Shellac is a natural resin obtained from the secretion of female lac bug. The product comes from mainly India, China, Mexico, and Thailand. Shellac has thermostatic properties. Various industries use it due to these thermostatic properties.
The female lac bug is a parasite that secrets resin and lives on almost 300 trees. The resin is harvested in the above-stated countries and then exported worldwide. Shellac has many functions: tough natural primer, sanding sealant, tannin-blocker, Odor-blocker, stain, and high-gloss varnish.
Some of the most prominent products we use, such as paints, wood finishing, pharmaceuticals, and beauty products, contain shellac. Some of these products include:
- Food Glazes like Apple and Cake glazes
- Sealing Waxes
- Floor and Wood Varnishes
- Eyeliner and Mascara
- Hair Spray
- Nail Polishes
How To Obtain Shellac
The female lac bug is parasitic and lives on different species of trees. For the bug to thrive on the host trees, the lac-culturists must tend to them until it is time for harvest. The farmers harvest the resin the bug secretes from the twigs of the host trees.
The bug secretes the sap after undergoing chemical modification. While living on the tree, the female lac bug lays thousands of eggs within five weeks. The secretion forms a protective cover over these eggs.
To harvest the resin, the farmers cut down the branches with these bug eggs and the protective resin cover and send them to refiners/factories, where they separate the bug residues from the plant material.
The resin is refined and then dried out. The dried-out resin is sold as dry flakes. To use the dry shellac flakes in other products, dissolve it in a solvent, usually ethyl alcohol (alcohol).. On average, around 100,000 lac bugs die to produce one pound of shellac flakes!
Islamic Verdict About Halal and Haram
Muslims worldwide seek guidance from Quran and Sunnah for leading their lives according to Islamic teachings. These two primary guidance sources contain timeless principles that modern Muslims can follow without hesitation.
The 157 verse of Surah Al-Ar’af prohibits Muslims from eating impure animals.
“Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.” (Surah7 verse 157.)
According to Islamic Shariah, insects are haram and therefore, female lac bug or any of its extract is also not permissible to eat. (Source: https://islamqa.org/hanafi/fatwa-tt/134340/what-is-the-ruling-of-carmine-e-120/)
Similarly, in Surah Al Maida Verse No 91, Allah (SWT) has abstained Muslims from consuming alcohol.
“Satan’s plan is to stir up hostility and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling and to prevent you from remembering Allah and praying. Will you not then abstain?” (Surah Al Maida, Verse No 91)
Is Shellac Halal or Haram?
Considering the above verses, we can conclude that shellac is haram and is not permissible to consume. Often shellac is a glazing agent for foods. And shellac is prepared with a mixture of alcohol which is haram, according to every Islamic school of thought.
On the other hand, halal shellac is also available in the market. You can consume halal shellac because they use a halal solvent (instead of alcohol) to prepare it.
If the farmers do not effectively segregate the resin from the insect parts during the processing of shellac, consuming such shellac and the subsequent products will not be permissible. But on the other hand, if the refining process effectively eliminates all insect parts from the resin, it is permissible to eat.
Holy Quran and Sunnah are the two primary sources of guidance for all of the Muslim populace. So, in light of the Quran and Sunnah, shellac, if mixed with alcohol and insect parts, is absolutely haram. However, if the harvesters do not separate the insects and add no alcohol to the mix during refining, such shellac will be halal.
However, before making a final decision, it is necessary to seek guidance from an established Islamic scholar of your school of thought who can make an informed decision based on the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.