Another question which was put to me while discussing the eating of meat, presented by Ahl e Kitab, on which God’s name has not been pronounced, is the Hadith of Ayesha. You have also mentioned this Hadith in your Article regarding “Directives of Shari’ah Regarding Edibles“.
The Hadith is as under.
According to Ayesha (ra) people from amongst the Bedouins would bring us meat. We used to be unsure whether they had pronounced God’s name on such meat or not. The Prophet (pbuh), [when asked about such meat] said: ‘Pronounce God’s name upon the meat [as a Muslim should on every food] and eat it’1.
The question is that it is not mentioned in this Hadith whether Bedouin who brought the meat to Ayesha (ra) was a Muslim, Christian or Jew or a Sabi or among the Mushrayqeen and Ayesha (ra) did not try to ascertain that.
Also the Prophet (pbuh) just asked her to ‘Pronounce God’s name upon it and eat it’. So should we do the same?
This is precisely the kind of confusion that is likely to arise when one tries to derive laws of the Shari`ah solely on the basis of one’s interpretation of Hadith, without taking into consideration the clear directives of the Qur’an. Some basic principles, which, in my opinion, must be kept in mind while interpreting Hadith and deriving laws from them are as follows:
Firstly, we must appreciate and realize that narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) may or may not narrate all the relevant details of a given incident. Thus, given the stress of the Qur’an on taking God’s name while slaughtering animals, it is highly unlikely, even if someone does not consider it impossible, that the Prophet (pbuh) or Ayesha (ra) would have ignored investigating about the beliefs of the people who had sent the meat. In my opinion, the narrator has obviously missed narrating this important information relating to this incident.
Secondly, in view of the foregoing possible vacuum in the reporting of incidents, it is necessary that we should first fully understand the laws of the Shari`ah, as they have been given in the Qur’an and then try to interpret these narratives and fill in these potential vacuums in the light of our understanding of the laws, as derived from the Qur’an.
Thirdly, to fill in all the potential vacuums in the narration of incidents, as found in individual Hadiths, it is essential that we should first try to gather all the related individual narratives of the same incident and then try to make as comprehensive a picture of the incident as is possible2. Thus, applying this principle, we see that the same narrative has been reported in Bukhariy in slightly different words, providing the information which was lacking in the cited narrative. In Bukhariy’s narrative no. 6963, Ayesha (ra) is reported to have said:
يا رسول الله إن هنا أقواما حديثا عهدهم بشرك يأتوننا بلحمان لا ندري يذكرون اسم الله عليها أم لا
Prophet of God, these are a people who not so long ago were polytheists. They bring us meat regarding which we are not certain whether they have pronounced God’s name on it or not. [What should we do under these circumstances?]
To this, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have replied:
اذكروا أنتم اسم الله وكلوا
[Under these circumstances,] you should pronounce God’s name on the meat and eat it.
It is quite clear from this text of the incident that the people who had sent the meat were, in fact, Muslims. Ayesha (ra) had only expressed her concern in eating of this meat because of the fact that these new Muslims may have overlooked pronouncing God’s name on the meat being new to Islam and having lived their lives as polytheists.
Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, let us now take a look at your question. You ask:
… the Prophet (pbuh) just asked her to ‘Pronounce God’s name upon it and eat it’. So should we do the same?
With reference to the teaching derived from the referred narrative, I have written in my referred article:
Moreover, another question that may arise in one’s mind relates to a situation of doubt. What should one do, if one is not certain whether God’s name has been pronounced on an animal or not? In such a situation, if the slaughterer is a Muslim or ascribes to any such other creed which considers the pronouncement of God’s name at the time of slaughter to be essential – as was the case of the Ahl e Kitaab (the Jews and the Christians) in the Arabian Peninsula, at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an and is still, generally, the case with the Jews and some Christians – then the meat would be eaten on the confidence that such a person would have pronounced God’s name on his slaughter.
I hope this helps.
February 11, 2003
- This narrative has been wrongly referenced in the referred article. This narrative has, in fact, been reported in Nassaiy’s ‘Sunan’, narrative no. 4436. [↩]
- Nevertheless, it should be noted that even after taking into consideration all of the various narratives of a given incident, it is still possible that a number of pertinent and, sometimes, extremely significant parts of information remain hidden. Therefore, even after taking all of the relevant narratives into consideration, it remains indispensable that we should try to interpret these narratives in the light of the information provided in and directives given in the Qur’an. [↩]