The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


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By Stephen Green.  (First published in Christian Voice: October 2010)

1 Cor. 10:20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

For meat to be 'Halal', the animal must be alive, intact and its heart beating, the slaughtering must be done in the presence of a Muslim, and a declaration, a 'Shahada', must be said over the meat at the point of slaughter.

Shahada (or shahadah) is an Arabic word meaning 'a declaration'. The most commonly encountered shahada is the one said to become a Muslim: 'There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet', with which we profoundly disagree!

The shahada said at the point of slaughter is: 'In the name of Allah, who is the greatest'. The Halal Food Authority say the shahada must be said over each animal, so no tape recorders are allowed. Each animal must be cut individually, so no rotating blades may be used to kill poultry, which is a common practice on non-halal production lines.

So far as the method of stunning is concerned, the usual UK method of captive-bolt stunning is prohibited for halal. This is because the bolt enters the animal's brain, not only rendering it unconscious but leading to death anyway if the throat were not cut immediately. The method of stunning is by dipping the heads in an electrified bath for poultry and by an electric stun for sheep and goats. (This method has been accepted as humane by animal welfare organisations, so the issue on halal slaughtering has now become not whether it is humane as practised in Britain and New Zealand , but whether ritually-slaughtered halal meat may be passed off as non-halal in its labelling.)

It is important to note that animals slaughtered by British methods and halal approved methods are both 'bled out'. They both die from loss of blood, and the heart keeps pumping up to the point of death. One difference is that no animal could survive captive bolt stunning, even if its throat were not cut, but an electrified animal could be up and walking afterwards, if its throat was not cut in the meantime.

But the other key difference is that a Muslim slaughterman must say the Shahada at the point of slaughter. This means that every halal-slaughtered sheep or chicken has been dedicated to Allah.

We saw earlier that the slaughterman says 'In the name of Allah, who is the greatest'. The word 'Akbah', translated 'greatest' can also mean 'greater'. The differentiation between comparative and superlative is not so strong in Arabic. What Mohammed meant by this expression was that Allah (a word which means 'the god') was greater than all the other idols worshipped as he was growing up in Mecca .

Mohammed's father was called Abdullah, which means 'slave of Allah'. The worship of Allah was well-established long before Mohammed was born. Modern scholars identify Allah with Sin, the god of the moon, a position reinforced by the crescent moon atop every mosque. All Mohammed said was that Allah alone was to be worshipped of all the idols in Mecca . Even today, Allah's idol in Mecca is a black stone, held sacred by Muslims. Our publication Understanding Islam explains further about the origins of Islam.

Christians need to understand that Allah is not just another word for 'God' (Allah means 'the god', not 'God') and that Allah, by denying in the Koran that he ever had a son, by denying the crucifixion of our Lord, the saving power of Jesus, and the words of Isaiah that Christ bore our sins, puts clear water between the Koran and the Bible and between himself and the God who became incarnate in his only begotten son and suffered for our sakes upon the cross. Allah is an idol, and meat dedicated to him is meat sacrificed to an idol.

Sikhs understand this very well, which is why their religion expressly forbids them from eating halal meat. It also explains why they, and anyone who desires openness and honesty in food labelling, are so disturbed that halal meat is being sold surreptitiously, and is not required to be labelled as such in the United Kingdom .

The injunctions against idol worship are clear in the Old Testament:

Lev. 19:4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.

Ps. 96:5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

Isa. 2:18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.

Zech. 13:2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

All through the Old Testament we read of a battle between the worship of Yahweh, the true God, and the worship of idols, or more properly, of the demons from the realm of Satan hiding behind them. The tribes around Israel were predominantly pagan. Aspects of nature such as the sun and the moon, the fishes of the sea, the stars of heaven, fertility and the weather, even trees and mountains, were exalted and worshipped. Human life was downgraded and expendable as a result. In all the pagan religions there was large-scale shedding of human blood, and it is note-worthy that Islam spread that way from its inception in the 7th century AD, across the Middle East, east to India and west to Spain and that it continues down that same bloody path today.

But the words of the prophets speak of a day when Christ shall rule, Satan will be sent to the pit and all false worship will be utterly abolished.

The Lord Jesus said some words which could be relevant to this matter. He was engaged in a debate on ritual washing of hands. He said that not washing hands before a meal in the prescribed manner did not make a man unclean before the Lord. It might give him a stomach upset, but that is a different matter, and we might easily suspect that the people of those days were a little tougher in their resistance to disease. Without modern medicines they needed to be. But it was the thoughts of the heart which made a man unclean. This is how the Lord explained it:

Mark 7:18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

So we might see a relevance to eating halal food in good conscience there, but on the other hand, the context is about Jewish ceremony and hand-washing. It does not in itself mean one can eat anything.

Certainly that is how the early church understood it, because the first Church Council held in Jerusalem considered whether the Gentiles were to observe Jewish customs, circumcision being the biggest stumbling-block. The result was a letter from James to the Gentile Churches:

Acts 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Acts 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded ... that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

This word has to proscribe the eating of halal meat as being included in the definition of that which is offered to an idol. Idolatry was rife in the societies out of which the early Christians were called, and they found themselves surrounded by idolatry and having to decide whether to eat meat dedicated to false gods. The Apostle John was given a word from the Lord Jesus himself to the churches at Pergamos and Thyatira on this issue, and that word is strongly against eating such meat:

Rev. 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

Rev. 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

The same problem existed in Corinth . This is what Paul wrote to the believers there:

1 Cor. 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

It seems from what the Apostle is saying that although Christ is bigger than the idols to which the meat is offered, and the meat would not defile the mature believer, nevertheless it is an act of witness to those who are weak to refuse it. The weak might be those young in the faith or even those of another faith.

Paul returns to the theme two chapters later where he sets it all in the context of not having fellowship with darkness. It we are sharing Holy Communion with the Lord, we should not be in communion with an idol:

1 Cor. 10:14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.

25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

26 For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.

27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof:

29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?

30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God :

33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

When Paul speaks of 'offence' as translated in the KJV he does not mean the word in a modern sense of putting someone's back up; he means causing them to think poorly of the Gospel. For Muslims in particular, if they see Christians acting with no regard to their Christian faith, or not taking it as seriously as they do their Muslim faith, that causes them 'offence' in the Pauline sense.

The conservative weblogger who goes rather pompously under the name of Archbishop Cranmer puts it quite well:

'While Christians are at liberty to consume whatever their conscience permits, Paul expresses a particular concern over meat offered to idols. (1Cor 10:14-32).

'But this assumes that the believer is aware that the meat has been blessed in the name of Allah, who is the greatest. (sic)

'If the Christian is kept in the dark, Paul is rather chilled about the matter until someone comes along and makes the believer aware that the meat was idol-sacrificed. Christians are then exhorted not to eat the meat for their sake: we may eat and drink anything unless and until it causes another to stumble.

'But no-one is much bothered about the dietary sensitivities of 71 per cent of the population. British Sikhs, however, constitute 0.7 per cent, and their voice will be heard. Unlike Hindus, some Sikhs eat meat, not least because one of their gurus is recorded as being a hunter. Yet within the Sikh faith are the 'kurahit' or prohibitions, one of which is to not eat meat 'killed in the Muslim way'.

'The origins, as ever, have more to do with the politics of identity, but it is a sustained article of belief for Sikhs all over the world - they are simply not permitted to eat halal meat at all.

'If they buy their meat from Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose or M&S, they have been doing so without their knowledge.'

It will be a good act of witness to ask the manager of your local store to confirm whether or not the lamb or chicken on sale is killed with an Islamic proclamation and to explain why. As 'Cranmer' says, as soon as we know, we are responsible. And such a witness from a Christian will help lift up the name of Jesus and by the grace of God, put a brake on the creeping Islamisation of the United Kingdom.