Categories
Fiqh Prayer Q and A

Q: Why Did You Change Your Fajr Time?

A:

 

Recently a number of local Imams and students of knowledge gathered to discuss the different fajr timings that are used in the prayer timings charts. After discussion and actual observation of fajr they issued the following:

In preparation for this year’s Ramadan calendar, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California tasked a team of brothers from the Southern California community to go out into the Mojave desert to observe the timing of Fajr. Their observations, which have been recorded in a separate report, corroborated the view that the beginning of Fajr approximately corresponds to the time the center of the sun makes a 15 degree angle with the horizon. The conclusions were discussed and verified with Dr. Khalid Shaukat, from moonsighting.com, and Dr. Ahmed Salama, a NASA physicist and astronomer.

Based on the information above, the Shura Council makes the following recommendations to the community:

1.     The timing of Fajr should be calculated according to the 15 degree method.

2.     As a precautionary measure, imsak (beginning of the fast) should be observed 5 minutes before the 15 degree time.

3.     Fajr prayer should not be performed before the 15 degree time.

Categories
Fasting Fiqh Q and A

Q: What to Do For Starting and Stopping if Traveling in Ramadan?

A:

 

You should start fasting with the community that you are in and end fasting with the community that you are in. It is possible that this means that you will fast 31 days. If that is the case then you fast 31 days. It is also possible that you will fast 28 days. If that is the case then you fast 28 days and make up an extra day later on. This is the opinion of the majority based on the hadith, “Your fast is the day the people fast and your breaking of fast is the day when the people break the fast.”

Categories
Fasting Fiqh Q and A

Different Masjids and Different Ramadan Dates? What to Do?

This is an article written by Imam Mustafa Umar for IIOC’s website. ICOI adopted the decision of the Fiqh Council of North America. For more info on their position and what it is based on see www.fiqhcouncil.org

 

Question:

Different masjids [mosques] in my area are using different methods to calculate when Ramadan will begin and end? Which one should I follow? What if my family is following a different one?

The Answer

There are certain things in Islam that have been left open to interpretation. The exact method used to determine the month of Ramadan is a matter of disagreement among scholars. There are two variables involved. First, whether the moon must be sighted in your locality or whether it may be sighted anywhere else where Muslims are present. Second, whether or not the moon must actually be observed or whether astronomical calculations can serve as a substitute for an actual sighting. It is our opinion that these methods all have some sound level of scholarship and therefore should not cause any unnecessary arguing in any Muslim community.
There may be two or more Islamic organizations which are using different criteria in your area. In that case, you would have to pick one to follow and stick to it. You may choose which one to follow by either:
  • following the most local Islamic organization
  • following the one you trust the most and believe that the scholarship at their center is more sound
  • follow the one your family is going with since you are living with them [hence, eating with them as well]
Whichever one you choose to go with, reflect on the ramifications it will have on both yourself and the people closest to you.
In closing, keep in mind that Allah will reward you for your intention and it is hoped that everyones fasting will be accepted, regardles of the scholarly differences of opinion that exist in this regard.
Categories
Fiqh Prayer Q and A

Space Between Feet in Prayer

A very common issue that comes up is how one’s feet should be in prayer. There are a couple of core points that should be kept in mind here:

– This is a minor issue and as such it’s difficult to even find it in the books of fiqh because it was never given much space.

– It is an issue of what is best and not what is required.

– Concentration in prayer is required and therefore the placement of one’s feet in relation to those around them should not distract them from the essence of prayer.

– The nature of minor issues such as this is that they are often areas of valid scholarly difference of opinion. It should not be turned into a big issue and the various view points should be respected.

– If taken literally it applies to the beginning of prayer and does not need to be re-initiated at the beginning of each new unit of prayer.

The link below is to a PDF taken from the book “Key Proofs in Hanafi Fiqh” by Shaykh Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf. It is a little difficult to read but not too long and gives a cursory look at the topic.

 

Space Between Feet In Prayer

Categories
Fiqh Q and A

Saying “Salam” to People of Other Faiths

*Originally published on suhaibwebb.com, here.

 

By Nurideen Lemu An-Nigeri

Preface

Muslims, just like the rest of mankind do not live in isolation. They live in a world of multi-religious and multicultural diversities. With globalization, the world is getting more and more exposed to new cultures, religions, and ideologies etc. If Muslims have to integrate into the so described global village, then good communication is a vital component. Just like it is in all civilizations, cultures and religions, greeting is the very social responsibility at the first point of contact. Consequently, how one greets another person can open the way for better interaction or halt further relationship. This becomes more important where the non-Muslim contemporaries vividly understand the meaning of the Muslim’s unique way of greeting and feel discriminated against, belittled or disrespected if they are denied the salutations of salaam (Peace). This grudge and rancor if left unattended could be detrimental to peaceful co-existence and subsequently threatening to the progress of Da’wah. Therefore, this paper attempts to x-ray the actual facts about the subject from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and to clarify which opinion may be stronger or more applicable to our contemporary context.

It is hoped that this paper will help Muslims get a truer picture on this matter, and lead to greater respect for the divergence of opinion among Muslim scholars.

INTRODUCTION

Greeting is a moral act, a way of acknowledging presence, showing respect and courtesy. It is recognized as a norm in all cultures and civilizations. It is the first social right at the point of contact and cuts across religious and cultural barriers. It was quite ordinary in history that even opposing armies will engage in some form of mutual acknowledgement before the start of combat.

Islam, as a comprehensive way of life also recognizes this norm as a right, and goes to the extent of specifying how it should be done: ‘Assalamu alaikum’ meaning ‘peace be upon you’ or more perfectly: ‘Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuh’ meaning “Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon you”. In this regard, Allah says in the Qur’an: “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet (in return) with one which is better than it or (at least) return it (in like manner). Indeed, Allah is ever taking account of all things” The greeting Allah is referring to here is generally understood to be ‘Assalamu alaikum’. He also described salaam as “a greeting from Allah, blessed and good”. Likewise the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) was once asked: ‘what aspect of Islam is among the best?” He replied “Giving food (to the needy) and saying salaam to whom you know and whom you know not”. In another instance, he enjoined his followers to spread the greetings of salaam because it increases the love between them. He also said: “It is not permissible for a person to desert his fellow brother for more than three days while they continue to meet and turn their backs to each other. And the best of them is the first to say Salaam”. He also ruled: ”Let the young say Salaam to the elder, and the passerby to the seated, and the smaller group to the larger group.”

Inevitably, Muslims live among relations, friends and well-wishers from other faiths. The salient question is: does this universal precious greeting of peace extend to them?

In discussing this topic, the rulings on issues having to do with initiating the saying of salaams will be treated separately as a section, and then followed by those related to replying or responding to salaam from non-Muslims.

SECTION A

INITIATING THE SAYING OF SALAAM TO NON-MUSLIMS

Muslim scholars in Islam have three major views concerning the saying of salaam to members of others faiths, such as Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Animists. One group of scholars prohibits it, while a second group permits it. Yet a third group takes a midway position by saying when conditions call for it or make it necessary, Muslims may initiate the greeting of salaam.

It has been authentically reported from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that he said:

“Do not initiate Salaam with them….” But it was said that this injunction was specifically when they were going to Banu Quraizah9. But the question is, is this a general rule applying to all non-Muslim citizens, or only to those who exhibits hostilities to Muslims as did the Banu Quraizah? This is a point of deliberation (among scholars).

Ι. PROHIBITION OF INITIATING THE SAYING OF SALAAM TO NON-MUSLIMS

A good number of Islamic scholars are of the view that it is prohibited to initiate the greeting of salaam to non-Muslims. They say salaam is meant to be exchanged among Muslims and that the verse of the Qur’an which spoke of greeting with salaam is referring to Muslim alone. This was the view of Ata’ bin Rabah They went further to say that salaam is to Muslims as shalom is to Jews. They backed their position with the Hadith reported by Abu Hurairah, where the messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: “You must not initiate the (greetings of) salaam with Jews and Christians,”. They say, salaam is a greeting of honor and a non–Muslim (kafir) does not deserve to be honored. Ahmad Bin Hanbal commented on the above Hadith: “Going by this Hadith is better than any other contrary opinion”. Ibn Hajar is of similar opinion, while commenting on the above Hadith, he said: “The most credible of all these (views) is what is evident in the above Hadith, although it is specific to the People of the Book. Ibn Katheer also, while commenting on the verse on greeting (Qur’an 4:86) said: “But as to non-Muslim citizens (Alum Dimmit) one should not initiate to them the greetings of salaam” Abu Haneefah and Malik Bin Anas detested initiating salaam with non-Muslims.

Proponents of this opinion argue further that the salaam meant for greeting is among the peculiarities of this Ummah of Prophet Muhammad as reported by Anas bin Malik, who said that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Indeed, Allah has given my Ummah three things that were not given to any other Ummah before me: saying salaam, and it is the greeting of the people of Jannah (Paradise)…”

Imam An-Nawawi reconciled between the ahadith that enjoyed greeting and those that prohibit initiating salaams to non Muslims as follows: “The ahadith that enjoined spreading the greetings of salaam is a generalization (A’am), from which the people of the book were excluded”

This group go further to assert that the salaam that Prophet Ibrahim (Peace be upon him) said to his father in Qur’an 19:47 was a mere farewell and good will, and it was not meant as a greeting.

From among the contemporary scholars, Ibn Uthaimeen holds a similar opinion. He believed initiating greetings of any sort with non-Muslims is a sort of honor given to them which they don’t deserve. He categorically spelt out that it is prohibited (Haraam) to greet them with salaam. He further said: “Because it is a humiliation for a Muslim when he starts to honor a non-Muslim”. Shaykh Abdul-Azeez Bin Baaz while commenting on the Hadith earlier stated, said: “This indicates that we respond to them if they initiate it. It is initiating it that is prohibited” Scholars of the Shafii Madhhab uphold the prohibition of initiating salaam to a non-Muslim citizen. However, they permitted initiating with other local greetings only when the need arises, because it is an expression of love. They argued further that Allah the Most High has warned: “You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger,.. However, some of the Shafi’i Madhhab scholars consider it to be merely detestable (Makruh).

II. PERMISIBILITY OF SAYING SALAAM TO NON-MUSLIMS

Another group of scholars consider it permissible to commence the saying of salaam to a non-Muslim. They say this view is in harmony with how Qur’an represents the Islamic greeting of peace as a universal greeting. They advance their argument on the basis of the following texts:

“O you who believe, enter not into houses other than yours without first announcing your presence and invoking peace (saying salaam) upon the folk thereof. That is better for you, that you may be heedful”

“And servants of (Allah) the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, Peace (Salaam)!”

“Consider his cry: ‘O my Lord! Surely they are a people who do not believe! So turn away from them and say ‘Salaam’ (Peace) for they shall soon come to know”.

Also, ”And when they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, ‘For us are our deeds and for you are your deeds, peace be upon you; we seek not the ignorant”

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “Greet with Peace those whom you know and those whom you do not know” He also informed us that when Allah created Adam, He commanded him “Go to that assembly” and they were an assembly of seated angels – ” and listen to how they greet you. Indeed, it is your greeting and the greeting of your descendents”. He said: “Peace be upon you” they said: “Peace be upon you and Allah’s Mercy”

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) also said: “Spread the greeting of peace”

In response to the hadith quoted by the first group, they agree that it relates to the state of hostilities which erupted between the Jews and the Muslims at the time of campaign against Banu Quraizah. They supported this assertion by a Hadith where the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “We are going forth in the morning against a group of Jews, so do not initiate the greeting of ‘Peace’ with them”

More so, a good number of the companions hold the same opinion. Abdullahi bin Mas’ud once said salaam to a non-Muslim. When asked: “Are we not warned against initiating salaam with them?“ He replied: “It is a right of companionship”. He once wrote a letter to a non-Muslim and said therein, ‘Assalamu alaik’ – “Peace be upon you”. Abu ad-Darda’, Abdullahi bin Abbas, Fudalah bin Ubaid and Ibn Muhairiz were also of the same view. It was equally reported that, Abu Umamah Al-Bahily do used to say salaam to whoever he passed by, Muslim or non-Muslim, and used to say, “it is a greeting for the people of our religion, and an assurance of security to our non-Muslim citizens, and a Name among the Names of Allah we spread among ourselves”. Notable among the prominent pious predecessors of the second generation was Sufyan bin Uyaynah, who when asked whether a Muslim can salute a non-Muslim with salaam, replied in affirmation and quoted the saying of Allah “Allah does not forbid you in respect of those who do not fight you because of your religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous and dealing justly towards them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly”

Imam Awzaiy said: “If you say salaam to them (the non-Muslims), then surely (some) pious people did the same, and if you don’t, indeed, (some) pious people did the same.” Umar Bin Abdul-Azeez said: “I feel no qualm in initiating salaam to them, because of the saying of Allah: ”So turn away from them and say ‘salaam’ – (Peace), for they shall soon come to know” Al-Sha’abi is also of the same understanding. He once said to a Jew “Peace and Allah’s Mercy be upon you” (Alaikas-Salam wa Rahmatullah), so it was said to him “You told a Jew Warahmatullah”? He replied back saying: “Isn’t he living in Allah’s Mercy?

Proponents of this view explained that the rationale behind the prohibition of initiating salaam was that some of the Jews used to greet the Prophet with ‘As-Saamu alaik’ meaning “Death be upon you”. However, if they change, and there is peaceful co-existence, nothing stops us of from initiating salaam. This view is equally supported by Imam Qurtubi.

III PERMISIBILITY ON CONDTION

The third category of scholars are those that see salaam to be permissible on necessities such as seeking help from them, companionship, a journey, or some other necessity, or if such non-Muslim are relations. This view tries to reconcile between the first two. They say that the Hadith of prohibition is applicable when conditions do not call for saying salaam. They support this assertion by a Hadith related by Usamah bin Zaid that the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a company of people which comprised Muslims, idol worshippers and Jews, and he greeted them with the salutation of peace (salaam). They say the only way to reconcile between the Hadith of prohibition and the above is permissibility but only when necessary. Notable among members of this group are: Ibrahim An-Nakhaiy, Alqamah and Al-Sha’by.

It is observable that the Prophet did not state any condition for His action in this hadith. Did He intend the greeting for only the Muslim s in the group, with the non Muslims as collateral beneficiaries? Or did He intend the greeting for all irrespective of their faith? In as much as the hadith exclude any condition, it is safe to assume that the Prophet’s greeting was directed to everyone in the group, Muslim or non Muslim.

SECTION B

RESPONDING TO SALAAM FROM NON-MUSLIMS

Nearly all the scholars have unanimously agreed that it is compulsory to reply salaams from a non-Muslim just as if he or she were a Muslim. This ruling is based on the verse of the Qur’an where Allah is says: “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet (in return) with what is better or (at least) return it (in a like manner)…”

Sufyan At-Thawri reported from Al-Hasan Al-Basari: “Initiating the saying of salaam is voluntary, but replying to the greeting of salaam is compulsory”. Ibn Katheer said: “This statement of Al-Hasan Al-Basari is the position of all scholars unanimously.

From the Madh-hab point of view, Hanafis and Malikis consider responding to salaam from a non-Muslim to be permissible, while scholars from Shafii and Hanbali Madh-habs consider it to be compulsory. However, scholars differ on how the reply should be.

The first category believe that the response to their greeting of salaam should be ‘wa’alaikum (And upon you too) or Alaikum’ (let it be upon you) and no more. Their evidence is the popular Hadith of Anas Bin Malik related by Bukhari and Muslim; that the Messenger of Allah said: “When the people of the Book offer you salutations, you should say: the same to you” (wa’alaikum). In another tradition it is related that the companions said to the Prophet: “The People of the Book offer us salutations (by saying as-Salaamu-alaikum). How should we reciprocate?’’ There upon he said: say: ‘Wa’alaikum’ (and upon you too). In the text narrated by Abdullahi bin ‘Umar: Allah’s Messenger said: “When the Jews greet you, they usually say, ‘As-Saamu alaikum (Death be on you), so you should say (in reply to them), ‘wa’alaikum (And on you too).” In the same vein, Aisha narrated: The Jews used to greet the Prophet by saying, ‘As-Samu ‘Alaika (death be upon you), so I understood what they said, and I said to them, “As-Samu alaikum wal-la’na (Death and Allah’s curse be upon you)”. The Prophet said, “Be gentle and calm, O ‘Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs” I said, “O Allah’s Prophet! Did you hear what they said?” He said, “Didn’t you hear me answering them back by saying, ‘Alaikum (the same be upon you).

Ibn Abbas commented on Qur’an 4:86 thus: “Greet (in return) with what is better” applies to a believer, but if it is a non-Muslim, reply with what the Messenger of Allah has instructed to be said to them “wa’alaikum” (And upon you too) Imam Al-Tabari while commenting on the same verse said “And already, the Sunnah has excluded non-Muslims from benefiting from the response that is better by the instruction to respond with “Wa’alaikum” Therefore, it is not befitting for anybody to transgress the bounds laid by the messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) in that regard. They supported this assertion with a Hadith reported by Anas, where he said: “We were instructed not to say more than ‘wa’alaikum’ (And upon you) in response to the greeting of the People of the Book.

The second category of scholars in this regard believe that in replying the salaam of a non-Muslim, one can go as far as saying “Wa’alaikumus-Salaam” (And Peace be upon you) provided one is sure the person’s salutation is an actual greeting salaam. They say when Allah was instructing the reply to a greeting, it was a generalized instruction that came in passive form “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet (in return) with one better than it or (at least) return it (in a like manner)”. He (Allah) did not say “And if you were greeted by a Muslim”

Ibn Mas’ud said: ‘Even if Pharaoh (Fir’aun) said good words to me, I would respond to him with similar (good words). Abdullah bin Abbas also said while explaining the verse on greeting (Q4:86) ”Whoever says salaam to you among the creatures of Allah reply him, even if he is a Zoroastrian (Majus). A group of scholars from the Shafii Madh’hab also hold this view”

Some of the members of the group believe one can say “Wa’alaikumus-Salam’ (Peace be upon you also) only, without warahmatullah (And Allah’s Mercy) while majority of them believe the response should be according to the greeting. This group went further to interpret the reply to a non-Muslim to mean supplication and good will.

Notable among proponents of this opinion include Shaikh AbdulAziz bin Baaz where he said:

“If a non-Muslim greets us, we respond in the same manner that he/she greets us with. So if one (of the non-Muslims) says: ‘As Salaamu ‘Alaikum’ clearly when greeting us, we respond by saying ‘Alaikum as Salaam’, if one says ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’ we respond with ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’, and if they say “good morning”, we respond by saying “good morning”. We greet them in the same way that they greet us acting on the order of Allah the Mighty and Majestic (Q4:86)

Shaikh Muhammad Bin Salih al-Uthaimeen also share similar view in the statement below:

“If a non-Muslim greets a Muslim by saying “al-saamu ‘alaykum” (Death be upon you), then we should respond by saying ‘wa ‘alaykum (and also upon you). The fact that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “wa alaykum” (And upon you also) indicates that if they were saying “as-salaamu ‘alaykum” (Peace be upon you), then peace will also be upon them, that is, whatever they say to us, we say to them. Hence some of the scholars said that if a Jew, Christian or other non-Muslim clearly says “al-Salaamu ‘alaykum”, it is permissible for us to say “Alaykum al-Salaam” (upon you peace be)

To wind up this segment of the discussion, let us cite the statement of Ibn Qayyim:

“If it is confirmed that the non-Muslim citizen (Dhimmi) said salaam ‘alaikum’ (clearly), the dictates of the principles of Jurisdiction and the rulings/evidence of the Shariah is in line with replying with ‘wa ‘alayka as-salaam’ (and upon you be peace), because this is more of just and kind. More so, Allah the Most High has said: “And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet (in return) with what is better or (at least) return it (in like manner)….” He thus encourages replying with what is better and has mandated justice. And this in no way contradicts any of the ahadith in this chapter, because, the instruction of replying with ‘wa ‘alaykum” (and upon you too) was in consequence of what the Jews deliberately did in their greeting. The Hadith of Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) pointed to this, while the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Don’t you see me responding to them by saying ‘wa ‘alaykum’ (And upon you)? Then he instructed: “If the people of the book say salaam to you (in greetings), say to them ‘and upon you’. Although the entirety of the text is considered, the context and the factors underlying it are also important.… So, if the precursor ceased, and the People of the Book say: “Salaamun ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullah” (Peace and Mercy of Allah be upon you), justice in greeting demands that they should be replied in similar way. Perfection belongs to Allah”

CONCLUSION

This paper has attempted to show that the Hadiths specifically excluding the People of the Book from the salutations of Salaam have been understood by a group of scholars to be a generalized injunction. They therefore ruled that it is unlawful to initiate salutations of salaam with non-Muslims such as Jews, Christians, Pagans, and Zoroastrians and others.

Another group considers the related verses of the Qur’an, several Hadiths and the context surrounding the specific Hadith on prohibition, and viewed it to be permissible to initiate greetings of Salaam with a non-Muslim. This group understands the Hadith on prohibition to be specific to a particular instance and context. In accordance with the view of this group of scholars, therefore, it is only the presence of similar hostile condition that warrants the prohibition of initiating salaams with non Muslims.

It is worth mentioning that some Companions saw the salutations of Salaam to be a right of companionship. This implies that the context may also be important.

However, virtually all scholars seem to have no problem with responding to Salaam from non-Muslims in consideration of the instruction of Allah in Qur’an 4:86.They only differ on the format of the reply.

Greeting in whatever form is considered by Scholars of Principles of Jurisprudence (Usool al-Fiqh) to be among social transactions (Mu’amalat) regarding which the basic principle of Jurisprudence governing it is permissibility, except otherwise prohibited by Islamic Law (Sharia).

Sufyan At-Thawri was reported to have said “If you see a man doing something over which there is difference of opinion among scholars, and which you believe to be forbidden, you should not forbid him from doing it“

He also said: “If you say salaam (to the non-Muslims), then surely (some) pious people did the same, and if you don’t, indeed, (some) pious people did same.”

After affirming that Allah knows best concerning all affairs, it is only befitting to end this discussion with the beautiful greeting in question,

Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Warahmatullaahi Wabarakaatuh.

Categories
Fiqh Food Q and A

Is Kosher Meat Halal?

*Research paper written by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi. Originally posted on muslimmatters.org here. This article is quite detailed. For an easy summary of the conclusions go straight to the conclusion at the end.

 

The following is a paper presented to the AMJA Conference on The Halal and Haram in Food and Medicine (Los Angeles, California, March 2-4, 2012).  Note that this paper does not represent AMJA in any way, and only represents the opinions of the author.

Terminology Equivalents Chart

Hebrew

Arabic

kosher

ḥalāl

shechita

dhabīḥa

shochet

dhābiḥ

halakha

sharīʿa

treif

ḥarām

Introduction

Observant Muslims and Jews only eat ḥalāl and kosher products, and face many of the same problems in finding appropriate meat products in the modern, secularized world. Due to the dearth of kosher meat products available, and even higher scarcity of ḥalāl meat, many Muslims feel comfortable purchasingkosher meat, believing that all kosher meats (and by extension kosher products) are necessarily ḥalāl. Other Muslims, due to either political or theological reasons, believe that it is impermissible  to purchase or consume any kosher meat products.

This paper seeks to discuss the question of the Islamic legal ruling on consuming kosher meat products. Therefore, political questions and personal values, which do not dictate the general ruling (aṣl) with respect to such products, will not be discussed.

Generally speaking (and as per Q. 4:160 and 3:50), halakhic laws are stricter than Islamic ones. This is shown not only in the foods that are permissible or impermissible, but also in the laws pertaining to slaughtering, cooking and consuming foods. Since the normative applications of Jewish law are stricter than those for Islamic law, in most cases these laws will not affect Muslims who wish to consume kosher, but would affect Jews who might be interested in ḥalāl meat. The most pertinent examples will be discussed in this paper.

Prohibitions Regarding Types of Animals and Foods

Both Jewish and Islamic laws prohibit the consumption of carrion, swine, insects, rodents and blood. Additionally, any food that is poisonous or immediately harmful to the human body would be prohibited. All solid food items prohibited by the Sharīʿa are also prohibited in Jewish law.

There are a number of significant items prohibited in the halakha but allowed by the Sharīʿa.  The Qurʾān itself mentions the most common example, viz., certain types of animal fat (see Q. 6:146). Halakhic law specifies which types of fats and nerves are prohibited.[1] The majority of madhhabs allowed the Muslim to consume these parts that are typically not considered kosher after a Jewish slaughter. The only exception to this is the Mālikī school, which deems the consumption of these parts impermissible.

Other examples of items that are prohibited for Jews but allowed for Muslims include:

– Sharks, shellfish and crustaceans (lobster, crabs, etc.) [Note: for the Ḥanafīs these animals are also not permitted].

– Some types of birds (e.g., ostrich, emu).

– Camels (because it does not have a proper ‘split hoof’).[2]

Interestingly enough, the locust is an animal that is explicitly mentioned and allowed by both halakhic andSharʿī texts.

Also note that Jewish law forbids mixing meat and dairy products together. Different Jewish authorities have different interpretations and rules for implementation – some even require two sets of kitchen utensils and separate areas of refrigerators for these two products. There is, of course, no equivalent in Islamic law.

Jewish law also has stringent rules regarding the religious washing and usage of utensils. For example, if a ceramic or porcelain utensil is used to cook a non-kosher food, that utensil can never be purified and used  for kosher cooking. However, if a metallic utensil has been used, it must be cleaned with soap and water, then left for a period of time, then immersed in boiling water under the supervision of an expert, before it may be used to cook with.[3] Islamic law, on the other hand, would only require the regular washing of any such utensil and would permit its subsequent usage to cook or consume ḥalāl products in.

The permissibility of gelatin and rennet are ongoing discussions in both faiths. The exact same spectrum of opinions exists in both Muslim and Jewish circles. It appears that most mainstream Jewish and Muslim authorities would not permit regularly available gelatin, since it is derived from either pork or non-ritually slaughtered animals (with minority dissenting opinions on both sides). Proper kosher gelatin is therefore typically derived from kosher fish (and, in even rarer cases, from kosher slaughtered animals, or from certain cows that have died natural deaths,[4] or from vegetable products). However, it should be noted that a product that is marked as kosher does not necessarily mean that all Jewish authorities believe it to be so. In fact, most yoghurt and candy products that are marked with circle-K are not approved by most Conservative and Orthodox Rabbis. Hence, Muslims need to know the different types of symbols used by the Jewish food industry, and their corresponding opinions, before they make a choice on whether a product that is marked as kosher is in fact ḥalāl or not.

Cheese, on the other hand, appears to be an issue where the spectrum of opinions are the same, but the majorities of each are different. Most Jewish authorities would only allow cheese if produced from kosherrennet; most Muslim authorities would allow cheese from non-ḥalāl rennet because of the issue ofistihlāk.[5] In both groups, there are dissenting minority opinions, but the minorities are on opposite sides.

There are some halakhic restrictions on vegetables and plants (for example, the orlah­, or fruit that grows during first three years after planting), and Jewish law is also stricter than Islamic law regarding insects found in fruits and vegetables, but these laws are not relevant to this discussion. Additionally, there are specific halakhic commandments for preparing Passover breads and prohibiting other foods that would also not concern Muslims.

For Muslims, the most common product that is allowed in Jewish law but prohibited in Islamic law are alcoholic beverages. Jewish law permits the consumption of ‘kosher‘ beer and wine.

Similarities in Slaughtering an Animal

Once we understand the halakhic procedure for slaughtering animals, it will be possible to arrive at an Islamic verdict regarding its status.

First, the similarities. Jewish law and Islamic law both require that:

1) The animal must be alive when it is slaughtered (hence stunning or other procedures to render the animal unconscious should be avoided).

2) The animal must be killed with a sharp knife (hence, a blow to the head would render the animal treifand ḥarām).

3) The knife must cut the neck arteries of the animal: in particular, the trachea, esophagus, cartiod arteries and jugular veins should be cut, while leaving the spinal cord intact.

4) The blood must be drained out.

5) There must be minimal harm to the animal – a painless and quick slaughter is required.

All of these are points of agreement between Jewish and Islamic law.

Minor Differences

There are some minor differences between the requirements of the two faiths. These difference would generally be negligible and irrelevant to Muslims, but not to observant Jews.

1) Jewish law requires a specific type of person (called a shochet) to slaughter. Typically, the shochet is an observant male Jew trained in the practice of slaughter. Islamic law allows any male or female Christian, Muslim or Jew to sacrifice as long as that person follows the proper procedure of slaughtering. Therefore, it is primarily for this reason that a dhabīḥa animal can never be kosher for observant Jews because the slaughter would be performed by a Muslim.

2) The perfection of the knife blade – Jewish law requires visual and physical inspection; Islamic law only requires a sharp knife even if there are some imperfections (e.g., minor abrasions and nicks would be permissible in Islam).

3) Jewish law requires one continuous stroke for a slaughter (moving the knife back and forth would be allowed), whereas Islamic law would prefer one stroke, but the slaughter would not be invalidated if the slaughterer quickly followed a first improper stroke with another one.

4) In Jewish law, the knife must be at least two times the size of the animal’s neck, and perfectly straight, whereas there is no such requirement in Islam.

5) Jewish law completely forbids stunning, and a stunned animal would be treif; Islamic law is not unified on this point, as most authorities would consider stunning makrūh, but as long as the animal is alive and has a pulse, the slaughter would still be considered ḥalāl.

6) Depending on which Islamic madhab one followed, the number of passages in the neck of the animal cut might be less for some opinions of Islamic law (however, a perfect cut in both religions would require the esophagus, trachea, arteries and jugular).

7) While the disconnecting of the spine is prohibited in both laws, in Jewish law this would render the animal treif, whereas according to the majority opinion in Islamic law, this is makrūh but does not render the animal ḥarām (note that some authorities would view such an act as making the animal ḥarām).

8) Jewish law requires a visual inspection of the lungs and some other internal organs of the animal after slaughter. Specific defects associated with these organs makes the animal treif, whereas the total absence of any imperfection (i.e., adhesion-free lungs) renders the animal a higher level of kosher, calledglatt kosher. If such a level of perfection was not achieved, but the procedure was followed, the meat would merely be kosher. And some type of defects would in fact render the animal treif even after proper slaughter. There is no equivalent to such a post-slaughter examination in Islamic law.

9) The animal’s blood must be allowed to flow into the earth (or on the ground) in Jewish law (for example, it should not be gathered in a bowl), whereas there is no such prohibition in Islamic law. In practice, most Muslims slaughter and spill the blood on the ground as well.

10) Islamic law encourages, but does not require, that the animal faces the qiblah. Since this is not a requirement according to any madhhab, it is irrelevant to the question of whether kosher is ḥalāl.[6]

11) While the Jewish invocation (i.e., blessing) is not a necessary requirement for the meat to be considered kosher, it is in practice never left. This issue will be discussed in a separate section.

From all of these points, it is clear that these factors will not render kosher meat ḥarām; most are in fact rulings that make the halakhic laws stricter than their Sharʿī equivalents, and even the Islamic ones on this list are recommendations and not requirements. Hence, from the perspective of the Sharīʿa, these factors are not relevant.

Of course, because of some or most of these factors (especially the first one), ḥalāl meat cannot be considered kosher by Jewish authorities.

Major Difference – the Tasmiya Issue

There is one major differences between the two laws that cannot be overlooked and could potentially result in a verdict of taḥrīm,[7] and that is the issue of the tasmiya.

The Islamic opinions on mentioning Allāh’s name at the time of sacrifice are well-known. It is clear that the majority of scholars (and the explicit texts of the Qurʿān and Sunnah) require the utterance of tasmiyabefore an animal is slaughtered. It is with this opinion in mind that we proceed. (It goes without saying that, for the minority who do not require tasmiya, obviously if they do not require a Muslim to mention the name of Allāh then a priori they would not require a non-Muslim to do so).[8]

Halakhic law states that the shochet should verbally bless the act of slaughter with a specific blessing.[9]While this blessing is not considered an essential requirement, in practice it is always done, and it is realistically inconceivable that a shochet intentionally abandons this blessing.[10]

The formulation of this blessing translates as:

“Blessed are you , Adonai [G-d], our G-d, Lord of the World, Who Sanctified us through His Commandments and instructed us concerning proper animal slaughter”

The wording clearly praises God, and therefore would be acceptable to the vast majority of madhhabs,since it is not a necessary requirement that the blessing be said in Arabic. However, the issue comes with respect to a unique blessing for each animal.

Since the Jewish faith insists that the name of the Lord only be invoked with good cause, the shochet does not repeat this blessing for each and every animal. Instead, the shochet considers one blessing to suffice for a series of animals with the condition that each animal is slaughtered without any significant pause or break from the previous one. [11]

Therefore, in theory, a shochet could sacrifice a few cows, and maybe even up to a hundred chicken, with one blessing.

All of this, of course, has relevance to the Sharʿī ruling on an animal.

For the minority that does not require tasmiya (in particular, the Shāfʿī school), this issue would not be relevant, and therefore kosher would be ḥalāl.

For those who subscribe to the position that allows one tasmiya for multiple slaughters, kosher meat would also be ḥalāl.

For those who require a specific tasmiya for each individual animal (in particular, the Ḥanafī school),kosher meat would not be ḥalāl unless it was known for sure that a blessing was given for that animal.

As a side point, there are reference to some Christian groups who required a slaughterer to sacrifice in the name of God.[12]

Conclusion

In light of all that has preceded, and in this author’s opinion:

– While the Qurʿān explicitly allows us to offer (and therefore sell) ḥalāl meat to Jews, most observant Jews would not consider ḥalāl to be kosher because the animal would be slaughtered by a non-Jew (and there would be other factors as well).

– All kosher foods are permissible as long as 1) no significant amount of alcohol is present, and 2) any gelatin is from kosher slaughtered cattle or non-animal sources. If alcohol is used either for taste or in intoxicating amounts, the food prepared would be ḥarām; and any gelatin derived from animals not slaughtered with tasmiya is also ḥarām.

– Kosher meat being ḥalāl would depend on which madhhab one follows for the tasmiya: if one follows the opinion that one tasmiya suffices for multiple animals, kosher slaughtered animals would be ḥalāl. However, if one requires one tasmiya per animal, then in general such animals would be ḥarām unless one can verify that the blessing was said for that particular animal.

In this author’s opinion, since the halakhic blessing is done over a specific group of animals and the slaughter is continuous, this blessing can suffice to fulfill the requirements of the tasmiya for that group of animals, and Allāh knows best.

Lastly, it is important that stronger ties be developed between observant Muslims and Jews so that we benefit from each other’s experiences, unite against Islamophobic and anti-Semitic efforts to ban ritual animal slaughter, and perhaps also manage to influence some kosher plants to say a tasmiya for every animal.



[1] This is based on Leviticus 7:3. Generally, Jewish law does not allow fat surrounding the kidneys, the abdominal fats, the fats surrounding the stomach and intestines, and the tail fat. The nerve that is forbidden is one that is in the hind-quarters. Since it is labor-intensive to remove this nerve, generally the hind-quarters of an animal are sold to non-Jews.

[2] Many Qurʿānic exegetes consider this to be an example of Q. 3:93; others also add the ruling of animal fats, but this latter opinion clearly contradicts Q. 6:146.

[3] This discussion is necessarily simplistic and brief.

[4] These are so-called ‘Indian cows’; since Hindus are not allowed to kill cows, any cow that dies is left untouched. Jewish law allows the bones of such an animal, if left untouched for a long period of time, to be used for the manufacture of gelatin.

[5] I have written a paper about this, published online. See: http://muslimmatters.org/2007/07/09/of-mice-and-men-the-cheese-factor/.

[6] Since this law is irrelevant to the halakha, some modern Jewish authorities have allowed taking this condition into account when performing kosher slaughters.

[7] Of course, we are not talking about the issue of adding alcohol to the meat while it is being cooked. Jewish law permits the consumption of certain types of alcohol and the mixing of wine with meat products. Any such production of meat would obviously be ḥarām for Muslims.

[8] It is relevant to point out that Ibn Ḥanbal’s position regarding the tasmiya for Ahl Kitāb sacrifices is explicit – and as far as I know, everything narrated to the contrary is mujmal. Ḥanbal reports that Abū Abdillāh said, “There is no problem with the sacrifice of the Kitābī as long as he sacrifices for Allāh and in the name of Allāh (idhā ahallū lillāhi wa sammū ʿalayhī).” [Aḥkām Ahl al-Dhimmah, 1/189]. This was also the explicit position of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim. It should also be noted that most authorities who allowed the sacrifice of the Kitābī without mentioned Allāh’s name also allowed it if they mentioned other than Allāh’s name [ibid., 1/191-3].

Also, the reader is encouraged to see Ibn Taymiyya’s risāla on this issue, in Jāmiʾ al-Masāʾil of Dr. Bakr Abu Zayd (Riyad: Dār al-ʿĀlim, 1429), vol. 6, p. 377-89. In it, he states that the obligation of saying thetasmiya before hunting or slaughtering an animal is even more clear than the obligation to recite Fātiḥa in the prayer.

It is the intention of the author to write a brief treatise on this issue as well, insha Allāh.

[9] It is important to note that the blessing is for the act of sacrifice, and not for an animal or for the instrument.

[10] Therefore, from an Islamic standpoint, the shochet who does not mention the blessings will be fī ḥukm al-nāsī (i.e., the one who accidentally forgets), and the majority of scholars would deem such a slaughter as permissible, in contrast to the one who intentionally does not mention Allāh’s name.

[11] Most modern Rabbis allow the shochet to utter the phrase ‘bismillāh Allahu akbar‘ in Arabic before each slaughter, since that does not interfere with the rules of halakha. This practice should be encouraged and Muslims should inform local Jewish slaughterhouses that they would become potential customers if the shochet could do this.

[12] In the Syriac-language Nomocanon of Barhebraeus (d. 1286), a Christian butcher is instructed to recite the phrase ba-shma d’elaha haya, “In the name of the living God.” Gregorius Barhebraeus,Nomocanon, ed. Paul Bedjan (Paris: Harrassowitz, 1898); taken from Freidenreich (cit.)

Categories
Fiqh Q and A

Saying “Merry Christmas”

Can I Say “Merry Christmas” to My non-Muslim Co-Workers, Friends, and Family?

By Jamaal Diwan based on the fatwās of Shaykhs Yusuf al-Qaraḍāwī and Muṣṭafā al-Zarqā1

 

Q:

Is it permissible for me to say “Merry Christmas” to my non-Muslim classmates, friends, family, neighbors, and others this holiday season? Please keep in mind that on the days of Eid they always wish me a “Happy Eid” and even buy me gifts.

 

A:

Allah says in the Quran addressing how Muslims should deal with non-Muslims:

 

“Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.”2

 

There are also many places in the Quran and Sunna that encourage the Muslim to be of the best of manners. One example of this is the ḥadīth of the Prophet (pbuh) where he said, “The believers with the most complete faith are the ones with the best manners.”3 The Prophet also said, “Verily, I was sent to perfect good character.”4

 

That being said there are a couple of things to take into consideration here. The first is that there is no disagreement between the scholars regarding the impermissibility of celebrating Christmas. It is a religious holiday that is based on beliefs that are against Islam and it is not permissible for Muslims to celebrate it. This is because it goes against the concept of protecting one’s dīn and contradicts the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) which limited Muslim religious holidays to the two Eids. That does not mean that they cannot spend time with their non-Muslim family on such a day if there is a family get together but that is a different issue.

 

As to whether or not one can greet their non-Muslim family and friends with “Merry Christmas” there are two major opinions. The first says that it is impermissible and was held by scholars such as Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn ʿUthaymīn, and others. The second opinion is that it is permissible as long as the intention is to interact with them in the best way possible  without supporting their belief.5 This opinion was held by scholars like Yusuf al-Qaraḍāwī and Muṣṭafā Zarqā. The latter opinion also allows the exchanging of greeting cards on holidays like Christmas as long as the card is free from any sort of religious symbolism.

 

Al-Qaradawi in his fatwā specifically mentions  being aware of the opinion of Ibn Taymiyya, but that he does not agree with it based on the influence of the different times  and  circumstances during  Ibn Taymiyya’s era. Al-Qaradawi speculated that had Ibn Taymiyya lived during the times in which we live and seen the  the importance of good relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, that he would have changed his opinion. Regardless whether that would be the case or not,  it does show that al-Qaradawi was acutely aware of Ibn Taymiyya’s opinion when he gave his fatwā.

 

The argument against saying “Merry Christmas” to one’s family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers is based on the concept that in doing so you are approving of their beliefs in some way. This is simply not the case and saying “Merry Christmas” is nothing more than an act of good societal manners. However, it should be noted that this is not the same as actually celebrating Christmas or other non-Muslim religious holidays. Celebrating these holidays is not allowed but exchanging greetings and even gifts with non-Muslims on them out of companionship and manners is permissible, as long as the gifts themselves are permissible. This is especially the case when those same friends and family greet and exchange gifts with you on the Muslim holidays.

 

In conclusion, in America we need to try and seek a balance between maintaining our identity and the purity of our beliefs while at the same time dealing with our greater society in the best way possible. Therefore, I think the way Muslims in America should deal with this issue depends on their circumstances. An interesting way to understand this predicament is to look at how Jews in America deal with this same question.6 It seems that they have many of the same discussions that we have around this time of year. In general there are a couple of things that we want to try and be aware of at the same time: we want to maintain our identity and belief, we want people to understand Islam as much as possible, we want to respect and appreciate others, we want to treat others in the best way possible, we don’t want to be socially awkward or insular. Different situations will require different responses. Those of us who have non-Muslim families have different situations than those of us who do not. You could reply with a number of different answers, including: “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “As a Muslim I don’t celebrate Christmas”, or “Thank you.  I don’t celebrate Christmas. But merry Christmas to you.” The appropriate answer will depend on the person, the situation, one’s internal intentions, and the perceived intentions of the one they are speaking to.

 

And Allah knows best.

 

*Note

Shaykh al-Ghiryani, a prominent Libyan Maliki scholar, also said that the majority of the Malikis consider it to be disliked. The point in sharing all of this is to show that it is NOT an area of agreement amongst all the scholars.

 

  1. al-Zarqā was one of the great scholars of the modern era and died in 1999. He was well trained in literature, secular law, and Islamic law. He was recognized by his peers as a great scholar and came from a family of prominent scholars which included his father and grandfather. For al-Qaradawi’s fatwā see his book Fī fiqh al-aqalliyyāt and for al-Zarqā’s see his Fatāwā. []
  2. Quran 60:8-9 []
  3. Narrated by Aḥmad, Abū Dāwūd, Ibn Ḥibbān, and al-Ḥākim. []
  4. Narrated by Ibn Sʿad and al-Bukhārī in al-Adab al-Mufrad. []
  5. What is meant by this is not that people are not allowed to believe what they want to believe. They are. What is meant by this is that the Muslim is not agreeing with their belief. []
  6. See: “Wishing Jews a Merry Christmas?”; “How Should a Jew Respond to a ‘Merry Christmas’ Greeting?” []
  7. This was narrated in his book, Akām ahl al-dhimma []