Is it necessary for meat to be considered Islamically Halal that after slaughter, it is handled, processed, packed and transported by Muslims only? It was recently said to me that even if an animal is slaughtered according to the rules of Shari'ah, if the meat was handled by a non-Muslim, it would be rendered as haram. Is this correct?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
It is incorrect to say that Halal and lawfully slaughtered meat is rendered Haram simply due to the handling of a non-Muslim. As long as it is ensured that the animal is slaughtered in accordance with the rules of Shari'a, the handling, packaging and transporting of a non-Muslim does not render the meat Haram.
According to my limited research, no book of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) states that meat or any other product handled by a non-Muslim is rendered Haram. On the contrary, we find texts of classical jurists (fuqaha) asserting clearly that the handling of a non-Muslim does not render a Halal product Haram. One such example is provided below:
The author of the renowned Hanafi Fiqh Manual, Al-Hidaya states:
"If an individual [Muslim] sends his employee or servant who is a fire-worshipper [i.e. non-Muslim, non-Jew and non-Christian] to purchase some meat, and he says that I purchased this meat from a Jew, Christian or Muslim, then it will be permitted for the Muslim to consume of the meat. This is due to the fact that a non-Muslim's word is accepted in transactions (mu'amalat)..." (Al-Hidaya 4/453)
In the above text, the meat was purchased and handled by a non-Muslim on behalf of a Muslim, but it was not rendered Haram. Rather, the non-Muslim servant's claim that he had purchased the meat from a Muslim was also considered acceptable.
One must remember, however, that the permissibility here is of accepting the word of a non-Muslim employee or servant who knows how important Halal consumption is for his employer or master, and also there is no conflict of interest. This is different to the situation where there is 'reasonable' fear that a particular meat is possibly Haram -- or when it is generally the case that meat labelled 'Halal' is dubious. In such cases, it would be one's duty to make sure.
As such, it is important to ensure that the meat sold is actually Halal and the element of doubt is removed. However, if there is certainty that the animal had been slaughtered by a Muslim, and the meat was monitored and transported in such a manner that left no room for doubting that the animal may have been slaughtered in a un-Islamic way or that the Halal meat may have been mixed up with Haram meat, then this Halal meat will not be rendered Haram simply because it was handled and transported by a non-Muslim. Had this been the case, everything bar a few products would become Haram since they are all handled and packed by non-Muslims.
Nevertheless, the point that is clear from the above text of Al-Hidaya is that the handling, packaging and transporting of a non-Muslim does not render the meat Haram, after it is ensured that the animal was slaughtered in accordance with the rules of Shari'a, and that the Halal meat was not mixed up or contaminated with Haram meat.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK