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Is Kosher Meat Halal? A Comparison of the Halakhic and Shar’i Requirements for Animal Slaughter




The following is a paper presented to the AMJA Conference on The Halal and Haram in Food and Medicine (Los Angeles, California, March 2-4, 2012).  Note that this paper does not represent AMJA in any way, and only represents the opinions of the author.

Terminology Equivalents
Hebrew:  Arabic
kosher: ḥalāl
shechita: dhabīḥa
shochet: dhābiḥ
halakha: sharīʿa
treif: ḥarām


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 consume kosher, 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 madhhabs allowed 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 halakhic and 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 consume ḥalāl 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 kosher gelatin is therefore typically derived from kosher fish (and, in even rarer cases, from kosher slaughtered 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 from kosher 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 animal treif 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, the shochet 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 religions 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 animal ḥarām).

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 of kosher, 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 animal treif 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 the Sharīʿa, 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 of tasmiya 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 of madhhabs, 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 shochet does 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]


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:

[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 recite Fātiḥa 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.)


Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.



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    June 22, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    jazakAllaahu khairan, very informative paper.

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    June 22, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    Great article! I am an observant Jew and you really articulate our laws nicely. I have often wondered what is Islam’s stance on food cooked by idol worshipers? In Jewish law if such food is prepared (even in an entirely kosher manner) by an idolater it is forbidden to eat does Islam have the same ruling?

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      June 22, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      Hi Michael. I’ll try to answer your question. If the condition is similar like you have mentioned -in Islam’s term is Halal ingredients prepared in Halal manner- from what I know, we are allowed to eat that food even if it is cooked by idolater.

      Well, practically anyone can cook our food as long the ingredients is halal and it is prepared in halal manner…

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      June 23, 2012 at 3:44 AM

      We can only eat meat that is slaughtered in the right way from either a Muslim or a person of the book ( Jews and Christians). If an idol worshiper slaughters meat according to Islamic law it still would not be allowed. But as for regular foods then i do not know the ruling maybe sheikh Yasir can answer your question.

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:39 PM


      In Islam it is irrelevant who cooks the food (as long as its a trustworthy person who won’t poison you!!) – what’s relevant is who sacrifices the animal. Only a believer in God (a Muslim, Christian or Jew) is allowed to sacrifice.

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      January 26, 2016 at 1:46 AM

      Quick question: then what do they do if they want to eat at a restaurant! They either won’t go which is unlikely seems to me, or do they ask about the history of the chef!

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        January 26, 2016 at 8:09 AM

        Observant Jews only eat at kosher restaurants, and this is one of the things the kosher certifier makes sure of.

        There is a dispute among Jewish authorities as to how much a Jew must participate in the cooking for the food to be acceptable. Some say he must participate in cooking the actual dish, e.g. by putting it on the fire, or stirring the pot, or adding an ingredient, while others say it’s enough to light the fire on which it was cooked.

        Most certifiers of kosher restaurants follow the more lenient view, so if there are no Jews working full-time in the kitchen then a Jew arrives every morning to light the fires, and the staff are instructed that if a fire goes out they are not to relight it but to call the certifier to send someone to do it. Those who hold the stricter view will not certify a restaurant at all unless there is a Jew on the kitchen staff who makes sure to participate, somehow, in cooking everything.

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    June 22, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Salam Shk. Yasir,

    Jazakallah for a very informative piece.

    You may have answered this in the past, I would like to know if it is okay for muslims living in the west to choose positions from different schools of thought at different times. I was raised mostly with Hanafi rulings which I never consciously subscribed in all cases, for instance, I don’t tap my finger during tashahud or raise my hand before going to ruku like some friends do but I do eat Kosher when I can even when a halal alternative is available. I feel that one tasmiya for one slaughter seems too rigid.


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      June 22, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      If I’m allowed to share my thoughts. I was also doing the same thing (jumping around masghab) then I read the lecture of one sheikh (forgot his name) that he mentioned it’s like following our own desires, he also suggested it’s better to follow your own school
      Allah knows the best!

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      June 23, 2012 at 2:41 AM

      Assalam-u-Alykum, hope (in sha Allah) you will find answer to your question regarding following different madhabs here:

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:40 PM


      You may follow another opinion from a reputable scholar if you trust that scholar’s judgment.

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    Muslimah living in SoCal

    June 22, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    If food is cooked with alcohol, some say the alcohol evaporates and is not an issue … please give some clarification about this as many restaurants contain alcohol in their dishes.

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      Yazen Joudeh

      June 22, 2012 at 8:49 PM

      I’m also curious about this answer as I’ve taken the conservative stance that one should avoid it but I have not been able to find a conclusive answer on this. Please advise!

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      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      June 23, 2012 at 7:14 AM

      The following should help Insha’Allah:

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      This is a myth – most of the alcohol remains. As such, any food in which wine has been added for flavor is not allowed for Muslims to consume.

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        July 1, 2012 at 9:51 AM

        Islam Tomorrow has some good tables from USDA showing that although the majority of alcohol evaporates (which varies depending on the type of cooking), much of it remains, more than enough to make it haram. See

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    June 22, 2012 at 4:51 PM


    Great comparison. This article is really helpful for me to get better understanding about Kosher. I am from Indonesia and currently living at small town in united states. I am kind of depending on Kosher food products (mainly non-meat or instant food and drink in supermarket) because Halal food industry has not reach my town yet.

    But I am still curious about Kosher food that not necessarily halal. How to define a Kosher labeled non-meat product is not halal ? is there any significant difference in how each Kosher label giving Kosher certificate ? maybe you can write about that in the next article or paper..

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      March 7, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      Thank you for this article. I found it very informative, balanced, and helpful. I do not know if my posting/reply with be placed in the correct order, but someone (Gyi) posted asking about a guide to Kosher Labels / Seals and I thought I would provide these links:

      This first link is a more general guide and shows the most common “national” or “international” Kosher Certifications. As stated in the article, someone Muslim would not be concerned about whether a food was Meat, Dairy, or Parve (neutral), or Kosher for Passover, but those labels are included on page 8:

      And this page shows many more “local” and “regional” Kosher Certifying organizations you may also encounter.

      Again, Kosher can be much more strict and is open to the interpretations of the certifying organization or individual Rabbi (but at a minimum the laws and rules outlined above are always followed). For example, I knew of a case in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) where a Rabbi was threatening to withdraw their Kosher Certificate (Kashrut) from a chain of Jewish owned Bagel Bakeries because they had their stores open on Jewish High Holidays but only had their non-Jewish employees working. Rabbis increasingly have evoked other non-food related Jewish laws in passing judgement on issuing a Kosher ruling.

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      David Z

      July 18, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      Gyl, I would just add the author is very educated about Jewish law (so impressive!), but I’m not sure why he focused on Cirlce-K as a controversial symbol. Circle-K is completely accepted by all but the most insular Jews who only eat their own food (certain Hasidic groups if you know what those are). Basically if you trust any kosher certification, you trust Circle-K. The one that some Orthodox found controversial is Triangle-K, but many orthodox eat this as well. For Muslims, there should be no issue as most of the arguments are indeed about what is necessary to kasher (clean out with fire or boiling water) the pipes and vats used for nonkosher and then kosher runs of food. The author states that Sharia does not recognize a need for kashering, only for regular cleaning.

      The one “symbol” that you should not rely on is the K alone because it is a letter of the alphabet and cannot be trademarked. Therefore, anybody can and does put it on their labels without threat of lawsuit. Some things like certain cereals are still kosher even though they just have a K, but you need to know that somebody checked out the plants and ingredients.

      I know that Muslims and Jews stood together to get rid of pigfat being used to grease the inside of the cans in the US in the 1980s. May we work together for the greatness of G-d in the future, as well.

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      September 30, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      I appreciate this article more than you can imagine.Many Islamic sources that compare Kosher and Halal handle the subject in a very biased anti-semitic way. Most jews just never take the time to look into it because the laws are anyways so much stricter.I just read someone saying that Jews allow gelatin from any animal including pig regardless of whether it was slaughtered properly or not.Such lies can fuel the fire of hatred between religions.You and your family will be blessed for trying to educate and promote understanding and peace.

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        September 30, 2013 at 9:50 PM

        Miri, it’s not a lie. Many (perhaps most) major poskim do allow gelatin from any source, including pigs. So do many ulema, as this article makes clear. The same range of opinion exists in both legal systems.

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          September 30, 2013 at 11:43 PM

          tell me who…Ive never heard of this..I know someone who represents a very strict hecksur and was told even OU wouldnt allow it.I dont want to name names of course but I was told under no circumstances unless it was a life saving medicine would any treif be permitted in our everyday food. should I trust this person who is a respected member of his community,a very learned scholar??or not trust? having a hard time with this one…

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            September 30, 2013 at 11:58 PM

            Miri, I’ve already addressed this in the comments; did you bother reading them?

            Who permits gelatin? Try R Chaim Ozer. And R Ovadiah. And Dayan Abramsky. Really, permitting it is the mainstream view, and forbidding it is the exception. The Israeli Rabbanut allows it (for non-mehadrin).

            But what do you mean by writing that “even” the OU wouldn’t allow it. Yes, the OU doesn’t allow it, but what does that imply? You seem to be under the strange misimpression that the OU is some sort of lenient fringe hechsher! Where did you get that idea? The OU is the major hechsher in the USA, and more or less sets the standard. It’s far more reliable than most “heimishe” hechsherim.

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            October 1, 2013 at 12:29 AM

            no I didnt mean the ou is less reliable.sorry if you misunderstood me..I meant because it is mainstream..not these hechsurs from the steitlach in which you know rabbi so and so .besides..i know of very few “fringe” hechshirim that would survive..the people here are not the trusting type..even people question their own neighbors who they have known for years..refuse kosher meat from certain shechita..just sayin

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        February 14, 2016 at 8:56 AM

        The vast majority of Orthodox Jewish rabbis do not under any circumstances permit gelatin derived from non kosher animal sources.

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    June 22, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    i love reading these research papers, mashaAllah. one can tell how much effort was put into the work

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    June 22, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Assalamy alaykum, so even when there is option of halal meat are we allowed to eat kosher?

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      Yes. Kosher *is* halal :)

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        Khurram Nomani

        November 16, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        Sheikh Yasir,
        Are you saying kosher is allowed for Muslims to consume?

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    June 23, 2012 at 2:38 AM

    Assalam-u-Alykum, wa Jazakallah Khair for the great article and providing us with the detailed understanding of the matter.

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    Abu Musa

    June 23, 2012 at 6:51 AM


    I was actually wondering when the verse in the Qur’an says that ‘their food is
    lawful for you’ (i.e. that of those of the book) – does that mean that if they
    have slaughtered according to what is correct in their ‘law’ then that is
    sufficient for us to eat.

    Or is it, as this paper suggests that, that criteria has to
    match what we have as criteria for slaughtering?

    In that case, if it is allowed for Jews to slaughter a
    number of animals on one saying (according to their law), is that sufficient
    for us? Or does there have to be an overlap from their law to our law? Thus,
    the Hanafi’s can never eat their meat unless it is established (which would be
    near enough impossible) that they have pronounced ‘God’s’ name before each

    JazakAllahu khairen

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    Abu Yahya

    June 23, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Jazakallahu Khair Sh for this informative article. However, it would be very good if you write in more detail about the issue of gelatin.

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:42 PM


      I plan to. It will complement the one on rennet (and cheese) and this one. Insha Allah some day.

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    June 23, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Salaam alaykum Shaykh Yasir,

    Jzk for providing us with this informative paper, was a very good read.

    I realize that the followers of each of the madhabs hold their own criteria for the requirements of proper slaughter, but isn’t a bit much to superimpose madhab-based shar’i requirements on the halakhic requirements?

    For example, it was noted in the paper that a tasmiya is not required except for the first animal. The hanafi position rejects this outright as was mentioned, and as I understand it, machine slaughter with one tasmiya is permitted by some using the analogy of hunting (eg one arrow killing two animals), but intentionally leaving the tasmiya if one has 10 animals, slaughters one by hand with tasmiya, and leaves it while slaughtering 9 more by hand is not a position, as I understand it, is not a position. I believe the hanafis take the position that one swipe with a knife that kills two animals (if that’s possible) with one tasmiya is the proper analogy to hunting.

    Finally, we had previously discussed that the slaughter performed by Christians was restricted to the requirements of halakhic law (though we hadn’t discussed the details), but it seems Christians violate the first rule, which is that the shochet is jewish. What are your thoughts on meat slaughtered by Christians in light of the halakhic requirements?

    Is the christian who neglects the blessing also considered fī ḥukm al-nāsī like the shochet who neglects this?


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      June 23, 2012 at 5:49 PM


      Actually it is not clear if there is a ‘standard’ position on one-basmala per animal. There are references to both opinions in classical texts but this is a very rarely discussed issue (to the best of my knowledge).

      Christians of the Pauline tradition (which basically means 100 % of Christians of our times, unlike in the first 4 centuries of Christianity) do not really have detailed laws, hence it is moot to quote what they do or don’t do. The ancient ‘Jewish Christians’ and even some strands of Arius’s and other early theologians do have halakhic laws and from our standpoint would be the true Christians more faithful to the teachings of Jesus himself.

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        June 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM

        It appears the paper indirectly claims that if Christians of any tradition neglected the basmala, it may not be the most virtuous slaughter in the world, but that they would not be in violation of old testament / halakhic law from this perspective, irrespective of intention.

        If they are following their own law correctly, then I again ask if it makes sense to attempt to restrict halakhic law / christian law by shari’ah standards as it relates to the basmala and other spiritual ritual requirements?

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          June 25, 2012 at 11:00 PM

          We also annul the Christian permissibility of pork with the Shari’a prohibition of pork.

          If we were to take the verse ‘at face value’ (and no one actually does), we should allow: 1) animals that have been beaten or electrocuted to death by Christians, 2) animals that Christians eat but we don’t, such as pork and alligators .

          It makes complete logical and textual sense to limit the practice of Christians and Jews to what the Shari’a says if we wish to make any meat permissible, as that is consistent and universal. And it just so happens (not coincidentally, I add) that all of the conditions of the Shari’a are met in the halakha.

          Bottom line: it is inconsistent to take the verse at ‘partial value’ and allow Christians to leave the tasmiyya but then not allow them to slaughter the animal any way they choose.

          Lastly, Ibn al-Qayyim writes that when Allah allowed us their meat, “…He allowed us in accordance to what He Himself allowed them, and not what they allowed or permitted for themselves.”

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            June 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM

            My question is just a shade different from what you’re answering, so I think I should clarify by first restricting this to Jewish side of the discussion and then expanding.

            Previously, it was mentioned that the standards of halakhic law do not conform to the standards of the hanafi madhab and therefore, unless it is known the shochet uttered the tasmiya on every single animal, for all practical purposes under normal circumstances, kosher is never truly halal.

            This is an interesting situation – these people are not, as Ibn al-Qayyim said, those who permitted for themselves what Allah did not permit – they are following the law as Allah allowed it for them, yet we have one madhab declaring this impermissible because they are restricting halakhic law to the parameters of their established usool and evidences. Putting aside how those are to be interpreted vs other madhabs, does it even make sense to interpret it as such when no clear qualifier about meat slaughter has been otherwise provided, when they are within the requirements of their law?

            You can then expand this discussion to the Christian side of the discussion – if the Christians are not in violation of halakhic law as it relates to the tasmiya, then they also will not fall under ibn al-Qayyim’s statement of permitting for themselves what Allah has not permitted if they were never required to utter the tasmiya to begin with. So the question then expands to include them as well.

            As it relates to the question about restricting pork, or meat that is dead, and so on (and please correct me if I’m wrong), but if the framework for understanding this issue is to lump all requirements and restrictions is one grouping, then that conclusion would appear appropriate.

            However, if the discussion is separated into two different sets of requirements – physiological vs ritual requirements – then the outcome may be different. By citing the religion of the slaughterers in the verse, my understanding is that this is dealing with ritual requirements, and provides a qualification to ritual requirements. For example, we would not eat meat slaughtered by polytheists generally, but we have an exception in Christians. If another type of polytheist recited the basmala (or anyone else for that matter), we still could not eat this.

            Therefore, the “meat” mentioned is already restricted by the physiological requirements, but the religious state and rituals of the slaughterer is qualified and expanded by adding the Jews and Christians as acceptable meat slaughterers.

            I believe your paper demonstrates this even more – if we take the shari’ah requirements for the ritual side of the discussion to the strictest of our madhabs, halakhic law as it stands is mostly rejected, even when they work according to what Allah permitted for themselves.


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            June 26, 2012 at 12:28 AM

            Also, another question comes to mind, maybe you’ve answered it elsewhere, if a Muslim asks a Christian to recite the tasmiya, so the Christian recites the tasmiya with the intention of making it easier to sell his meats to Muslims, and not for the sake of Allah / God (improper intention), what is the ruling on this?

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            July 1, 2012 at 1:22 PM

            Assalam-o-Alaikum. Shaykh Yasir, may Allah increase you in knowledge. Another questions comes to mind, The ayah in surah Maidah that talks about allowing meat slaughtered by jews and christians also allows marrying their chaste women.

            Do we restrict to women that are on original shariah of their (monotheistic) or the ones that believe in trinity are also allowed? Because the jewish women may not believe in day of judgement as originally required and christian women would not believe in one God as originally required.

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            July 1, 2012 at 10:38 PM

            With much respect to Ibn al-Qayyim, it is an assumption that the Christians were permitting themselves something that Allah did not permit them. As far as I’ve been able to determine, there is nothing in the Bible that requires a blessing before slaughter. Rather that blessing is found in the Talmud, which was written centuries after the last book of the Bible was written.

            It is not an assumption that when Allah decreed that Muslims could eat the food of the people of the Book he knew what the people of the Book were doing in preparing their food.
            Yes, Allah has forbidden pork to Muslims, and thus that prohibition overrides our ability to eat their food, but the commandment of the blessing applies to Muslims not Christians. Again, as Allah knew the practice of the people of the Book at that time, then the commandment of the blessing does not apply to eating their food as they were not commanded by Allah to pronounce the blessing. This might be considered similar to the drinking wine. Although forbidden for Muslims, no such prohibition exists for the people of the Book.

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            July 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM

            @Reed: well, you must not be a biblical scholar, because there are clear verses in the Bible that ordain the slaughtering of meat in a specific manner, which is mentioned in Ahkam adh-Dhab’ih by Mufti Taqi Usmani:

            “The blood of your sacrifices must be
            poured beside the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. Be
            careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go
            well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is
            good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 12:27-28)

            And St. Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians: “No, but the
            sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you
            to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the
            cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the
            table of the demons.” (I Corinthians 10:20-21)

            They are also not allowed to eat the strangled
            animals: In
            the Book of Acts, it is stated, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to
            us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: you are
            to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of
            strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 15:28-29) In the
            same book, the same restriction is decreed: “As for the Gentile believers,
            we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food
            sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from
            sexual immorality.” (Acts 21:25)

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            July 4, 2012 at 12:33 AM

            @Ashraf, I didn’t say there was nothing in the Bible about the method or “regulations” of slaughtering. I said there was nothing in the Bible requiring a blessing (that is, blessing using the name of God) while slaughtering. If you can find a verse that mentions specifically a blessing invoking the name of God, I would certainly like to know it as that would change much of what I’ve said.

            If you look above, you’ll see that I also cite Acts 15. These verses tell Gentile Christians to stay around from certain practices associated with pagans, but they do not tell them to say a blessing in the name of God while slaughtering an animal.

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            July 4, 2012 at 5:17 PM

            @Reed: you seem not to be getting the point. As Muslims, we believe the Bible to have been corrupted. These verses from the Book of Acts may simply be remnants of the commands regarding slaughtering that were provided to Isa. They simply prove that the Christians were given commands regarding slaughtering, and that in Christianity, slaughtering is not considered a secular act, and if it were a religious act, then you can be guaranteed that they were commanded to take the name of God while slaughtering because the Jews before them and the Muslims after them were commanded to do so, so what is the chance they were excused from it?

            Even if they were not commanded to take the name of God, then they were still commanded to avoid the meat of strangled animals and blood, and if you have observed American slaughterhouses, you know that even these very relaxed mandates are not fulfilled by them.

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            July 5, 2012 at 5:22 AM


            As far as getting the point, the discussion needs to stay focused on what we know and what we’ve said. You’re bringing in points that haven’t been a part of this discussion: corruption of the Bible, present-day slaughterhouses not avoiding blood, and so on. So, although they’re points worthy of being discussed, it’s difficult to the “get the point” if these points haven’t previously entered the discussion.

            My focus has been on whether or not people of the Book were required by God (swt) to pronounce a blessing when slaughtering an animal. There is no such requirement in the Bible, whether in the books added by Christians or in the books of the Hebrew Bible. For Jews, the guidance for the blessing comes from the Talmud, which is the written codification of oral rabbinical judgments, which came centuries after the last book of the Hebrew Bible and which is not a revelation from Allah (swt).

            Yes, the Bible has been corrupted. All one has to do is look at the apparatus of any scholar’s Bible and see the different variants of specific verses. Even so, that doesn’t “guarantee” that they, Jews or Christians, were commanded to invoke the name of God (swt).

            As far as Christians avoiding meat with the blood, that’s worth discussing and fits in with my other comment on whether human reasoning can nullify what Allah (swt) has stated with respect to Muslims being able to eat the meat of the people of the book. If Allah (swt)—who knows how Christians were slaughtering in the past, the present, and the future—didn’t qualify His statement with any restrictions, then I wonder how any human can presume to make such restrictions.

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            July 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM

            @Reed: you are contradicting yourself. On one hand, you say that the Bible does not require the pronouncement of a blessing before slaughtering–but the truth is that even if the Bible did have an explicit verse requiring it, you would have said “Allah knows how the Christians were slaughtering in the past, the present, and the future” and “we don’t use reasoning” in this matter. But this is such a fallacious argument that I wonder if you are trying to act stupid for the convenience of eating haram meat, or you truly do not understand. This is what you are saying: We Muslims are not allowed by our Lord to eat a certain meat if slaughtered incorrectly by a Muslim, and the Christains are mandated by their Lord in the Bible to not eat meat slaughtered a certain way, but a Muslim can eat a Christain’s meat (not a Muslim’s though) if slaughtered in a way that is haram according to them too!

            If you truly believe this reasoning, then why don’t you eat pork? Did not Allah know that the Christians would eat pork now and in the future, and since he said that Muslims can eat the food of the Christians, according to you whatever they eat should be permissible, including pork, so eat of it! The truth as the mufassirin mentioned, is that Allah did NOT say eat of the FOOD of the People of the Book, but of the tayyibat (the pure) of the People of the Book, and that includes what Allah made pure for us Muslims, and that requires tasmiyyah and tazkiyyah. Walahu a’lam.

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            July 11, 2012 at 9:46 AM

            Those things that are explicitly prohibited by Allah (swt) to Muslims are prohibited. Those that aren’t, aren’t. Pork and alcohol are explicitly prohibited to Muslims although they are not prohibited to Christians, and alcohol is not prohibited to Jews.

            You’ve introduced a new point, “tayyibat”. All of my translations say “food,” not “pure” with respect to the people of the book although I see “pure” or “good” in preceding sentence. It would be good to hear from Sh. Qadhi on the connection between these sentences.

            On reasoning, there are two interconnected ways of approaching it. One is that what is explicitly prohibited is not in the same category as that which is commanded to do. Thus, although one group of people are prohibited (Muslims) another has not been (Christians). Previously, Sh. Qadhi responded to the hadith in which it was unknown whether the tasmiyyah had been pronounced:

            “Lastly, this hadith can be used when the tasmiyya is unknown and the basic assumption is that the slaughterer would have said it. It cannot be extrapolated to when one knows for a fact that the tasmiyya was not mentioned, which is the case of the meat available in the Western world.”

            This position without any qualification, again, contradicts the Quran, which, for me, is a dangerous position to take. Another take on the hadith is not simply that the tasmiyyah was unknown but rather that it was more important not to insult new Muslims by rejecting their gifts. Similarly, if a person of the book offers a Muslim food that hasn’t been explicitly prohibited, such as pork, then it is more important to honor the gift and lay a foundation for cordial relationships and perhaps a path for their turning to Islam. In such a case, one would just say the blessing and accept the gift. Note that this is different from just going out and buying food that you know doesn’t have the blessing.

            Ashraf, you have a habit of interjecting insults into your legitimate points and questions, for example, “you must not be a biblical scholar” and “I wonder if you are trying to act stupid ….” Let me remind you that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “I came to perfect good character.”

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            July 12, 2012 at 5:55 PM

            @Reed: your rejoinders are not valid for the following reasons:

            1. Your comment that “Those things that are explicitly prohibited by Allah (swt) to Muslims are prohibited. Those that aren’t, aren’t….what is explicitly prohibited is not in the same category as that which is commanded to do.” Do you imagine that there are only verses in the Quran that command the taking of the name of Allah, and not a prohibition to abstain from food that has not had tasmiyyah? What of the verse in the Quran: ولا تاكلوا مما لم يذكر إسم الله عليه و إنه لفسق Do NOT eat from that which has not had the name of Allah taken upon it, and [eating of it] is surely a great transgression.” Surah Al-An’am:121. Can a prohibition get any clearer than that? If your argument is that pork and alchol are prohibited, then know that meat without tasmiyyah is also prohibited, and more definitively, since there is an added statement by Allah that eating of meat without tasmiyyah is transgression, which is not in the verse of Al-Maidah regarding pork.

            2. Regarding your comment of tayyibat being a “preceding sentence”: the verse granting permission to eat the food of the People of the Book is the same verse as the command by Allah to eat only the Tayyibat. In fact Allah commanded eating tayyibat first, before granting the permission, clearly to show that not ALL food, but only tayyibat is permissible, to respond to people who say that everything is permissilble. And this is in the books of tafsir. Note that the part of tayyibat and the permissibility of food of Ahl al-Kitab was revealed together. To argue that the second abrogated the former, even when it was revealed together is tantamount to declaring Allah indecisive, capricious, and whimsical at best.

            3. The question regarding whether it is unknown whether tasmiyyah has been pronounced or not, and Yasir Qadhi’s statement, which is actually not his statement, but the position of the noble ulama and fuqaha of the past, is not a contradiction, but a valid principle of usul, which you would know if you had picked up a book of usul al fiqh.(This, incidentally, is why it is discouraged for laymen to get involved in academic fiqh questions, since they start using their limited knowledge to disprove the ulama who have much more knowledge and understanding). It is a well-known principle in usul to take what you know: for instance, if you did wudu, but forgot if you broke it or not, then you have wudu, because you remember that you did it and so you go with what you know, and ignore what you are not sure about (i.e. whether you broke it or not). You ignore what is highly unlikely, and this is so that life does not become miserably impractical, such that you are exploring the possibility of 1 in a million may be true. This does NOT mean that wudu is not required–it is simply a practical aspect. This is the true regarding meat–if you know that most likely the meat has been slaughtered with tasmiyyah (such as in a Muslim country), you can eat from it, even though even in a Muslim country there are non-Muslims that could have slaughtered it. In a Christian country, you can eat from it, but if you KNOW that they do not slaughter it correctly, then you go with what you know–which is that they do not slaughter it correctly, and cannot eat from it. It in no way negates the verse commanding tasmiyyah.

            4. If you know that a Muslim has not slaughtered with tasmiyyah, then you CANNOT eat of it, even if it causes bad feelings, and you are suggesting that even when we know that non-Muslims are not taking tasmiyyah, we eat of it to assuage their feelings. What an approach, steeped in apologetic and abject behavior! The Jews at my university have no problem demanding Kosher food yet we shy away from anything that may make us stick out! The hadith of Aisha simply means that one should not inquire excessively from a Muslim, since that is overdoing it, as some Muslims do today. It in no way extends to non-Muslims, and it in no way means eat food you know is haram.

            The last point that I want to make is that in today’s landscape, the question arises if today’s Christians are even Christians. Europe certainly is avowedly secular, but even in America, there are agnostics, atheists, etc. Many people only identify to Christianity by birth, not by true belief that is correct. I had someone in a class tell me he is 50% Christian and 50% Jew, since one of his parents was Christian, and one was a Jew. Ali was once asked regarding eating the meat of Banu Taghlub, which was one of the Christian tribes, and he said “Do not eat of it, because they do not follow Christianity except in their abstaining from liquor.” And today’s Christians do not even abstain from that, but people like you are quick to legitimize thier meat! Wallahu A’lam

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            July 6, 2012 at 3:03 PM

            It is true that the requirement to say a blessing when slaughtering, for Jews, is not found in the bible. But it was certainly done by the time of the Quran.

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        June 30, 2012 at 4:56 PM

        I can see where you’re coming from, but it’s a little misleading because the Jesus’s inner circle of companions decided that non-Jews didn’t need to keep the Jewish laws. They only had to stay away from idols, blood, things strangled, and fornication (Acts 15:20).

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    June 23, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Assalam-o-Alaikum. Jazak-Allah khyran Sh Yasir. Few questions always come to my mind:

    1. Did christians ever in their history did tasmiya or something similar for slaughter?

    2. What was practice of christians at time of prophet Muhammad PBUH when Allah revealed ayahs allowing meat slaughtered by Jews/Christians?

    3. What does it really mean when Allah tells muslims that meat slaughtered by muslims are now “halal” for Jews/Christians? If jews have been strict all along, why would they accept our slaughtered meat?

    4. From the article “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 first line states that the shochet “should” verbally bless, but second sentence states that this is not essential requirement. Can you clarify?


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      June 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM

      1- Yes, read the footnotes in the article. More importantly, its not what they historically did but what Allah commanded them to do.

      2- Not known. And irrelevant. Again, what is important is what they were commanded to do, and it is very clear that they were commanded to mention the name of Allah, as per the Quran AND laws of the Old Testament. And Jesus was a practicing Jew throughout his entire life.

      3- It means we may sell it to them if they choose to purchase from us. The fact that they don’t is their business.

      4- So from their standpoint it is not a ‘wajib’ but ‘sunna mu’akada’ and would always be done. Hence, if a Jew were to forget to say tasmiyya, I would consider this similar to the Muslim who forgot to say the basmala (i.e., ‘fi hukm al-nasi’) and therefore halal.

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        June 23, 2012 at 6:14 PM

        Jazak-Allah khyran, for point 3, does it mean/imply anyway that we are not allowed to sell meat to anyone other than people of the books?

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        June 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM

        It doesn’t make sense to me that #2 is irrelevant. If the People of the Book were slaughtering without mentioning the name of Allah when the Quranic verse was given, then their meat would not have been permissible to eat according to your logic, but the Quran says it is permissible. Also, although the rabbis give a blessing, it is not in the Torah and not something they were commanded to do; otherwise, it would be a necessary requirement, not something they do as a practice.

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          July 6, 2012 at 2:58 PM

          Shochets (Jewish ritual slaughterers) ARE required to say the blessing. Under some circumstances, the meat might be kosher if they forgot. But they are required to say it. (And in practice they always do.)

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            July 6, 2012 at 7:55 PM

            I wasn’t clear. I meant that if the blessing were mentioned in the Torah, then it would be required by HaShem. Of course, there may be requirements apart from the Torah.

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            Muaz N

            July 10, 2012 at 5:53 PM

            ^ sh. yasir said exactly that but in terms muslims can digest.. :)

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        July 15, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        Asalamu Alaikum,

        In regards to number 2, Isa AS (Jesus pbuh) was Muslim. Just as Allah SWT speak about Ibraheem AS (Abraham pbuh) being Muslim:

        Surah Baqarah translation
        “Say, [O Muhammad], “Do you argue
        with us about Allah while He is our Lord and your Lord? For us are our
        deeds, and for you are your deeds. And we are sincere [in deed and
        intention] to Him.”


        “Or do you say that Abraham and
        Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants were Jews or Christians?
        Say, “Are you more knowing or is Allah ?” And who is more unjust than
        one who conceals a testimony he has from Allah ? And Allah is not
        unaware of what you do.”

        Surah Al An’am translation
        “Say, “Indeed, my Lord has
        guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the
        way of Abraham, inclining toward truth. And he was not among
        those who associated others with Allah .”

        “Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds.”

        No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims.”

        Say, “Is it other than Allah
        I should desire as a lord while He is the Lord of all
        things? And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself,
        and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.
        Then to your Lord is your return, and He will inform you
        concerning that over which you used to differ.”


        term “Israel” or “Children of Israel” refers to the twelve
        sons of Yaqub AS (Jacob pbuh) and their descendants. The word “Jews” derives from the Roman
        term “Judea” which described roughly the area allocated to the tribe
        of Judah including Jerusalem.

        In the Hebrew term, “Jew” is referred “Yehudi”, and “Judah” as “Yehuda”.

        So referring to them, the original successors of Yaqub AS (Jacob pbuh) would be known as Bani Israel (Children of Israel). And though their linage may come from Bani Israel, their faith was Islam (Submission [to Allah]).

        As was the religion of Isa AS (Jesus pbuh).

        According to a hadith,

        Volume 4, Book 55, Number 652 (translation):

        Narrated Abu Huraira:

        Allah’s Apostle said, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the
        nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are
        paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is

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        August 23, 2012 at 2:01 PM

        Exactly correct: if the shochet forgot or “couldn’t” say the blessing – if he was not fully clothed for example – the slaughter would still be fully kosher

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          April 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM

          he wouldn’t even attempt to slaughter if he was not fully clothed etc.Most shochtim even emerge in a mikvah(ritual bath) before they shecht because it is considered holy work and they may not even say the name of God if they are at an impure state(dirty,not properly clothed etc.).I know many personally who do.They do ALWAYS make a blessing in Gods name too.

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            April 17, 2014 at 2:01 PM

            Miri, that’s irrelevant. The point is that the blessing does not affect the meat’s kashrut. It’s a separate requirement. Of course a professional shochet would never show up to work naked; but if a naked person were to slaughter an animal properly it would be kosher. More to the point, the technical legal reason why it’s be inappropriate for a naked person to slaughter an animal is that it is forbidden to pronounce God’s holy name while undressed; it’s disrespectful to Him. And since the person cannot say the blessing, he may not slaughter. But if he did it anyway, what’s done is done, and the meat is kosher.

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        October 4, 2012 at 4:53 PM

        Thank you for this article. It’s very enlightening.

        The distinction isn’t really between wajib and sunnah mu’akada. As I understand it the latter is something that is not technically required, but which the Prophet was observed to do whenever appropriate, so one can assume it’s at least very important, and should be treated as if it were obligatory. If that is correct, then I would say that the beracha (blessing) is wajib; it is a legal requirement, and not just a very important tradition. The source you quote which says the shochet “should” say the beracha, rather than that he “must” say it, is not exact in its language.

        However, the blessing is not part of the deen of shechita (slaughter); it’s a separate deen. Slaughter is a commandment; and before performing any commandment one must say a blessing thanking God for having given us that commandment. Thus omitting the blessing is not a flaw in the slaughter. Perhaps you could compare it to separate rakah. I assume that a flaw in the first rakah doesn’t invalidate the second one. That doesn’t mean the flaw in the first one doesn’t matter; it was invalid and that will have consequences. But the second one was perfect, so one needn’t worry about it. Or is my assumption incorrect?

        Let me give another example from halacha: it is forbidden to eat bread with unwashed hands. This washing is a requirement, a commandment, and so a blessing must be said, thanking God for having commanded us to wash our hands. If one washed ones hands but did not say the blessing, that omission is a sin, but it does not affect the validity of the washing itself. The hands are still considered clean, and the eating of the bread was without sin. Even if one remembered half-way through the meal that one forgot to say the blessing one needn’t wash again, because the washing itself was perfectly good, and the blessing is a separate matter. Whereas if there was a flaw in the washing, e.g. one only washed the right hand and forgot to wash the left, then one must immediately stop eating and wash properly before resuming the meal.

        (Incidentally, washing the hands before prayer, which in shari’a is absolutely required, is in halakha considered more like a sunnah; it’s not required but highly recommended, and therefore no blessing is said for it.)

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    June 23, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Im far as i know islamic law only allows male or female muslim to sacrifice. So how can we consider kosher as halal food when they r not muslim

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      June 23, 2012 at 4:46 PM

      Never heard that opinion before, where you got it from?

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      No one has every said this from amongst our scholars. By unanimous consensus a Muslim, Christian or Jew may sacrifice.

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        Umm Omar

        June 25, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        as Salamu alaykum Shaykh,

        In this era, even though people will be born in Jewish/Christian/Muslim families, what they believe in, really does matter. Suppose, if a man who cuts the cow in a kosher industry is Jew by origin, and not by faith, (probably an atheist / a darwinist or a different religion follower), which we may never come to know, how can we be of sure that it is kosher / Hala still? For us, the meat could be halal only if the “people of the book” cut it…. in my understanding those who believe in Taurah / Bible and have faith in it and live by it. Is nt it a valid criteria now?

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          July 6, 2012 at 2:55 PM

          Hi Umm Omar,
          Shochets (Jewish ritual slaughterers) must always be religious Jews. We (religious Jews) could also not eat their meat if they were not religious (believe in God) and observant of the halacha (Jewish equivilent of shari’a). So they aren’t just born into Jewish families, they are religious themselves.

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    June 23, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    as-salaamu alaykum wa baarakallahu feek! Very beneficial summary, masha’Allah.

    I had a question about the criteria for eating meat slaughtered by Christians. What is required for their meat to be halal for Muslims to eat?

    *The reason I ask is because I would ideally like to eat grass-fed meat (i.e. the cow was raised to live the way Allah created it to- roaming freely and eating grass) but unfortunately there aren’t any convenient dhabihah & grass-fed beef options available. So if I wanted to buy grass-fed beef from a Christian meat supplier, what procedures would they have to follow for the meat to be halal?

    Jazaakallahu khayran!

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      June 23, 2012 at 5:44 PM


      Ask them to say ‘In the name of God’ or any equivalent as they slaughter the animal by cutting its neck, and it will be halal for you.

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      July 6, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      Hi Hassen, You could also buy kosher grass fed beef, which is available from a number of companies including grow and behold foods and kol foods. Good luck!

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    June 23, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    Assalaamu Alaikum,

    Would you also be able to clarify the hadith of A’isha, mentioned in Sahih Bukhari:

    O Messenger of Allaah, some people bring meat to us, and we do not know whether they mentioned the name of Allaah over it or not. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Mention the name of Allaah over it and eat.

    How do you reconcile this with the opinion of saying the tasmiya over every animal at the time of slaughter? If you hold the opinion that saying the tasmiya over every animal is a requirement, than the meat of the Jews would not be permissible for you. But then the aforementioned hadith seems to imply that (regardless of whether or not the tasmiyah is said) you can still eat that meat. . . I’m a bit confused.

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      June 24, 2012 at 3:19 AM


      I plan to write a longer piece on the issue of the tasmiyya. In my many conversations with people (and also students of knowledge), it appears that few have actually taken the time to see the quantity and explicitness of these evidence. In fact Ibn Taymiyya writes, “The evidences that made the tasmiyya a necessary requirement for a slaughter are more clear than the evidences that require one to recite the Fatiha in the prayer.”

      And this hadith that you have mentioned is one such example. The hadith, as explicitly mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari, was asked by a group of senior Sahaba when a group of new Muslim converts would send meat to them. They were concerned that the meat might not have been slaughtered properly because these were new Muslims who might not know the Shari’ rulings. So they were told that they should just mention it and eat it.

      Commentators mention that this hadith is one of the most explicit evidences that the tasmiyya is in fact wajib. This is because the Companions were so concerned that they had to ask the Prophet (SAW) whether they could eat or not – they realized that the tasmiyya is a ‘make or break’ factor. And the response was that they should basically assume the best of a Muslim, and that they didn’t have to physically see with their own eyes whether it was done or not. This hadith, as Ibn Hajr writes, is a foundational premise for the fact that one should assume the best of all Muslims. It has NOTHING to do with the fact that tasmiyya is not obligatory – if anything it actually shows it IS obligatory, or else the response should have been, “Who cares if they said it or not?”

      Also this hadith is in the context of new Muslims, not converts.

      Lastly, this hadith can be used when the tasmiyya is unknown and the basic assumption is that the slaughterer would have said it. It cannot be extrapolated to when one knows for a fact that the tasmiyya was not mentioned, which is the case of the meat available in the Western world.

      This hadith is one of at least a dozen that explicitly mention the necessity of verbalizing the tasmiyya. I hope to translate Ibn Taymiyya’s treatise on this issue which is one of the most comprehensive that I have ever read.

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        June 27, 2012 at 5:47 PM

        Assalam-o-Alaikum. Shaykh, do we have any example from ahadiths where prophet PBUH said about something highly recommended sunnah in explicit way that this is just sunnah? May be from adaab and not to neglect something quite desirable he did not say that saying tasmiya is just sunnah but from his subsequent actions/statements it becomes apparent?

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        Mohammed Shaikh

        July 10, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        But shaikh, Ahul Al-ketab in their books , they do not have the requirement to say Allah’s name before slaughtering . As you said , Jews are recommended to say certain blessings but they do not have to. What is about Christians ? Based on my research, I found the same thing, they do not have to mention Allah’s names before slaughtering. There is nothing in their books that requires them to do it. And Allah allows us to eat their slaughtering, and He knows what they do and the teachings in their books. How can Allah allows us to eat from their slaughtering while He at the same time knows they are not meeting the requirements which means we are not allowed to eat the animals they slaughter !!!

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          July 10, 2013 at 4:47 PM

          Sorry, you are incorrect. Jewish law absolutely does require the shochet to say the blessing. It is a separate obligation from the slaughter itself, so if he fails to say it the meat remains kosher; but he has nevertheless failed his obligation. Indeed, if he were to be observed slaughtering without first saying the blessing it would cast doubt on his piety, and he would lose his job!

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            Mohammed Shaikh

            July 13, 2013 at 1:47 PM

            thanks for replying to my post. I am still learning about this topic , so I am open to your inputs.

            Your point does not actually invalidates my point. You said if someone intentionally does not say the blessings, then the meat is still considered Kosher if other requirements are met. This is different from the above scholar’s (Yasir Al-Qadhi) point of view. He says if someone does this intentionally, then the meat will not be allowed for Muslims. According to some Muslim scholars, saying God’s name is essential and if not met, the meat can be eaten. I do not follow this opinion . Btw, could you provide me with the verses in the old testament that requires the shochet to say the blessing? As I told you, I am still learning about this topic.

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            July 13, 2013 at 11:26 PM

            The requirement to say blessings before fulfilling any commandment (including shechita) is not in the Bible; it’s in the Talmud and all later law books. As I explained, if it was omitted the meat would still be kosher, but would not be halal; however, it’s unthinkable that it would be omitted. The shochet is required by law to say it, and if he were caught not saying it he’d be fired, so one can be sure that he said it.

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            Mohammed Shaikh

            July 13, 2013 at 1:52 PM

            I meant ” if not met, the meat can’t be eaten ” just a typo.

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            Mohammed Shaikh

            July 14, 2013 at 10:25 AM

            You can still provide me with Talmud text where it is mentioned. I did a research about this topic in my own language and I looked at other resources to write it. Some of these resources were Jewish websites. By the way, the conclusion I reached was that everything Kosher is considered Halal for us muslims.

            I am not saying that your statement about saying the blessings is incorrect, but it has to be provided with proofs. I want to know if this only practiced by Jews in U.S. or if it has become a practice only in recent years. I read a profile called A Guide to Shechita published by Shechita UK, and I read the requirements that the shochet should observe. There is nothing mentioned about the blessings. Actually, in the whole file there is no mentioning of blessings. This might show shochets in UK do not practice saying the blessings.

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            July 14, 2013 at 1:27 PM

            Sources for the requirement to say a blessing before slaughtering animals (these are all in Hebrew):

            Talmud Bavli, Pesachim page 7b

            Rambam, Hilchot Shechita 1:2

            Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 19:1 (the link is to a pdf)

            These are all sources for binding Jewish law, going back 2000 years, and followed by Orthodox Jews all over the world.

            The Guide to Shechita that you read is not a guide for shochtim, it’s a pamphlet written for outsiders who are concerned about animal welfare, describing to them what happens to the animals. It doesn’t mention the beracha because it’s irrelevant These people don’t care what words the shochet says, they just want to know what the animal feels and what is done to it. But it does say “Jewish laws governing shechita and the animal welfare considerations are to be found in the Talmud (Oral Law of Judaism) Tractate Chullin, Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Shulchan Oruch: Yoreh Deah (Codes of Jewish Law) by Rabbi Joseph Karo, of which 28 sections sub-divided into 156 regulations, in addition to commentaries, deal with shechita.” I have cited all three sources.

            By the way, the conclusion I reached was that everything Kosher is considered Halal for us muslims.

            Surely you mean except alcohol.

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            Mohammed Shaikh

            July 14, 2013 at 8:22 PM

            lol, yeah I meant Kosher meat.

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    June 24, 2012 at 2:38 AM

    Jazakallah Sheikh, my friends and I were just having a discussion about this topic, thanks for clearing the grey spots!

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    AnonyMouse Al-Majnoonah

    June 24, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    MashaAllah, this was well-written, informative (and interesting!), and easy to understand as well. BarakAllahu feek.

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    June 24, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Fantastic article, I am presently in a cooking class and my group is predominantly christian and they bring there utensils from home although I supply the meat. I don’t eat anything after because im afraid of the cross contamination from their utensils may it b a wooden spoon or a tray. now I’m wondering if once they wash their dishes, will I be able to taste what is being cook so I will know what dishes to try at home and what not to bother with?

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    June 25, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    Salaam, so Sh, Qadhi, I have a question. I have read many an article about how they have a recording they’ll play over the meat being slaughtered, and the rabbi will just sprinkle some water or something to ‘purify’ the meat. Basically, my point is that there is no guarantee that what is called kosher is ACTUALLY kosher. SO, does that mean I can go to say Wal-Mart and where they sell Kosher meat, I can go ahead and buy it?

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      June 25, 2012 at 11:02 PM

      Jewish law does not allow a recording to play. A ‘live’ rabbi will always be present :)

      We need to be careful about basing our opinions on hearsay.

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        July 6, 2012 at 2:51 PM

        Just a small correction – a shochet (Jewish ritual slaughterer) is not always a Rabbi. But it is true that a live one will always be present :) Recordings are not permitted (and I’ve never heard of them being used)

        In terms of how you know to trust them – religious Jews will also not just eat anything that says it is kosher, because as you say, anyone can call something kosher. We only eat things that have particular symbols (hechshers) on them. These symbols are trademarked, and can only be placed on meat by a particular organization. And then we find out which organizations can be trusted. So, any meat with a U inside an O, a K inside a circle, or a K inside a star (for example) can be trusted because it is from a trustworthy organization and it is illegal for anyone else to put that symbol on their meat.

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      October 1, 2013 at 12:18 AM

      this reply is actually to muslim_1234.. I would never buy meat from a place that I didnt know who the butcher is..that would omit walmart and insure what I eat is in fact kosher.. the “sprinking water to purify” is maybe a misunderstanding.After the blessing is said and the animal is slaughtered..before it can be eaten it needs to be soaked and salted..yes water is involved but certainly not a sprinkle.the salt aides in removing the remainder of the blood.Its called Kashering.

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    June 25, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    Assalamu alaykum Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, It will be great to have this and other similar topics in the form of a book or/and a course given by you in the near future. I really find all your articles and especially this and the cheese one very interesting and beneficial Masha Allah. Jazak Allahu khairan.

  21. darthvaider


    June 25, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Jazak Allah khayr Shaykh Yasir for the informative article.
    What I’d like to see is a more detailed assessment of the various processes by which large-scale halal meat suppliers and factories slaughter, along with the ways in which their slaughtering practices would be validated or repudiated through the usul of classical scholars or contemporary ijtihad (I’m guessing daroorah is an item that would have to be addressed). Many – if not all – halal meat suppliers leverage machine-slaughtering as a necessity for providing halal meat to distributors and restaurants, and in doing so instill a variety of methods for accommmodating the tasmiyah requirement- sometimes its simply the machine operator reciting the basmalah upon machine startup, others place bismillah stickers on the machines, and I’ve heard stories of others using recordings of the basmalah that run on repeat.
    Not sure you have the time for it, but I thought I’d make the request nonetheless :)

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    June 30, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    “…Islamic law allows any male or female Christian, Muslim or Jew to sacrifice as long as that person follows the proper procedure of slaughtering…” Where on earth do u get this idea from?! The slaughterer must be Muslim! SubhaanAllaah!

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      June 30, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      He and all islamic scholars of the past got this idea from Quran as Allah allowed it

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    July 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Shaikh, is this applicable to the whole machine slaughter chichken debate about the one Tasmaiyyah versus multiple?

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    July 3, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Ya shaykh, I took Precious Provisions with you in Q.Nurayn and I remember you said that in some cases, you would feel ‘safer’ eating kosher than halal meat because of the strict slaughtering process that the meat undergoes. I agree that the Rabbis making sure that the meat is kosher gives us some security, but isn’t safer to avoid big-scale companies no matter what they say their practices are?
    Hebrew National, the biggest kosher company in the U.S., is now facing a lawsuit for its dishonest practices.
    Also, I had another question. Can you explain the hadith “Leave that for which you are in doubt for that which you are not in doubt.” Based on this, aren’t we not supposed to eat from any factory meat, regardless of what claims they make? Isn’t it safer to stick to the local halal meat shop?

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      July 6, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Most religious Jews also don’t trust Hebrew National, in particular. They have a bad reputation.

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        August 7, 2012 at 6:18 AM

        I think it would be more accurate to say that their standards are considered to be rather low (“bad reputation” implies lack of reliability, which I don’t think is the case).

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    July 4, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    This article’s focus was on slaughtering by Jews and Muslims, not by Christians. Still, comments asked about eating food slaughtered by Christians, with Sh. Qadhi answering that for Christians’ food to be acceptable, it had to be slaughtered in the name of God (swt) in order to be halal.

    For me, one problem with this position is it doesn’t deal with the verse of the Quran in which Allah (swt) states, “The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.”

    Allah (swt) knew how the people of the Book slaughtered animals during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and how they slaughter animals today and how they’ll slaughter them in the future. However, in this verse, Allah (swt) doesn’t say their food is lawful if they slaughter it like Muslims and doesn’t say that it is only lawful for those people of the Book during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). Allah (swt) puts no restrictions on how the People of the Book slaughter their animals, past or present or future.

    If we consider the Quran to be eternal across time and culture and context (unless the Quran itself says otherwise), then human logic cannot contradict the clear statement of Allah (swt).

    Another possibility for interpretation is that the Quran is dependent upon context. That is, during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the People of the Book slaughtered animals, invoking the name of God (swt). So, 2000 years later, for those who don’t invoke the name of God (swt), then the context allows (requires?) Muslims to understand that the verse no longer applies in this time and context.

    The problem with this approach is that it can then be applied to other verses, such as hijab. That is, verses concerning hijab came because men were molesting women in public (Quran 33:59). So, if in some culture and time, men no longer molest women in public, then one could say that the context and time in which the verse was given no longer applies, and thus hijab doesn’t apply.

    So (perhaps this will take another article), it would be good to understand how one should deal with verses like these in a consistent manner.

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    July 4, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    @YasirQadhi:disqus: So I checked the issue of taking tasmiyyah on every animal individually, and you are correct in stating that the Hanafi maddhab requires it. But Ibn Qudamah also writes in al-Mughni: Mentioning Allah’s name ver an animal to be slaughtered is considered correct if done at the moment of slaughtering or soon before, similar to when performing wudu (in the Hanbali maddhab tasmiyyah in wudu is also wajib). Furthermore, if one mentions the name of Allah over a sheep, but then tkaes another one and slaughters it with the first mention, it is not permissible to eat that animal, regardless of whether he lets the first one free or slaughters it. This is because he did not intend to slaughter the second sheep when taking tasmiyyah. Liskewise if he sees a flock of sheep and says Bismillah, and then takes hold of a sheep and slaughters it without mentioning Allah’s name a second time, it is not permissible to eat that animal. And if he was ignorant of the fact that his initial mention was not sufficient, he is not excused like one who forgets would be. Forgetting eliminates culpability for a mistake, but one who is ignorant is taken to task. it is for this reason that if one, out of ignorance, eats while fasting, his fast breaks, while this is not the case for one who eats because he forgets that he is fasting.
    “Moreover if one lays down a sheep to slaughter it and mentions Allah’s name, but then discards the knife he is using and replaces it with another, or returns the greeting of a bystander, or speaks to someone, or takes a drink of water, or does something similar, and finally slaughters, it is lawful to eat the animal. This is because he took tasmiyyah on that particular sheep and did not delay slaughtering except a little bit, so it is as if he did not talk.” Al-Mughni 11:33

    I find this interesting in that Ibn Qudamah says a small amount of time is permissible, but it is not permissible to slaughter more than one animal for every tasmiyyah. However, for the Hanafis, it is the time factor as well as a single motion that is the only requirement, and not one tasmiyyah for every animal, as is mentioned in Fatawa al-Hindiyyah: “If someone lays one of two sheep on top of the other, one mention of Allah’s name is sufficient if he slaughters them both with one swipe of the blade. Conversely, if one gathers some birds in his hand and slaughters them all after tasmiyyah, and then immediately slaughters another one without making another tasmiyyah, the last bird is not lawful. However, if passes the blade along all of them, they would all be lawful with one mention.” Fatawa al-Hidiyyah 5:289

    So it seems that the Hanafis require a single motion per tasmiyyah as well as immediacy, since in the latter bird as mentioned, the slaughter was immediate but with a different motion, and thus became unlawful. Wallahu A’lam

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    July 6, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    Just a couple of corrections. I think you meant what people call a “plain K” in the post when referring to markings not accepted by most Rabbis. “Circle-K” is the symbol of a specific certifying organization with standards similar to those of other widely-accepted certifying agencies, such as the OU. Some instances of just a letter K are fairly widely accepted if people know who is actually supervising. The letter K on Kellogg’s Rice Crispies is the KVH from Massachusetts, for instance. (Kellogg’s does not use the symbol for whatever reason.) Also, all Orthodox authorities require two sets of utensils in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. Some just have meat utensils and use disposable plates and forks for milk foods (or vice versa), but that limits your ability to actually cook both kinds. We barely cook anything dairy in my house.

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      July 10, 2012 at 3:18 PM

      Thank you for those points.

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    July 6, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    This is a fascinating and well written article. Just curious, as a religious Jew, where did you learn so much about kosher slaughter? You are clearly very well informed. Did you work with a particular Rabbi, or consult academic publications? Just curious. And very much agree that our communities should work together – if it were clear that many Muslims would buy kosher meat were the shochets to make the blessing more frequently, I bet they would start doing it :) Not to mention other issues we should be working together on – against laws banning ritual slaughter, against laws banning circumcision, in support of the right to wear the hijab or head covering in school . . .

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      July 10, 2012 at 3:20 PM

      Thank you for your comments. I did some research and also got help from knowledgeable Jews (and consulted a Jewish expert in the field). I’m sure there are still some minor points that I didn’t do justice to, but this wasn’t meant to be a dissertation – just a beginning primer into the main similarities and differences.

  29. Pingback: A week of cross-posting « Black, Gay and Jewish

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    Rabbi Daniel

    July 6, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Wonderful article!
    It can be difficult to determine what standards each kosher symbol represents. For the most widely accepted symbols that strictly adhere to kosher laws, this link will be helpful

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      Syed Rasheeduddin Ahmed

      July 14, 2012 at 10:16 AM

      Assalam O Alaikum Brother Yasir Qadhi has failed to mentioned that there some liberal Jews who consider gelatin made from pork went through chemical changes so it is kosher . On the other hand Orthodox Jews never consider a gelatin made from pork as a kosher. Beside there is no change in the basic units composition of pork parts used to make gelatin and basic units of composition of pork gelatin itself. On our website under Fiqah and Science section I explained it in detail. This is one the requirement of Tabdeele Mahiya beside others which Some of ulema who has no scientific background believe this theory also and recommend Muslims to eat Haram. ” – 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” Although Brother Yasir Qadhi is a very good Islamic scholar and a chemical engineer but he does not have knowledge about food science and food industry. If he is writing article on food, he should consult with a food scientist because gelatin can not be made from non animal source. Some plant based materials do the same job as gelatin but they are not call gelatin they are called gums. He also do not know that the kosher gelatin is made from pork and non kosher slaughtered cows. There are two type of kosher gelatin, one is made with pork or non kosher gelatin such are used in yogurts and certified by liberal kosher certifying organizations and second kosher gelatin is made from kosher slaughtered cow only. How to find the difference between these two on food product is based on the type kosher symbols on food products. The liberal kosher symbol K or Kd appears on all yogurts made with kosher gelatin where it is obtained from pork or non kosher slaughtered cow where as the orthodox kosher symbols such as Circle U, Circle K, CRC, Kuf K if appeared on food products containing kosher gelatin indicate that kosher gelatin is obtained from kosher slaughtered cows only by Sachet a Rabbi who only allowed to slaughter kosher animals. I was kosher coordinator for many food companies for many years including Nabisco and worked with Rabbis for many years so to obtain knowledge about kosher certification and their criteria. Brother Yasir Qadhi has also mislead the Muslims by saying Cherrios and Doritos are Halal because of his lack of knowledge of food industry. Cheerios and all Doritos except one are not under Halal or kosher certification because cheese, flavor and color used in those products are not Halal or kosher certified beside these ingredients mentioned under ingredients statement, there are hidden ingredients or processing aid ingredients used in those products which are not mentioned under ingredients statement. Frito Lays uses lot of co packers to make those products beside their own but the processing lines of their own and co packers are not under Halal or kosher certification so pork based products are also made on the same lines and then it is subjected to cross contamination with pork based products. MCG do not accept kosher meat as Halal because Allah’s name is not pronounced on each animal. MCG is also do not accept kosher gelatin as Halal whether it is made with pork or kosher or non kosher slaughtered cows. Syed Rasheeduddin Ahmed

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        October 4, 2012 at 6:03 PM

        It is not true that “Orthodox Jews never consider a gelatin made from pork as a kosher”, and that only liberal Jews permit it. Gelatin, from whatever source it is made, undergoes a fundamental chemical change, and is not the same substance as it was before. Before becoming gelatin, it first becomes an inedible substance, which since it is not food is not subject to kosher laws. The question is whether, when it becomes once again an edible food, its old non-kosher status returns, or whether it’s considered as if created anew, and is therefore kosher. There are very well respected and quite orthodox poskim (fuqaha) on both sides of this question. For instance, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef permits all gelatin, and so did Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. It is true that in the USA the consensus is to forbid such gelatin, but in Israel the consensus is to permit it for “standard” kosher, but not for “mehadrin” (those who prefer to be stricter on themselves).

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    July 8, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    How bout just admitting that eating animal flesh is pretty cruel and barbaric and moving onto to vegetarianism.

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      October 4, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      Who defines what is “cruel” or “barbaric”, if not God, Who has permitted us to eat meat? Can you name a single one of the prophets who was vegetarian? Abraham served meat to his guests (Genesis 18:8). Isaac ate meat (Genesis 27:25). Joseph and his brothers ate meat (Genesis 43:16). Moses ate meat (Leviticus 8:29), as did Aharon and his sons (ibid 8:31). Solomon ate meat (1 Kings 5:3)

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        April 16, 2014 at 3:45 PM

        The permission of Allah (swt) does not equal the approval of Allah (swt). For example, Allah (swt) hates divorce but permits it. Consequently, whether or not Allah (swt) considers eating meat as cruel or barbaric is unknown unless it’s stated explicitly in the Quran or sunnah.

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          April 17, 2014 at 2:13 PM

          Still, as far as we can tell all of the prophets ate meat; we certainly know that several of them did, and we have no evidence that the rest did not. Surely no prophet would do that which Allah disapproved of. For instance we never hear of a prophet divorcing his wife, except when God specifically instructed him to do so, e.g. Hoshea.

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            April 17, 2014 at 4:06 PM

            As far as prophets not doing something that Allah (swt) disapproves of, take, for example, wine. The Bible indicates that prophets drank alcohol, but with the coming of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it was forbidden. We can expect that prophets wouldn’t knowingly go against what Allah (swt) disapproves of, but that doesn’t mean that all knowledge is available to them so that they might unknowingly do something that He disapproves of.

            As to whether all prophets ate meat, the Bible indicates otherwise if one accepts the biblical account of Noah offering a sacrifice after the flood. In that passage (Gen 9), God states, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs,” which suggests that prophets before Noah didn’t eat meat.

            So, although you’re not illogical, the point remains that unless Allah (swt) explicitly states something, then it remains an unknown.

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    Suckled Sunnah

    July 13, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    very informative…great article:) Tonia @

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    Rabbi Joshua Maroof

    August 6, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    Very informative and well-informed article. One minor correction: Circle-K is, in fact, an acceptable symbol for all Jews, including the strictly Orthodox. A plain, non-trademarked “K” on a package, by contrast, is unacceptable.

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    Judith Abraham

    August 7, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Thank you for writing such an informative article. As someone who maintains only a moderate rule of kosher (no prohibited animals, no mixing of meat and dairy) I had already given myself permission to eat Hallal, if a Hallal butcher were conveniently located. For me (and I certainly don’t speak for all Jews!) the intention/kavannah, becomes the focus of a proper ritual slaughter.

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    August 7, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    When I see comments of articles such as these, I just come across nothing but constant hatred. Hatred out of bigotry. I have been invited to numerous Feast of Eid celebrations. I taught English as a second language to refugees from predominately Muslim countries, i.e., Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq. Whenever I had halal food in a Muslim household — the last time was in Sabah, Malaysia — I never felt I was doing anything sacrilegious. I also let these refugees in the United States know that they can purchase kosher food. It is pathetic how we can fill ourselves with so much hatred. Why do not do what the Siddur says “You will love your fellow man, as though you will love yourself.”

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      September 30, 2013 at 11:58 PM

      satan has his hands full putting the progeny of avrum aveinu (Abraham) at each others throats..Brothers from another mother Yitzchok (Isaac)and Ishmael.We have so much in common in our religious practices and the core of our faiths its crazy so many people cant seem to understand each other.Some say the massiah hasnt come because of our lack of religious observance,,,some say its because jews dont get along with other jews..I say its because Bnei Avrum( the nations from the line of Abraham) has no peace with each other.

  36. Avatar


    August 9, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    :Dear Sir,

    Thank you for an excellent article and perspective into Sharia. You made the point that:
    “a perfect cut in both religions would require the esophagus, trachea, arteries and jugular”
    However, in Jewish Law, animal only require the esophagus and trachea to be cut – not necessarily the arteries and jugular. Actually, a full cut of both tubes is not required. Rather a single tube must be fully cut and the other tube must be at least 51% severed. In birds the standard is less strict. One need only cut 51% of *either* the esophagus or the trachea.

  37. Pingback: Interesting article « autoallergic: living with food allergies

  38. Avatar


    September 8, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    An interesting tidbit. During the time of the Sal Adin, there was a decree that before the schita the schochet had to say ala hu akbar, the rabbis debated this to see if it was permitted according to the Torah. Their conclusion was that it was permitted. So for many years after the blessing was made the Schochet would say ala hu akbar.

    • Avatar


      September 30, 2013 at 11:52 PM

      Jews say almost the same blessings only different language….I dont see why it would be an issue..God is great..

      • Avatar


        April 17, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        It’s not even close to the same blessing. Bismillah is not a blessing at all; it’s a declaration that the act is being done in God’s name. The closest Hebrew equivalent would be the leshem yichud which some people say in addition to the appropriate blessing. To put it in Jewish terms, Islamic law does not require a bracha, but it does require a leshem yichud. That’s not exactly correct, but it’s at least a similar idea.

  39. Avatar


    February 9, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    I would love to see a venn diagram of compatable and incompatable allowed foods/practices. Especially the Jew-Muslim one. But also maybe a Christian-Jew-Muslim one. Even though we seem to allow everything but blood. Am I correct in gathering that all which is Kosher is Halal (except wine/alcohol) but not all that which is Halal is Kosher (like you could have cheeseburgers, because mixing milk/meat is OK). I am also heartened to learn that by using the term “people of the book” this indicated that we are recognizing the same deity, even if we understand him differently. This is news to me, in a lot of Christian denominations, they conclude that we must not be worshipping the same person because God has such different qualities in the 2 faiths, allegedly. You learn something new everyday. SO if a Christian friend invites a muslim family to dinner it is acceptable to serve, for example a Kosher steak and a cheese and broccoli soup? Because it was blessed, and even though the soup would ruin the kosher-ness it does not ruin the meal in mixed Christian-Muslim company?

  40. Avatar

    Umm Zaheen

    February 28, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Thank you for the very informative article. I learned alot about the Jewish slaughtering practice and feel that Kosher meat follows all the requirements for halal meat.

    I am curious however why you do not mention the verses in the Quran allowing Muslims to eat the meat of the people of the book? Thus even if the Hanafi madhab requires a tasmiya for each animal for slaughter, the strength of the Quranic verses overrides any opinion of a scholar, I would think, even if it’s one of the 4 great scholars of madhabs.

    When Allah made it clear that Kosher meat is halal, why even question that it may not be? The real question for me is whether the regular store meat is okay to eat as many Muslims argue that as a majority Christian nation, this meat is also the meat of the people of the book. Or that it suffices for a muslim to say bismillah before eating the McDonald’s cheeseburger or at one of their friend’s BBQ. It is important to please continue this discussion and answer this question in detail so we can insha Allah inform ourselves and others about “non-zabiha” meat.


    • Avatar


      September 30, 2013 at 11:50 PM

      if you see how many slaughter houses practice you wouldnt question buying regular store meat. surely no blessing is made..the stun,put scalding water on the chickens to help make it easier to remove feathers ..which makes all the blood impossible to remove..eating blood is not permitted..I would also worry about a friends BBQ where pork might be cooked on the grill the same place as your beef or chicken so the fat from this animal is on the grill soaking into your food..just a thought but i agree the discussion should BTW that its seems to be a multifaith affair!!

  41. Pingback: Vegetarian Prisons ← Terence Eden's Blog

  42. Pingback: Newsletter #72 – TN Imams and the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) | tn Council 4 political justice

  43. Avatar


    April 16, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    Is it permissible to eat kosher or halal gelatin if it’s derived from a properly ritually slaughtered (permitted) animal but includes material from the hooves of the animal?

  44. Pingback: If halal meat is not available, can a Muslim eat Kosher meat instead? - Quora

  45. Avatar

    Niels Mikkelsen

    June 12, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum dear Shaykh,

    With all due respect, regarding your post about halal and Imam Shaafi’i, it is not correct that it is okay in the shafi’i madhhab to eat meat, where the name of Allah was not mentioned. Please read Ahkām al-Dhabā’ih by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani. In it, he discusses the real opinion of Imam Shafi’i in his book Al-Umm.

    BaarakAllahu feek

  46. Avatar


    June 24, 2015 at 2:33 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum Shaykh,

    I was just wondering whether the conclusion you note in this paper about the permissibility of kosher meat is based on the principles of a certain madhhab.

    Jazakum Allah Khairan. It was truly very informative!

  47. Pingback: Everything You Need To Know For Buying a Halal Turkey | Muslim Eater

  48. Pingback: Where to Find Halal (and Kosher) Turkeys in the US | Muslim Eater

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    March 14, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    I’m sorry but how can a non Muslim perform Zabiha if he does not pray Bismillah AllahuAkbar when slaughtering the animal.

  50. Pingback: Why Halal Meat is Healthier and More Ethical Than Conventional Meat

  51. Avatar


    August 11, 2019 at 8:47 PM

    Thank you. I am an observant Jew and have always wondered about this. I learned a lot from this well articulated piece. Especially interesting to learn that Halal requires a God-fearing slaughterer that can be either Muslim, Christian or Jewish. Thank you !
    Good luck to you! May our two religions join in peace inshallah:)

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Reflections on Muslim Approaches to the Abortion Debate: The Problem of Narrow Conceptualization

American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question.

Shaykh Salman Younas




“Islam is the golden mean between all ethical extremes’ is what certain Muslims would assert… This moral assumption isn’t far from the truth.”

Shaykh Abdullah Hamid Ali in A Word on Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion

“The golden mean is kind of a summit, and it is a struggle to get there. The ego does not want balance because you have to think and make sacrifices.”

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad in Paradigms of Leadership (6)

A few months ago, Governor Kay Ivey signed into law House Bill 134, or the Human Life Protection Act, which prohibited all abortion in the state of Alabama except in cases where it was deemed necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother. The bill additionally criminalized abortion or any attempt to carry it out in situations deemed non-necessary. A motion to exempt rape and incest victims from this law was defeated in the Alabama state senate, which give the state the (dubious) distinction of possessing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in America. This move by Alabama to place extreme restrictions on abortion followed a spate of similar legislative moves by other states, such as Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

This escalation in anti-abortion legislation occasioned intense debate within the Muslim community.[1] Muslims who self-identify as progressives chanted the familiar mantra of “my body, my choice” to affirm a notion of personal rights and bodily autonomy in defending a woman’s right to choose. The ideological underpinnings of this view are extremely problematic from a theological perspective, and the practical policies arising from it that sanction even late-term abortions contravene the near-consensus position of classical jurists and is rightly seen as an assault on inviolable human life. For this reason, this essay will not pay any particular attention to this view.

Several people pushed back against this permissive attitude by arguing that abortion is essentially prohibited in Islam in all but the direst of situations, such as when the life of the mother is at genuine risk. This opinion has a sound precedent in the legal tradition and is the mainstream view of some of the legal schools, but it has often been presented in a manner that fails to acknowledge the normative pluralism that exists on the matter in the shariah and rather perniciously presents these alternative opinions as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’. Similarly, those who favour the more lenient view found in other legal schools are often seen characterizing the stricter opinion as ‘right-wing’ or reflective of the Christianization of Islamic law. Despite having legal precedent on their side, both groups engaged the abortion question in a manner that was rather superficial and fundamentally problematic.


Did Jurists Only Permit Abortion in ‘Dire’ Circumstances?

I will begin this essay by offering a corrective to the mistaken notion that classical jurists only permitted abortions in cases of necessity, an assertion that has become very common in current Muslim discourse on abortion in America. One need not look much further than the Ḥanafī school to realize that this claim is incorrect. Though there are opinions within the school that only permit abortion before 120 days with the existence of a valid excuse, the view of several early leading authorities was that abortion was unconditionally permissible (mubāḥ) before this period and/or prior to the physical form and features of a fetus becoming clearly discernible.[2] In his encyclopaedic work al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, Burhān al-Dīn ibn Māza (d. 616/1219) presents two main opinions on abortion in the school:

(i) It is permitted “as long as some physical human features are not clearly discernible because if these features are not discernible, the fetus is not a child (walad)” as per Fatāwā Ahl al-Samarqand. Some scholars asserted that this occurs at 120 days,[3] while others stated that this assertion, though incorrect, indicated that by discernibility jurists intended ensoulment.[4]

(ii) It is disliked because once conception occurs, the natural prognostication is life and so the fetus is granted this ruling at the moment of conception itself. This was the view of ʿAlī ibn Mūsā al-Qummī (d. 305/917-18).[5]

The first opinion of unconditional permissibility was not a solitary one in the school. It was forwarded by many of the foremost Ḥanafī authorities, such as Ḥussām al-Dīn ibn Māza (d. 536/1141),[6] Raḍī al-Dīn al-Sarakhsī (d. 575/1175),[7] Jamāl al-Dīn al-Ghaznawī (d. 593/1196),[8] Zayn al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 666/1267),[9] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī (d. 683/1284),[10] Fakhr al-Dīn al-Zaylaʿī (d. 743/1343),[11] Qiwām al-Dīn al-Kākī (749/1348),[12] Jalāl al-Dīn al-Khawārizmī (d. 767/1365),[13] Kamāl ibn al-Humām (d. 861/1457),[14] Muḥyī al-Dīn Jawīzāda (d. 954/1547),[15] Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Ḥaṣkafī (d. 1088/1677),[16] and several others.[17] The reasoning underlying this view was that prior to a specific period (whether defined by days or by fetal development), a fetus is not a ‘child’ or ‘person’.[18] Therefore, no ruling is attached to it at this stage.[19]

Another opinion in the school, and one that has gained wide acceptance amongst contemporary Ḥanafī jurists, argued that abortion prior to 120 days was disliked and sinful unless carried out with a valid excuse. This view was most famously expressed by Fakhr al-Dīn Qāḍīkhān (d. 592/1196) in his Fatāwā and subsequently supported by the likes of Ibn Wahbān (d. 768/1367),[20] Ibn Nujaym (d. 970/1563),[21] and Ibn ʿĀbidīn (d. 1252/1836).[22] These sources, however, do not define or fully flesh out what constitutes an excuse, sufficing mainly with a single example as illustrative of a case where abortion would be permitted, namely when a woman ceases to produce milk on account of pregnancy and her husband is unable to provide an alternative source of sustenance for their child and fears his or her perishing. Cases of rape, incest, adultery, and other possible excuses are not discussed by most of these authors, and it is not clear whether they would have deemed these valid excuses or not.[23]

The Ḥanafī school, therefore, had three main opinions on the issue: unconditionally permissible prior to a specific time period; unconditionally disliked; and conditionally permissible prior to a specific time period. Of the three, the first view seems to have been the dominant one in the school and held by multiple authorities in virtually every century. The view of conditional permissibility was also a strong one and notably adopted by several later jurists. It is also the view that has gained currency among modern Ḥanafī scholars who are generally not seen forwarding the view of unconditional permissibility.

Some Contemporary Views on Abortion

A wide range of opinions is also found in the discourse of contemporary jurists. Shaykh Muṣṭafā Zarqā (d. 1999) presented a gradated scheme where abortion prior to 40 days was permitted without a “severe excuse”, which included “undertaking necessary travel where pregnancy and giving birth would prove a hindrance, such as for education or for work that requires a couple to move.”[24] He also considered financial strain arising from a child as a valid excuse during this limited time period. According to him, the threshold for a valid excuse would become higher as the pregnancy proceeded beyond 40 days.

Muftī Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī (d. 1996), one of the foremost scholars of the Deobandī school, permitted abortions when conception occurred out of wedlock (zinā).[25]

Muftī Salmān Manṣurpūrī states emphatically that the basis is that abortion is impermissible unless there is a valid excuse before 120 days, such as the life of the mother being at risk, serious consequences to her general health, an actual inability to bear pregnancy, clear harm or danger to one’s current children, and adultery, but not fear of economic difficulty nor the decision not to have children.[26]

In Fatāwā Dār al-ʿUlūm Zakariyya, Muftī Raḍā’ al-Ḥaqq states that a fetus diagnosed by medical professionals with an incurable and serious disorder that will prove to be an extreme burden on the child and its family is permitted to abort prior to 120 days as per the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Mecca.[27] Elsewhere, he divides pregnancy into three stages. The first stage is when the general form and facial features of the fetus take shape but prior to the formation of its limbs. At this stage, it is permitted to carry out on abortion with a valid and established excuse, such as the fetus suffering from a “dangerous hereditary disease”, “physical abnormality/deformity”, the life of the mother being at risk, or reasonably-established fear of the mother’s “physical and mental health” being impacted. The second stage is when the limbs of the fetus are clearly formed and discernible, and the third stage is after 120 days. In both these stages, the respected Muftī rules that abortion is not permitted except in cases of necessity, such as saving the life of the mother.[28] The permission to abort the fetus is also extended to cases of rape.[29]

Mawlānā Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī (d. 2019), a founding member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, India, argued that the permission to carry out an abortion before ensoulment (even after discernibility) is not simply restricted to cases of necessity (ḍarūra) but includes cases of need (ḥāja), which broadly includes “any situation that entails bodily or psychological harm for the parents or the child and is a cause for continual distress.”[30] Examples of valid excuses include “danger to the general health, mental health, or life of the mother”, pregnancy resulting from rape or fornication (so long as it is not someone who has engaged in the latter habitually), the strong possibility that the child will be born with serious physical abnormalities or defects as determined by a medical professional, and the genuine inability of the parents to raise and maintain/sustain more than one child without it negatively impacting their current children.[31]

Mawlānā Khālid Sayf Allāh Raḥmānī states, “Essentially, abortion is impermissible in Islam, and there is no time period in which it is acceptable to abort a fetus. However, this impermissibly has degrees. In the first scenario (i.e. post-ensoulment) it is a grievous sin and categorically prohibited; in the second scenario (i.e. pre-ensoulment but post-discernment of limbs) it is lesser than this; in the third scenario (i.e. before features/limbs become discernible) it is relatively less severe than the previous two.” He then goes on to rule that abortion is not permitted for the following reasons: not desiring more children; conception out of wedlock; or being physically or mentally unable to care for a child, since others may be able to do so. Excuses that permit abortion before ensoulment include a doctor concluding with reasonable-surety that the child will suffer from a dangerous hereditary disease, physical abnormalities, and deformities, and the life of the mother is at serious risk.[32]

There are stricter views than some of those mentioned above, especially from non-Ḥanafī scholars. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, taking the Mālikī school as his basis,[33] has argued that abortion before 40 days is prohibited “with rare exception.”[34] This view of impermissibility is also held by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī although he allows for a dispensation to be given to victims of rape.[35]

Shaykh ʿAbd Allāh ibn Bayya also deems abortion at all stages of pregnancy to be sinful to varying degrees except in situations where the life of the mother is at risk.[36]

Shaykh Wahba al-Zuhaylī (d. 2015) ruled that abortion was impermissible from the moment of conception “except in cases of necessity” such as being afflicted with cancer or an incurable disease.[37]

Framing the Problem: Basic Levels of Engaging the Law

The discussion so far makes one point quite evident: there are an array of opinions on the issue of abortion ranging from the extremely restrictive to the more permissive. Though ‘difference of opinion’ (ikhtilāf) has generally been viewed as one of the outstanding and unique features of Islamic legal discourse, it is precisely the range of views that exist in the tradition on abortion that partly plays a role in the problematic approaches to the issue seen amongst certain Muslims. It is not so much the differences themselves that are the issue, but the manner in which particular opinions are selected by individuals who subsequently propagate them to the community as binding doctrine.

To better understand this, one can broadly identify four basic levels of engagement with religious law applicable to Muslim leaders and scholars in the West in the context of the abortion issue,[38] which often overlap with one another: (a) personal, (b) academic, (c) fatwā, public preaching, and irshād, and (d) political.

(a) The Personal

The ‘personal’ level concerns an individual’s own practice where he or she can follow the legal school (or trusted scholar) of their choosing or decide on the rulings that govern their lives when possessing the ability to do so. This level does not directly concern anyone but the individual himself.

(b) The Academic

The ‘academic’ level in the current context refers primarily to a process of study, reflection and deduction, and research to arrive at a personal conclusion regarding some aspect of the law that is undertaken in conversation with a guild of peers and not the general population. Such academic activity is often theoretical, abstract, and conceptual, and even when it addresses more practical concerns, it constitutes a general articulation of an opinion, not an individualized responsa, that others engage with as members of a scholarly class. This scholarly class includes the ʿulamā’ and others whose input is relevant to a particular issue.

(c) Fatwā, Irshād, and Public Preaching

The realm of fatwā is exclusively for a qualified scholar. Here, the scholar enters most directly into the practical implementation of a legal ruling. Fatwā does involve an academic process, and it is often conveyed by a jurist as a universal ruling in accordance with his academic conclusions. However, the practice of fatwā is commonly understood as an answer directed by a qualified jurisconsult (muftī) to an individual (mustaftī) who requires guidance on a particular religious matter. The jurisconsult providing said individual with an answer is now tasked with translating the abstract, theoretical, and academic into a practical solution, which requires taking into account the circumstances of the questioner.[39]

The delicateness of this matter has led some scholars to compare the relationship of a jurisconsult with the questioner to that of a doctor and his patient.[40] Indeed, the answer that a scholar provides a questioner may not be fully in accordance with the theoretical and abstract conclusions the former has reached in an academic setting, it may disregard an opinion that the jurisconsult otherwise deems a valid legal interpretation because its application is not appropriate in the specific case at hand, it may be strict or lenient, in accordance with the legal school of the scholar or a dispensation from another, and it may be inapplicable to anyone but the questioner. Further, a fatwā is non-binding (unlike a judicial court ruling) and does not negate other valid opinions or peoples’ choice to follow them. This is important to note in contexts where a fatwā is issued to communicate a universal rule.

In many cases, the answer that is provided to a person is not presented as a fatwā but merely a form of religious advice or irshād. Though there is presumably a difference between these two concepts, they are sometimes indistinguishable in a Western context. Irshād has a seemingly less formal quality to it, and it can be offered by a non-scholar though the prerequisite of sound knowledge still remains. Like fatwā, the proffering of religious advice and guidance can assume a more public form and have an academic flavour to it. The articles written by non-scholars on the blogosphere, lectures and speeches delivered by speakers, and religious counsel extended to others falls within this general category of irshād. For those in leadership roles, the public nature of their work means that high standards are required even here when it comes to addressing and conveying religious issues of a complex or delicate nature.

(d) The Political

If the issuance of a fatwā and providing religious advice is a delicate matter, the process of forming, advocating for, and/or enacting laws on the political level is far greater in this regard. Such laws are made in the context of human societies and affect large swaths of people who objectively vary in their circumstances – individual, social, religious/ideological, and economic. Unlike a fatwā or irshād, once a law has been settled upon by the state, it becomes binding upon an entire population and any reasonable alternative ceases to hold validity in practice at least until the law is reviewed and amended. Exemptions are only tolerated when affirmed by the law itself. Further, law interacts with and influences society in complex ways. This is true for all forms of law, not just ones that are state-enacted.

A core question in legal philosophy is what the law ought to be or what makes a law good. The ‘good’ is a moral concept and might be described as one that is essentially contested in so far as people differ over its conception and the criteria for its application. Some emphasize the consequences of a rule (consequentialism), while others favour a deontological moral ethic or one that is virtue-centred. Each of these families of theories subsume within them further particular theories that differ with one another. There are also considerations of fairness, equity, distributive justice, enforceability, practicality, and/or efficiency that those evaluating the law might assign significant value to. These notions of morality and the good influence policy-making and legal systems.

How do Muslims approach this issue? Islam is viewed by Muslims as a comprehensive moral and philosophical system where the moral value of an act is determined by the divine will. It is the commands and prohibitions of God that render an action good or evil, and under this divine command theory, revelation is the primary source for moral knowledge.[41] However, this legal notion of moral value is not as straightforward as it sounds since a significant number of legal rulings are probabilistic in nature and differed upon. Consequently, the moral value attached to these rulings lack a decisive character, which engenders a plurality of moral outlooks. This pluralism is an indelible feature of the tradition itself creating a paradox whereby Muslims can affirm that good and evil are known through revelation, while recognizing that differences concerning moral judgments are part of the moral vision of revelation itself.

This raises important questions regarding the political approach a minority Muslim population in the West might take regarding the abortion issue. Should Muslims seek to accommodate a pluralism justified by tradition and avoid commandeering the state to coercively impose laws that negate the right of people to follow an acceptable and mainstream Islamic legal opinion?

Should Muslims simply support restrictions on abortion practices that contravene the consensus position of Islam? Or should Muslims seek to promote an opinion, or some combination of opinions, among those found in the legal schools on the basis of a reasonably defined criteria that assesses the issue holistically from the perspective of the theological, legal, ethical, and the public good?

Indeed, there are many classical opinions whose validity scholars did not accept, others that were prima facie valid but not put into practice, and classical jurists themselves erected systems to keep a check on legal chaos resulting from people being allowed to arbitrarily follow any opinion with a basis in precedent. Yet, Muslim societies always tolerated differences of opinion, and for most of its history, people living in these societies had recourse to various scholars from multiple legal schools. Unlike the centralizing and homogenizing tendencies of the modern nation-state, Islamic law was centrifugal and operated on a grass-roots level to produce self-governing societies. In many periods, this diversity was even found in judicial settings where courts were established for each of the legal schools. This was extended to non-Muslim populations living under Islamic governments as well who were accorded a high degree of autonomy. While this might strike some as a thing of the past, a nostalgic yearning for a bygone era, there are many lessons the community can draw from the attitudes and approaches of past societies.

In a political context, the notion of the ‘public good’ (maṣlaha) is particularly relevant given the scope and consequences of legislative actions, but it is a notoriously complicated one to pin down and, like the ‘good’, might be described as essentially contested. Even the basic question “who will this law or opinion impact, and in what manner” takes one into a complex maze of considerations and perspectives that demand careful attention and thought. It is hard to imagine any informed answer to this question without the input of a variety of experts. While Muslims are not quite in a position to craft legislation, influential religious activists and scholars who advocate for specific legislation and/or discourse on it to the wider community should keep the above points in made for any advocacy that proceeds in the name of religion is one that must be approached with care and seriousness.


Identifying the Problem: Beyond Personal Preferences, Emotions, and Selective Madhhab Picking

With this framework in mind, it is now possible to identify a major problem in current American Muslim discourse on abortion, which is that it does not meaningfully engage any of the levels described above save the personal. The distinction between these various engagement contexts is hardly recognized. Most public discourse on abortion promotes one traditional opinion over another based not on a rigorous standard that is grounded in revelation, theology, legal theory, ethics, the public good, and a keen awareness of human nature, the individual, political, social, and ideological currents and factors, historical trends, and the challenges of the contemporary world, but seemingly on personal opinions based on little more than a reaction to a perceived ideological threat, individual proclivities, or pure taqlīd. The mainstream opinions of the legal school simply act as tools of legitimation for one’s personal view.

The Problem of Imposition

On a personal level, this is not a problem per se, and people have their reasons to select certain views as opposed to others and even vociferously promote them in some limited capacity to friends, colleagues, or family over a session of tea or a short-lived social media feud with random individuals. However, for those in positions of leadership and influence, this cannot be the basis for a fatwā, general communal irshād, or public advocacy impacting millions of people. The imposition of the personal onto these areas in this manner is both ill-advised and potentially harmful. Even the conclusions reached by a scholar on the basis of sound academic research may be put aside in these contexts, i.e. fatwā and political activism/legislation, when the scholar feels that competing considerations and interests demand so. Thus, a scholar may believe in a reading of revelation that is extremely restrictive on abortion but recognizing the probabilistic nature of his interpretation and the variety of individual circumstances, the ethical norms of ease and warding off hardship, profound societal and economic changes, complex and strained community and family structures, the advice of other experts, and the general public good chooses not to advocate for this view as a matter of policy to be implemented as law or provided to a specific individual as a legal edict.

The Sunna Imperative for Leniency, The Lack of Depth of the Lenient

It is often forgotten that a peculiar response by some classical jurists to the degenerated state of society was not in toughening up legal prescriptions but relaxing them: “Our time is not one of avoiding the doubtful (shubuhāt), meaning if a person only avoids the impermissible, it is sufficient.”[42] This was an ethical consideration influencing the judgment of the jurist who saw it not as compromising religion nor a dereliction of his duty but part of the guidance of the sunna itself where facilitating the affairs of people was deemed important.[43] As Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad states commenting on the instruction of al-Birgivī (d. 981/1573) not to give the laity the more difficult opinion on an issue validly differed upon:

This, of course, is a Prophetic counsel. The ego doesn’t always like giving people easy options because we assume it is because of our laziness or some kind of liberal Islam. For al-Birgivī it is taqwā to give the ordinary Muslims the easier interpretations… but nowadays, we tend to assume that the narrower you are, the less compromises you make, the more the West will be angry and, therefore, the better the Muslim you must be.[44]

The Prophetic counsel that Shaykh Abdal Hakim refers to is known to many: “Make things easy and do not make them difficult.” This attitude of facilitating matters for people, granting them leniency, and not repulsing them with harshness and difficulty is a part of Islam. As Imām al-Shāṭibī stated, the removal of hardship (rafʿ al-ḥaraj) is a decisively established foundational principle in the shariah.[45] From this foundational principle arises some of the most important legal and ethical principles in the Islamic tradition, such as hardship necessitates ease, there is no harm nor reciprocating harm, harm is lifted, the lesser of two evils, taking into account the consequences of an act, custom as a source of law, and more. In fact, some jurists opined that when the evidence for an issue was contradictory or conflicting, the more lenient opinion was to be given preference due to the generality of revelatory texts affirming ease in the shariah.[46]

But there is a problem. Many of those who promote and relay the lenient Ḥanafī opinion of unconditional permissibility approach it in a manner that lacks substance. On the academic plane, even basic questions regarding this position are not addressed or understood, much less entertained. Take, for example, the difference between the statement of Ḥanafī jurists that abortion is impermissible after the physical features of the fetus become discernible and the statement of others in the school that this impermissibility comes into effect after a 120-day period. Are these the same? Who in the madhhab held these positions? Is there a clear preference for one or the other? How was discernibility understood? What features needed to be discernible? Did discernibility refer to what is normally observable by humans or to what is discernible by modern embryogenesis? How have contemporary jurists addressed this issue? Then there is the matter that one is hard-pressed to find a single contemporary Ḥanafī jurist who favours the view of unconditional permissibility. What does this reveal about this opinion and the possibility of critically evaluating past opinions that fall within the scope of differences of opinion?[47]

These questions largely fall within the parameters of an intra-school discussion and do not even begin to address the broader social and political considerations mentioned earlier.

Here, the sheer fact that there were over six-hundred thousand abortions reported in America in 2015, the latest year for which statistics exist from the CDC, should be alarming to people and cannot be callously dismissed.

Though the overwhelming majority of these occurred well within a 120-day period (≤13 weeks’ gestation, which is measured from the first day of the woman’s last menstruation and not from the day of conception), most of those who obtained these abortions were unmarried women who did so in non-dire circumstances.[48] The culture of sexual freedom out of which the abortion movement emerged and its ideological grounding in notions of bodily autonomy and personal choice cannot be ignored in this discussion.[49] Nor can the devaluing of family and motherhood,[50] the practice of female foeticide, the increasingly materialistic outlook of society, and its mechanistic view of human beings.

Additionally, some Muslims seem largely oblivious to the fact that abortion politics link to many other issues that have little do with abortion itself, such as assisted suicide or end-of-life care. In a famous district court case on assisted suicide, Compassion in Dying vs. Washington, it was Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that was cited as an important precedent to rule that a ban on physician-aided suicide was unconstitutional.[51] Clearly, it is not sufficient to make simplistic appeals to leniency to justify promulgating an opinion that leads to such wider consequences. Abortion, in other words, cannot be treated as a ‘stand-alone’ issue with little or no relation to a broader philosophical outlook that downplays a sanctity of life ethic.[52]

Thou Shalt Make No Exceptions, But Should We?

Many of the issues highlighted in the previous paragraph raise serious theological and ethical concerns for Muslims and should push them to reflect on the type of society they wish to create and sustain in America. Is the abortion movement today in line with the moral vision envisioned for society by God and His Prophet (blessings upon him)? Clearly not. But while the seriousness of this crisis cannot be understated, a core question, at least in the context of this debate, is often missed: if it is misplaced and dangerous to forward the most lenient opinion in this context, in what way does the strictest possible position on abortion where exemptions are not even extended to victims of rape and incest ameliorate the current situation? Or to put it differently, how do these social and ideological problems make the strictest possible opinion on abortion the most appropriate one to adopt for the individual and society?

The answer to this question is not usually satisfactorily provided. Generally, such a view returns to a genuine moral belief one holds regarding a fetus being an inviolable living person. This moral belief may be grounded in a preferred reading of revelation, simple adherence to a specific legal school, a reaction to a perceived ideological battle framed in the language of pro-life vs. pro-choice, personal inclinations, or, as is usually the case, some combination of these factors. But the no-exception view is at least initially a personal view one holds, which is then forwarded as a broad religious and political solution. One may wonder why this is an issue. After all, why shouldn’t a person forward what he or she personally believes to be the Islamic ruling on an issue?

Certainly, this is expected especially when it concerns human life, but as stated earlier, it is problematic when that personal view, which it should be noted in this case lacks a decisive legal/moral character from a religious perspective, moves into the realm of fatwā and public advocacy without taking into account the many considerations required to make an informed decision in these areas. This is in addition to the fact that those who hold this view feel perfectly within their rights to tell others to set aside their personal moral views permitting abortions precisely in view to a broader context.

Here, it is worth sharing the response given by Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī when he was asked about abortions for Bosnian Muslim women who were raped during war. After mentioning that his basic view is that abortions are impermissible “from the moment of conception” and “this is what we give preference to”, he states:

However, in cases of need, there is no harm in taking one of the two alternative views (i.e. permissibility before 40 or 120 days), and whenever the excuse is more severe, the dispensation will be more established and manifest, and whenever it is before the first 40 days, it is closer to dispensation.

We know that there are jurists who are very strict on this matter and do not permit abortion even a day after conception… but what is most preferable is a middle path between those who are expansive in granting permission and those who are excessively strict in prohibition.[53]

This is, of course, how knowledge and fiqh operate. They do not merely float around in the world of the abstract but address a complex world of real people, which in the context of fatwā, irshād, and politics often requires setting aside individual feelings and personal adherences to particular legal opinions: “Know that this ikhtilāf [between scholars] may be a reason to provide facilitation and ease, which is one of the higher aims of the shariah affirmed by the unequivocal text of the Qur’an and sunna.”[54]

Too often, many of those who vociferously promote the strictest view on abortion address the issue on the level of the abstract and then transfer it to the practical realm with little further thought. Take, for example, the argument that Muslims should oppose the legalization of abortion because a majority of abortions are due to economic anxiety or a feeling of unreadiness, which in turn return to the increasingly materialistic outlook of society and crumbling family structures.

This materialistic outlook and erosion of the family must be remedied. However, no justification is ever furnished as to why a no-exception abortion stance is the best method to address this social problem, and there is almost no focus on the individual. It never crosses the mind of the proponents of this view that it is the very fact that society is materialistic to its core and the family lay in ruins that causes economic anxiety and feelings of unreadiness to be felt much more palpably and intensely by young, unmarried, pregnant women.

Web MD

By largely confining their analysis and presentation of the issue to ‘materialism’, ‘decay of family’, ‘feminism’, etc., proponents of the restrictive view (inadvertently) divert attention away from the lived realities of people. This leads to neglecting the more concrete conditions and circumstances people are subject to, such as poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, poor health, psychological issues, sexual abuse, incarceration, social inequality and stratification, and the varying abilities of people to cope with life pressures and struggles. This focus away from the individual produces an unsympathetic, even antagonistic attitude, where the solution favoured is uncompromising and rigid. The ethical is erroneously conflated with strictness even though it might entail leniency in recognition of individual and social conditions.

To take one example where these broader considerations come into play, take the issue of pregnancy resulting from rape. Though statistics regarding rape are inconsistent because the crime is so underreported, it is safe to say that hundreds of thousands of women are victims of rape every year with tens of thousands of these rapes resulting in pregnancy (approximately five percent).[55] A significantly high number of rape victims are under eighteen with many actually being under the age of twelve.[56] Victims of rape spend many weeks simply recovering from physical injuries and managing mental health symptoms, which can remain with them for years. Beyond the physical and psychological symptoms common after rape, if a rape victim decides to carry her child to term, she is forced to go through a lengthy and exhausting process to prosecute her rapist in a criminal court and contest custody in a family or dependency court.

The political and legislative context makes matters even more difficult. Not every state has legislation in place allowing for parental rights to be terminated for a rapist. Most states that do have such legislation in place require a criminal conviction of rape beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of evidence possible, with several also requiring a civil court conviction by clear and convincing evidence that conception resulted from rape.

Some states require the rape to be of the first-degree, which is varyingly defined.[57] Generally, the chances of obtaining a conviction of first-degree rape are slim. Not only do rape crimes go unreported in a majority of cases,[58] there are numerous hurdles in the criminal justice system that disadvantage rape victims at every stage of the process, such as ‘rape myths’ that influence police, investigative officers, jurors, and judges.[59]

In most cases, a rapist will plead guilty to lesser crimes in order to avoid prolonged jail time, which would potentially allow him to gain parental rights in states requiring first or second-degree rape convictions for such rights to be terminated.[60] In view of this, one can state that the suggestion by some Muslims that abortion should not be permitted even in such contexts because a woman can simply put her child up for adoption is seriously misinformed and potentially harmful.[61] Is the correct solution in this context to support the most restrictive view on abortion?

Conclusion: Refining our Conceptualization & The Bigger Picture

American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question. This issue, like many others, cannot be properly addressed through a narrowly defined law, politics, or clash of ideologies narrative, especially at the level of individual fatwā, communal irshād, or political activism, advocacy, and legislation.

Nor can the wider community be shown direction on this issue, or have a course charted for them, merely on the basis of narrowly-informed personal opinions and proclivities neatly presented in the classical opinions of our choosing. Our approach must address the issue through real fiqh, namely deep understanding, where the question of abortion is tackled with an academic rigor that is cognizant of lived realities and is grounded in the ethics and guidance of revelation.

Today in America, a crisis we face is of an activism not based in, or guided by, real scholarship, and a scholarship that is wanting, uninspiring, and disconnected from those it seeks to guide. The first step scholars must take on this issue is to gain a proper and thorough conceptualization of the issue. No sound and effective conclusion can arise without such a conceptualization. This is true for any issue we find ourselves dealing with.

On the level of addressing the broader community, this is not an issue to be decided by an individual but a collectivity of minds coming together to exchange ideas and opinions. The laity should understand that American Muslims will not reach an agreement on this matter, and nor should we demand that they do. People will continue to forward different opinions and solutions. The progression of time will likely result in a plurality of acceptable views emerging within our context. This should not be met with confusion.

Muslims once lived in an age of ambiguity where opinions were confidently held but differences embraced. Today, we live in an age of anxiety, people with confused identities, threatened by modernity and various ideologies, so much so that “the only form of Islam [we] can regard as legitimate is a totalitarian, monolithic one” as Shaykh Abdal Hakim once remarked. Let us avoid this, allow for different perspectives, but demand higher standards from those who seek to guide us and speak on our behalf especially when the matter veers into a space that impacts people and communities in a very real way.

Finally, and most importantly, Muslims must break out of the mindset that social problems can simply be legislated away or solved through polemical battles waged on the internet against pernicious ideologies. The political and social are intimately intertwined, but it is all too common to see many Muslims neglecting the latter while imagining that the activities they are engaged in to address the political are actually meaningful and impactful. In fact, it is often detached from the real world, a mouthing of clichés and idle moralizing on social media platforms that elicits rage and fails to yield actual solutions on the ground. If television altered the meaning of being informed as Neil Postmann asserted, social media has undoubtedly taken things a step further by altering the meaning of ‘taking action’.

The erosion of family, the decay of morality, the rise of materialistic outlooks, the loss of higher purpose and meaning, and the devaluing of life must be addressed more directly through education, the creation of a real community, the nurturing and training of leaders who embody knowledge and wisdom, and the erection of structures that support peoples’ faith and anchor them in times of crisis. It should not be forgotten that these non-legal institutions play an important role in shaping behaviours and promoting social mores.

Muslims should learn from the many conservative Christian activists who, contrary to popular stereotypes, demonstrate an acute awareness of the struggles and anguish that many women contemplating abortion experience. As the prominent pro-life activist Frederica Mathewes-Green states:

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.[62]

It is this realization, which arises from a perspective that looks beyond abortion as simply an ideological battle between ‘the feminist’ or ‘the liberal’, that generates a sense of empathy within many conservative Christian activists who are then motivated to assist women in concrete ways.

Take the example of Embrace Grace, a Texas-based non-profit organization, which describes its purpose as “providing emotional, practical and spiritual support for single, young women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy” and to “empower churches across the nation to be a safe and non-judging place for the girls to run to when they find out they are pregnant, instead of the last place they are welcomed because of shame and guilt.” Christians have set up hundreds of pregnancy care centers across the United States, which, despite issues of concern, provide resources and services to pregnant women. Various churches have set up support groups for single mothers and mothers-to-be, while the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) has set out to confront systemic injustices in society that lead women to seek out abortions, such as poverty.[63]

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad said reaching the golden mean requires that we think and make sacrifices. It is time for leaders, thinkers, and scholars in our community to begin thinking more deeply and contemplatively about the issue of abortion in its various contexts, and it is time for our community to sacrifice their time, wealth, and energies in providing concrete solutions and remedies that demonstrate a true concern for both the unborn and the women who carry them.

God alone is our sufficiency.

[1] References to Muslims in this article should be primarily understood as referring to people in positions of leadership and influence. In this article, I discuss some of the technical aspects surrounding the legal debate over abortion, but my intent is to simply provide a brief overview of this aspect of the debate in order for a general audience to appreciate some of the complexities of the topic.

[2] Though the term fetus technically refers to the unborn after 8 weeks of gestation, many use it to refer to the unborn throughout the period of pregnancy. I will be using the latter convention for the sake of simplicity.

[3] al-Ḥasan ibn Manṣūr al-Farghānī, Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān, on the margins of Fatāwā Hindiyya (Bulāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Amīriyya, 1310 A.H.), 3:410.

[4] Ibn Māza himself framed the ruling in terms of ensoulment. He stated that jurists differed on the permissibility of abortion pre-ensoulment with some permitting it. He then cited the text of Fatāwā Ahl al-Samarqand, which only speaks of discernibility. Qāḍīkhān mentioned how the discernibility of physical features and limbs was “determined” by some as occurring at 120 days. Kamāl ibn al-Humām and others correctly pointed out that observation proves otherwise but proceed to state that the connection made between discernibility and ensoulment shows that scholars intended the latter when expressing the former. Ibn ʿĀbidīn, however, questioned this. I agree for several reasons: firstly, many jurists make no reference to 120 days or ensoulment when presenting this ruling; secondly, discernibility and ensoulment are clearly different stages during the pregnancy, a fact that was known to classical scholars who sometimes applied different terms to these two stages, such as taṣwīr/ṣūra and takhlīq/khalq; and, thirdly, most Ḥanafī rulings premised on determining personhood rely on the discernibility criterion. Given this, there are two possible views in the Ḥanafī school regarding the period before which abortion is permissible: before some of the physical features of the fetus become discernible or prior to ensoulment at 120 days. Additionally, there was discussion in the Ḥanafī school on the features that were to be given consideration when assessing whether a fetus was a ‘person’. These discussions are highly significant in modern debates for if the criterion for personhood is discerning a particular physical form on the basis of observation, this potentially broadens the scope for modern Ḥanafī understandings of the concept of personhood and how/when it is established. I hope to address these issues in a separate paper. See Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad ibn Māza, al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī fī al-fiqh al-Nuʿmānī, ed. Nuʿaym Ashraf Nūr Aḥmad (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān wa’l-ʿUlūm al-Islāmiyya, 2004), 8:83-84; al-Farghānī, Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān, 3:410; Muḥammad Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār (Būlāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Kubrā al-Amīriyya, 1323 A.H.), 1:201.

[5] Ibn Māza, al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī, 8:83-84. It is worth noting that al-Qummī did not say fetus is a life at conception but that it has begun a process that concludes with life.

[6] Ḥussām al-Dīn ʿUmar ibn Māza, al-Fatāwā al-Kubrā (Istanbul: Rāghib Bāshā #619), ff. 96b.

[7] Raḍī al-Dīn al-Sarakhsī, al-Wajīz (Istanbul: Koprulu #684), ff. 116a.

[8] Jamāl al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad, al-Ḥāwī al-Qudsī, ed. Ṣāliḥ al-ʿAlī (Lebanon: Dār al-Nawādir, 2011), 2:326.

[9] Zayn al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr al-Rāzī, Tuḥfat al-Mulūk, ed. Ṣalāḥ Abū al-Ḥajj (Amman: Dār al-Fārūq, 2006), 290.

[10] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī, al-Ikthiyār, ed. Shuʿayb Arna’ūṭ (Damascus: Dār al-Risāla 2009), 4:153.

[11] ʿUthmān ibn ʿAlī al-Zaylaʿī, Tabyīn al-Ḥaqā’iq Sharḥ Kanz al-Daqā’iq (Multan: Maktaba Imdādiyya, n.d.), 2:166.

[12] Amīr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Kākī, Miʿrāj al-Dirāya (Istanbul: Koprulu #619), ff. 395b.

[13] Jalāl al-Dīn ibn Shams al-Dīn al-Khawārizmī, al-Kifāya Sharḥ al-Hidāya, on the margins of Fatḥ al-Qadīr (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Maymaniyya, 1901; reprint Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 3:373.

[14] Kamāl ibn al-Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr (Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Maymaniyya, 1901; reprint Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 3:372-73.

[15] Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn Ilyās Jawīzāda, al-Īthār li-Ḥall al-Mukhtār, ed. Ilyās Qablān (Istanbul: Maktabat al-Irshād, 2016), 4:98.

[16] Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Ḥaṣkafī, al-Durr al-Mukhtār (Lebanon: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2002) 197.

[17] I am usually disinclined to list names of jurists in this manner when relating who held a specific legal opinion. One reason for this is that it creates the mistaken illusion that every one of these jurists came to this conclusion on the basis of their individual ijtihād when it may in fact simply be an exercise in taqlīd. Thus, one finds that most of these authors merely relate verbatim those who preceded them without any additional comments. However, it still indicates that these jurists accepted the ruling in question as the position of the school without qualms.

[18] When does a fetus qualify as a ‘person’ or a ‘human’? What are the necessary and sufficient features for personhood? Does personhood correspond to the beginning of life? If not, when does life begin? How is this connected to ensoulment? When does ensoulment occur? When does a fetus have moral standing? What is the nature of this moral standing over the course of a pregnancy? These are central questions in classical and modern debates on abortion. Sometimes, one finds that ‘person’, ‘human’, ‘life’, and related terms, are not properly defined, which is a problem given that conclusions regarding abortion are often premised on their proper conceptualization. Further, when attempts at proper definition are undertaken, people naturally come to different conclusions. For example, some modern pro-life philosophers argue that ‘persons’ are individuals of a rational nature and a fetus has no capacity for sentience, at least not until mid-gestation. Conception, therefore, cannot mark the beginning of a person. Yet even here, some scholars note that the fetus is a potential person. Therefore, it has some moral value and standing, but others counter with a “person-affecting restriction” that argues that merely potential people possess no moral claims. Some people work under material assumptions regarding the nature of the mind and opine that a moral person must be a ‘self’ and a necessary condition for something to be a self is some form of electrical brain activity. The bioethicist, Baruch Brody (d. 2018), also relied on this criterion of brain waves in his conception of personhood. Jane English presents a range of features or ‘factors’ that she views as being found in typical conceptions of a person: biological, psychological, rationality, social, and legal. There are religious conservative thinkers who define being human on the basis of genetics. John T. Noonan stated, “The positive argument for conception as the decisive moment of humanization is that at conception the new being receives the genetic code. It is this genetic information which determines his characteristics, which is the biological carrier of the possibility of human wisdom, which makes him a self-evolving being. A being with a human genetic code is man.” Many religious conservatives also maintain that there is no moment during pregnancy that can be identified as conferring moral significance on the unborn, i.e. it possesses moral standing before birth and after. Thus, brain waves, sentience, quickening, viability, physical human form, etc., are given no consideration as points at which moral standing is affirmed for the fetus and prior to which it is denied. For important early works on this topic see John T. Noonan, The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970); Jane English, “Abortion and the Concept of a Person,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5, no. 2 (1975): 233-43; Baruch Brody, Abortion and the Sanctity of Life (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1975); Stephen Buckle, “Arguing From Potential,” Bioethics 2, no. 3 (1988): 226–253; Mary Anne Warren, Moral Status: Obligations to Persons and Other Living Things (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Michael Tooley, Abortion and Infanticide (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983); Richard Warner, “Abortion: The Ontological and Moral Status of the Unborn,” Social Theory and Practice 3 (1974). The literature on this is vast.

Classical jurists of Islam were guided fundamentally by revelation in their answers to these questions, but they still had substantial disagreements. Some identified a fetus as a person from the moment of conception, others as potentially so, yet others as a person only when its physical features became discernible, while some seemingly assigned no status to it at any fetal stage prior to ensoulment. When it came to ensoulment, the majority said this occurred at 120 days, while others said 40 days. Some equated ensoulment with personhood, while others distinguished between them. There were other conceptual frames utilized in discussions concerning the fetus as well, such as dhimma and ḥuqūq, being ‘animate’ or ‘inanimate’, a constituent part (juz’) of the mother or a separate self (nafs), and so forth. This occasioned a degree of ambiguity regarding the moral standing of the fetus at various stages of pregnancy. For example, Imām al-Ghazālī prohibited abortion at all stages of pregnancy but stated that the sin of doing so is less severe in earlier stages than later ones. Some jurists deemed it permissible to undergo an abortion due to a minor excuse in the first 40 days, requiring a more serious excuse from that point up until 120 days, and impermissible in all but the direst of situations following ensoulment. The fetus, therefore, seems to have a diminished moral standing at the beginning of the pregnancy and full moral standing post-ensoulment even in the eyes of jurists who affirmed personhood from conception. This is also reflected in rulings concerning financial compensation (ghurra) and expiation (kaffāra) owed by someone who causes a woman to miscarry. Meanwhile, many Ḥanafīs seemed to have assigned no moral status to the fetus before it had a discernible human form. The moral standing of the fetus was also influenced by the manner of conception with some jurists suggesting that a fetus conceived out of wedlock was not similar to a fetus that was conceived through a religiously sanctioned relationship. Besides revelation, observation played an important role in these determinations, as did the specific legal traditions jurists operated within. Today, science and embryology have guided the conclusions of many scholars, which has raised questions regarding the epistemological and interpretive value of the former. There is arguably a need to go beyond limited legal conceptions of personhood and life and engage in deeper theological and philosophical discussions on this matter.

[19] This ruling was consistent with several others in the school regarding whether a miscarried fetus is named, shrouded, and washed, whether a miscarriage concludes the waiting-period of a pregnant woman, and even whether a fetus is resurrected in the next-life. These rulings, among others, returned to whether the miscarried or stillborn fetus was actually considered a child/person, which in turn related to the formation and discernibility of its physical features. I believe this strengthens the view that discernibility of physical features was the main criterion for personhood in the Ḥanafī school. For some of these rulings see Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, al-Aṣl, ed. Mehmet Boynūkālin (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2012), 1:296, 4:415, 481, 5:144. This interconnectedness of legal doctrine, or its organic unity, is expressed in a famous aphorism, “The law is a seamless web.” These discussions are also present in the other three legal schools.

[20] Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn Wahbān, ʿIqd al-Qalā’id wa-Qayd al-Sharā’id, ed. ʿAbd al-Jalīl al-ʿAṭā (Damascus: Maktabat al-Fajr, 2000), 195.

[21] Zayn al-Dīn ibn Nujaym, al-Baḥr al-Rā’iq (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿa al-ʿIlmiyya, 1893; reprint by H.M. Saeed, n.d.), 3:215.

[22] Muḥammad Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār (Būlāq: al-Maṭbaʿa al-Kubrā al-Amīriyya, 1323 A.H.), 2:388-89.

[23] The Hidāya mentions that a child conceived out of wedlock is still muḥtaram and so cannot be aborted. Imām ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī mentions that this only applies to a fetus that has reached the stage of post-discernibility. He then goes onto state that the fatwā position in his time is that it would be permissible pre-discernibility and post-discernibility. See Burhān al-Dīn al-Marghinānī, al-Hidāya Sharḥ Bidāyat al-Mubtadī maʿa Sharḥ al-ʿAllāma ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī, ed. Naʿīm Ashraf Nūr Aḥmad (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān wa’l-ʿUlūm al-Islāmiyya, 1417 A.H.), 3:25.

[24] Muṣṭafā Zarqā, Fatāwā (Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2010), 285.

[25] Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī, Fatāwā Maḥmūdiyya (Karachi: Idārat al-Fārūq, 2009), 18:321.

[26] Sayyid Muḥammad Salmān Manṣurpūrī, Kitāb al-Nawāzil (Muradabad: al-Markaz al-ʿIlmī lil-Nashr wa’l-Taḥqīq, 2016), 16:248-81.

[27] Muftī Raḍā’ al-Ḥaqq, Fatāwā Dār al-ʿUlūm Zakariyya (Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 2015), 6:756.

[28] Ibid., 6:755.

[29] Ibid., 6:763.

[30] Zubayr Aḥmad Qāsmī, “Khāndānī Manṣūbabandī,” in Jadīd Fiqhī Mabāḥith (Karachi: Idārat al-Qur’ān, 2009), 1:332.

[31] Ibid., 1:331-32.

[32] Khālid Sayf Allāh Raḥmānī, Kitāb al-Fatāwā (Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 2008), 6:218-226

[33] The relied-upon position in the Mālikī school prohibits abortions almost entirely even if done prior to ensoulment, which Mālikī jurists opine as occurring at 40 days.


[35] Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, Fatāwa al-Muʿaṣara (Cairo: Dār al-Qalam, 2005), 2:541-50.

[36] ʿAbd Allāh ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā wa-Fiqh al-Aqaliyyāt (UAE: Masār lil-Tibāʿa wa’l-Nashr, 2018), 577-78.

[37] Wahba al-Zuhaylī, al-Fiqh al-Islāmī wa-Adillatuhu (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1985), 3:557.

[38] The delineation and explanation I have presented here should not be seen as a comprehensive exposition of the concepts being discussed. Rather, it should be seen as a basic explanatory framework to understand the problem I wish to highlight in the next section. I have intentionally left out many details surrounding fatwā, siyāsa, taqlīd, etc., for the sake of the average reader.

[39] Muḥammad Kamāl al-Dīn al-Rāshidī, al-Miṣbāḥ fī Rasm al-Muftī wa-Manāhij al-Iftā’ (Deoband: Ittiḥād Book Depot, n.d.), 61-62 in the Takmila; Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 28-29, 230.

[40] al-Rāshidī, al-Miṣbāḥ, 28.

[41] ʿ Abd al-Malik ibn Yūsuf al-Juwaynī, Kitāb al-Irshād ilā Qawāṭiʿ al-Adilla fī Uṣūl al-Iʿtiqād, ed. Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Raḥīm (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqāfa al-Dīniyya, 2009), 210-11. This is admittedly a simplification of a very complex debate on the role of reason, its meaning and limitations, its relationship to revelation, deontological vs teleological theories of Islamic normative ethics, and more. These were issues of fundamental debate between the great theological schools, namely the Ashʿarīs, Māturīdis, and the Muʿtazila.

[42] Ibrāhīm ibn Ḥusayn Bīrīzāda, ʿUmdat Dhawī al-Baṣā’ir li-Ḥall Muhimmāt al-Ashbāh wa’l-Naẓā’ir, ed. Ilyās Qablān & Ṣafwat Kawsa (Istanbul: Maktabat al-Rushd, 2016), 2:415.

[43] This is also seen in the tradition of rukhas, or dispensations, and ḥiyal, or legal stratagems/loopholes.

[44] From his Paradigms of Leadership (6) lecture series.

[45] Ibrāhīm ibn Mūsā al-Shāṭibī, al-Muwāfaqāt, ed. Mashhūr Ḥasan (Cairo: Dār Ibn ʿ Affān, 1997), 1:520.

[46] For reference to this see Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 273-75.

[47] One might state that these people are simply engaging in a form of taqlid. This is fair, but there is still a level of diligence and rigor expected from anyone who wishes to publicly opine on a matter of such nature.


[49] Take the following statements made by Judith Thomson in her well-known defence of abortion, which continues to be loudly echoed by the pro-choice movement: “My own view is that if a human being has any just, prior claim to anything at all, he has a just, prior claim to his own body” and “No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body.” The violinist analogy she forwards, among others, expresses this point quite clearly. See Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1971): 48, 54.

[50] The sociologist Kristen Luker noted over three decades ago that pro-life and pro-choice activists were mainly divided due to their differing views on the meaning of sexuality, motherhood, and the role of women. See Kristin Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Berkeley (California: University of California Press, 1984), especially Ch 7.

[51] Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 850 F. Supp. 1454 (WD Wash. 1994). This was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997.

[52] The phrase ‘sanctity-of-life’ has featured prominently in theological, political, and biomedical ethical discussions related to abortion and end-of-life questions. Some members of congress, for example, have tried repeatedly to introduce a ‘Sanctity-of-Life Act’ to protect the unborn. However, the origins, meaning, and application of the phrase remain unclear and heavily debated. For a basic overview see the edited volume Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity (Boston: Springer Dordrecht, 1996).

[53] al-Qaraḍāwī, Fatāwa al-Muʿaṣara, 2:609-13.

[54] Ibn Bayya, Ṣināʿ at al-Fatwā, 273.

[55] The Federal House Bill 1257 that passed in 2015 as the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act cites between 25,000 and 32,000 pregnancies from rape annually but this is almost certainly an underestimate.

[56] For details on these and other related statistics see

[57] For detailed information regarding state statutes and provisions on the termination of pregnancy in contexts of children born as a result of sexual assault see

[58] For statistics on this see the Department of Justice Criminal Victimization analysis (revised, 2018) at There are several reasons why women choose not to report such crimes, which include fear of retaliation, shame and guilt, and a belief that police will not be able to help them.

[59] For a brief discussion on existing research around rape myths see Olivia Smith & Tina Skinner, “How Rape Myths Are Used and Challenged in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials,” Social & Legal Studies 26, no. 4 (2017): 442-45.

[60] Rachael Kessler, “Due Process and Legislation Designed to Restrict the Rights of Rapist Fathers,” Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, no. 10, vol 1 (2015): 199-229.

[61] There is a sensitive discussion surrounding the definition of rape in Islamic law specifically as it relates to intimate married partners. I have ignored this issue because it would distract from the main purpose of this article.


[63] There have been initiatives in the Muslim community directed at addressing these pressing issues, such as the work of Dr. Aasim Padela of the University of Chicago and his Initiative on Islam and Medicine, Dr. Rafaqat Rashid and the work of al-Balagh Academy, Dr. Mansur Ali of Cardiff University and his research on bioethics, and several others. This is not to mention the many individuals who have tried to create practical spaces to assist people who may find themselves in difficult life circumstances. While there is much more to do, the efforts of these people should not go unnoticed.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure




How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.


You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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#Current Affairs

Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?




Muslim organizations, Muslim groups

Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:


Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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