Recently a friend of mine went on a foreign tour. Before going there, we had discussions regarding food - what to eat and what not to eat. One thing is for sure.. muslims are damn serious when 'halal' food is concerned and they, either residing in non-muslim countries or on a visit to such countries, remain extra careful. Whether the animal was properly slaughtered (zabeeha), whether God's name was pronounced before slaughtering the animal, that it should not be pork. Things like that. Not that I mind it :p
The trouble starts when say you are in a restaurant and order food, no one knows whether its 'halal' or not. When you buy meat and it does not have a 'halal' sticker on it! When you are invited over to a non-muslim friend's place and your mind starts playing games on you regarding food! Do you tell you friend that you wont eat this food?! Do you ask him whether he pronounced God's name on it?!
Lets see what God states..
6:118 - You shall eat from that upon which GOD's name has been pronounced, if you truly believe in His revelations.
There are two main topics of discussion. 1) Whether Quran suggests that God's name should be taken when slaughtering the animal OR 2) Quran suggests that God's name should be taken before you eat! Normally muslims take the former situation as an obligation and the latter as the preferred thing to do. Mores of sorts.
When it comes to the question 'how the animal was slaughtered' then there is no information regarding that in Quran. Muslims slaughter the animals in a particular way. To quote 'The ‘slaughtering’ is to be done by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck causing the animal’s death, but without cutting the spinal cord.' Since there is no information from God regarding how the animal should be slaughtered so the choice is yours. If you think that medically its fit to eat the animal as slaughtered in the above manner, good for you. It wont become 'haram' if you ate an animal slaughtered in another way.
Now the big question is what does Quran suggest regarding taking of God's name on food.
6:121 - Do not eat from that upon which the name of GOD has not been mentioned, for it is an abomination. The devils inspire their allies to argue with you; if you obey them, you will be idol worshipers.
This is a clear injunction regarding food. Do not eat from anything on which God's name has not been mentioned. So the butcher most probably would have taken God's name and then slaughtered the animal. Very nice so far. The problem arises when you are not in an Islamic country or when you do not know whether the source of this food has taken God's name. This becomes extremely cumbersome for muslims because every effort is being spent to know the source of the food. I do not think that is so feasible. Why would God make it so difficult for muslims when they have to visit a non-muslim country or when they reside there?
There is an other view. An opinion says that since the verse uses the word 'eat' so this implies that you do not have to worry how the animal was slaughtered or whether God's name was taken on it, you just pronounce God's name before 'eating'! Sounds logical enough. But the counter argument given, and I quote "What it would mean then is that if we eat edibles without pronouncing bismillah before doing so, we will be committing clear transgression. In other words, even while eating rice, sweets, or anything, if the ritual is not adopted we will be sinners". Now God would not make life so miserable for muslims like this too! And honestly I keep forgetting saying Bismillah (In the Name of God) before eating my food!
So what is it actually? Lets probe further.
6:119 - Why should you not eat from that upon which GOD's name has been mentioned? He has detailed for you what is prohibited for you, unless you are forced. Indeed, many people mislead others with their personal opinions, without knowledge. Your Lord is fully aware of the transgressors.
So what is prohibited?
16:115 - He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and any (food) over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Verse 2:173 states the same. "I" think the answer to this lies in this verse. It states "Any food over which the name of others than Allah has been invoked". Any offering made to an entity other than God is prohibited. Its not about normal meal that you eat but rather the specific meal made as offering to gods or meal that has some religious significance to it.
Consider the following verses...
6:136 - Out of what Allah hath produced in abundance in tilth and in cattle, they assigned Him a share: they say, according to their fancies: "This is for Allah, and this" - for our "partners"! but the share of their" partners "reacheth not Allah, whilst the share of Allah reacheth their "partners" ! evil (and unjust) is their assignment!
6:138 - They said, "These are livestock and crops that are prohibited; no one shall eat them except whomever we permit," so they claimed. They also prohibited the riding of certain livestock. Even the livestock they ate, they never pronounced GOD's name as they sacrificed them. Such are innovations attributed to Him. He will surely requite them for their innovations.
6:139 - They say: "What is in the wombs of such and such cattle is specially reserved for our men, and forbidden to our women; but if it is still-born, then all have share therein. For their (false) attribution, He will soon punish them: for He is full of wisdom and knowledge.
Get the drift? So the prohibition is, in 'my' opinion, only for that food which is offering for gods and not Allah. Next time you are in a non-muslim country, do not fret over food and enjoy eating it. When a non-muslim friend of yours brings you food prepared in his home, eat it! This in no way is a suggestion that Gods name before slaughtering 'should not' be taken or not taken before eating! These are very good acts and should be done!
6:145 - Say: "I find not in the message received by me by inspiration any (meat) forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be dead meat, or blood poured forth, or the flesh of swine,- for it is an abomination - or, what is impious, (meat) on which a name has been invoked, other than Allah's". But (even so), if a person is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- thy Lord is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
God even still, makes things easy for us. You can eat it when forced by necessity, without willful disobedience and not transgressing limits!
Comments are more than welcome. I believe its a learning initiative.