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Question & Answer » Eating & Drinking

1 Question: We are unaware of the ingredients of food sold in shops in Western countries: it might be free from those ingredients that are forbidden to us or it might contain them. Are we allowed to eat such items without looking into their ingredients, or inquiring about them? Or is that not allowed to us?
Answer: It is permissible [to eat such food] as long as it is not known that it contains meat, fat, and their derivatives that are forbidden to us.
2 Question: There is this vinegar that is made from wine, in the sense that it was wine and then, through a manufacturing process, changed into vinegar. Therefore, the label on the bottle reads: “wine vinegar” as opposed to the vinegar made from barley or other items. One of the signs [of differentiating between “wine vinegar” and the wine itself is that] the bottles of this vinegar are displayed in the area of vinegar, and it has never happened that these bottles are placed on the shelves of wines. Moreover, there is no difference between such vinegar and the vinegar made from dates for example. So, can this wine which has turned into vinegar be considered vinegar under the rule of change (istihalah)?
Answer: If the name “vinegar” can be applied in the view of common people upon that product, as has been assumed in the question, the same rule governing vinegar would apply to it. [That is, it is pure as well as permissible.]
3 Question: Alcohol is used in the production of many drugs and medications: Is it permissible to take them? Are they considered pure (tãhir)?
Answer: They are pure; and since the alcohol used in them is so minute that it dissolves in them, it is therefore permissible to take them also.
4 Question: Is it permissible to drink beer that says “alcohol free” on it?
Answer: It is not permissible to drink, if “beer” means the drink made from barley that causes mild drunkenness. But if it means a drink made from barley that does not cause mild drunkenness, there is no problem in it. The drink that is made from barley and called "Fuqa' in Arabic is definitely forbidden and ritually impure as an obligatory precaution. This drink is not intoxicant normally but it makes one feel tipsy; that is a state of slight drunkenness caused apparently by low percentage of alcohol in the liquid. Therefore, if a drink is produced alcohol free in the first place and it is not called "Fuqa" (beer), there is no problem, or else, it is forbidden even if alcohol is separated from it. God knows best!
5 Question: If wine is served at a table, it is harãm for a Muslim to sit at that table. What is meant by “table”? Does this apply to the entire group [that has gone to the restaurant and some are being served alcohol] even if the tables are more than one? Or does it only apply to one table [and not the group], in the sense that if there are two separate tables, it would be permissible to sit [at the table on which alcohol is not being served, even if they are part of the same company]?
Answer: The criterion is one table. However, one should know that the prohibition of sitting at a table on which wine or intoxicant drinks are being served is based on precaution; if a person simply sits at that table, it is harãm as an obligatory precaution but if he is going to eat or drink something while sitting at the table, it is harãm.
6 Question: Is it permissible to eat halãl food which has been steam cooked with the steam of meat not slaughtered according to Islamic laws?
Answer: It is not permissible since the food, as mentioned in the question, will be considered impure (najis) because of coming into contact with the wet parts from the steam of the impure meat.
7 Question: Gelatin is used in a number of drinks and food items in the West. We do not know that gelatin has been extracted from a vegetable or an animal source; and that if it is from an animal, is it from its bones or from the tissues around the bones; neither do we know if the animal was one that is halãl for us or harãm. Are we allowed to eat such gelatin?
Answer: It is permissible to eat if the doubt is whether it has been extracted from an animal or vegetable. But, if it is known that it was derived from an animal, then it is not permissible to eat without ascertaining that the animal was slaughtered according to sharí‘a. This prohibition applies, as a matter of obligatory precaution, even if it was extracted from animal bones.
Of course, if a chemical change occurs in the original ingredients during the process of manufacturing the gelatin, there is no problem at all in eating it. Similarly, even if one has doubt whether the animal was slaughtered Islamically or not, still there is no problem in adding the gelatin [made from that animal] to the food in such a minute amount that it is completely absorbed in it.
8 Question: The people residing in Europe are of different faiths, nationalities and religions; and when we buy moist or wet food items, the shopkeeper may touch it with his hands. Since we do not know his religion, can we consider that food as pure?
Answer: As long as it is not known that the hands of the shopkeeper were najis, the food is to be considered tahir.
9 Question: Can we eat the food that has been cooked by a Hindu?
Answer: If it is not known that the food is Najis and if the food does not contain meat, there would be no problem in eating it. However, if the food has been touched with a wet hand or in the state of wetness, it is not permissible to eat it.
10 Question: Is it permissible to the food that has been cooked by a non-Muslim?
Answer: It is permissible to eat the food that is not known to be najis. All kinds of food with the exception of meat, fat, and their extracts are permissible for a Muslim as long as he does not know that they are najis.
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