Question: Is the meat imported in Saudi Arabia Halaal or Haram?
Praise be to Allah.
This is a very common question asked by many these days and is a result of the continuous effort of some to defame and destroy the image of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of Muslims around the World. The haters of this “Land of Tawheed” have constantly spread rumors and misconceptions related to it. Among these is the issue of whether the meat that is imported in Saudi Arabia halaal or haram. Here is an excellent effort made by Brother Ariff bin Abee Bakr Olla in refuting these false claims:
From the basic principles in the religion is that one must verify the information that may come to him, if not, it could result in a calamity that affects the masses and confusion or discord to prevail.
Allaah, the Most High, said: “O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with news verify it…” [al-Hujuraat 49:6].
Imaam al-Baghawee [May Allaah have Mercy on him] said about this Aayah: Verify the information that comes to you … so that you will be prevented from falling into mistakes. [Ma’aalim at-Tanzeel (7/340)]
It has reached me through various sources that people have taken to modern social-networking websites to reinforce an old claim; that the meat that is imported into Saudi Arabia is Haram. In this response, I am to discuss the issues mention by the claimant – May Allaah Guide him – and lay down some foundations which all the scholars (schools of thought) are in agreement on.
Firstly, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country which has built its constitution on ruling by the Quraan and the Sunnah. Despite this honourable effort, no sane person can claim that there will be no mistakes. However, the rulers are the ones who rule the Muslim countries and not the general folk, and about this Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] said:
“If a ruler or a judge passes a ruling to the best of his ability and knowledge and gets it right, he will have two rewards. If he passes a ruling to the best of his ability and knowledge but gets it wrong, he will have one reward.” [Narrated by al-Bukhaaree (7352) and Muslim (1716)]
Reviling the Muslim is a major sin. I’m sure the evidences for the severity of the sin of Gheebah (backbiting) or Buhtaan (slander) is not hidden from you, my dear reader, so then how about those who are free from sins in their decision making (i.e. the Muslims rulers and scholars)?
So from this, not only should we realise that the talking about other Muslims, especially without any real proof, is a major sin. We should also realise that the issue of Halal and Haram meat falls under the category of Fiqh. As a result, there will be differences and people will be governed over them, so it can’t possibly be correct to claim that the Saudi government are totally incorrect and that most of their imported meat is Haraam.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The correct view, which is that held by the imams, is that issues of ijtihaad are those for which there is no evidence that must clearly be followed, such as a saheeh hadeeth which is not contradicted by a hadeeth of similar strength. In the absence of such evidence, ijtihaad is valid because there is contradictory evidence or the evidence is not clear at all. End quote. Bayaan al-Daleel ‘ala Batlaan al-Tahleel (p. 210-211)
This is especially the case when these are people who Allaah, the Most High, has chosen to be custodians of the Two Holy Masjids and have benefitted Muslims all over the world with the spreading of Mushafs, Islaamic literature and callers to the religion.
“And why should not Allah punish them while they stop (men) from Al-Masjid-al-Haram, and they are not its guardians? None can be its guardian except Al-Muttaqun (the pious – see V.2:2), but most of them know not.” [al-Anfaal 8:34]
Once we can understand this, we come to another extremely important principle in al-Islaam, which is that the information received from those who are unknown is not accepted. An extension of this, the information received by the minority that conflicts the majority is considered as being odd, until detailed proof is established to prove the majority wrong.
This is the view of Balqeenee and others; we take the view of the bigger scholar. They argue that the knowledge of a narrator or one who transmits knowledge is not the same for all scholars, some scholars have more knowledge than others so we follow the view of the scholars who are more experienced, like Yahya bin Ma’een and Aboo Haatim. These two, for example talked about men more than the likes of Maalik and Shu’bah, and they talked more about men than Sufyaan ath-Thawree and Shaafi’ee. They probably talked about men more often than others because they had more knowledge and experience than the others.
[See: Kifaayah (Pg. 175-177); Fath al-Mugeeth (1/307-308);’Uloom al-Hadeeth of Ibn Salaah (Pg. 224); Jarh wa Ta’deel (Pg. 158)]
Therefore, if we have a person who has taken to Twitter to correct the Muslim nations thinking himself to be right above those more qualified than him, then there is perhaps a mistake somewhere with this.
Furthermore, most of those who claim that imported meat is Haraam are those who are not from the people of Ijtihaad. Ijtihaad or the Mujtahid (the one who derives rulings from the texts to apply it to new issues) are of types, however, those who are bound by a Madhab and make Taqleed (TN: blind following without being able to do Ijtihaad of the texts and statements of the scholars) of that Madhab are not from the people Fatwaa.
Ibn al-Qayyim, the student of Ibn Taymiyyah, [May Allaah have Mercy on them] said:
The first view is that it is not permissible to give a fatwa based on Taqleed because that is not knowledge, and giving a fatwa without knowledge is haraam. There is no dispute among people that taqleed is not the same as knowledge and that the Muqallid (the one who imitates or repeats the views of others) cannot be given the name of ‘aalim (scholar). This is the view of most of our companions and the view of the majority of Shaafa’is.
[I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een (1/37, 38)]
Yes, Ibn al-Qayyim further on the book does reinforce the opinion that issuing Fatwaa based on Taqleed is permissible but that is only in the case of necessity. However, today, were we have numerous senior scholars and councils that they cooperate with one another and are able to make Ijtihaad, we see the applicability of this necessity being lifted.
It is important to note, that all Muslims are bound by following what is the truth. Whether it be a Mujathid who is able to derive his own rulings or it be a layman who depends on the scholars to explain the rulings of al-Islaam to him.
Imam al-Sarkhasi al-Hanafee (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Not following a saheeh hadeeth from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is haraam, just as doing what is contrary to it is haraam. End quote.
Usool al-Sarkhasi (2/7).
So now we have established some very important principles in al-Islaam: the rulers are to be obeyed because they are from the people of Ijithaad, we tolerate differences of opinion in Fiqh especially if we being governed by them, the information we receive must be verified with detail if it conflicts those who have more knowledge than him, and that we are all laymen because we make Taqleed.
As this response has already extended in its length, I aim to complete the rest of my points – may Allaah give me Strength and Success – on the core issues at hand.
Firstly, the claim that the meat coming into Saudi Arabia, and the other Muslim lands is doubtful, holds no weight until proof is presented, and the principle for this has already been mentioned. Moreover, Shaykh Muhammad Taqee al-Uthmaanee, who the claimant refers to when making his claims, has set down another important principle. On page 400 of his report which was taken from a book called, ‘Buhooth fi Qadaayaa Fiqhiyyah Mu’aasarah’, which he presented to the World Fiqh Council in Jeddah who also have members from the Council of Senior Scholars of Saudi Arabia, stated:
If a Muslim presents to you meat or food, and it appears to be Halaal and slaughtered in the correct way, then we act upon what is apparent. We are not allowed to have bad thoughts about others Muslims and it is not obligatory for us to seek to find the methods they used to slaughter, as long as there is no reason to doubt him. End quote.
Based on this, we realise the mistake the writer of these claims has fallen into -May Allaah grant him success to enter Jannah-. He states that this could be part of a conspiracy, and our intentions are only Known to Allaah, if he means by this that the Muslims governments and especially that of Saudi Arabia are trying to deceive the Muslims, then this is a very grave statement and it is not least for a regular Muslim to abstain from, let alone a Mufti.
The Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah of Allaah be upon him] said, “Do not accuse a man of committing sin or Kufr, by doing so, such a label will be returned to the accuser if what he said isn’t true.” [al-Bukhaaree (6045) and Muslim (61)]
Added to this, I would like to add the following link. It is in Arabic and it explains the procedure and the conditions set by the Saudi government in order to make sure that the process of slaughtering for imported meat is Halaal. It is link taken from the official Saudi al-Iftaa website, and in it are letters and reports and responses by ministers and those responsible for the slaughter houses abroad.
In a nutshell, this transparent report shows the procedures they have, pieces of advice from the scholars and interestingly enough, declares Sadia as being Halaal and has been authenticated by more than one Sharee’ah panel. Please bear in mind that the information below is some thirty years old and the regulations of importing meat into Saudi has got a lot stricter since then.
Furthermore, as a resident in Saudi Arabia for nearly four years now, we witness on many occasions new laws and news reports reinforcing the governments’ procedures. Here is a recent example:
As for the second point raised by the writer – May Allaah Guide him – then he asserted that doubtful meat should be avoided. Yet, it is unclear what is meant by meat that is doubtful. The scholars have split what is doubtful into two types: that which has doubt and we are unable to find a resolution to the doubt, this meat is Haraam. However, if there is doubt but the doubt can be dispelled, then we go by what is most likely.
Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5485) and Muslim (1929) from ‘Adiyy ibn Haatim (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) who said: “If you release your (hunting) dog and say the name of Allah, and (the dog) catches (the game) and kills it, then eat, but if (the dog) ate (some of it), then do not eat, because he only caught it for himself. If another dog joins him over whom the name of Allah was not mentioned, and they caught it and ate from it, do not eat, for you do not know which of them killed it. If you shoot an arrow and you find (the game) after one or two days with nothing but the mark of your arrow on it, then eat, but if it fell into water, do not eat it.”
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Baari: The words “if it fell into the water, do not eat it” – the reason for the prohibition on eating it is to be taken from the phrase above, because in that case there is doubt as to whether it was killed by the arrow or by drowning in water. If it is established that the arrow struck it and it died, and it did not fall into the water until after it was killed by the arrow, then it is permissible to eat it.
Al-Nawawi said in Sharh Muslim: If the game is found in the water, drowned (i.e. there is a strong doubt or is almost certain), it is haraam according to consensus. End quote.
Not only do we see that there is a difference between what is Haraam and doubtful, Shaykh Muhammad Taqee al-‘Uthmaanee repeated the correct opinion in such a given situation in his report. He states on page 417 that the Muslim is required to follow what is customary or most likely. So if the meat in the country is being eaten by Muslims who believe that the meat is Halaal, he should say ‘Bismillah’ and eat, because the principle in this case is that the meat is Halaal.
Narrated by al-Bukhaari (2057) from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), according to which some people said: O Messenger of Allah, some people bring meat to us and we do not know whether they mentioned the name of Allah over it or not. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Mention the name of Allah over it and eat it.”
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
We learn from this that everything that is found in the markets of the Muslims may be taken as legitimate.
End quote from Fath al-Baari (9/635).
Of course, if one is doubt then he must refrain and the evidence for this has proceeded, however with the principles we have discussed above and the proof that has come and about to come – with the Permission of Allaah – we can establish that the meat remains Halaal in Saudi Arabia until extensive proof can disprove this.
Thirdly, the claimant – May Allaah Give him the ability to follow what is correct- states that the body of senior scholars have, ‘formally issued a 50 –age fatwa that all imported meat is haram.’ Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only have we posted a link above showing the transparency of the Board of Senior Scholars and the ministries involved in Saudi Arabia, but the document that the claimant was referring to was a quotation taken from the works of Shaykh Muhammad Taqee al-‘Uthmaanee. Shaykh Muhammad in his report did not once assert that the meat imported into Saudi Arabia or other Muslims lands as being Haraam. Rather, he casts doubt over it and sets down a principle that the certificates that a slaughterhouse may receive doesn’t necessarily give them credibility. The document I have sourced this from is the original Arabic document and Shaykh Muhammad quotes the Fatwaa on pages 435-440.
In summary, the Fatwaa encourages the ministry to reinforce its rules as some of the information that it has received casted doubt into the meat in Saudi Arabia. Despite this doubt, the dossier doesn’t place the ruling of the meat being impermissible, rather the Fatwaa encourages those who are responsible to edit some of the procedures they have. Therefore, it is incorrect to claim that the Panel of Senior Scholars or Shaykh Muhammad hold the view that the meat coming into Saudi Arabia is Haram.
Fourthly, connected to this, nowhere in this document, or the HMC report or releases from official Saudi government authorities is the statistic 90% affirmed. The claimant makes a bold claim in assuring his readers that 90% of imported meat used by restaurants, is indeed Haraam.
In reference to the HMC report where it states they have ‘confidential findings from our man from his trip through the wild west of Brazil….’, then we have already laid down an important principle above, which is that knowledge must be taken from reliable sources that are based on evidence. The fact that this man remains unnamed and therefore his trustworthiness unclassifiable, added to the fact that his report conflicts that which those who are larger number and perhaps greater in knowledge than him, this information must be rejected. Furthermore, his reservation seems to be based on a Fiqhee issue, and the stance of the Muslim living under a Muslim ruler has already been discussed. But to shed some light on the issue, he states that the meat coming from these slaughter houses is Haraam because the animals are placed on a conveyor belt and slaughtered mechanically.
Shaykh Muhammad himself withholds from issuing a Fatwaa on this practice in his report. He states on pages 421-425 that this practice should be avoided as there is no need for it however narrates the view of some of the scholars that have allowed this practice because of the need of slaughtering large quantities of animals without having the sufficient manpower.
This is his stance and we can see in his report that he doesn’t see at an easy matter so that he can’t place a ruling on it. However, the World Islaamic (Fiqh) Council issued the following Fatwaa:
8. The basic principle is that slaughter of poultry and other animals is to be done by hand, but there is nothing wrong with using mechanical devices to slaughter poultry so long as the conditions of shar‘i slaughter mentioned above in paragraph 2 are met. And it is acceptable to say “Bismillah” once for each batch that is to be slaughtered in a continuous session, but if there was an interruption then saying “Bismillah” must be repeated. End quote.
But the statement of the Council did not specify that saying “Bismillah” must come from the one who is operating the machine.
Dr. Muhammad Sulaymaan al-Ashqar said: Saying “Bismillah” in the case of a large number, if they are to be slaughtered by hand in the Islamic manner, may be exhausting for the slaughterman. For example, if a person has the task of slaughtering 1200 chickens per hour at a rate of one chicken every three seconds, then he would have to say “Bismillah wa Allahu akbar” 1200 times in an hour which would be exhausting and very difficult, and such burdensome difficulty is to be avoided in Islam because Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship” [al-Hajj 22:78].
Hence the Fatwa Council in Kuwait, of which I was a member at the time this fatwa was issued, stated that when slaughtering a large number of poultry it is sufficient to say “Bismillah” over them once, at the beginning, if the task is to proceed continuously without stopping. If there is a pause for some reason, then the slaughterman has to say “Bismillah” again for the remainder.
End quote from Majallat Majma‘ al-Fiqh al-Islami, issue no. 10, vol. 1, p. 346.
This Fatwaa also reoccurs in the Fatwaas issued by the Permanent Committee of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia and other contemporaries like Shaykh Muhammad bin Saaleh al-‘Uthaymeen [May Allaah have Mercy on him].
Perhaps the evidence for this is the fact that the Messenger of Allaah [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] slaughtered sixty three camels on the Day of Nahr and it is only reported that he said Takbeer once [Narrated by Muslim (1967)]. Furthermore, others from the Fuqaha have stated that it is permissible for the hunter to mention the name of Allaah over the animal he is using as a predator for the animals he is hunting just once, because of the hardship it would contain in repeatedly mentioning the name of Allaah over the various animals. This was mentioned by Ibn Qudaamah in al-Mughnee (11/33-34) and also quoted by Shaykh Muhammmad Taqee.
So we can see it is not a simple issue for layman like us to place a ruling (Hukm) on, and the correct opinion of its permissibility appears to be the correct one and as a result the meat imported from Brazil has no reservations to it – Praise be to Allaah -.
We also learn from all of this that those who give statistics without proof or quote the Fataawaa of the scholars incorrectly should not be taken knowledge from. Either they are ignorant and thus not qualified or they are lying out-rightly – May Allaah Protect us from speaking without knowledge and rectify the affairs of those who do-.
From here, we also learn another important principle, which is that despite people having titles or organisations appointing themselves as being the authority for the Muslims, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what they say is automatically correct or that they are precise in the knowledge they possess. As a result, it is extremely important that Fatwaas must be taken from those who are precise in their knowledge of the Quraan and the Sunnah and the statements of the scholars or at least, taking Fatwaas which explain the correct stance.
Ibn Battah records that Imaam Ahmad (May Allaah have mercy on him) said:
No man should appoint himself to issue verdicts (fatwa) until and unless he fulfills five characteristics:
[Ibtaal Al-Hiyal (p.24)]
This is what I have to say, all goodness in it is from Allaah and any mistakes are from my feeble self and the plots of Shaytaan.
I apologise- my dear reader – for its length and I asked to be excused if I have missed to address something. My intention was to cover this matter in greater detail, however time and the fear of tiring the reader doesn’t permit.
I ask to rectify our affairs and the affairs of the Ummah, that He Helps us to return back to our religion and that everything we do is for His Sake Alone, so that at-Tayyib will make us from the Tayyib because he only accepts that which is Tayyib.
Ariff bin Abee Bakr Olla
Ar-Riyaadh, 28th Safar 1435 – 1st January 2014
 The famous Hanafee Imaam, Badr ad-Deen al-‘Aynee (May Allaah have Mercy on him) said about him, “He is the Shaykh, al-Imaam, the scholar…Whoever accuses him of being a Kaafir then he indeed is a Kaafir, and however accuses him of being a heretic then he indeed is a heretic. How can it be that his work is widespread and there is isn’t the slightest inkling of deviation within them?” [ar-Radd al-Waafir (Pg.74-81)]
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