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Are animals slaughtered by the People of the Book halaal?

Question:
The following article has argued that eating the meat of animals slaughtered by the People of the Book even if Allah's name is not invoked while slaughtering is halal for Muslims. What is your opinion?


SLAUGHTERING BY THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK

The basic rule regarding the food and meat of the People of the Book is that it if Halal. A Muslim can eat their food and marry their women, as stated in the following Ayat:

"Made lawful to you this day are At-Tayyibat [all kinds of Halal (lawful) foods, which Allah has made lawful (meat of slaughtered eatable animals, etc. milk products, fats, vegetables and fruits, etc..). The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals, etc.) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time, when you have given their due Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife) desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girl friends. And whosoever disbelieves in the Oneness of Allah and in all the other Articles of Faith [i.e. His (Allah’s), Angels, His Holy Books, His Messengers, the Day of Resurrection and Al-Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], then fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers." (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)

People of the Book specifically means Christians and Jews. Scholars have discussed in great detail exactly what is meant by the expression "People of the Book" and whether or not that meaning would change with time. The majority of scholars say that the meaning of People of the Book has not changed and should not change with time, even if the Christians and Jews deviate more in their path from the True Path and regardless of how much they practice of their religion. The reasons for this understanding are very simple. Firstly, all or most of these deviations existed even before the revelation of the Quran to our Prophet (SAW), yet Allah (SWT) called them the People of the Book. Second, Allah (SWT) did not mention in the Quran - and He surely knows that they are going to change. We should not, therefore, pay attention to these changes, and should treat them, in every way in which we deal with them, as who they are - People of the Book.

Rasheed Ridhaa, a respected scholar who lived at the turn of the century, said in his book of Tafseer: "Allah (SWT) prohibited us from marrying Mushrik women, yet He (SWT) also permitted us - in a clear and direct manner in the same Ayat - to marry the women of the People of the Book. Since marriage is more important than eating, we should not, therefore, put any restrictions on the rulings derived from the Ayat regarding their food or who they are." (Tafseer al-Manar, B1 / P353)

It should be pointed out that the Dhabeehah of the People of the Book is Halal regardless of whether their country is considered to be part of the Daar-ul-Harb (at war with Muslims) or Daar-us-Salaam (at peace with Muslims). Imam Nawawee has reported on the consensus of scholars on this matter (al Majmuu’a, V9 / P68).

HARAM FOOD IS ALWAYS HARAM

All scholars have understood food in the above Ayat to refer to meat or Dhabeehah of the People of the Book. One should now ask the question: Are all the types of food and meat used by them Halal for us? The answer to that can be summarized by stating that what our Deen has shown us to be Haram will always be Haram. Therefore, all the ruling discussed above apply to their Dhabeehah with one exception - the invocation of the Name of Allah (SWT) over the slaughtered animal. The same conditions for the Halal requirement of Dhabeehah, are considered again, in this time with the People of the Book in mind:

1. According to Al-Ma’idah 5:5 mentioned above, Muslims can only eat good and pure meats. Therefore, the flesh of swine, blood, dead animals, etc. are not permissible for the Muslims to eat - even items (e.g. pork) currently eaten by the People of the Book.

2. No names other than that of Allah (SWT) should be invoked over the animal. If such is done, the Dhabeehah becomes Haram according to Abu Hanifah, Shafiee and Ibn Hanbal. That is the ruling if we actually hear these names invoked at the time of slaughtering. If we do not actually hear them, scholars have said that the ruling is not to ask about it. This ruling is supported by the majority of scholars.

3. According to Abu Hanifah and Ibn Hanbal, the Dhabeehah to the People of the Book is not Halal unless they invoke the Name of Allah (SWT) over it. According to Malik and Shafiee, however, invoking the Name of Allah (SWT) is not a requirement, and the Dhabeehah is Halal. This latter opinion is supported by the following:

· The fact that the Al-Ma’idah 5:5 declares their meat to be Halal without imposing any restrictions such as the invocation of the Name of Allah (SWT) over the animal. Therefore, their meat is Halal for us as long as it does not belong to one or more of the ten Haram categories discussed above.

· In a Hadith narrated by Aisha (RA), she said:

"Some people told the Prophet (SAW) that some people brought them meat and they did not know whether the Name of Allah (SWT) had been spoken over it or not. The Prophet (SAW) said: ‘Speak the Name of Allah over it and eat.’" (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Abu Dawood)

This Hadith shows that non-Muslims were not used to invoking the Name of Allah (SWT) during the time of the Prophet (SAW), and that the invocation was required of Muslims because the Prophet (SAW) had told them to invoke Allah’s (SWT) Name before eating. That can be interpreted to mean: because their meat is permitted for you, you can eat it, just be mentioning Allah’s (SWT) Name over it, and it does not really matter whether or not they (People of the Book) had invoked Allah’s (SWT) Name over it because it is not required of the People of the Book.

· Allah (SWT) has permitted us to marry women of the People of the Book, and it is well established that the husband cannot force his wife to be a Muslim or to practice Islamic worship. Similarly, we cannot ask the People of the Book to invoke Allah’s (SWT) Name over an animal they slaughtered, because they are not required to do so.

· If one considers Surah Al-An’am 6:121: "Eat not (O believers) of that (meat) on which Allah’s Name has not been pronounced (at the time of the slaughtering of the animal)…" (Al-An’am 6:121) together with the fact that the People of the Book do not invoke Allah’s (SWT) Name, one may get confused. But the paradox is answered by considering the following: The meat of the People of the Book is exempted form the restriction. The Quran prohibits Muslims from marrying Mushrik women but at the same time has exempted women of the People of the Book from the prohibition.

Based on this discussion and other evidences, the following conclusions have been drawn:

1. All meats prohibited in Islam are ALWAYS prohibited, even if the People of the Book eat them.

2. If a Muslim hears a Christian or a Jew invoking the names of other than Allah (SWT), he should not eat from the Dhabeehah. But if he does not hear them, he should not ask about it, either.

3. We cannot force the People of the Book to invoke Allah’s (SWT) Name when slaughtering. Hence, their Dhabeehah is Halal even without the invocation.

4. The slaughtering procedure used by the People of the Book should not kill the animal before slaughtering it.

Response:
What I don't understand about the given opinion is that on the one hand the author agrees that Muslims are not allowed to consume pork even if it is offered by the people of the book, on the other he/she insists that we can't require them to invoke the name of Allah Almighty while slaughtering animals. The fact of the matter is that the Almighty has made pork haram for us through one Qur'anic verse and the animals that have not been slaughtered in the name of Allah through another. How come we can include one in the list of haram when it comes to the case of the people of the book and exclude the other?

The author is not right in his/her claim that the people of the book don't invoke Allah's name while slaughtering. At least some of the Jews do it even now, and therefore because they do it, the meat of the animals slaughtered by them is halal for us. As I mentioned earlier, the quoted hadith has to do with people who otherwise are known to be using halal food. If you know for sure that some people use haram meat, would you still not investigate because of the understanding of this hadith? I mean if somebody tells you that the meat offered to you is pork and you are not sure whether it is or it is not, should you consume it by saying bismillah on the basis of this hadith? If not, why should you be allowed to say bismillah and consume a meat about which you know that it was slaughtered by people who have a clear policy of not pronouncing the name of Allah, God, Jehovah or any other name which they give to the God Almighty? A haram item is haram irrespective of whoever serves it to you. It is very difficult for me to appreciate that if an item is presented to me by a Muslim, it is haram, but if the same item is presented by a Christian, then it is okay, because, as the author says, we can't force the Christians to invoke the name of Allah while slaughtering.

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