Halāl Meat
The Dietary Shari‘ah
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Recently, a friend of mine attended a lecture by a learned scholar. In response to a question about the meat being sold at the American grocery stores being Halāl or not, he replied that there were two things in the Qur’ān. First, is the following verse:

Eat not on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced. (6:121)

Then, there is this verse:

The food of the People of the Book is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (5:5)

So according to this scholar, the meat at the American grocery stores is not prohibited and he said we would not be sinning if we had that meat but it was better to avoid it. Therefore, my question to you is that can we eat the meat slaughtered by the Americans, considering that they are People of the Book?


A deliberation on the contexts of 6:121 and 5:5 reveals that the condition imposed by 6:121 (that is Allah’s name should be positively taken on slaughtering an animal) is a universal principle and the food of the People of the Book can only be eaten if, besides other conditions, it also fulfils this condition. These other conditions are stated at various places in the Qur’ān. To quote Sūrah Baqarah:

Believers! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is Him you worship. He has only forbidden you dead meat and blood and the flesh of swine and that on which any name other than Allah has been invoked. (2:172-3)

In other words, just as swine, dead meat, blood, meat on which some other name has been taken cannot be eaten from the tables of the People of the Book, similarly meat on which Allah’s name has not been positively taken cannot be eaten from them.

It needs to be appreciated that 5:5 has a specific background which makes it a verse that cannot be taken independently. Until this verse was revealed, the food of the People of the Book was forbidden for the Muslims. The reason for this was that many lawful edibles had been made unlawful for them by Allah as a means to punish them for their stubbornness1. Similarly, they themselves had made unlawful for themselves edibles which were originally lawful for them like the camel2. Consequently, after the list of lawful and the unlawful edibles was set right by the Prophet (sws), then only were the Muslims allowed to eat from their tables.




1. Qur’ān says:

And on the Jews, We forbade every animal with undivided hoof and We forbade them the fat of the ox and the sheep except what adheres to their backs or their entrails or is mixed up with a bone. This was in recompense for their wilful disobedience. (6:146)

2. The Bible says:

But among those that chew the cud or have divided hoofs, you shall not eat the following: the camel …(Leviticus, 11:4)


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