Frågor & Svar

Här lägger vi upp bland annat vanligt förekommande frågor och svar om vad som är tillåtet eller haram inom Shia Fiqh

Sayyed Sistani

Question: The manufacturers of food and sweets as well as of the food packed in cans are required to mention the ingredients of the items being sold. To prevent the food from going bad, manufacturers add preservatives to them; these preservatives could be from animal source and are listed by alphabetical codes like “E” alongside a number like “E 450” or “E 472,” etc. What is the ruling in the following situations?

1. When one does not know the origin of these preservatives?

2. If one sees a list issued by those who have no idea of the rule of chemical transformation (istihalah: a purifying agent) that says that the items described by so and so alphabet and/or number are forbidden because they come from animal source?

3. When one does preliminary research and is satisfied that the preservative agent does not retain its original form but transforms in characteristics and changes into another substance?

Answer: 

1. It is permissible to eat the food containing those preservatives.

2. If it is not ascertained that it is from an animal source —even if such a claim is made— it is permissible to eat it. Similarly, [it is permissible] if it is ascertained that [it is from an animal source] but one is uncertain whether it comes from an impure mayta and that its amount mixed in the food stuff is so minute that it is completely absorbed in it in the view of common people.

3. There is no problem in applying the rule of purity and permissibility whenever the chemical change is proved in the form that it transforms into another substance and in the view of common people nothing of the original substance remains.

Question: We are unaware of the ingredients of food sold in shops in Western countries: it might be free from those ingredients that are forbidden to us or it might contain them. Are we allowed to eat such items without looking into their ingredients, or inquiring about them? Or is that not allowed to us?

Answer: It is permissible [to eat such food] as long as it is not known that it contains meat, fat, and their derivatives that are forbidden to us.

Question: What is your ruling on having foods that contain gelatin?

Answer: It is permissible to eat gelatin if one doubts whether it has been extracted from an animal or vegetable. But, if it is known that it was derived from an animal, then it is not permissible to eat without ascertaining that the animal was slaughtered according to sharí’a. This prohibition applies, as a matter of obligatory precaution, even if it was extracted from animal bones. Of course, if a chemical change occurs in the original ingredients during the process of manufacturing the gelatin, there is no problem at all in eating it. Similarly, even if one has doubt whether the animal was slaughtered Islamically or not, still there is no problem in adding the gelatin [made from that animal] to the food in such a minute amount that it is completely absorbed in it.

Question: Gelatine substance is normally made from the bones of a cow. If it is taken from animals not slaughtered in the Islamic manner, with the knowledge that it is not permissible to eat it, is it ruled to be ritually pure for external usage?

Answer: Yes, because the bone is from the part in which life does not dwell; therefore, it is ritually pure, even if it were from a dead (animal).

Question: What is the general rule about foods made by Ahl-e Kitab (People of the Books)?

Answer: Since the followers of the past revealed religions (that is, the Jews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians) are ritually pure, many of the problems concerning the status and permissibility of the food are resolved when we live in their midst. It becomes permissible for us as Muslims to eat from their food no matter whether they touched it with their wet hands or not as long as we do not know or are not sure that it consists of what is forbidden to us, like intoxicating drinks. As for meat, fat and their extracts, they are haram and cannot be used unless one is sure that they are halal.

Question: Can we eat food cooked by a non Muslim when we do not know whether or not it is clean?

Answer: A Muslim is allowed to eat any food made by a person whose faith and religion is not known to him, no matter whether that person touched it with wetness or did not touch it, provided that he does not know or is not sure that the food consists of what is forbidden to him.

Question: What kind of marine animals are halal?

Answer: It is not permissible to eat from marine animals anything except fish that has scale; shrimp is considered from that category [of permissible sea animals]. But other than fish, like lobster, and similarly the fish that does not have scale is forbidden. Allãh knows the best.

Question: I am interested in the reasons why in Shi’i fiqh shrimp are halal but lobsters and crabs are haram. [All three belong to the order Decapoda.] I have read that shrimp are regarded as ”locust” of the sea, which makes them halal for food. From a biological point of view, this idea does not make any sense to me.

Answer: Salaamun ‘Alaykum,

As far as sea food is concerned, only that fish which has scales may be consumed. In addition, it must be alive when caught from the water. Crabs are not classified as fish and may not be consumed. There is some differences amongst certain ulama’ regarding lobsters but the general consensus seems to be that it should not be consumed.


Sayyed Khameini

Question: Certain food in the west contain emulsifiers, indicated with an e-nummer on the food package. Examples of such are:

E120 Cochineal : a red colour obtained from female insects.

E441 Gelatine : derived from the bones and/ or hides of cattle and/ or pigs.

Some of these e-numbers indicate that certain parts added to the food are from (haram) animals or insects.

1. Should one avoid eating anything that indicates with such e-numbers that it contains strains of (haram) animal or insects?

2. When an e-number indicated what is added to the food, but not what it is derived from (animal or plant)? Does it become haram on precaution? Or may one eat it?

Answer: Salamun `alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu.

With apologies for the delay, the answer is as follows:

Bismihi Ta`ala

If you know that it has been taken from a haraam thing (e.g. insect or pig’s bone) eating it is haraam. But, if you do not know from what thing it has been taken and there is a probability that it may be taken from a halaal thing, it is not a problem.

With prayers for your success,

wassalam.

Issue: Gelatin Imported from Non-Islamic Countries.

Answer: One may eat food containing gelatin provided that one knows it is obtained from the bone of a ḥalāl meat animal like a cow.

Issue: Doubted Gelatin

Answer: To transform materials from religiously edible or non-edible animals into gelatin is not categorized as istiḥālah (metamorphosis). But, if there are two — ḥalāl and ḥarām — types of gelatin and you do not know the one you want to eat belongs to which group, it is ruled to be ḥalāl.

Question: What is the ruling of eating foreign meat on which the word ”ḥalāl-slaughtered” is written? Knowing that there are Muslims living in this country and it is not possible to know whether it is ritually slaughtered or not.

Answer: The mere writing is not a shar‘ī evidence for ritual slaughtering unless it brings confidence in which case eating it is allowed.

Question: Is the substance glyceride or triglyceride ḥarām? In other words, is eating food products that contain such substances ḥarām? These substances are available in many food products even in some kinds of bread.

Answer: Generally speaking, unless food contains a ḥarām or najis material, consuming it is not problematic. To determine whether a food contains such a material or not is the very mukallaf’s duty.

Question: 

1) Is ethyl alcohol impure [najis] or not? (Apparently it is this type of alcohol that is present in intoxicants, which causes of intoxication.)

2) What is the criterion for the impurity of alcohol?

3) What is the method of ascertaining whether a drink is intoxicating?

4) What is meant by industrial alcohol?

Answer: 

1) All the various kinds of alcohol that are intoxicating and originally in a liquid form are impure [najis].

2) That it be intoxicating and originally a liquid.

3) If the person bound by religious obligation [mukallaf] is not sure, then the information provided by reliable specialists will be sufficient.

4) It is an alcohol that is used for making colors, paints, and other similar products.

Question: 

1) Is ethyl alcohol impure [najis] or not? (Apparently it is this type of alcohol that is present in intoxicants, which causes of intoxication.)

2) What is the criterion for the impurity of alcohol?

3) What is the method of ascertaining whether a drink is intoxicating?

4) What is meant by industrial alcohol?

Answer: 

1) All the various kinds of alcohol that are intoxicating and originally in a liquid form are impure [najis].

2) That it be intoxicating and originally a liquid.

3) If the person bound by religious obligation [mukallaf] is not sure, then the information provided by reliable specialists will be sufficient.

4) It is an alcohol that is used for making colors, paints, and other similar products.

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