Sunday, August 22, 2010

Madhab Shafi'i Position on Meat of People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) in the West

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher


Could you please explain to me the position of the Shafi'i madhhab on eating the meat of those who call themselves Christians, in the West, for example, Mcdonalds? Is it halal to eat this type of meat?


In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

It is not permissible to eat meat unless it fulfills the conditions of a valid Islamic slaughter. Meat that hasn't been Islamically slaughtered is called "carrion" (Ar. maytah) and Allah Most High clearly prohibits the consumption of carrion in many verses, such as "Prohibited for you are: carrion, blood, ..." (5:3).

The meat that is sold in supermarkets and restaurants in countries with small Muslim populations, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries, does not generally meet the conditions of a valid Islamic slaughter and is not permissible to eat.

Some Muslims argue that the Shafi`i school permits eating such meat. This is a mistake. The meat that is prevalently available in such lands is not halal and impermissible to eat even according to the Shafi`i school.

The Muslims who mistakenly ascribe this position to the Shafi`i school argue that:
(1) since the Shafi`i school does not require the slaughterer to recite the name of
Allah while slaughtering, and
(2) since the Quran permits us to eat the meat of Christians, the meat found in
supermarkets and restaurants is permissible to consume. This reasoning is
incorrect on both of its premises.

The first premise is a true premise but makes a number of incorrect assumptions. It is, in fact, true that reciting the name of Allah while slaughtering is not a requirement in the Shafi`i school. However, the Shafi`i school--like other schools--makes other stipulations regarding a valid slaughter that are generally not met in non-Muslim countries. For example, the slaughter is only valid if the windpipe and gullet of the animal is severed with a sharp instrument. Killing the animal through electrocution or a through a shot to the head violates this condition and the resulting dead animal is not permissible to eat at all. This is, in fact, how most meat is slaughtered in non-Muslim countries.

The second premise also does not lend credence to the argument because according to the Shafi`is, the meat validly slaughtered by Christians (i.e. by severing the windpipe and gullet with a sharp instrument) is only permissible to eat if the Christians meet certain stringent conditions. The vast majority of Christians alive today don't meet these stringent conditions and their slaughtered meat is not permissible to eat in the Shafi`i school. [1]

So, if anything, the Shafi`i school is even stricter than other schools when it comes to the permissibility of eating meat that is slaughtered by the People of the Book.

And Allah Most High knows best.

[1] The Shafi`is stipulate that the Christian whose slaughtered meat is permissible to eat is someone who has an uninterrupted Christian lineage all the way back to pre-Islamic times. If the Christian is of non-Israelite descent, then this needs to be positively established (virtually impossible in our times). If the Christian is of Israelite descent, then the conditions are less stringent.

Reference: Hashiyat al-Jamal `ala Fath al-Wahhab


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