Question: There has been some debate at my masjid regarding the permissibility of eating the food of Ahl al Kitab. My Imam says that the verse prohibitng the eating of food on which the name of Allah had not been said was abrogated by the verse that permitted the eating of the food of Ahl al Kitab. His proof is this hadith from Sunan Abi Dawud:
حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن ثابت المروزي حدثني علي بن حسين عن أبيه عن يزيد النحوي عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس قال
فكلوا مما ذكر اسم الله عليه
ولا تأكلوا مما لم يذكر اسم الله عليه
فنسخ واستثنى من ذلك فقال
وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم وطعامكم حل لهم
in which Ibn Abbas cites the same opinion. Is this hadith authentic, and if it is, then how do the Hanafis and Hanbalis who hold contrary opinions to this hadith answer it?
Reply: The details of this issue can be found in sufficient detail in Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him)’s book Aḥkām al-Dhabāʾiḥ, translated by White Thread Press as The Islamic Laws of Animal Slaughter.
As for the particular hadith in question, the short answer to it is as follows:
The report is not in fact a prophetic tradition but the statement of a Companion. According to juristic principles, the ijtihād of a Companion, before being accepted, must be properly weighed with Quranic injunctions and then the prophetic narrations. Then it will also be compared to the statements of other Companions.
Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī mentions in his voluminous tafsīr work: “The scholars have differed regarding this verse (referring to the verse in the hadith that is claimed to be abrogated); was its ruling abrogated or not? Some scholars said, ‘No part of the verse has been abrogated, and it is conclusive in what it means and intends. This is the opinion of the majority of the people of knowledge.”
Some scholars, such as Ḥasan al-Baṣrī and ʿIkramah (may Allah have mercy on them) agreed with ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbbās’s (may Allah be pleased with him) opinion and claimed that the portion of the verse that necessitated the tasmiyah (declaring Allah’s name) had been abrogated. They also claimed that the rest of the verse’s ruling, however, remained un-abrogated.
According to the majority of scholars, however, the verse has not been partially abrogated, as both verses can be practiced upon with[out] any need to abrogate one or the other.
The erudite hadith scholar Imam Khalīl Aḥmad al-Sahāranpūrī writes in his commentary on Abū Dāwūd entitled Badhl al-Majhūd:
“The correct opinion in regards to this issue is that the verse according to us is conclusive and nothing of it has been abrogated.” (Badhl 9:573)
In essence, the meat of the Ahl al-Kitab is halal and their sacrificed animals are pure, but the necessity to call out Allah’s name at the time of sacrifice will apply to the Ahl al-Kitab just as it applies to Muslims. To incline towards the opinion of abrogation would necessitate the partial abrogation of a verse of the Qur’an, and such is not preferred or even necessary.
At the same time, remember that there is no guarantee today that the meat that is widely available in the marketplace is even being slaughtered by believing Ahl al-Kitab. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the meat industry can tell you that there is no guarantee that Ahl al-Kitab are slaughtering the animals and not atheists or polytheists.
Many factories/slaughterhouses today are entirely automated and nearly void of human supervision. Worse is the fact that a large portion of slaughtered animals are stunned so severely (using captive bolts, electric shocking, CO2 suffocation, etc…) that they die before their necks are even cut. This would render the animal as a maytah (carrion) and no scholar of Islam has claimed that a maytah is halal.
And Allah knows best.