THE RULES OF FOODS AND DRINKS
Allah created mankind with the need to eat and drink, because through them both he supports his body, he sustains his existence, and he preserves his strength and energy, so he may perform his role in this life, exert his effort and perform his obligations. But a straightforward person is one who eats and drinks so he may stay alive, taking of them what meets his need – not the one whose main concern is to eat, so he lives to eat and drink out of his desire for foods and drinks, consuming of them both as much as he can, just like a tied animal which is concerned only about its feed, and like a loose animal which does nothing but goes from one pile of garbage to another. Doing so means descending to the status of animals. It harms the body, causes the heart to be cruel and distances one from Allah Almighty, who said: "O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: Eat and drink, but do not waste by excess, for Allah does not love the wasteful” (Qur'an, 7:31).
In a tradition narrated by Amr ibn Ibrahim, the latter said that he heard Abul-Hasan, (peace be upon him) say, "Had people been moderate in consuming food, their bodies would be healthy."[i]
In a tradition narrated by Salih al-Nayli, the latter quoted Imam Abu Abdullah, Ja'far ibn Muhammed al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) as saying, "Allah hates the eating of too much food”. Abu Abdullah said also: “A son of Adam has no option but to have a meal by which he maintains himself. When any of you eats, let him make a third of his stomach for food, a third for drinks and a third so he may breathe well. Do not get fat like pigs are fattened for slaughter."[ii]
In one of his narrations, Abu Baseer quoted the Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) as saying to him, "O Abu Muhammed! …
The closest a servant of Allah can be to his Lord is when his stomach is light, and the most hated a servant of Allah can be to his Lord is when his stomach his full."[iii]
We do not mean that one should stop enjoying the good things, diversifying what he eats and improving its quality, for Allah Almighty has created the goodness in food and drinks as well as other things, so that mankind may enjoy and benefit from them. All we wish to say is that one should not eat and drink too much, filling his stomach with them, because they have the harms referred to above. One must not be extreme in his attention to them for this is one of the contemptible animal habits, so much so that it has been said that if one is concerned mostly about filling his stomach, his worth is what comes out of it!
As such, Allah has banned certain types and conditions of foods and drinks. He does not prohibit anything arbitrarily, nor does he want for Himself what He prohibits, nor is His desire from doing so is to harm anyone by depriving him of enjoying what he likes to enjoy. Rather, He does so for the goodness and benefit of mankind. In a tradition narrated by al-Mufaddal ibn Umar, when he asked Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) about why the Almighty prohibited some things, the Imam (peace be upon him) said, "Allah, Blessed and Praised is He, did not prohibit His servants from some things and make everything else permissible for them because of His desire in what He prohibited, nor out of His needlessness of the permissible. Rather, He created everyone and He knew what is best for the maintenance of their bodies and what benefits them the most, and made these things lawful for them out of His favor and grace for their own sake, and He knew what would harm them so He forbade and prohibited these things for them…"[iv]
A believer, especially the expatriate who is exposed in his environment to many prohibited things, must refrain from committing what is prohibited in all its types and in all cases, and he must not allow himself to commit them, in order to obey Allah Almighty Who made such prohibitions, and adhere to His limits. Another reason is the fact that there are many perils relevant to one's religion, body and psyche. What is made permissible for him is widely available, enjoyable and sufficient. It has been narrated that one whose stomach gets him to be hurled into the hellfire is distanced from Allah[v]
. Among the attributes of a believer is that he has chastity with regards to his desires for food and sex. Surely Allah Almighty is the Master of success and guidance, and He is the most Merciful.
Q1: Is it permissible for a Muslim to eat food prepared by non-Muslims, be they Christians, Jews or others?
A: The preparation of food itself by non-Muslims does not prohibit eating it; rather, eating this food becomes prohibited in three cases:
(1) If the food itself is deemed to be prohibited, such as pork, and meat about which there are doubts whether the animal was Islamically slaughtered or not and without any valid evidence by which one can be sure of its being Islamically slaughtered.
(2) One knows that it is Najis, either because he knows that it was touched by a person who is considered to be Najis through something wet or moist, or he knows that the food came in contact with some Najis utensils.
(3) One knows that the food had become Najis earlier, such as the meat which was slaughtered according to the Islamic rules but then came in contact with the blood of slaughter, and he does not know whether the non-Muslim cleansed it or not, it is then deemed Najis and eating it is not permissible.
Q2: If a Muslim wants to eat of food, should he first examine the contents in order to make sure that the food does not have anything which is not permissible for him to consume?
A: He is permitted to eat of it without examining it unless he knows that it contains what he is not permissible to eat. He must then investigate to distinguish the permissible from the non-permissible foods.
Q3: Tables with wine served are common in some countries. What does it mean that one is prohibited from sitting at a table where there is wine? Is it the one particular gathering where there are many tables?
A: What is prohibited is one sitting at a table where wine is being drunk. If they are two tables close to each other and on one of which there is wine, one can sit at the other.
Q4: If a Muslim enters a café and starts drinking tea, then a stranger comes to drink wine at the same table, should he stop drinking his tea and leave?
A: Based on the scenario in the question, it is not obligatory to stop drinking tea or to leave the café. However, if one enters and starts drinking wine at that table, one must stand and leave that table, and he may return to sit at it after that person had finished drinking his wine.
Q5: Is a Muslim permitted to be present at gatherings where wine is served?
A: It is not permissible for him to be present in such gatherings in two cases:
(1) If by being present there, he encourages the doing of a prohibited act;
(2) If his non-attendance will be an expression of forbidding the wrongdoing, when the conditions that obligate the forbidding of wrongdoing are met, such as the possibility of this bearing an impact, even if it may be with regard to one who is not sinning yet, so as it may be a cause in some people being deterred from committing wrongdoing and thus minimizing transgressions.
Q6: A Muslim works here in the West in a forbidden job such as selling pork or wine, but he has no other means of making a living other than this job. Am I permitted to eat at his house if he invites me? What is the ruling if his job is just to distribute these banned items such as working as a distribution worker?
A: Yes, it is permissible to eat food at his place.
Q7: Is it permissible to drink beer on which it is written that it is alcohol-free?
A: If the absence of alcohol is due to processing it into a non-intoxicating drink through chemical processes, it is Tahir and it can be drunk. But if the above is done by withdrawing the alcohol after it had already been in it, such as through a distillation process, it is Najis and must not be drunk. If the statement refers to the barley water which by itself is alcohol-free, it is not a beer and it can be drunk.
Q8: In the Islamic countries, there is a liquid called barley water which is alcohol-free; is it Tahir and can it be drunk?
A: Yes, it is Tahir and may be drunk if it is alcohol-free to start with, or if its alcohol was lost through chemical processes. But if there was alcohol in it which was later drawn out of it through a filtration process, it is forbidden – just as we have explained in our answer to the previous question. Fuqa’ is Najis and drinking it is unlawful and it is made of barley water. However, it is said that Fuqa’ is beer and that the former contains a very small percentage of alcohol which causes a weak level of intoxication.
Q9: Is it sufficient for meat to be halal if it is imported from non-Muslim countries and "slaughtered in the way prescribed by Islamic law” is written on it, and is eating it permissible?
A: If the meat imported from non-Muslim countries is taken from a Muslim, and if it is probable that the Muslim had ensured that it was slaughtered according to the rules of the Islamic Sharia, it is deemed as being halal. But if it is known that that Muslim did not do so, it is regarded as being Najis and not halal.
Q10: Some meat producing companies in non-Muslim countries print packages on which it is written that their meat is slaughtered according to the Islamic way. Should we believe what they say? Should we believe what they say if it said on the package that it was slaughtered under the supervision of a committee sent by an Islamic country?
A: Their statement should not be believed, as well as such labeling, except if these companies themselves are Islamic or the meat was owned previously by a Muslim and it is probable that he ensured that the meat came from animals slaughtered according to Islamic rules.
Q11: The statement "slaughtered according to the Islamic way” is written on meats produced in Islamic countries by non-Muslim companies. Are we allowed to eat their meat?
A: Eating their meat products is prohibited, and the said statement does not make eating them permissible. But, if the origin of these meats is an Islamic company, their meat will be deemed to be permissible to eat.
Q12: Are we permitted to eat such meats (mentioned in the previous question) if their origin is an Islamic company in a non-Muslim country?
A: Yes, it is permissible to eat them, if it is probable that the producing company followed the rules of the Islamic Sharia in slaughtering the animals or paid due attention to these Sharia rules in such a way that it is possible that they are not processed by the mentioned company except by ensuring that the animals were slaughtered according to the laws of Sharia. But if this is not probable, they must not be eaten.
Q13: Is the meat and skin of an animal, about which it is doubted whether it was slaughtered Islamically or not – and thus it is deemed to be not slaughtered Islamically - Tahir or Najis?
A: It is regarded as being a corpse and is Najis.
Q14: In some non-Muslim countries, there are shops that sell "halal” meat for Muslims. If we suppose that we doubt the meat they sell being slaughtered Islamically, should we treat it as we treat what is sold at Muslims' markets so we regard it as being as being slaughtered Islamically and permissible to eat?
A: No, it will not be deemed to be halal, nor will it deemed to be slaughtered according to Islamic law, unless the shop belongs to a Muslim and it is probable that the meat was slaughtered according to the Sharia.
Q15: Is it permissible to buy meat from a supermarket owned by a Muslim with the assumption that it is halal although the owner sells wine?
A: If the buyer finds it probable that the meat was slaughtered according to Islamic law, he can buy it from it.
Q16: If one of the People of the Book tells a Muslim that this meat is halal, and if the Muslim inquired and found out that it is indeed slaughtered according to the Islamic way, can he rely on him again considering that the non-Muslim does not lie, without [again] inquiring about the status of such meat?
A: He must not take his word every time unless he is certain in his truthfulness, because what is required when he takes meat from a non-Muslim is the Muslim's knowledge of the animal being slaughtered Islamically
Q17: It has become customary at some large slaughterhouses, in order to facilitate the process of slaughtering livestock, to electrically stun the animal, and cows are shot in the head. This does not lead to killing the animal which is slaughtered after it and it moves its limb after its slaughter; so in such a situation is its meat halal?
A: If the blood comes out moderately in the conventional way when an animal is slaughtered, eating its meat is permissible, and this remains the case even if it is stunned or shot as mentioned above.
Q18: There are in Sweden some Arab Islamic shops that sell Danish chickens on which it is written in Arabic "slaughtered according to the Islamic way,” and it is common knowledge among Muslim refugees and residents that it is halal. But when we are asked if we witnessed how they were slaughtered, we give the answer: "No, we did not see it, but we heard it from trusted persons.” And then the trusted persons heard from trusted persons, and so on. Are we permitted to eat such chickens?
A: Eating the said chickens is permissible if it is probable that it was slaughtered according to the Sharia.
Q19: Companies slaughter large numbers of chickens at once. If the operator of the equipment is a Muslim, he recites the Takbir and mentions the Name of Allah at the time of slaughtering all the chickens at once; so, is their meat halal?
A: Reciting the Name of Allah suffices while slaughtering such a large quantity as long as the slaughtering and the operating of the machinery are conventionally simultaneous. Yes, the rest of the conditions have to be met too, such as the animal must be facing Qibla, the slaughtering is done under the larynx in order to cut the four jugular veins, the slaughtering is done from the front and not from the back, and all the other conditions.
It is not sufficient if the recitation of the Name of Allah is simultaneous to the operation of the machine but the slaughtering of the animal took place after this as the machinery continued to run; nor it is sufficient in such a scenario with the repetition of the Name of Allah after the operation of the machine and simultaneous to the slaughter.
Q20: A chicken is suspended by its legs and its head is down while the front of its body faces the opposite direction of Qibla and the one doing the slaughtering is a Muslim facing Qibla and invoking the Name of Allah; can a chicken slaughtered like that be eaten or is it to be regarded as a Najis corpse?
A: It is, according to the way described above, a Najis dead meat if the person slaughtering it deliberately lets the chicken not face Qibla while knowing that facing Qibla is necessary condition. This is because what is a condition in the validity in slaughtering is that the animal being slaughtered must face Qibla, not the one performing the slaughter But if he did not know about this condition, or if he made a mistake in the way to fulfill this condition, or erred about determining the direction of Qibla, the meat of the slaughtered animal is halal.
Q21: What is the opinion of Your Eminence about slaughtering animals using something made of steel, and is the meat of the animal thus slaughtered halal?
A: As the steel knife is made of an alloy which consists mainly of iron and the additive is in little quantity, it does not change the fact that slaughtering is done using iron as conventionally understood. Therefore using such a knife is sufficient.
Q22: What is the ruling relevant to slaughtering with the use of the common steel knife, and the percentage of non-iron material in it, as people of expertise and specialization tell us, ranges from 12% to 14%, and maybe the highest percentage reaches 25% and does not reach 30% except rarely and in a knife which is not ordinarily used?
A: Apparently, the common iron is not without a mixture of non-iron materials in varying percentages. There is no objection to slaughtering with steel if the percentage of the additive ranges between 12% and 14%, as per the answer to the previous question.
Q23: Is it permissible to slaughter with a knife made of something else other than iron, such as brass?
A: It is not permissible, while one has the ability to slaughter using iron. Yes, there is no harm in slaughtering using iron mixed with another material if what is mixed with it is little.
Q24: Is it permissible to eat food fried with oil about which it is not known whether it is vegetable or animal oil?
A: While there is doubt about its Taharah and Najasah, they can be eaten.
Q25: Is it permissible for a Muslim to eat packaged foods prepared by European companies which do not contain meats or fats?
A: Yes, it is permissible as long as one does not know that they contain prohibited foods even if such a prohibition is due to its becoming Najis through contact with Najasah.
Q26: Is it permissible to eat halal food which is steamed with the steam of meat not slaughtered in the Islamic way?
A: Yes, it is permissible unless the halal food contains visible fatty parts from the meat which is not slaughtered in the Islamic way.
Q27: Is it permissible to eat cheese, honey and oil imported from non-Muslim countries while we do not know where exactly they came from, because most of them are imported from non-Muslim countries then packaged in Muslim countries?
A: It is permissible to eat it unless one knows that it’s Najis or that it contains what is prohibited to consume.
Q28: Some cheeses processed in non-Muslim countries contain rennet of calves and we do not know if it is taken from animals slaughtered according to the Islamic Sharia or not; so, is it permissible to eat these cheeses?
A: Yes, it is permissible if the rennet is of calves or similar animals that are permissible to eat [as opposed to pigs and other such animals which the Sharia prohibits].
Q29: Are we permitted to eat foods or drinks containing gelatin while we do not know if it is extracted from plants or animals; and if it’s known to be from animals, whether it is extracted from its bones or from the tissue surrounding the bones, and then whether the animal was slaughtered in the Islamic way or not?
A: They can be eaten, unless it is known that they are extracted from tissues of an animal which is not slaughtered Islamically, or if they are extracted from an animal which is not permissible to eat.
Q30: Can the cosmetics imported from non-Muslim countries, which contain gelatin derived from animals, be regarded as having been altered into a different form, so it now is Tahir?
A: Gelatin is not different from its origin, and the change that occurs in it is not deemed to be the change of a substance which makes Najis things Tahir; rather, it is similar to the process of separating fatty substances by heating and boiling.
However, if the gelatin is derived from bones, it is Tahir because the bone is known to be lifeless, so it is Tahir even if it is taken from the corpse of a dead animal [not slaughtered Islamically].
So, it is permissible to consume if it is from an animal which is lawful to eat.
One should make sure that the bones from which the gelatin is taken is Tahir by washing them with water if their external parts are deemed to be Najis because of being in contact with meat of the corpse of an animal [which is Najis].
Q31: Large fishing boats throw their nets and bring out tons of fish, selling their catch at markets. It is now well known that the modern method of fishing is based on getting the fish out of the water alive. Moreover, fish that die in the water are sometimes thrown back for fear of contamination. Are we permitted to buy these fish from shops owned by some People of the Book or Muslims who do not pay due attention to this? It should also be considered that it is extremely difficult to obtain certainty that the fish in front of me have been taken from the water alive, or to find a trusted informed witness who tells me so; rather it is not practical nor is it realistic. Is there a solution for the problem of Muslims who face difficulty verifying the meats of chickens and other livestock being halal, so they highly prefer fish?
A: If the company bases its business on not marketing fish found dead in the water, and the probability of selling fish which has died in the water is because of error on their part, one should not pay attention to such probability and the fish then may be bought and eaten, especially if such probability originate from unreasonable doubts. If the probability of the fish having died in the water is high and the company may have tolerated it, eating such fish is forbidden. Yes, it is likely that the fish that dies in the water is not good for packing because it decays. So, if the fish is not decayed, this serves as evidence to its having died outside the water, and perhaps assistance should be sought from experts for verification.
Q32: Some species of fish have very few scales, while most of their bodies do not have them; is eating such species permissible?
A: Yes, it is permissible.
Q33: Is it enough for fish to be halal if it dies inside the fishing net?
A: It is necessary that it is taken out of the water alive. It is sufficient that it is trapped in the net until the water runs out while it is alive, such that it dies in the net outside the water.
Q34: Presently, poison is often used in fishing; are these fish lawful to eat, knowing that the poison kills them in only a few minutes?
A: If it is known that the fish came out of the water dead, it is not permissible to eat it, even if it is bought from a Muslim. But if there is merely a probability [that it came out of the water already dead], and if it is bought from a Muslim, it is permissible to eat, but if it is – in this particular case – notbought from a Muslim, it is unlawful to eat.
Q35: Is it permissible to eat the halal small fish which are swallowed by a big fish brought out of the water alive?
A: Yes, it is.
Q36: Sometimes we find on a can of fish the name or picture of that fish, so we know that this fish has scales. Are we permitted to rely on the name or picture to determine the species of fish, while we know that lying about matters such as these exposes the producing company to a great deal of loss and perhaps to greater hardships?
A: The company can be believed, unless one considers it to be dishonest in such a claim. Apparently, based on the information given in the question, the mere possibility of the company lying can be disregarded.
Q37: Is it permissible to buy fish from a non-Shia Muslim while we do not know whether the fish has scales or not?
A: One has to be certain that it has scales, even if it may be through inquiring about it with the seller, as long as he is not considered to be dishonest.
Q38: Are we allowed to eat shrimps, lobsters and turtles?
A: Eating shrimps is permissible, and it is not permissible to eat lobsters and turtles.
Q39: What are the principle criteria that make the eating of meat of wild animals permissible?
A: What is prohibited is any animal that has fangs, and all predatory animals, bears, elephants, rabbits, monkeys, lizards, mice and rats. Based on an obligatory precaution, one should avoid insects – other than grasshoppers – and gerbils and hedgehogs [and porcupines]. It is best to restrict oneself in terms of eating to camels, cows, goats and sheep, domesticated or wild, as well as antelopes, deer, ibexes, roe deer, zebras, domesticated donkeys, horses and mules, although the last three are disliked to be consumed as food.
[i]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 16, p. 406.
[iii]Ibid., Vol. 16, p. 405.
[iv]Ibid., Vol. 16, p. 310.
[v]Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 40, p. 340.