Is It Really Being Careless?
June 11, 2008 2 Comments
One of my wife’s friends recently sent her an email containing an article produced by the Canadian Council of Muslim Theologians titled, Is It Really Worth Being Careless?. The article deals with the never dying issue revolving around lawful and forbidden foods. It is presented in a question and answer format with questions based on some of the issues raised in the on-going debate of what’s lawful and what’s forbidden. The article is basically a scare-mongering tactic by some of the Deobandi Hanafîs here and not only implicates non-Muslim distributers and retailers selling “halâl” food, but Muslim retailers and distributers as well. My wife’s friend wanted to know if one particular part of the article was correct. The passage she was asking about reads:
3. If I purchased a non halal consumable, will it not be sufficient to say ‘Bismillah’ before eating it in order to render it halal due to the following hadith? ; Aisha RA narrated, “A group of people said to the Prophet PBUH, “Some people bring us meat and we do not know whether they mentioned Allah’s name or not upon it (i.e. when slaughtering it)?” So he PBUH replied, “Mention Allah’s name on it and eat.” The people who were being referred to had embraced Islam recently,” (Al-Bukhari)
The answer is no. This hadith, unfortunately, is one of the most misused and misunderstood hadith by the general public. Therefore it is extremely important to be acquainted with the correct implications of this hadith, and in general any hadith, before jumping to any conclusions. In the afore mentioned hadith, the people who had approached the Prophet PBUH were inquiring about the meat they were receiving from a tribe which had newly embraced Islam, whether the requisites of Zabeeha, the most important of them being the recital of Bismillah at the time of slaughter had been fulfilled. The reason they posed this question was that they were uncertain whether these new – muslims were aware of this ruling or not. Therefore in the light of this uncertainty what were they to do with this meat, consume it or throw it away? Their questioning was not in regards to how to make non Zabeeha meat halal. The Prophet PBUH answered their question in the most eloquent style by reminding them of their responsibility which was to recite bismillah before eating and then partake of the meal. Indirectly the Prophet PBUH had told them that this concern should not arise when the meat is being provided by a good muslim. When a consumable is provided by a good muslim there should stand no doubt that the consumable is shariah compliant and Islamically edible. The answer of the Prophet PBUH by no way means that by saying bismillah on non-zabeeha items, the item will be rendered halal. May Allah give us all the correct understanding. Ameen!
Aside from the obvious call for Muslims to have poor assumptions and suspicions of their fellow brothers and sisters in Islam, this supposed council of “theologians” clearly disregards the import of this authentic hadîth.
The hadîth is narrated by ‘Â’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, and is found in Sahîh al-Bukhârî (nos. 2057 & 5507) as well as other compilations of hadîth. Imam al-Bukhârî reports on the authority of ‘Â’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, that
a people said to the Prophet, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, “Surely, a people comes to us with meat, which we do not know: was Allah’s name has been mentioned on or not?” He said, «You name [Allah’s name] on it and eat it.» She (i.e., ‘Â’ishah) said, “They were newly acquainted with the disbelief (i.e., they were new to Islam).” It was followed up by ‘Alî, from ad-Darâwardî and by Abū Khâlid and at–Tufâwî.
In his explanation of this hadîth in Fat·h al-Bârî (vol. 9, pg. 551), Imam Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him, mentioned the following:
In the naration of this hadîth from an-Nadr bin Shumail, from Hishâm with Imam an-Nasâ’î is the wording, “Surely, a people from the Bedouins,” and in Mâlik’s narration is, “from the Bedouins.”
His statement, “we do not know was Allah’s name is was mentioned on it,” as such … while in at–Tufâwî’s narration that passed in Kitâb al-Buyū’ is “did they mention,” and in Abî Khâlid’s narration is, “we do not know if they mention,” and Abū Dâwud added in his narration, “or if they did not mention. So do we eat from it?”
Mâlik added at the end of the hadîth, “and that was at the beginning of Islam.” A people commented on this addition claiming that this reply [from the Prophet] was before the revelation of His statement, exalted is He, «And do not eat from what Allah’s name is not mentioned on» (6:121). Ibn ‘Abdil-Barr said this is a weak comment and in the hadîth itself is what refutes it (i.e., the claim), because in it he commanded them with naming [Allah’s name] upon eating, so it indicates that the verse was revealed with the command for naming [Allah’s name] upon eating (See: at-Tamhîd limâ fil-Muwatta’ min al-ma’ânî wal-asânîd). It is also agreed on that al-An’âm (Qur’an, ch. 6) is Meccan, that this story took place in Madînah, and that the Bedouins alluded to in the hadîth are Bedouins from the people of Madînah.
In al-Mushkil, at–Tahâwî has, “A people from the Companions asked Allah’s messenger, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, saying, “Bedouins come to us with meats, cheese and fat, we do not know what their Islam is.” He said, «Look to what Allah forbade for you and abstain from it. What He was silent about, then He has pardoned it for you and your Lord is not forgetful. Mention Allah’s name on it.» al-Muhallab said this hadîth is a foundation in that the naming [of Allah’s name] upon the slaughtered animal is not obligated, since if it was obligatory it would certainly have been stipulated for every situation and they had agreed that the naming [of Allah’s name] upon eating is not a [religious] duty, so when it is substituted for the naming [of Allah’s name] upon slaughtering, it indicates that it is a sunnah, because the sunnah does not substitute the [religious] duty.
Ibn at-Tîn said it is implied that by the naming [of Allah’s name] here, it is intended upon eating and an-Nawawî was positive about that. Ibn at-Tîn said as for the naming [of Allah’s name] upon slaughtering, others held [that opinon] without their knowledge, so there is no trouble on them in it. It is certainly taken as invalid if contrary to it is made clear and it is implied that it is meant that with your naming [of Allah’s name] now, you deem eating what you don’t know permissible: was Allah’s name mentioned on it or not?, since the slaughterer is from [those] whose slaughter is valid if [Allah’s name] is named. From that it follows that everything found in the Muslims’ shops is carried according to the validity. Likewise, what the Bedouin Muslims slaughter is eaten and taken as though [Allah’s name] is named, because the prodominant [thing] is that they recognize the naming [of Allah’s name]. Likewise the latter, Ibn ‘Abdil-Barr decided and said in it is that what the Muslim slaughters is eaten and taken as if [Allah’s name] is named, because in everything, only good is assumed of the Muslim until contrary to that is made clear. al-Khattâbî mirrored this and said it contains evidence that the naming [of Allah’s name] is not a condition for the slaughtered animal, because if it were a condition the slaughtered animal would not be deemed permissible due to the matter which is doubted.
The reply from the Prophet, «You name [Allah’s name] and eat it,” is as if it was said to them do not be concerned with that, rather that which you should be concerned with is that you mention Allah’s name and eat.
From what indicates the lack of stipulation is His statement, exalted is He, «And the food of those given the Book is lawful for you» (5:5), for He permitted eating from their slaughtered animals depsite the existence of doubt regarding whether they named [Allah’s name] or not.
Now, whether the naming of Allah’s name at the time of slaughter is a condition for its legality, whether it is an obligation, which if left off intentionally renders the slaughtered animal’s meat impermissible, but if left of out of forgetfulness does not harm, or whether it is merely a desired or recommended act, is another discussion altogether, one which I won’t get into here (despite what is quoted above from Ibn Hajar).
What I wish to focus on here is the fact that in Ibn Hajar’s explanation of this hadîth, he mentions that if the source of the meat is one which is lawful (i.e., Muslims, Jews, and Christians), then eating it is lawful, unless contrary to that is made clear. There is no mention in the hadîth about these new Muslims being righteous or sinful. Instead, as Ibn Hajar mentions, Allah permitted eating the Jews and Christians’ slaughtered animals despite the doubt surrounding whether they mentioned Allah’s name at the time of slaughter or not. So if this is the case with Jews and Christians, then how much more so should it be the case with other Muslims, with whom we are obligated to assume good of?!
Now compare this to what the council claims at the beginning of their article,
1. If I see a product marked as halal or I am given assurance by the distributor or retailer that the product is halal, am I not supposed to believe him?
The answer is that even then you must investigate. The main reason being is that today we are living in an era in which deceiving, cheating and being unfaithful has become prevalent within our society. This unfortunate state of affairs is something that was foretold by our beloved Prophet PBUH in the following hadith; Imran bin Hussain RA reported that Allah’s Messenger PBUH said, “The best of this nation is the generation within whom I have been sent then those people who will come after them. Then a people will emerge who will make vows and not fulfill them, they will deceive and they cannot be trusted…” (Al hadith)
The hadîth from ‘Â’ishah is actually an evidence against the council’s claim here that it is a must for you to investigate the lawfulness of the food even after you’ve been assured by the distributer or retailer that the product is lawful. Prophet Muhammad did not order those who asked him about the meat to investigate. Instead, he commanded them to name Allah’s name on the meat themselves and eat from it. If it is said that this was with the case of Muslims providing the meat, not the Jews or the Christians, all that needs to be mentioned is the authentic hadîth in which Prophet Muhammad accepted a (poisoned) piece of lamb shoulder from a Jewish lady without investigating the method in which it was slaughtered, nor did he command us to do so even after he learned that it was poisoned.
Carelessness is falling short in what is required of us in a given matter, not giving it the proper or required attention. So how is it carelessness when we find ample evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah that tells us the meat of Muslims, Jews and Christians is lawful for us, whether we know that they have mentioned Allah’s name on it or not? How is it carelessness when we find sufficient evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah that tells us when the source of the meat is lawful, it is assumed that the meat is lawful and we are not obligated to investigate further into the various details of animal’s slaughter?