|Cheese with animal Rennet!
By Shaykh Salman bin Fahd al-�Awdah
There is no problem using the rennet extracted from animals
that were slaughtered according to Islamic Law. However, there is a lot of
cheese in our markets coming from non-Muslim countries containing bovine rennet.
The question arises as to whether or not we as Muslims can eat this cheese.
Cheese made with rennet extracted from animals that were illegally slaughtered
was deemed permissible by Imam Ahmad, as stipulated in al-Mughn� (1/3). Muslims
used to eat the cheese brought from the Magians and other unbelievers.
The people of knowledge have two sayings on this
opinion of the majority is that such rennet is impure, [refer to: al-Qaw�n�n al-Fiqhiyyah
page 121, al-Majm�`2/588, Nih�yat al-Muht�j1/244, Sharh Muntah� al-Irad�t 1/31,
al-Ins�f 92/1, al-Iqn�` 1/1]. They believed the rennet is impure because it
comes from an impure source, the stomach of the illegally slaughtered animal.
They say it is a liquid material that touched an impure substance and thus
becomes impure. Imam al-Nawaw� said: "It is part of the animal so it is impure,
like all the other parts of the animal."
The other saying is that it is pure. This is the opinion of some of the
Companions and successors, `Umar, Salm�n al-F�ris�, Talh�, al-Husayn b. `Ali and
others. It is also the opinion of the Hanaf� school of thought, one narration
from Ahmad, and the opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah, [refer to: Bad�'` al-San�'`1/63,
al-Bahr al-Ra'q 1/112, Taby�n al-Haqa'q 1/26, Ihk�m al-Qur'an by al-Jass�s
1/168, al-Mabs�t 24/27-28, Majm�` al-Fat�wa 21/102].
In his book al-Mughn�, Ibn Qud�mah writes: "Someone asked Imam Ahmad about
cheese. The Imam replied: 'You can eat it from any source.' But, when asked
about the cheese made by the Magians, he said: 'I do not know, but there is an
authentic had�th through al-A`mash that `Amr b. Sharhab�l said that `Umar was
asked about cheese and the rennet of illegally slaughtered animal used therein.
`Umar instructed him to mention Allah's name upon it and eat it."
They offer the following for evidence:
had�th related by Ibn Ab� Shaybah (5/130) and `Abd al-Razz�q (4/538) through al-A`mash,
as mentioned above. The line of transmission of this had�th is absolutely sound.
Imam Ahmad said: "It is the most correct had�th on the subject."
2. The narration of Ibn Ab� Shaybah (5/131) that Talhah used to put the knife
over the cheese, mention Allah's name, then cut it and eat it. This also has a
sound line of transmission.
3. The narration of Ibn Ab� Shaybah through Waq�` that al-Hasan B. `Ali was
asked about the cheese. He said: "It is alright, just put the knife to it,
mention Allah's name, and eat it." All its narrators are reliable save Jahsh b.
4. The narration of al-Tirmidh� (1726) and Ibn M�jah (3367): "We were informed
by Ism�`�l b. M�sa al-Fazar� through Salm�n that the Prophet (peace be upon him)
was asked about ghee, cheese and fur. He replied: "The lawful things are the
ones mentioned in Allah's book as lawful and the unlawful things are the ones
which are mentioned in Allah's book as unlawful, and whatever is not mentioned
there, then it is exempted". It is a weak had�th. Ibn Ab� Shaybah mentioned in
his book al-Musannaf (8/98) that he was informed by Waq�' through Suwayyid, the
servant of Salm�n, that he said: "When we won the battle of Mad�'in, Salm�n
said: 'We had found a basket in which we found four pieces of fine bread, cheese
and a knife. Then Salm�n took the knife and cut the cheese then he said:
"Pronounce Allah's name and eat".' " The line of transmission is weak.
5. They said the milk and the rennet will not become impure after death and
whatever is extracted from the living animal becomes as if dead. Therefore,
since milk is lawful in such cases, then rennet is lawful.
Ibn Taymiyah said:
Regarding the milk and the rennet of unlawfully slaughtered
animals, there are two saying from the scholars; one that it is pure, held by
Ab� Han�fah and others, including one saying of Imam Ahmad. The other saying is
that it is impure which is the saying of Malik, al-Shafi`� and another opinion
of Imam Ahmad.
This disagreement took place regarding the cheese brought from the Magians as
their slaughtered animals are totally unlawful by consensus. Still, there are
two sayings about their cheese. I believe their cheese is lawful, since the milk
of the illegally slaughtered animals is lawful and because the Companions ate
from their cheese after the battle of Iraq. This has been authentically narrated
to us from that time.
There are some weak narrations that some people from Hij�z disliked it, but they
are not reliable. The people of Iraq are more trustworthy than others in this
case because they lived there and knew the Magians firsthand. Salm�n al-Faris�
was the Caliph `Umar's governer in that area and he considered the cheese of the
Magians to be lawful.
As for the argument that a liquid will become impure when it
touches an impure place, we reply that it is known from Sunnah that the liquid
is pure. We also say that even if it touches an impure place that will not
matter. Allah says: "From what is within their bodies between excretions and
blood we produce for you a drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink
it." This is why it is permissible to carry a child while praying despite of
what is inside his body. And Allah knows best.
On the strength of the above arguments, I hold the opinion that eating cheese is
lawful even if the rennet is extracted from unlawfully slaughtered animals.
And Allah knows best.