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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Halal or Not? All You Can Eat Biryani

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Came across this fatwa today, alhamdulillah I must say its very good news :)

Question: Is going to an all-you-can-eat buffet permissible according to Islamic Law? The reason I ask is because some people in my area are saying that this is prohibited due to the fact that it involves uncertainty. This is because you pay a fixed price, like £5, and in return you can eat as much as you wish. The uncertainty is in the amount of food being eaten. Please clarify.

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Answered by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî, former professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh

It seems to us – and Allah knows best – that participation in an open buffet is permissible.

It is true that in Islamic commercial law, contractual uncertainty (gharar) can lead to a contract being deemed invalid or unlawful. This is the case when the degree of contractual uncertainty is major or unjustifiable.

The degree of contractual uncertainty in the case of an open buffet is not something major and will not affect its essential permissibility. It is an established principle in Islamic commercial law that if the uncertainty involved is something trivial, it is to be tolerated and overlooked.

The amount of food taken by people, in most cases, is roughly equivalent.

Nothing in Islamic commercial law appears to forbid such a practice.

And Allah knows best.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. ِAbu Bakr

    March 15, 2007 at 8:45 PM

    Assalamu Alaykum

    I should just note by way of clarification, the Shari’ah prohibits uncertainty (gharar) in financial transactions and contracts, however, slight degrees of uncertainty are overlooked because it would create difficulty if everything was required to be measured EXACTLY. For example, a bag of chips does not always have the exact same number of chips or weight. Such slight differences are forgiven.

    When uncertainty is considerable, such transactions are prohibited because of the harm or loss that this can lead to for one of the participants.

    As for when the level of uncertainty is somewhere in between (mutawassit), the scholars have disagreed as to whether the ruling should be like that of a high degree of uncertainty or a slight degree of uncertainty. For this reason, you may find some scholars disapproving of buffets.

    I just wanted to point this out lest other people jump to comment on this matter.

  2. Jamal

    March 15, 2007 at 9:59 PM

    Interesting question and answer, but it seems to me as much ado about nothing. What is meant by uncertainty in shari’ah? No contract is perfect. They are human documents. I think uncertainty is unavoidable. Additionally, the supposed uncertain clause of the contract is defined quite clearly — the flat fee meal cost provides unlimited access to food there.

  3. AnonyMouse

    March 15, 2007 at 11:36 PM

    Hmmmm… I wouldn’t’ve thought that there was a real question as to its permissability or not… then again, I should know by now that people come up with the most unlikely questions – my father’s favourite example is of him being asked what direction to face for salaah if you’re in space!

  4. Mujahideen Ryder

    March 16, 2007 at 1:09 AM

    LOL

  5. inexplicabletimelessness

    March 16, 2007 at 9:30 AM

    As salaamu alaikum:

    “my father’s favourite example is of him being asked what direction to face for salaah if you’re in space!”

    LOL :)

  6. Amad

    March 16, 2007 at 10:08 AM

    I think you are supposed to face down :)

  7. ibnabeeomar

    March 16, 2007 at 11:03 AM

    btw i should point out that despite some of the light hearted nature of the topic (with my bringing up one of my favorite foods and all) this actually is a serious discussion, and i was glad to finally see something in writing on this issue.

    as br. abu bakr pointed out, there is an element of uncertainty that’s prohibited in shari’ah so i really was curious about this issue for sometime.

    for example, 2 friends go to a desi restaurant and order a chicken tikka leg for $5.95 each. both will get a tikka leg with some good tandoori masala and raita, but will both legs be the exact same? one might be a little bigger than the other, so is this allowed as a negligible amount of uncertainty? maybe compared to walking into a store that says “chicken for $9” and you have no idea what you’re getting. maybe it’s gourmet rotisserie chicken or maybe its just a bunch of uncooked meat..

  8. iMuslim

    March 16, 2007 at 12:21 PM

    Just an additional point mentioned in this answer:
    But if a person knows that he will eat an extraordinary amount of food, then he should mention that to them, because then this is a great ambiguity.

  9. Ruth Nasrullah

    March 16, 2007 at 12:40 PM

    Asalaamu alaikum. ibnabeeomar, is your comment above (comment #7) serious or tongue in cheek (no pun intended)?

  10. ibnabeeomar

    March 16, 2007 at 12:50 PM

    no im being serious. i was just trying to give examples of varying levels of uncertainty referring back to br. Abu Bakr’s comment

  11. Mujtaba

    March 16, 2007 at 1:15 PM

    ASA!
    There are a million very significant issues that need to be addressed and you folks are talking about “All You Can Eat Buffet is Halal or haram”. No wonder the ummah is in a pathetic condition!

  12. khawla hurayrah

    March 16, 2007 at 1:17 PM

    Assalamu’alaikum

    I am not being serious. (I don’t have one of those smiley face to put here)

    While the brothers can be busy with crickets, soccer and football. Muslim Canadian sisters want to know if they can play organized soccer but wearing hijab?

    Hijab soccer ban upheld

    can anyone give some light?

    ~khawla

  13. AnonyMouse

    March 16, 2007 at 1:55 PM

    Sister Khawla – insha’Allah I’ll write a post on that subject soon, seeing as how I’m the resident Canuck! :)

  14. Suleman

    March 16, 2007 at 7:27 PM

    Asalamolaikum all. It’s not a simple as you all think. The reason I say this is because Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury, whom I believe you’ve listed as being one of your guest writers, spoke about this in an Alkauthar course run in London last weekend (10-11 March 2007), explaining there was a difference of opinion on the subject, with Sheikh Qaradawi stating that it was permissible and other prominent Saudi Sheikhs saying it was not. I don’t have my notes to hand but inshallah I’ll find my specific notes on the subject and let you all know (since obviously you’ll want the evidence on the subject).

  15. iMuslim

    March 16, 2007 at 8:13 PM

    @Suleman

    I am not at all surprised that there is a difference of opinion on this matter… the scholars of Islam seem to differ on every matter, except that of tawhid! *sigh*

  16. Ruth Nasrullah

    March 16, 2007 at 8:20 PM

    Asalaamu alaikum. Isn’t the greater issue that of gluttony and overeating?

  17. ِAbu Bakr

    March 17, 2007 at 3:11 PM

    assalamu alaykum

    With all due respect, the sholars of Islam do not disagree on every matter. For the most part, the fundamental principles in every subject of Fiqh are agreed upon even though there is difference about some details.

    You could say the cup is half empty, but you could also say it’s half full.

    Anyone who studies the Fiqh of Business will know that one of the fundamental principles of the Shari’ah is that all commodities bought and sold should be defined.

    Of course, there is some relativity involved in this as nothing can be fully defined. Someone may be selling a certain line of shirts for $5 each. As long as they are generally the same, seeing one is good enough to be able to know what you are buying if you buy the other, even though they may not be EXACTLY the same. They will not all be composed of the exact same number of threads, for example.

    However, on the other hand, it would be prohibited for someone to sell you an item without showing it to you or describing it to you sufficiently for you to be able to gauge it’s worth. This is an example of the prohibited form of uncertainty (gharar). Such transactions used to take place in Jahiliyyah and were prohibited by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

    All the scholars are in agreement that gharar is prohibited in the Shari’ah. They are also in agreement that slight gharar is overlooked. The disagreement comes in with regards to defining the exact limits of gharar that is too much and gharar that is small enough that it can be overlooked.

    In any case, I think Sister Ruth makes a good point. Buffets tend to lead to gluttony and overeating, which at best, would be disliked, and if it truly goes beyond the bounds of the Shari’ah, it would be prohibited. One definitely could argue that this is an important factor to consider the next time you line up for a buffet, irrespective of whether it is the prohibited form of gharar or not.

  18. Umm Reem

    March 17, 2007 at 4:08 PM

    I suppose another good example of moder day ‘gharar’ contract, which cannot be overlooked, is insurance.

  19. ِAbu Bakr

    March 18, 2007 at 1:39 AM

    Yes, indeed, it is

  20. ِAbu Bakr

    March 18, 2007 at 1:40 AM

    The vast majority of contemporary scholars prohibit the use of insurance in general (with exceptions for necessity, etc.)

  21. Suleman

    March 19, 2007 at 8:26 PM

    Asalamolaikum. Bit delayed getting back, I know….
    The course I was referring to above was called “The Real Deal”
    And rather than me attempting to give my understanding from the notes, I’ll refer you to a posting on the AlKauthar forums inshallah.
    http://forums.alkauthar.org/showthread.php?t=179

  22. ِAbu Bakr

    March 19, 2007 at 8:55 PM

    Jazakallahu Khayran

  23. Nasir Muzaffar

    April 9, 2008 at 9:39 AM

    Ruling on buying from “all-you-can-eat” buffets

    http://islamqa.com/index.php?ref=91480&ln=eng

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