The issue of finding halal or permissible food in non-Muslim countries has become quite a big problem. Although I live in a Muslim country and I don’t have to face this problem—by the Grace of my Lord—as of yet, many of my friends and schoolmates who are now living in non-Muslim countries for their higher studies have to face this problem.
Since they can’t starve to death or it is quite difficult to become a vegetarian (because they are—or shall I say, we are—accustomed to include some kind of meat or fish in our meals) or because it is more difficult to get fish in some of these countries, they are forced to eat meat, which is permissible in Islam only if a certain set of conditions are met.
Some of my friends have complained to me about this problem and (as far as I remember) I have so far refrained from giving a clear answer or suggesting a possible solution. But now that I have been asked directly to find more about this problem and see if there is a possible way out, I am now obliged to research a little about the matter in question.
Well, there is good news. Praise be to our Lord, who has indeed made things easy for us. «Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you» (2:185)
As for what I found regarding this topic:
The basic principle is that the meat slaughtered by Christians and Jews is permissible and there is nothing wrong with eating it.
Allah says in the Qur’aan: «The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you» (5:5).
Talking about this this verse, Ibn Qudaamah said (in his book Al-Mughni, 13/293) : The scholars are unanimously agreed that it is permissible to eat meat slaughtered by the People of the Book [i.e. Christians and Jews].
However, if the slaughtering of meat is taken care of by people other than Muslims or People of the Book, such as atheists and Hindus, then it is not permissible to eat it.
As for the meat slaughtered by Christians and Jews, like it was stated just now, it is permissible in principle. It is permissible just like how the meat slaughtered by Muslims is permissible.
But there are some situations where the meat slaughtered by them might be impermissible, just like the meat slaughtered by Muslims might be impermissible. To make this easier to understand, let me divide the meat slaughtered by Muslims, Christians or Jews (as opposed to that which is slaughtered by atheists, Hindus, etc.) into three groups:
1. The meat slaughtered in the proper manner. This meat is permissible.
2. The meat slaughtered in a wrong manner, like by drowning, shooting, choking, strangling or by electric shock, etc. It is not permissible to eat this meat, no matter who slaughtered it. This is because such meat is considered as dead meat (maytah) and Allah says in the Qur’aan: «Forbidden to you (for food) are: al-Maitah (the dead animals — cattle — beast not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering (that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah, or has been slaughtered for idols) and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns — and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal — unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death)» (5:3)
3. The meat that we are not sure was slaughtered in the proper manner or not. This meat is permissible and there in no need to ask about how it was killed or slaughtered. It seems that most of what my friends were talking about comes under this heading.
Al-Bukhaari (2057) narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that some people said, “O Messenger of Allah, some people bring meat to us and we do not know whether they mentioned the name of Allah over it or not.” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Say the name of Allah over it and eat it.”
Taking evidence from this hadeeth, Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) stated that it seems from the Sunnah that it is better not to ask or try to find out (how it was killed). That is because he (peace be upon him) did not say to them to ask them (i.e. the people who brought in the meat) whether they mentioned the name of Allah over them or not, rather he said: “Say the name of Allah over it yourselves, and eat it.”
He also said (in Liqaa’aat al-Baab il-Maftooh, 1/77) : So if some meat comes to us from a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian, we should not ask about it or ask how it was slaughtered or whether the name of Allah was mentioned over it. It is halaal (permissible) so long as there is no clear proof that it is haraam (impermissible). This is a way in which Allah has made things easier for us. End quote.
However, if the Muslim wants to be cautious and forgo eating this meat, there is nothing wrong with that, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating it either.
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with eating the meat slaughtered by a Christian or a Jew, as long as you don’t know and you don’t have evidence that that meat was slaughtered in an improper manner. You don’t have to ask about it either.