Chapter of Impurities whose Author is Imam Muhammed Amien who is better known as Ibn Abideen As-Shami. In his marginal notes he writes : Even though it was originally a donkey or a pig but due to undergoing total transformation, is a formal cause for the whole, and this is the statement of Imam Muhammad and Hulyah has listed in Zakheera and Muheet, Imam Abu Hanifa with him as well. It is stated in FATAH that majority of the pious sages have adopted this opinion. And this has become the generally acceptance authority because Islamic Law has drawn up the attributes of impurity based on this reality.

Reality can become negative on the negation of some parts of the original which is understood from it. Then if there is the case with partial change then what about the change brought about by total transformation.

Without a shadow of doubt salt is different from bones and flesh but when these transform into salt then the injunction regarding it would be that of salt.

An example of this in Islamic Law is that of sperm which in its original state is impure. When this became ALAQAH or congealed blood it will still be impure. But when it changes into lump of flesh it becomes pure. Likewise a fruit juice is pure but when it ferments to become alcohol it will be impure. However, when this is turned into vinegar it once again becomes pure. From there we have ascertained that a total change of anything changes its attributes, as a result of which there will be an injunction for the negation of the attribute, i.e. what was impure in the original state will now be regarded as pure during it undergoing this change.

A number of theological bodies, both nationally as well as internationally concur with this view and have also opined the gelatine to be Halal.