There is a small supermarket near my house that I usually go to whenever our kitchen runs out of small items like salt, sugar, dish washing liquid or baby formula at inconvenient times.
During one of those inconvenient times, while I was lining up at the cashier, I noticed that the person in front of me had a six-pack of beer in his hand.
As soon as it got to his turn, he gently placed the six-pack on the cashier counter and slid it towards the cashier, who was a young and pleasant looking girl in a tudung.
She had a slight look of apprehension when she saw the six-pack, but she quickly responded by reaching under the counter and pulling out a small plastic bag.
I was wondering to myself if she had made the right decision, if she had chosen the right size plastic bag to fit the six-pack in for the customer in front of me.
It seem quite small and a large six-pack would probably not fit inside. It was really a small plastic bag that would hold, at most, one box of cigarette and a vaping machine.
But then something funny happened. Instead of taking the six-pack and putting it inside the plastic bag, the young, tudung-clad girl put her hand inside of it!
She then proceeded to hold the six pack, scan it through the cash register and with her other hand, took another bigger plastic bag and stuck the six-pack into that bag.
Ah, that made much more sense, I thought. It did not make sense why she just couldn’t touch the six-pack with her bare hands.
What made sense was why she had taken such a small plastic bag instead of a bigger one. She wanted to use it for her hand and not for the six-pack!
Then all the clicks and whirrs started making noise in my head and I put two and two together even more so it got clearer as to why she took out the plastic bag.
She is a tudung-clad girl and looked obviously Malay. I deduced (or I was just being stereotypical and judgmental) that she would have been a Muslim.
In Islam, beer is an alcoholic beverage and alcohol is “haram” and forbidden to be consumed. Hence, she was using the plastic bag to shield her skin from touching a haram beverage.
As a journalist, I prided myself in my observational and deduction skills (or many would probably say stereotypical and judgmental skills).
But then the clicks and whirrs in my head got louder. If the beverage is haram to be consumed, and it was in a can, wouldn’t she really be touching the can rather than the alcohol itself?
And, is merely touching alcohol without actually drinking it haram and forbidden? Could you get really get drunk and intoxicated if the alcohol touched your skin?
In this particular case, could you get drunk and intoxicated if your skin came into contact with the aluminium can that had alcohol inside of it? Hmm, very complex situation.
Then I started wondering. Would the act not of selling the alcohol itself and actually aiding someone to obtain alcohol to consume it be more sinful than just touching the cans?
Ah, but what do I know about all these things? I am someone whose logic also tells me that having dedicated trolleys for halal and non-halal items at a supermarket is ridiculous.
[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]
And here’s a little documentary I did about Muslims touching dogs and the special magic soap that will absolve their sin!