Shafaqna (Shia International News Association) – The Grand Ayatollah Sistani answered some questions regarding eating and drinking.According to Shafaqna the questions and answers are as follows:
Question1: On the package of meat that is produced in Muslim countries by non-Muslim companies, it says, “slaughtered according to Islamic laws”. Are we allowed to eat that meat? Can we eat that meat, if it comes from Muslim companies in non-Muslim countries? And what is the ruling, if the source is non-Muslim company from a non-Muslim country?
Answer: The writing [on the package] has no value at all. If the producer is a Muslim or it was produced in a place where Muslims are in the majority and it is not known that the producer is a non-Muslim, then it is permissible to eat it.But if the producer is a non-Muslim or it was produced in a place where Muslims are not in the majority and it is not known that the producer is Muslim, then it is not permissible to eat it.
Question2: We enter some super markets in Europe and find meat in tin containers produced by a European company with the writing on the package that conveys the sense of it being “halãl” or “slaughtered according to Islamic laws”. Is it permissible to buy and eat such meat?
Answer: The writing [on the package] has no value if it does not lead to certainty [that it is actually halãl].
Question3: Meat companies slaughter a large number of chickens at one time [that is, simultaneously]. Now if the person running the slaughtering machine is a Muslim, who says takbír and says the name of Allãh only once at the time of slaughtering all the chicken [simultaneously], is it permissible for us to eat those chickens? If we have doubt about these chickens being halãl, can we [ignore that doubt and] eat them and consider them pure (tãhir)?
Answer: If he repeats the name of Allãh as long as the machine is continuing to slaughter, it is sufficient. In the event of doubt about its being halãl (a doubt which arises concerning the mentioning of the name of Allãh), it can be considered pure and be consumed.
Question4: Is it permissible to buy meat thinking that it is slaughtered according to Islamic laws from a super-market owned by a Muslim who [also] sells alcoholic drinks?
Answer: Yes, it is permissible; and it is halãl to eat, even if it previously came from a non-Muslim as long as there is a likelihood that the shopkeeper has ascertained that it was slaughtered according to the shari‘a laws; but not if there is no such likelihood.
Question5: Some of the cheese manufactured in non-Muslim countries contain rennet extracted from the calf or other animals. We do not know whether the rennet was taken from the animal that was slaughtered according to Islamic laws; neither do we know that it has transformed into something else. So is it permissible to eat such cheese?
Answer: There is no problem in eating such cheese.
Question6: Gelatin is used in a number of drinks and food items in the West. We do not know that gelatin has been extracted from a vegetable or an animal source; and that if it is from an animal, is it from its bones or from the tissues around the bones; neither do we know if the animal was one that is halãl for us or harãm. Are we allowed to eat such gelatin?
Answer: It is permissible to eat if the doubt is whether it has been extracted from an animal or vegetable. But, if it is known that it was derived from an animal, then it is not permissible to eat without ascertaining that the animal was slaughtered according to sharí‘a. This prohibition applies, as a matter of obligatory precaution, even if it was extracted from animal bones.Of course, if a chemical change occurs in the original ingredients during the process of manufacturing the gelatin, there is no problem at all in eating it. Similarly, even if one has doubt whether the animal was slaughtered Islamically or not, still there is no problem in adding the gelatin [made from that animal] to the food in such a minute amont that it is completely absorbed in it.
Question7: Commercial fishing vessels place their huge nets [in the sea] and catch tons of fish which are then sold in the markets. It is well known that modern methods of fishing are based on catching the fish alive, and that the fishermen throw the dead fish back into the water for fear of contamination.Therefore, is it permissible for us to buy such fish in the markets of non-Muslims? Is it permissible for us to buy such fish from Muslims who are not considerate of religious laws? In both the cases to ascertain that this particular fish in front of me was taken out of the water alive, should seek the advice of an expert and reliable witness to testify to that fact which may prove difficult, impractical, and unrealistic.So, is there a solution for practicing Muslims who face difficulty in ascertaining whether or not the meat of chicken, cow or sheep is halãl, and therefore take to eating fish instead?
Answer: There is no problem in buying it from Muslims or non-Muslims; as there is no problem in eating it, if they are satisfied that the fish was caught by the method mentioned above and that it belongs to the category of scale fish.
Question8: At times we find the name or picture of fish on the cans and come to know that the fish is a scale fish. So, is it permissible for us to rely on the name or the picture in determining the category of fish, knowing well that a wrong statement of this kind would put the manufacturers in great loss or even more serious [situation] than just a loss?
Answer: If one is satisfied it is the truth, it is permissible to act upon it.
Question9: Is it permissible to eat lobster, in all its varieties, by following the pattern of shrimp?
Answer: It is not permissible to eat lobster.
Question10: Is it permissible to buy a fish from a Muslim who is not a Shi‘a while we have no knowledge whether it is from the category of scale fish or not?
Answer: It is permissible to buy it but one cannot eat it unless he makes sure that it is from the category of scale fish.
Question11: Is it permissible to eat halãl food which has been steam cooked with the steam of meat not slaughtered according to Islamic laws?
Answer: It is not permissible since the food, as mentioned in the question, will be considered impure (najis) because of coming into contact with the wet parts from the steam of the impure meat.
Question12: If wine is served at a table, it is harãm for a Muslim to sit at that table. What is meant by “table”? Does this apply to the entire group [that has gone to the restaurant and some are being served alcohol] even if the tables are more than one? Or does it only apply to one table [and not the group], in the sense that if there are two separate tables, it would be permissible to sit [at the table on which alcohol is not being served, even if they are part of the same company]?
Answer: The criterion is one table. However, one should know that the prohibition of sitting at a table on which wine or intoxicant drinks are being served is based on precaution; of course, eating and drinking at that table is harãm based on obligatory precaution.
Question13: A Muslim enters a café and sits down at a table to drink tea, then a stranger comes at the same table to drink wine. Is it obligatory upon the Muslim to stop drinking tea and leave?
Answer: Yes, as mentioned earlier, it is obligatory to move away from that table.
Question14: Is it permissible to drink beer that says “alcohol free” on it?
Answer: It is not permissible to drink, if “beer” means the drink made from barley that causes mild drunkenness. But if it means a drink made from barley that does not cause mild drunkenness, there is no problem in it.
Question15 : Alcohol is used in the production of many drugs and medications: Is it permissible to take them? Are they considered pure (tãhir)?
Answer: They are pure; and since the alcohol used in them is so minute that it dissolves in them, it is therefore permissible to take them also.
Source: Ayatollah Sistani