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Interview with American Muslim behind new 'halal' wine beverages

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Cheers! We were delighted to interview Nadeem Ishaq, CEO of Heavenly Halal LLC, in regards to one of the newest products breaking into the US market: Al Andalus Alcohol Removed Wine.

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Asalaamu Alaykum Nadeem, you are the man behind Al Andalus 0.0% Halal Wine, won't you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an entrepreneur, with a particular interest in gourmet, halal items from around the globe. I found that growing up as an American Muslim, from the school cafeteria on through to the supermarket- we were never particularly catered to due to our dietary restrictions. This motivated me to one day start an endeavor which would change that, and Heavenly Halal has begun that with our introductory item Al Andalus Alcohol Removed Wine.

Great! So what's halal about wine?

I admit, it’s not a question completely without controversy. Many people in the community, including members of my own family have argued that this is not a product that can ever be considered “halal”. That the word halal followed by wine is an oxymoron. My argument to them is that putting aside all the debate from various schools of fiqh, and ahadith- the noble Quran mentions the health benefits of wine and tells of rivers of wine in Paradise. It tells of Prophets during whose time wine was used in religious ceremony and indeed in everyday life. The exceptions to these positives came when intoxication became an issue, and alcohol was summarily banned.

Our product is alcohol free, and will never be an intoxicant. It gives you the full benefits of a traditional wine without the negative effects we as Muslims must refrain from.

What is your aim in putting a product like this on the market?

Our aim is to provide nondrinkers with a high quality premium beverage option, when they are cooking, dining, celebrating occasions and events or simply seeking a superb health conscious drink. Wine has an amazing taste to the palate, and has numerous antioxidant properties well documented by modern medicine. We want Muslims, and nondrinkers to be able to derive this benefit- while not compromising their values. Additionally, my wife is a revert/convert and this product can be helpful during the transition of people who recently embraced Islam.

Who are your biggest patrons and supporters?

I think our biggest supporters have been people who have drank alcoholic wine, without having a halal option before. I had a young lady, an observant muslima who told me she drank wine regularly because she enjoyed the taste, however the guilt of consuming alcohol was constantly tugging at her soul. She felt, in many ways it was a social norm in her circle of friends and she could not refrain from it. She wrote me the most amazing letter about her experience with Al Andalus, and how she could now enjoy wine with not just her friends but her family as well- without guilt or shame. That’s the real objective, to keep people from voiding their principles because of a lack of halal alternatives.

During my husband's and my time in the United Arab Emirates, we found an abundance of halal products that made living there all the more easy, are you thinking of expanding there or elswhere?

Halal wine has been introduced and approved for sale by the Halal body of UAE for a few years already, under various brands. Over a dozen Muslim countries, their ulema and shariah boards have approved this product as meeting and exceeding Halal standards. We are the first company in North America to introduce this item, we have no plans on expanding to the UAE at this time.

What products or flavors will you be sending me to taste and review?

We currently offer three varietals in our wine range. Al Andalus Red Tempranillo, White Macaben & Airen, and a Sparkling Brut Espumoso. An amazing product line imported from the legendary vineyards of La Mancha Spain. We hope you will enjoy them and give us your feedback.

I am excited about the prospect! Thank you so much for your time, Nadeem, it was our pleasure speaking to over the phone and email.

*emphasis author's own

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