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The American Muslim: Kosher and Halal: Halakha and Sharia Requirements

by Yasir Qadhi

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 purchasing kosher 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 consumekosher, 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 madhhabsallowed 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 halakhicand Sharʿī 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 consumeḥalāl 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 koshergelatin is therefore typically derived from kosher fish (and, in even rarer cases, from kosherslaughtered 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 fromkosher rennet; most Muslim authorities would allow cheese from non-ḥalāl rennet because of the issue of istihlāk.[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 animaltreif and 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, theshochet 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 religious 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 animalḥarām).

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 ofkosher, called glatt 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 animaltreif 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 theSharīʿa, 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 Allah’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 oftasmiya before 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 Allah 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 ofmadhhabs, 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 shochetdoes 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 Allah 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 Allah and in the name of Allah (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 Allah’s name also allowed it if they mentioned other than Allah’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 the tasmiya before hunting or slaughtering an animal is even more clear than the obligation to reciteFātiḥa in the prayer.

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

[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 Allah’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.)

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13 Comments »

  1. No wonder Christianity is ahead. What a waste of precious time all this blather is.

  2. Ahead? Ahead of what. What is your frame of reference? From my view point they are behind. Like where they threw God’s laws. Now if you don’t think you have to live by God’s laws then that is convenient. But if you know you have to and see a group who doesn’t then that doesn’t look like ahead.

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
    I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
    Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19

    …until the heaven and the earth disappear. Hmmm. Interesting

    Did I mention I used to be Christian?

  3. Not even the strictest Jew does all the things laid down in the law. He cannot be executed for fishing on the Sabbath, or murder his bride if he finds her not a virgin, or burn a priest’s daughter if she plays the whore.

    Nobody sacrifices pigeons upon the birth of a child. 2 for a boy, 1 for a girl.

    There are also various verses dealing with things like mildew and leprosy which are no longer followed.

    Greater knowledge and mercy arrived with the centuries.

  4. “Greater knowledge and mercy arrived with the centuries.”

    Whose knowledge? Whose mercy? Did God abrogate His Law, or did man, in his pride and ego, think that he somehow became more knowledgeable and more merciful the God?

    Job 35

    New King James Version (NKJV)
    Elihu Condemns Self-Righteousness

    35 Moreover Elihu answered and said:

    2 “Do you think this is right?
    Do you say,
    ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’?

  5. mr bennet,

    lol. a matthew 5:17 quote. do they teach you all that on the “talking to christians” day?

    Rashiyd Abu Ali,

    so has the torah been abrogated? strange that jesus, a prohet of the god of abraham said “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” yet muhammad abolished rajm. or maybe not.

    Volume 8, Book 82, Number 809:

    Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

    A Jew and a Jewess were brought to Allah’s Apostle on a charge of committing an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet asked them. “What is the legal punishment (for this sin) in your Book (Torah)?” They replied, “Our priests have innovated the punishment of blackening the faces with charcoal and Tajbiya.” ‘Abdullah bin Salam said, “O Allah’s Apostle, tell them to bring the Torah.” The Torah was brought, and then one of the Jews put his hand over the Divine Verse of the Rajam (stoning to death) and started reading what preceded and what followed it. On that, Ibn Salam said to the Jew, “Lift up your hand.” Behold! The Divine Verse of the Rajam was under his hand. So Allah’s Apostle ordered that the two (sinners) be stoned to death, and so they were stoned. Ibn ‘Umar added: So both of them were stoned at the Balat and I saw the Jew sheltering the Jewess.

    sorry if you think that is disrespectful or thinks that puts you in a corner. but hey it’s seems like a simple question to me?

  6. Okay, the next time you are afflicted with mildew or leprosy, reach for the Bible.

    By all means kill any girls who aren’t virgins on their wedding day.

    Burn the priest’s daughter. Murder all weekend fishermen.

    Sacrifice pigeons at birth of child.

  7. @mike,

    No, I’ve never been to a “Talk to a Christian” day. I use to be Christian, so I am a little familiar with the bible (no 12 years of Catholic school familiar).

    I used the verse because it’s applicable.

    Prophet Muhammad didn’t abrogate God’s religion, God did with the message he gave to Prophet Muhammad(SAAW).

    If you remember in the other thread I said “If I feel cornered,” “it’s a hypothetical dude”, I haven’t felt cornered. Nor have I felt disrespected. That is the difference between our conversations and the crap the cartoonist publishes.

    @ anon

    I’m not Jewish (though if I wasn’t Muslim I probably would be). Our laws are different and considerably less severe (not in the punishment, but in what is punishable). Please refer to the above point about abrogation.

  8. I do not think God abrogates things. Nor do I think God recites books. God is too big for this nonsense. Religion is the manmade struggle of man to understand God and why man is on earth.

  9. So God is too big for this “nonsense”. And you are entitle to your opinion. But here’s mine.

    A successful wealth business man builds a company. Not just any company, the best company anyone has ever seen. There are not deficiency in it. Then he hires his employees to run the company. Unskilled, untrained people who happen to walk by the building. But he never informs them the goals of the company, or how he wants the company ran, or even how to run a company. What sense would this make.

    God was a hidden treasure and wanted to be known. So God created man to worship Him and to know Him. God sent Prophets into the world so that man could know God, and know His plans for them. He gave them instructions on how to live a life pleasing to Him. And for those who strove to live their lives pleasing Him promise them paradise.

    Wait. I am also waiting. And on that Day we shall see who was right and who was in error.

  10. I think man was indeed set down in a place of total mystery. The earth does not advertise its secrets. It does not wear signs directing man what to do. Man has sloooooooooowly figured many things out.

  11. I happened about this as I was reading the Qur’an today.

    “My Lord is most Subtle in achieving what He will.” 12:100

    “And there are many signs in the heavens and the earth that they pass by and give no heed to.” 12:105

    The world around us is one big sign that there is a Creator, and designer and architect behind it. No, looking at a tree isn’t going to lead someone to conclude that fornication is harram, but nature points to One Who created. And if He created all of this it was not in vain, without purpose. I a man in the middle of nowhere, who never heard about Islam or Muhammad (SAAW), or Jesus (AS) or “religion,” but concluded that there is A Creator, and only one. He he lives his life trying to please him to the best of his understanding, and then dies. He would be in paradise. It is apart of man’s nature to seek God.

  12. Rashiyd Abu Ali,

    “Prophet Muhammad didn’t abrogate God’s religion, God did with the message he gave to Prophet Muhammad(SAAW).” so was stoning abrogated as a punishment for adultry? but muhammad stoned people to death?

    “God sent Prophets into the world so that man could know God, and know His plans for them. He gave them instructions on how to live a life pleasing to Him.” i said that once here, that the koran is an instruction manual. muslims yelled at me. go figure. is not ezekial one of god’s prophets? who wrote leviticus? deutoronomy? exodus (i think that was moses) was he not a prophet? s3 can give you some interesting verses.

    you said you might not lash a fornicator, but that is the punishment in the perfect koran. are you (a man) not abrogating that verse?

    anon may not be an evangelical, she maybe new age? a universal energy type.

  13. If a god exists he/she/it would use modern telecommunications to get his/her/its message across. Relying on some flakey old books is no way to run the world.

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