There has been some debate at my masjid regarding the permissibility of eating the food of Ahl al-Kitab. My Imam says that the verse prohibiting the eating of food on which the name of Allah had not been said was abrogated by the verse that permitted the eating of the food of Ahl al-Kitab. His proof is this hadith from Sunan Abi Dawud:
حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن ثابت المروزي حدثني علي بن حسين عن أبيه عن يزيد النحوي عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس قال فكلوا مما ذكر اسم الله عليه ولا تأكلوا مما لم يذكر اسم الله عليه فنسخ واستثنى من ذلك فقال وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم وطعامكم حل لهم
in which Ibn Abbas cites the same opinion. Is this hadith authentic, and if it is, then how do the Hanafis and Hanbalis who hold contrary opinions to this hadith answer to it?
The details of this issue can be found in sufficient detail in Shaykhuna Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him)’s book Ahkam al-Dhaba’ih, translated by White Thread Press as The Islamic Laws of Animal Slaughter.
As for this particular hadith, the short answer to it, as understood by the noble jurists of the Hanafi madhhab, is as follows:
The hadith in question is not a prophetic tradition but the statement of a Companion. According to juristic principles, the ijtihad of a Companion before being accepted must be properly weighed with Qur’anic injunctions and then the Prophetic narrations. Then it will also be compared to the statements of other companions.
Ibn Jarir al-Tabari mentions in his voluminous tafsir:
The scholars have differed regarding this ayah (referring to the ayah in the hadith that is claimed to be abrogated); was its ruling abrogated or not? Some scholars said, ‘No part of the ayah has been abrogated, and it is conclusive in what it means and intends. This is the opinion of the majority of the people of knowledge.
Some scholars, such as Hasan al-Basri and ‘Ikramah (may Allah have mercy on them) agreed with ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas’s (may Allah be pleased with him) opinion and claimed that the portion of the ayah that necessitated the tasmiyah (declaring Allah’s name upon slaughtering) had been abrogated. They also claimed that the rest of the ayah’s ruling, however, remained un-abrogated.
According to the majority of scholars, and that which is most in light with a sound juristic understanding of the Qur’an and Hadith, the verse has not been partially abrogated, as both ayahs can be practiced upon without any necessity to abrogate one or the other.
The erudite hadith master Khalil Ahmad al-Saharanpuri (may Allah have mercy on him) writes in his commentary of Abu Dawud entitled Badhl al-Majhud: “The correct opinion in respect to this issue is that this ayah according to us is conclusive and nothing of it has been abrogated.” (Badhl al-Majhud 9:573)
In essence, the meat of the Ahl al-Kitab is halal and their sacrificed animals are pure, but the necessity to call out Allah’s name at the time of sacrifice will apply to the Ahl al-Kitab just as it applies to Muslims. To incline towards the opinion of abrogation necessitates the partial abrogation of a verse of the Qur’an, and such is not preferred or even necessary.
At the same time, remember that there is no guarantee today that the meat that is widely available in the marketplace is even being slaughtered by believing Ahl al-Kitab. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the meat industry can tell you that there is no guarantee that Ahl al-Kitab are slaughtering the animals and not atheists or polytheists. In fact, many factories today are completely automated and are almost entirely void of human supervision. Worse is the fact that a large portion of slaughtered animals are stunned so severely (using captive bolts, electric shocking, CO2 suffocation, etc…) that they die before their necks are even cut. This would render the animal as a maytah (corpse) and no scholar of Islam has claimed that such a maytah is halal. And Allah knows best.
Bilal Ali is a teacher of Islamic studies by profession and a researcher in the Islamic sciences. He currently serves as a full-time instructor of the Arabic language, Islamic law, Hadith, and Islamic Doctrine at the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin, IL and teaches Islamic law and history part-time for Darul Hikmah. His fields of specialization include Islamic law, hadith, and education.