All praise is to ALLAH, and the peace and blessings of ALLAH are sent to the Prophet Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, Sayyid of the Messengers and on his family and the Sahaba and those who follow their guidance until the Day of Judgement.
These days, it has become common for Muslim communities to de-emphasize food to the point that many are observed eating in restaurants or fast food establishments, indulging in foods that should be avoided. Even more bizarre is that if these same Muslims were back in their home countries, they would accept the decisions of the government officials or Islamic organizations in those Muslim countries to decide for them what is Halal and what is not. In non-Muslim countries, they don't seem to take things as seriously as required. Don't the Islamic rules apply in the non-Muslim West? Or do the Islamic rules change from place to place? Or is it simply a written law, which need not be followed? This is what we see and hear, but ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, ordained for us a specific way of life and encouraged Muslim believers by saying:
O you who believe! Eat of the good things that WE have provided for you and be grateful to ALLAH, if it is HIM you worship. (Al-Baqara: 172)
In fact, ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, did not limit HIS instructions to the believers alone. HE also instructed all HIS Messengers, alaihim assalaam, to:
O you messengers! Enjoy (all) things good and pure, and work righteousness: for I am well acquainted with (all) that you do. (Al Mu-minun: 51)
The Arabic word Tayyibaat here, translated as 'good and pure', is a general and all-encompassing word about all foods, including meats, grains, fruits and vegetables, etc. However, when ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, discussed meat, HE was exact in instructing us to pronounce HIS name on the meat, as follows:
So eat of (meats) on which ALLAH's name has been pronounced, if you have faith in HIS Signs. (Al-An'aam: 118)
ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, did not instruct us to pronounce HIS name when HE spoke about foods in general. He instructed us to "eat of the Tayyibaat (good and pure)" foods. Then ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, addressed us by asking:
Why should you not eat of (meats) on which ALLAH's name has been pronounced, when HE has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you, except under compulsion of necessity? But many do mislead (men) by their appetites unchecked by knowledge. The Lord knows best those who transgress. (Al-An'aam: 119)
Then ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, forbade us from eating meat upon which HIS name has not been pronounced, by saying:
Eat not of (meats) on which ALLAH's name has not been pronounced: that would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if you were to obey them, you would indeed be Pagans. (Al-An'aam: 121)
In interpreting this aya, Imam Al-Fakhr Al-Razi said, it has been related that 'Ata had said: all food and drink upon which ALLAH's name has not been pronounced is haram (forbidden), based on the guidance of this aya.
However, all the other scholars agreed that this aya was specific to meat only. Imam Al-Razi used the opinions of 3 schools of thought to explain this aya. The first is that of Imam Malik, which states that the meat from any slaughter upon which ALLAH's name is not pronounced is haram, regardless of whether it is intentional or by error. Ibn Sirin and a group of theologists agree with this viewpoint.
The second is that of Imam Abu Hanifa, which states that the meat from any slaughter where the name of ALLAH is intentionally not pronounced is haram. If the slaughterman forgets to pronounce the name of ALLAH at slaughter, then the meat is Halal.
The third is that of Imam Al-Shafi'i, which states that the animal carcass is Halal, even if the name of ALLAH is not pronounced at the time of slaughter, regardless of whether it is intentional or forgotten, as long as the slaughterman is a qualified person, i.e., a sane Muslim. And after a long discussion on this final opinion, Imam Al-Razi said (this is important for us) it is best for a Muslim to avoid eating meat from animals when ALLAH's name has not been pronounced at slaughter, because the guidance from this aya is strong. This means Muslims should avoid meats slaughtered without the pronouncing of the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter.
As to the main question, the slaughter of Ahlul Kitab, we find guidance in the following aya:
This day are (all) things Good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them... (Al-Ma-idah: 5)
And the word Ta'aam (food) in this aya has been interpreted in 3 ways. First, the animals which are slaughtered by Ahlul Kitab are Halal for Muslims. Second, only the bread, fruits, vegetables, fish and all foods not requiring slaughter are Halal for Muslims. (This is the opinion of some of the Imams of the Zaidi school of thought.) This opinion holds that the meat of the Ahlul Kitab is haram. Third, is all foods, those which are slaughtered and those which are not slaughtered are Halal for Muslims. The majority of scholars have not accepted the second and third opinions. They hold that the word Ta'aam (food) in this aya means the animals which are slaughtered because it does not become food until after it is slaughtered. They added that all foods not requiring slaughter are already Halal, whether it is owned by Ahlul Kitab or not. Meaning there is no reason to favor the food of Ahlul Kitab in this matter.
So, if we conclude that the meaning of the word Ta'aam is the animals requiring slaughter, does it mean all animals eaten by Ahlul Kitab or is it specific to certain ones? We know that some of the Ahlul Kitab eat animals which are haram for Muslims regardless of how they were slaughtered, such as pork. There is no disagreement among Muslim scholars that pork is haram. Therefore the meaning of the word Ta'aam cannot be any food, rather it means the Halal animals which are slaughtered by Ahlul Kitab. The final question is: Can Muslims eat the meat of Halal animals slaughtered by Ahlul Kitab only on the condition they pronounce the name of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, at the time of slaughter, without any conditions?
It is useful to consider that in the earlier days, it was customary for the people to slaughter only for their personal needs. If they slaughtered a large animal and were unable to use all the meat, they would share it with their friends and neighbors. This is clear from the Ahadith. It was not customary to slaughter many animals for sale or trade. So when they slaughtered for their personal needs, they used to pronounce the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter. Nowadays our needs are different and unlike in the past, markets are commonplace. So now, slaughtering is divided into two categories, slaughtering for sale and slaughtering for personal use. Most of the available meat is of the first category, meat that has been slaughtered for sale. With this backdrop, let us review the opinions of the scholars in answer to the question: Is it permissible to eat the meat slaughtered by Ahlul Kitab with or without Tasmiyyah?
Ibn Katheer said, "This is the matter on which the Ulema agreed upon, that the slaughter of Ahlul Kitab is Halal for Muslims to consume because they believe in the prohibition of slaughtering in a name other than ALLAH, and they pronounce no name on their slaughter except that of ALLAH." In response to this, we must weigh the current evidence. It is our observation that neither all Jews nor all Christians pronounce the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter. In fact, some pronounce a name other than ALLAH. Shaikh Al-Aloosi, author of Ruh Al-Ma'ani said: Al-Hassan, rahimahullah, has said Muslims should not eat the meat slaughtered by a Jew or Christian who slaughters in a name other than ALLAH.
Shaikh Al-Qurtubi has said that a group of Muslim scholars believes that if you hear the Kitabi (Jew or Christian) pronounce a name other than ALLAH at the time of slaughter, then do not eat the meat. In agreement with this from among the Sahaba of the Prophet, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, are Syedina Ali, Syedatina 'Aisha, Syedina Ibn Umar, radiya ALLAHu anhuma, and also Tawoos and Al-Hassan, rahimahumallah. From this, it is evident that it is haram to eat meat that has been slaughtered while pronouncing a name other than ALLAH. Furthermore, it is evident that Jews and Christians have been ordered to pronounce the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter; however, some of them have abandoned this requirement. In fact, some began to slaughter in a name other than ALLAH.
In our present day, the behavior of Ahlul Kitab has changed dramatically and they no longer abide by the laws revealed to them, especially in the matter of slaughter. This is clear since Christians do not pronounce any name upon slaughter, neither that of ALLAH nor that of anyone else. If you ask the Christian slaughterman, as I have done, what he says at slaughter, the response is: I do not say anything. They say there is no connection between slaughtering and religion. They say they are employees doing a job and they just do it. This is in regard to the animals slaughtered for sale in the marketplace, which is what concerns us.
As for the Jews, we personally attended a slaughter facility where there were 3 rabbis. They all met before starting the slaughter and recited something. Then they separated and each went to a different area to perform their duties. The first was the slaughterman and he performed the slaughter. The second examined the organs of the carcasses to check for any indications of disease. If he detected any, he discarded the organ. If not, he passed the organ on to the third rabbi. The third rabbi stamped the organs and wrote something in Hebrew on them.
During the slaughter operation, the first rabbi, the slaughterman, conversed with us and answered our questions as he was slaughtering. On this day, they were to slaughter approximately 450 cows. After a time, they announced they were near the end of the day's slaughter. The three rabbis met again and recited something in Hebrew and then dispersed again to slaughter the last animal for the day.
During this visit we observed that Jews recite something at the beginning and at the end of the slaughter and they do not recite anything on the animals during the slaughter. On this day, 450 animals were slaughtered and the only recitation performed was prior to the start and prior to slaughtering the last animal. In spite of this, all 450 head slaughtered were labeled as kosher. Do we consider this to be the meat of Ahlul Kitab? Ibn Katheer has said: "ALLAH's concession for eating the meat of Ahlul Kitab does not include that meat upon which the name of ALLAH has not been pronounced at the time of slaughter. This is because Ahlul Kitab are required to pronounce the name of ALLAH during their ritual slaughter. Because of this, ALLAH has not made it Halal for Muslims to consume the meat of other peoples", besides Ahlul Kitab, since the other peoples do not pronounce the name of ALLAH at slaughter. Therefore the condition which must be met to allow Muslims to eat the meat of Ahlul Kitab, as opposed to other peoples, is that they should pronounce the name of ALLAH at the time of slaughter. If this condition is not met, then the permission to eat their meat is not granted. Let us return to what Imam Al-Razi has said, "It is best for Muslims to avoid eating meat which was not slaughtered while pronouncing the name of ALLAH because the aya (Al-An'aam: 121) is very strong." We should keep in mind that Imam Al-Razi himself followed the Shafi'i school but he was not comfortable in this case with the Shafi'i school's opinion.
Finally, most of the Muslim nations do not accept the mistaken opinion that allows the consumption of the beef, lamb, and poultry found in restaurants operated by Ahlul Kitab.
We ask ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, to guide us to the right path, always and forever, and to forgive our mistakes, for HE is ALL-Hearing and close. And peace to all who follow The Guidance.