By Imam Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee
Recently, I was asked:
While living as a minority in a predominately Christian country, can we consume the meat served at local restaurants by reciting Bismillah over the food?
There are several factors that come into play for meat to be considered halal. However, there are two major factors that are not met in this scenario.
1. The people slaughtering the animal do not always meet the criteria of the Qur’an:
Islam only allows meat which is slaughtered by two types of individuals and both are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:
Allah states in the Holy Qur’an after mentioning types of haram meat:
إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ”
“… except for that which you (the Muslims) slaughter.”
b.) People of the book (Jews and Christians):
Allah mentions regarding this in the Holy Qur’an:
وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حِلٌّ لَكُمْ
“And the food of the people of the book is halal for you.”
Since the meat found in our supermarkets and restaurants is also slaughtered by individuals of other faith groups, machinery or individuals that do not associate themselves with any faith at all, this condition will not be found indefinitely, rendering the meat haram.
2. Bismillah is not recited upon the meat at the time of slaughtering. Allah has commanded us regarding this in several places:
وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِسْقٌ
“And do not eat from that which did not have Bismillah recited over it… [6:121]”
حُرِّمَتْ …وَأَنْعَامٌ لَا يَذْكُرُونَ اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا
“And haram are… those animals upon which the name of All¥h is not recited upon. [6:138]
فَكُلُوا مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ
“So eat from that which had the name of Allah recited upon it [6:118]
وَمَا لَكُمْ أَلَّا تَأْكُلُوا مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَقَدْ فَصَّلَ لَكُمْ مَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِلَّا مَا اضْطُرِرْتُمْ إِلَيْهِ
“And what is wrong with you that you do not eat from that which had the name of Allah recited upon it, while Allah has clearly mentioned for you what is impermissible upon you, unless you are forced towards it (in times of dire need) [6:119]”
Now there are some people that claim that this condition can be met by reciting Bismillah over the food at the time of consumption, and that it is not limited to the time of slaughtering. This claim is wrong for the following reasons:
1. While understanding the Qur’an one must understand it in the Arabic of the people of the time. A literal understanding of Arabic (as being claimed in the query above) is not enough. I have personally checked tens of commentaries of the Qur’an alongside my associates, and all commentators from the past or present have understood that these verses are commanding us to recite Bismillah at the time of slaughtering. No one has even entertained the thought that this verse can be referring to reciting Bismillah at the time of consumption and not at the time of slaughtering.
2. The wording of the verses also indicates that the intent is for Bismillah to be recited at the time of slaughtering. In one of the verses above, Allah tells us to recite Bismillah over our meat, and to consume halal “unless you are forced towards it (in times of dire need).” If the intent of the verse was that Bismillah should be recited on the meat at the time of consumption as claimed in the query above, then there would be no need for the exception of being forced to consume such meat, as the Qur’an would simply command us to recite Bismillah and then eat the meat. Even the reason for the revelation of the verse has to do with slaughtering, as the non-Muslims had an objection that Muslims eat the meat which they slaughter themselves, but not the one which died of natural causes. This is narrated by Abdullah bin Abbas’ countless Qur’anic commentaries. The following wording is in Tafsir al-Tabrarani:
عن ابن عباس: إن المشركين قالوا للمسلمين: ما قتل ربّكم فلا تأكلون، وما قتلتم أنتم تأكلونه! فأوحى الله إلى نبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم: (ولا تأكلوا مما لم يذكر اسم الله عليه)
3. The general command and practice of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was also to recite Bismillah at the time of slaughtering or hunting an animal. We can use these to understand that the command of the Qur’an is to recite Bismillah at the time of slaughtering and not the time of consumption.
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو دَاوُدَ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا زَائِدَةُ، عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ مَسْرُوقٍ، عَنْ عَبَايَةَ عَنْ رَافِعٍ، قَالَ: قُلْنَا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، إِنَّا لَاقُو الْعَدُوِّ غَدًا وَلَيْسَ مَعَنَا مُدًى أَفَنَذْبَحُ بِالْقَصَبِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «مَا أَنْهَرَ الدَّمَ وَذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّهِ فَكُلْ مَا خَلَا السِّنَّ وَالظُّفُرَ، وَسَأُخْبِرُكَ عَنْ ذَلِكَ أَمَا السِّنُّ فَعَظْمٌ وَأَمَّا الظُّفُرُ فَمُدَى الْحَبَشَةِ» قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُدَ قَالَ زَائِدَةُ: تَرَوْنَ، مَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَدِيثٌ فِي هَذَا الْبَابِ أَحْسَنُ مِنْهُ قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُدَ: وَهُوَ وَاللَّهِ مِنْ جِيَادِ الْحَدِيثِ
“It is narrated from Rafi (Radhiallahu ta’ala anhu) that he said, “we said, ‘… Can we slaughter animals with a sharp wooden stick?” The Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) responded, “Whatever has been slaughtered by an object which is able to flow blood and the name of Allah is recited over it, eat from it… (Abu Dawud)”
The Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) commented regarding the slaughtering of animals on the day of Eid,
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو دَاوُدَ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنِ الْأَسْوَدِ، سَمِعَ جُنْدُبًا، يَقُولُ: شَهِدْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَخْطُبُ يَوْمَ أَضْحَى فَقَالَ: «مَنْ كَانَ ذَبَحَ مِنْكُمْ قَبْلَ الصَّلَاةِ فَلْيُعِدْ مَكَانَ ذَبِيحَتِهِ أُخْرَى وَمَنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ ذَبَحَ فَلْيَذْبَحْ بِاسْمِ اللَّهِ»
“It is narrated from Jundub (Radhiallahu ta’ala anhu), “I was present when the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) was giving the lecture on the day of Eid-ul-Adha. He said, “Whoever from amongst you slaughtered before the prayer should do it again with another sacrifice. Those that did not do so, should slaughter with the name of Allah.”
The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) commanded to recite Bismillah even when hunting with animals,
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو دَاوُدَ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَيُّوبَ، عَنْ أَبِي قِلَابَةَ، أَنَّ أَبَا ثَعْلَبَةَ، قَالَ: قُلْتُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، إِنِّي أُرْسِلُ كَلْبِي فَيَأْخُذُ الصَّيْدَ؟ قَالَ: «إِذَا أَرْسَلْتَ كَلْبَكَ الْمُعَلَّمَ فَذَكَرْتَ اسْمَ اللَّهِ، فَأَخَذَ فَكُلْ وَإِذَا أَرْسَلْتَ كَلْبَكَ الَّذِي لَيْسَ بِمُعَلَّمٍ فَأَخَذَ فَإِنْ أَدْرَكْتَ ذَكَاتَهُ فَكُلْ وَإِنْ لَمْ تُدْرِكْ ذَكَاتَهُ فَلَا تَأْكُلْ»
“AbuTha’labah (Radhialllahu ta’aala anhu) narrates, “I said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, I send my dog and it catches the prey. [Is that permissible?]” The Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) said, “If you send you trained dog, and then you say Bismillah, and then it catches [the prey], eat from it… [Abu Dawud]
By looking at the evidence above we can conclude that it is not permissible to consume meat based products available in non-Muslim restaurants due to the following reasons:
1. The slaughterer is not always a Muslim or an individual from the people of the book
2. Bismillah is not recited upon the meat at the time of slaughtering
Feel free to contact me with further queries and Allah knows best.
P.S. Please note that this is not a Fatwa as I am not a Mufti. This is simply my research on the issue.