Doubting Your Food
by Ustadh Omar Baig (Mississauga, Ontario)
I finally arrived at Burger Factory. Oh man, I’m starving! I haven’t eaten all day. This place definitely has the best burgers in town. Even this brother is heading in the same direction.
“Salām brother! You off to Burger Factory as well? Wait… What?! Harām?! It says it’s halāl right there on the window!
Zabīha halāl? How many types of halāl are there?!? Why is halāl so complicated?
Doesn’t saying bismillāh make everything halāl anyway?
The owner says the meat is hand-slaughtered and halāl though! Doubtful?? How?!? Come on brother, you’re killing me… literally… by starvation.”
Well, I guess he is trying to help me stay away from doubtful foods. After all, the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) has mentioned in a ḥadith, “Stay away from that which is doubtful and instead adopt those things which have no doubt.”
Wait, when is something NOT doubtful? There is always a doubt unless you’ve seen it done yourself. So does that mean I have to start growing my own vegetables, slaughtering my own meat, have my own little farm in my backyard? (Is that even legal?) Do I have to make sure the goat was good to its parents? What if its parents already died?! What about the opinion of saying bimillāh makes everything halāl? Where does that fit? Either it’s fardh for every Muslim to be a farmer or I must be missing something here.
When looking at the life of the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace), we see that he always kept a balance in his life. When food would come from Muslims or any reliable source, he would urge us to say bismillāh as we normally do, continue our meal, and not let any baseless doubts bother us. At the same time, the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) always exercised extreme caution when there was a legitimate doubt and ordered us to do the same. If the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) actually meant saying bismillāh makes everything halāl, what would be the point of mentioning all the rules of slaughter? Almost every book of ḥadith and jurisprudence has tons of pages just explaining these rules. If one magic word could make everything halāl, what was the need to write such lengthy chapters about slaughtering? None of them even mentioned this hocus-pocus which would make everything halāl!
This would also explain why this ‘opinion’ was never mentioned by any of the companions, the salaf al-sālihīn, or any famous jurist in the history of Islam.
The Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) stressed caution in making sure we eat halāl food to the extent that he said, “A body nourished with harām cannot enter jannah.” The way of the pious predecessors and those who followed was that they would always exercise caution in matters of halāl and harām whenever there was an actual reason to doubt, but would never let baseless doubts get in their way.
I’ve just called to check the source of the meat and found out it’s fine. Whew! Now since that is out of the way, I think it’s time to say bismillah!