(Picture of Yaser Birjas)
Yaser Birjas and Yasir Qadhi, both instructors at al-Maghrib Institute, had a debate on whether it is permissible to eat meat from the People of the Book (Ahl-e-Kitaab), i.e. the Jews and Christians, in the USA. Part-1 and Part-2 of the debate between Yaser Birjas and Yasir Qadhi can be heard on youtube.
While Yasir Qadhi’s position in this instance is correct (a rarity indeed) — that it is not allowed for Muslims to eat any unslaughtered meat, including chicken, from American fast-food restaurants — Yaser Birjas begged to differ. Yaser Birjas firmly believes that eating chicken at McDonalds and other such places in the USA is permissible. This is clear from Yaser Birjas’s words at the very end of the debate in Part-2, when he clearly confessed to eating such meat:
“I was eating chicken, he [meaning Yasir Qadhi] was eating something else.”
But eating such chicken is no laughing matter. It is haraam. Like Yasir Qadhi, Yaser Birjas is not qualified to give a fiqhi opinion on the matter. Even worse, Yaser Birjas says he derives his position on the permissibility of eating chicken at US fast-food restaurants from the Shafi’i madhab (!). This is a gross misrepresentation of the Shafi’i madhab which Yaser Birjas should repent for. Such blunders are inevitable when non-scholars like Yaser Birjas play scholar on fiqhi issues when they are clearly not in a position to do so. One can only wonder how many youth were misguided by Yaser Birjas’s position that Muslims can eat chicken in US fast-food restaurants “because they are People of the Book.”
SHAYKH HAMZA KARAMALI EXPLAINS THE SHAFI’I POSITION ON MEAT IN THE USA
Shaykh Hamza Karamali of Qibla (formerly Sunnipath Academy) explains the incorrect understanding that some people (like Yaser Birjas) have of the Shafi’i madhab’s position on the matter. It is worth reading Shaykh Karamali’s response in full to understand how Yaser Birjas misrepresented the Shafi’i madhab.
A questioner asked:
“Could you please explain to me the position of the Shafi’i madhhab on eating the meat of those who call themselves Christians, in the West, for example, Mcdonalds? Is it halal to eat this type of meat?”
Shaykh Karamali responded:
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
I pray that this message finds you well. May Allah reward you for asking this important question.
It is not permissible to eat meat unless it fulfills the conditions of a valid Islamic slaughter. Meat that hasn’t been Islamically slaughtered is called “carrion” (Ar. maytah) and Allah Most High clearly prohibits the consumption of carrion in many verses, such as “Prohibited for you are: carrion, blood, …” (5:3).
The meat that is sold in supermarkets and restaurants in countries with small Muslim populations, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries, does not generally meet the conditions of a valid Islamic slaughter and is not permissible to eat.
Some Muslims argue that the Shafi`i school permits eating such meat. This is a mistake. The meat that is prevalently available in such lands is not halal and impermissible to eat even according to the Shafi`i school.
The Muslims who mistakenly ascribe this position to the Shafi`i school argue that (1) since the Shafi`i school does not require the slaughterer to recite the name of Allah while slaughtering, and (2) since the Quran permits us to eat the meat of Christians, the meat found in supermarkets and restaurants is permissible to consume. This reasoning is incorrect on both of its premises.
The first premise is a true premise but makes a number of incorrect assumptions. It is, in fact, true that reciting the name of Allah while slaughtering is not a requirement in the Shafi`i school. However, the Shafi`i school–like other schools –makes other stipulations regarding a valid slaughter that are generally not met in non-Muslim countries. For example, the slaughter is only valid if the windpipe and gullet of the animal is severed with a sharp instrument. Killing the animal through electrocution or a through a shot to the head violates this condition and the resulting dead animal is not permissible to eat at all. This is, in fact, how most meat is slaughtered in non-Muslim countries.
The second premise also does not lend credence to the argument because according to the Shafi`is, the meat validly slaughtered by Christians (i.e. by severing the windpipe and gullet with a sharp instrument) is only permissible to eat if the Christians meet certain stringent conditions. The vast majority of Christians alive today don’t meet these stringent conditions and their slaughtered meat is not permissible to eat in the Shafi`i school.  So, if anything, the Shafi`i school is even stricter than other schools when it comes to the permissibility of eating meat that is slaughtered by the People of the Book.
And Allah Most High knows best.
 The Shafi`is stipulate that the Christian whose slaughtered meat is permissible to eat is someone who has an uninterrupted Christian lineage all the way back to pre-Islamic times. If the Christian is of non-Israelite descent, then this needs to be positively established (virtually impossible in our times). If the Christian is of Israelite descent, then the conditions are less stringent.
Reference: Hashiyat al-Jamal `ala Fath al-Wahhab
MMVIII © Qibla.
The Shafi’i Fiqh Fatwa Department was also asked the same question.
“Allah made it lawful to eat the meat of the people of the book/scripture…Now in the U.S.A. does the same apply to fast food places that sell chicken and you do not know how it was killed?”
Regarding a Muslim consuming meat whilst residing in a minority context, Imam Nawawi mentioned,
“What if an animal is found slaughtered, and it is not known whether or not the one who slaughtered it was a Muslim, from Ahl al-Kitab, or from other than them [Majusi]? In this case, when the animal is found in lands where there are Muslims and others, it shall not be considered as halal (i.e. it is impermissible) due to the uncertainty of if it was lawfully slaughtered.” (Rawdat al-Talibin 3/270, also see: Mughni al-Muhtaj 6/121)
According to the United State’s 2010 Census figures, about 16.1% of Americans adhered to the category of “no religion.” And 0.7% claimed to be Buddhists, 0.4% claimed to be Hindus, and 1.2% claimed other religions. Thus, about one-fifth of the population in the United States adheres to a religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. In some states, like Vermont, the rate of people claiming “no religion” is significantly high, being reported at 34%.
Accordingly, the situation in the United States would be as Imam Nawawi stated in Rawdah, “it is not clear as to whether or not he who slaughtered it was a Muslim, from Ahl al-Kitab, or from other than them…” (Rawdat al-Talibin 3/270)
Therefore, it is not permissible to eat the meat served in fast-food restaurants in the United States; unless verified that the food served is acceptable according to Islamic dietary guidelines.
And Allah knows best.
Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept.
Yaser Birjas should repent for speaking without knowledge and misguiding and confusing our youth on the matter. His view must certainly have caused many youth to eat haraam chicken at McDonalds and other places in the USA. We seek refuge in Allah from such misguidance. Indeed, our beloved Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) had warned:
“Allah does not take away the knowledge by ordering it pulled out of the hearts of the people. Instead, Allah takes the knowledge away by making the scholars die. When no scholar remains, people take for the themselves ignorant leaders whom they ask for religious answers. These leaders will answer them with ignorance, thus straying and leading them astray.”
(Source: Hadith Tirmidhi)
May Allah protect us from pseudo-scholars and Guide us on the Straight Path of the most knowledgeable in our Ummah. Aaameen!