Question # 93: When travelling to USA, am I allowed to eat meat (beef from example) from any place such as restaurants, butchers, etc…? Should I ask for the origin of the meat and how it was sacrificed?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer:  According to scholars like Shaykh Bin Baz and Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, it is permissible to eat the meat slaughtered by the People of the Book, Jews and Christians, according to the Qur’an, except unless there is evidence to the contrary to prove that the name of Allah was not mentioned at the time of slaughter and that the meat is not slaughtered in the manner prescribed by shari’ah (i.e., by cutting the trachea and esophagus and draining the blood), in which case, it is haram to eat.  Hence, if nothing is known, the rule of thumb is not to ask about how it was killed or whether the name of Allah was mentioned over it or not, and treat the meat halal.

As for USA, according to the two methods allowed under The Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, animals are allowed to be stunned into unconsciousness using single blow or gunshot, prior to being slaughter. The most common methods used are captive bolt pistol or gun to stun the cattle, sheep, and goats and giving a run under electrically charged water to chickens. The other allowed method is in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith, whereby the animal is made to suffer loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain, by the severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument.

A final note – According to Assim Al-Hakeem, scholars like Shaykh Bin Baz and Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen allowed eating the meat of the People of the Book, based on the assumption that US, UK and like are Christian countries. However, since majority of the slaughter houses in these countries do not follow the proper method of slaughtering as per Shari’ah, the meat slaughtered therein is considered dead meat and prohibited in Islam. And if this information is known for fact, it is preferred to avoid eating.

Long Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an in the following ayat:

  • “Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars…”(Soorah Al-Ma’idah, 5:3)
  • “This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them…” (Soorah Al-Ma’idah, 5:5)

“… their “food” means the animals they slaughter, as Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) and others said.” (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

  • “And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for indeed, it is grave disobedience.” (Soorah Al-Anam, 6:121)
  • “He has forbidden you only Al Maitah (meat of a dead animal), blood, the flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols or on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, and not transgressing, then, Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Soorah Al-Nahl, 16:115)
  • “He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him.” (Soorah Al-Baqarah, 2:173)

OPINIONS OF THE SCHOLARS

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “One of the following… scenarios must apply to…meat [slaughtered by the People of the Book]:

  1. We know that it has been slaughtered in the proper manner [prescribed in shari’ah, by cutting the trachea and esophagus and draining the blood and in the name of Allah]. This meat is halal.
  1. We know that it has not been slaughtered in the proper manner [such as by strangling, electric shock, drowning in water etc. then it is maytah or dead meat]. This meat is haram.
  1. [We know that it has been slaughtered in the name of someone or something other than Allah, such as the Messiah, in which case it is again haram]
  1. We are not sure; i.e., we do not know whether it has been slaughtered in the proper manner or not [whether it is do with the method of slaughter and invoking the name of Allah]. The ruling in this case is that the meat is halal, and we do not have to ask about how it was killed or whether the name of Allah was mentioned over it or not. Rather it seems from the Sunnah that it is better not to ask or try to find out. Hence, when they said to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), “O Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم)! Here are people who have recently embraced Islam and they bring meat, and we do not know whether they had mentioned Allah’s Name while slaughtering the animals or not.” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “You should mention Allah’s Name and eat.” [(Narrated by Ai’ishah (رضي الله عنه) Related by Al-Bukhari)]; he did not say to them, ask them whether they mentioned the name of Allah over them or not, rather he said: “Say the name of Allah over it yourselves, and eat it.” This tasmiyah or saying of the name of Allah which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told them to do is not the tasmiyah of slaughter, because the slaughter is over and done with. Rather it is the tasmiyah of eating, because what is prescribed is for the person who is eating to say the name of Allah when he eats. The correct view regarding saying the name of Allah when eating is that it is obligatory, because the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) enjoined it, and because if a person does not say the name of Allah, the Shaytaan shares his food and drink. (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “…you should not ask about it, because this is a form of stubbornness and obstinacy. If we were to say that it is necessary to ask about things such as this, we would exhaust ourselves, due to the possibility that every food served to us is not permissible. So if someone invites you to eat and serves food to you, it is possible that the food is unlawful or stolen, and it is possible that the money paid for it was unlawful, and it is possible that the meat therein did not have the Name of Allah mentioned over it, and so on. It is from Allah’s Mercy towards His creatures that if an action was performed by one who has experience therein, then what is apparent is that it was done in a manner which meets one’s obligations and no sin is attached to a person thereby.” (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

Sheikh Abdel-Aziz Bin Baz said: “That we receive their meat and we don’t know if it has been slaughtered properly or not. In this case the rule of thumb is that if we don’t know the way of slaughter, the default is that it is permitted if it has been slaughtered by Muslims or Ahl il-Kitaab” (Fatawa Islamiyya)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “…But if [someone] doubts and is hesitant over whether it was slaughtered in a correct manner or not, then we have two basic principles:

The first principle: That it is correct.

The second principle: To hesitate; if a person is hesitant about it and leaves it, there is no sin upon him, and if he eats it, there is no sin upon him.” (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

Sheikh Abdel-Aziz Bin Baz said: “[…However, If the Muslims] …in… non-Muslim countries [find it] …difficult… to obtain meat that is slaughtered in the proper shar’iah manner,… this does not justify him eating haram meat and it does not mean he comes under the heading of one who is compelled or forced, according to the consensus of the Muslims…” (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz)

“[Moreover,] it is not permissible for the Muslim to eat foods that the Jews, Christians and mushrikoon make for their festivals. It is not permissible either for a Muslim to accept such things that are given to them on the occasion of their festivals, because that implies honoring them and cooperating with them in manifesting their symbols and propagating their innovations and sharing their happiness on the days of their festivals…” (Al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah)

SITUATION IN USA

The Humane Slaughter Act, or the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, (P.L. 85-765; 7 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) is a United States federal law designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter. It was approved on August 27, 1958.

SEC. 2 of the Public Law 85-765 states that “No method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane. Either of the following two methods of slaughtering and handling are hereby found to be humane: 

  • in the case of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine, and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut; or 
  • by slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument.

(https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-72/pdf/STATUTE-72-Pg862.pdf)

According to Wikipedia.org, “According to the law, animals should be stunned into unconsciousness prior to their slaughter to ensure a death with less suffering than in killing methods used earlier. The most common methods are electrocution and CO2 stunning for swine and captive bolt stunning for cattle, sheep, and goats. Of these methods of electrocution, electronarcosis[1] has been widely acclaimed as the safest, most humane and most reliable as well as the surest way to stun the animal and render them insensitive to pain… Chickens, on the other hand …are given a run under electrically charged water…For religious sects to proceed in the slaughtering of animals under specifically related rituals, they must fall within compliance of the previously mentioned criterion. No religion is exempt and all animals due to be slaughtered must be rendered insensible beforehand. Many religions find these regulations to fall within their own guidelines as appropriate. The two most common religious slaughter methods in the United States are the method of kosher, of the Jewish faith and the method of Halal, of the Muslim faith. While all require that the animal be killed through ritual slaughter, proponents of certain religious-based slaughter methods claim that the severing of the animal’s carotid arteries[2], jugular veins and vagus nerve renders the animal unconscious as effectively as most other methods, but has yet to be proven.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humane_Slaughter_Act)

FINAL NOTE

According to Assim Al-Hakeem “Scholars like Shaykh Bin Baz and Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen assumed US, UK and similar countries as Christian countries, so they allowed eating meat in these countries lawful (without asking); other scholars say this is generalization. Majority of the slaughter houses in these countries do not follow the proper method of slaughtering as per Shari’ah. Hence, if this information is known for fact, then this is considered dead meat and prohibited in Islam. And if one doesn’t know and is doubtful, it is upon the person and his level of virtue, piety and fear of Allah to consume or not. More aptly, he should investigate and if he finds out that the slaughtering is not in accordance with Shari’ah, he should avoid eating… on the other hand, if I see someone eating such meat, I will not look down upon such Muslim because he might have his own justification depending on some legitimate fatawa as the level of righteousness differ from one person to another”  (paraphrased – Video Lecture)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam

[1] unconsciousness induced by passing a weak electric current through the brain and used in treating certain mental illnesses (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

[2] The carotid arteries are major blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain (internal carotid artery), neck, and face (external carotid artery). (www.webmd.com)