Permitting the Slaughtered Animals of the Ahlul Kitab [People of the Book]
In the first ayah of Surah al-Ma’idah, the lawfulness of domestic animals such as the goat, cow and buffalo has been described. The third ayah has a detail of nine kinds of unlawful animals. From that detail to the opening sentence of the present ayah, we come to know in summation the essentials of the lawfulness and unlawfulness of animals as well as its operating standard and rule.
The ayah opens with the following words:
الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَـتُ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَـبَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ
“Made lawful to you this day are At-Tayyibat. The food of the People of the Scripture is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them.”
Here, this day means the day on which this ayah and those before it have been revealed, that is, the Day of Arafah in the Last Hajj of Hijrah 10. The sense is that the way your Faith has been made perfect and the blessing of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala stands completed for you on this day, similarly, good things from Allah which were already lawful for you have been allowed to stay lawful forever. The probability that the command could be withdrawn does not exist anymore because the ongoing process of revelation was to be discontinued.
This ruling, that the slaughtered animals of the People of the Book are permissible for Muslims, is agreed on by the scholars, because the People of the Book believe that slaughtering for other than Allah is prohibited. They mention Allah’s Name upon slaughtering their animals, even though they have deviant beliefs about Allah that do not befit His majesty.
It is recorded in the saheeh that Abdullah bin Mughaffal said, “While we were attacking the fort of Khaybar, a person threw a leather bag containing fat, and I ran to take it and said, `I will not give anyone anything from this container today.’ But when I turned I saw the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam (standing behind) while smiling.”
The scholars rely on this hadeeth as evidence that we are allowed to eat what we need of foods from the booty before it is divided. The scholars of the Hanafi, the Shafi`i and the Hanbali Madhhabs rely on this hadeeth to allow eating parts of the slaughtered animals of the Jews that they prohibit for themselves, such as the fat. They used this hadeeth as evidence against the scholars of the Maliki Madhhab who disagreed with this ruling.
A better proof is the hadeeth recorded in the saheeh that the people of Khaybar gave the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam a gift of a roasted leg of sheep, which they poisoned. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam used to like eating the leg of the sheep and he took a bite from it, but it told the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam that it was poisoned, so he discarded that bite. The bite that the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam took affected the palate of his mouth, while Bishr bin Al-Bara’ bin Ma`rur died from eating from that sheep. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam had the Jewish woman, Zaynab, who poisoned the sheep, killed. Therefore, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam and his Companions wanted to eat from that sheep and did not ask the Jews if they removed what the Jews believed was prohibited for them, such as its fat. Allah’s statement,
وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ
“and your food is lawful to them.” means, you are allowed to feed them from your slaughtered animals just as you are allowed to eat from theirs, as equal compensation and fair treatment. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam gave his robe to Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, who was wrapped with it when he died. They say that he did that because Abdullah had given his robe to Al-Abbas when Al-Abbas came to Madina. As for the hadeeth,
لَا تَصْحَبْ إِلَّا مُؤْمِنًا، وَلَا يَأْكُلْ طَعَامَكَ إِلَّا تَقِي
“Do not befriend but a believer, nor should other than a Taqi (pious person) eat your food.” This is to encourage such behavior, and Allah knows best.