The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) declared Monday two brands of meningitis vaccine as halal according to Islamic law, thereby allowing its use on Muslims travelling to undertake the haj.
Muslims previously used a vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline, which the MUI said contained traces of pig products and had been declared haram, for pre-haj vaccinations.
MUI leader Amidhan Shaberah told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview that the meningitis vaccine produced by Swiss company Novartis and Chinese company Tian Yuana had been discovered to be halal.
He said that MUI had conducted visits to the factories where the vaccine was made and discovered that Novartis and Tian Yuan vaccines did not involve any elements of pig products in their manufacturing.
According to him, the government requested MUI conduct research and determine whether the vaccines were halal, because those who were undertaking the haj insisted the medicine was not forbidden under Islamic teachings.
The government of Saudi Arabia requests that all haj pilgrims and anyone traveling to the country during the haj period have a certificate saying they have been vaccinated against the disease, which can kill or severely disable people in a very short period.
The disease is bacterial and viral in nature, and according to data from the World Health Organization, in 2009, 14 African countries reported over 4,000 deaths due to 78,416 suspected cases.
Amidhan said that Indonesia had for years been using the Glaxo vaccine, which was declared haram by MUI two years ago because, despite having no traces of swine elements in the final result, the production process included the use of those elements.
“Last year, there was no alternative to Glaxo and since it was considered an emergency, its use was allowed. Since then, [former health minister] Siti Fadilah Supari promised to provide halal vaccines,” he said.
Amidhan added the government already purchased Glaxo vaccines, “but [what they do with the supply is] their business. We only determine whether its haram or not.”
Last year, several pilgrims canceled the trip because they refused to be injected with the drug.
This year’s haj season will begin in October, with Amidhan saying that pilgrims need to be vaccinated two weeks prior to departing.
Also on Monday, the MUI said that civet coffee, which is produced from partially digested coffee beans collected from the droppings of civets, a cat-like mammal, would likely be declared halal.
Newswire detik.com quoted MUI’s Secretary of Fatwa Commission Asrorun Niam stating that the coffee is allowed because it had undergone a cleaning process.
Haram-halal matters aside, MUI recently issued an edict saying that the qiblah (direction Muslims face when they are performing a prayer) needed to be corrected.
“The edict before said that [people praying] had to face west. The people questioned that and, after more research, the direction is northwest. [People] have to shift 20 degrees to the right,” Amidhan said.
He added that there was no need for mosques’ architecture to be altered to adjust to the fatwa.
“You just have to adjust your direction,” he said.