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Eating & drinking » General Rules

Since the followers of the past revealed religions (that is, the Jews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians) are ritually pure, many of the problems concerning the status and permissibility of the food are resolved when we live in their midst. It becomes permissible for us as Muslims to eat from their food no matter whether they touched it with their wet hands or not as long as we do not know or are not sure that it consists of what is forbidden to us, like intoxicating drinks. As for meat, fat and their extracts, there are specific rules that will be discussed later on. A Muslim is allowed to eat the food prepared by a non-Muslim who is not from Ahlul Kitãb [for example, a Hindu or a Buddhist], provided that he does not know or is not sure that the non-Muslim touched the food with wetness; and provided that he does not know or is not sure that the food consists of what is forbidden to him like intoxicating drinks. As for meat, fat and their extracts, there are specific rules that will come later on. A Muslim is allowed to eat any food made by a person whose faith and religion is not known to him, no matter whether that person touched it with wetness or did not touch it, provided that he does not know or is not sure that the food consists of what is forbidden to him. As for meat, fat, and their extracts, there are specific rules that will come later on.t is not necessary for the Muslim to question the person who prepared the food about his beliefs or disbeliefs, or whether or not he had touched the food, even if that inquiry is very convenient and natural for one who wants to ask.In short, all kinds of food with the exception of meat, fat, and their extracts are permissible for a Muslim, even if he doubts that it might contain something which is forbidden for him to eat or doubts that its cook —whosoever he may be— had touched it with wetness. (See the question-answer section below.) Just as it is not obligatory on him to inquire about the ingredients of such food to ensure that it is free from what is forbidden to him, it is not obligatory on him to ask the cook whether he touched it while preparing the food or after it. All kinds of packed food with the exception of meat, fat and their extracts, are permissible for a Muslim, even if he doubts that its ingredients might contain what is forbidden for him or even if he doubts that the cook —whosoever he may be— had touched it with wetness. It is not obligatory on him to inquire about its ingredients to ensure that it does not contain anything that is forbidden to him. A Muslim is allowed to buy all kinds of halãl meat from a Muslim shopkeeper who sells it to Muslims. Such meat would be considered halãl even if the vendor belongs to a school of thought which have different conditions for slaughtering from ours as long as there is a possibility that the animal was slaughtered in accordance with our conditions. This latter statement applies to all conditions except the one that says that the animal’s belly should be facing the qiblah at the time of slaughter. Not observing the condition of qiblah because the slaughterer’s school of thought does not consider it a necessity will not detract from [the permissibility of the meat]. If a Muslim knows and is sure that this meat is from an animal which is permissible for Muslims to eat (like cow, sheep or chicken) but that it is not slaughtered in accordance with Islamic laws, that meat is to be considered mayta. Mayta is not permissible for a Muslim to eat even if its seller is a Muslim. Similarly, such meat is impure (najis) and would make other things impure, if it comes into wet contact with it. If a Muslim buys or receives meat from a non-Muslim, or from a Muslim who got it from a non-Muslim and did not inquire about its slaughtering according to Islamic laws, such meat is harãm for him. But if the Muslim does not know that the animal was not slaughtered according to Islamic laws, it would not be considered najis, although it is still harãm. Some experts say that by letting out the blood by way of slaughtering, the meat of the animal becomes healthier for the consumer than an animal that was not slaughtered. And so you should not be surprised to see some non-Muslims buying the meat that had been slaughtered according to Islamic laws from halãl meat stores. In order for fish to become permissible for a Muslim, it must have the following conditions:(a) The fish must have scales on it. [That is, it should not be a skin fish.](b) The Muslim should be certain or satisfied that the fish has come out of the water alive or that it died while it was already in the fishing net.It is not necessary for the fisherman to be a Muslim or to utter the name of Allãh for the fish to become halãl. So, if a non-Muslim catches a fish and brings it alive from the water or it dies after getting caught in his fishing net or fishing line, and it has scales on it, it is permissible to eat.A Muslim can ascertain the first condition by examining the fish if it is being displayed or by observing its name [which can tell you whether it is a skin fish or a scale fish] as long as you can trust the authenticity of the label. A list of scale fish has been appended at the end of this book.The second condition is fulfilled in almost all the countries, as they say, because the universal method in fishing ensures that the fish comes out of the water alive or they die after they are caught in the fishing net. Based on this, it is permissible to eat the fish that one gets from a non-Muslim just as one gets from a Muslim, irrespective of whether it is canned or uncanned. (See the question-answer section below.) It is permissible to eat shrimps, if they are brought out of the water alive. It is forbidden to eat frogs, lobsters, turtles, every amphibious animal, snails, and crayfish. (See the question-answer section below.) The law concerning eggs of fish follows the fish itself: the eggs of a halãl fish are permissible to eat and those of a harãm one are forbidden. Some experts of fisheries say that scaleless fish mostly feed upon the waste of the sea and are in a way purifier of the filth, the squalor and the garbage of the sea. It is forbidden to drink wine, beer, and everything that causes intoxication or drunkenness in solid or liquid form. Almighty Allãh says in the Qur’ãn: “O you who believe! Intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shatan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful.” (5:90-91)Our noble Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said, “One who drinks intoxicants after Allãh has made them harãm by my statement is not worthy of marriage [to your daughter] if he proposes to her, or of intercession when he asks for a good word, or of any credibility when he speaks, or of being entrusted with anything.” (1)In another hadíth, he says, “Allãh has accursed alcohol, its growers, those who squeeze it [from the grapes], its drinkers, its servers, its buyers, its sellers, those who live on its income, its transporter, and the one to whom it is being transported.” (2) There are many more ahãdíth you will find in books of hadíth and jurisprudence. (3) It is harãm to eat at the table on which alcohol or any other intoxicants are being consumed. Based on obligatory precaution, it is harãm to even sit at such a table. (See the question-answer section below.) It is permissible for a Muslim to go to places where wine is being served with the food, provided that it does not lead to promotion of those restaurants. However, he cannot eat from the table on which wine is being consumed and should not, based on obligatory precaution, sit at that table. There is no problem though, in sitting at a table near the table on which wine is being consumed. It has been mentioned in Chapter Three, Part One that all kinds of alcohol whether derived from wood or other sources are pure (tãhir). Therefore, the food in whose preparation alcohol was used is tãhir; the liquids in which it has been dissolved are also tãhir. (See the question-answer section below.) It is harãm to use anything that causes serious harm to the human being like taking poison. It is also harãm for a pregnant woman to drink something that would cause miscarriage. Similarly, anything that is known to be harmful or supposed to be harmful or has the probability of harm [is also harãm], if that probability is considerable in the views of sensible people and that harm is serious enough to cause death or to disable a limb of the body. There is certain etiquette to be observed at the dining table. Starting with the name of Allãh; eating with the right hand; making small morsels; sitting longer at the table; chewing the food well; thanking Allãh after the food; washing the fruits and vegetables before eating; not eating after satisfying the appetite; not over eating; not looking at the faces of others while eating; not taking away the food from others who are sitting at the table; and tasting the salt at the beginning and the end of the dinner.

1 Al-Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya'qûb, Furû'u 'l-Kafi, vol. 6, p. 396.
2 As-Sadûq, Man La Yahdhurhu 'l-Faqih, vol. 4, p. 4.
3 See Furû'u 'l-Kafi, vol. 6, p. 396.
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