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Introduction

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

On the past 2nd December 2020, there is an uproar on the syndicate of imported meat cartel which is haram in Senai, Johor Bahru involving the activity of forging halal logo. Such syndicate happened due to injustice and greed to gain income excessively by neglecting the safety and wellbeing of the consumer. Based on the news report in Sinar Harian, the supplier used fabricated documents including customs form for import-export transshipment, import permit, halal certificate and receipt of payment. [1] The meat was imported from four countries which are China, Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina.

To cover the eyes of local authorities, the cartel also at the same time import meat from a lawful source. All imported meat lastly is stored in a cube package before labelled with fake halal logo [2]. Besides, there is a record of receipt of acceptance of swine meat which is also found at the scene. However, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs explained that after prior investigation, there is no swine meat found on the scene [3].

Normally, bad tactic using imported meat cartel is by also importing from lawful sources mixed with meat which has no valid halal certificate [4]. This causes the validity of the meat becomes doubted and in need of reevaluation.

After this syndicate becomes viral in mass media, the public as consumers of imported meat started to feel worry and anxious. Especially when it involves the status of halal for the imported meat. Majority of Malaysians are Muslims, surely the clarity of halal status for the meat struck worry among them. As a Muslim, Shari’a commands us to choose food which are pure and halal. Allah SWT says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا

O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good

Surah al-Baqarah (168)

According to Ibn Kathir and al-Maraghi in their tafsir, this verse states on the need of searching for good and halal food, as well as not prohibiting what Allah has made halal for the mankind. [5]

So, an issue brought recently before the Mufti’s Office of Federal Territories on the haram meat cartel. The question is, if a person still has the stock of these imported meat bought before this issue rises, what to do? If the consumer is certain of the halal status of a meat, is it permissible for him to eat it while this issue is on the rise across the states?

In this issue, authority plays an important role in managing it. According to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Islamic Religious Affairs), Senator Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, the government in collaboration with JAKIM Halal Management and related ministries will endorse a list of licensed meat importers as reported in the newspaper Sinar Harian [6]. Hence, as Malaysians, we shall give full trust to the authorities to handle this issue in fulfilling their task with full dedication. This aligns with the saying of Allah SWT in Surah al-Nisa’:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّـهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.

Surah al-Nisa’ (59)

So, in this situation, it is best for us to face it with calm and respect towards the action taken by the authority to ease the investigation process as well as giving cooperation to them in fulfilling their task like reporting the abuse of power for the related people.

COMMANDMENT TO EAT HALAL FOOD

Allah SWT has opened the chance for the Muslims; as caliphates on this earth to choose and eat whatever lives on this land as long as the food is halal and good as well as pure from any haram elements. This is proven by the verse of al-Quran which states on the story of ashabul kahfi after waking up from a long sleep. They sent one of them to the town to search for some food.

فَلْيَنظُرْ أَيُّهَا أَزْكَىٰ طَعَامًا فَلْيَأْتِكُم بِرِزْقٍ مِّنْهُ

and let him look to which is the best of food and let him look to which is the best of food

Surah al-Kahf (19)

Allah SWT has created and gave many blessings to the people so that they may take benefit and goodness from all things be it food, clothes, any creations and other facilities. Allah SWT says:

هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا

It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth

Surah al-Baqarah (29)

Besides, Allah SWT also says:

وَسَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا مِّنْهُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth - all from Him. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought.

Surah al-Jathiah (13)

However, regarding the choosing of food and drinks, Muslims should search and eat food which are halal, even this is commanded and highlighted in al-Quran and hadith of the Prophet PBUH.

In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:

"إنَّ اللَّهَ طَيِّبٌ لَا يَقْبَلُ إلَّا طَيِّبًا، وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ أَمَرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِمَا أَمَرَ بِهِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ فَقَالَ تَعَالَى: "يَا أَيُّهَا الرُّسُلُ كُلُوا مِنْ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَاعْمَلُوا صَالِحًا"، وَقَالَ تَعَالَى: "يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ" ثُمَّ ذَكَرَ الرَّجُلَ يُطِيلُ السَّفَرَ أَشْعَثَ أَغْبَرَ يَمُدُّ يَدَيْهِ إلَى السَّمَاءِ: يَا رَبِّ! يَا رَبِّ! وَمَطْعَمُهُ حَرَامٌ، وَمَشْرَبُهُ حَرَامٌ، وَمَلْبَسُهُ حَرَامٌ، وَغُذِّيَ بِالْحَرَامِ، فَأَنَّى يُسْتَجَابُ لَهُ؟"

“Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good. And verily Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods], and perform righteous deeds.” [23:51] and the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you.” [2:172]” Then he (ﷺ) mentioned [the case] of a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty, and who spreads out his hands to the sky saying “O Lord! O Lord!” while his food is haram (unlawful), his drink is haram, his clothing is haram, and he has been nourished with haram, so how can [his supplication] be answered?

Sahih Muslim (168)

It is clear that the word halal usually comes with thayyib. Imam al-Thabari states the definition of thayyiban is pure and clean from any impurities (najis) and haram elements. (Refer Tafsir al-Thabari, 3/301).

Besides, Imam Fakhruddin al-Razi also states in his tafsir when commenting on the above words that the meaning of al-tayyib lexically means pure and halal which is attributed with all sorts of goodness. (Refer: Tafsir ar-Razi Mafatih al-Ghayb5/185)

There are several syara’ evidences as the guide for Muslims in choosing their food. Among them:

  • It is halal to eat the slaughter of ahl al-kitab

الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ ۖ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ

This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them.

Surah al-Maidah (5)

Abu Ja’far in his tafsir gave the meaning of (الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ) as halal food and animals which are slaughtered and not from filthy things. (Refer Tafsir al-Thabari, 9/3572).

  • Choose food which is slaughtered in the names of Allah.

فَكُلُوا مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْهِ

So eat of that [meat] upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned

Surah al-An’am (118)

  • It is haram to eat corpse, blood, swine and animals slaughtered not in the names of Allah SWT.

إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّـهِ ۖ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Surah al-Baqarah (173)

The Ruling of Eating Imported Meat with Forged Halal Logo

Basically, regarding the consumption of food from slaughtered and hunted animals, the Shafi’e scholars like Imam al-Nawawi mentioned a maxim that the original rule for slaughtered animals is haram unless it is made sure first that all those animals comply with the conditions for slaughter set by Syarak. (Refer Syarh Sahih Muslim, 13/116)

Referring to the context in Malaysia, buyers’ assurance has been built by the clear halal logo endorsed by the authority like JAKIM and other accredited parties on the meat packaging bought. Halal logo which is put on each food packaging whether raw or processed really help the Muslims in making sure the halal status of a food product.

The original rule of imported meat with halal logo endorsed by authority bodies is halal because it complies with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of halal certification set by Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM). The original rule remains until there is proof or syara’ evidence which changes or revises its condition. This is based on Fiqh maxim set by the scholars like what is mentioned by Imam al-Suyuti:

الأصل بقاء ما كان على ما كان

The original rule of a thing remains in the state in which it was

(Refer al-Ashbah wa al-Nazoir, 72)

However, regarding the issue of imported meat, if a consumer already ate the meat which originally assured of its halal status then there comes a possibility that the halal logo is fabricated, then the ruling of eating such meat is forgiven as it was done unintentionally. This is based on the saying of Allah SWT:

وَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ فِيمَا أَخْطَأْتُم بِهِ وَلَـٰكِن مَّا تَعَمَّدَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

Surah al-Ahzab (5)

In another verse, Allah SWT also taught a du’a to ask for forgiveness of our actions done unintentionally through the saying of Allah:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا

"Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred.”

Surah al-Baqarah (286)

Imam al-Nawawi in his book al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab (8/450) mentioned a famous hadith:

رُفِعَ عَنْ أُمَّتِيْ الخَطَأُ وَالنِّسْيَانُ وَمَا اسْتُكْرِهُوْا عَلَيْهِ

"Allah has forgiven my nation for mistakes and forgetfulness, and what they are forced to do." [Imam al-Nawawi evaluated this hadith as sahih]

In addition, some scholars like Ibn Hazm put a maxim stating:

ما غاب عنا لا نسأل عنه

“Matters concealed to us, no need for us to ask”

(Refer al-Muhalla bi al-Athar, 6/148)

Based on the above discussion, Muslims who have eaten imported meat before the syubha issue persists recently on imported meat, the ruling is it is forgiven. This matter is based on syara’ evidences which extract ruling based on the original condition which is halal unless there is an evidence which changes it as well as facilitation and ease in matters which are unintentional with the condition that the certification through halal logo at the packaging has already been done beforehand.

Wallahu a’lam.

Muslims’ Standing in Facing the Issue of Syubha Meat

Analyzing the issue happened, it is undeniable that this is a very sensitive issue for the Muslims in Malaysia. In one aspect, it shows that there is an increase in awareness among the Muslims regarding the safety of halal food. This cautious character portrayed is among the praised ones. This issue needs observation and giving of full trust towards the authorities to handle it. However, for the Muslims, this issue shall be faced with principles needed to be understood and comprehend properly. Among them are:

  • Do not buy food or meat which is doubtful. This is based on the principle taught by the Prophet PBUH. He said:

دَعْ مَا يَرِيبُكَ إِلَى مَا لاَ يَرِيبُ

'Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.'

Jami’ al-Tirmidhi (2518)

Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani cited the words of al-Khattabi on the real meaning of this hadith. He said:

كُلُّ مَا شَكَكْتُ فِيهِ فَالْوَرَعُ اجْتِنَابُهُ

“Each of that is doubted is better to be avoided”

This attitude should be in every Muslim individual. Whatever causes doubt, do leave it and choose accredited products which are more trusted especially products recognized by the authorities like JAKIM. The same goes for choosing eateries which is one of the necessities especially regarding slaughtered meat. In short, choose products which are proven of its halal status and leave products which are unsure.

  • Refer first to the authorities. This is one of the efforts for the Muslims especially in Malaysia to be able to choose products which are more trusted. JAKIM Halal Management for an example has made applications called Smart Halal Apps and Verify Halal. Both these applications were made to ease the public especially Muslims to verify certified halal products. In fact, this application also helps the public in verifying agencies which produce products from outside of the country that holds certificate by the authorities like JAKIM.
  • Do not spread fake news or posts. The spread of these fake news may cause worry and chaos among the public. Allah SWT has reminded to verify first news came to us. This may be seen through the saying of Allah SWT:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ

O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.

Surah al-Hujurat (6)

A true Muslim is a person who is always careful in receiving a news and not recklessly spread it unless after verifying first the truth behind the news. Imam al-Syawkani said:

وَالْمُرَادُ مِنَ التَّبَيُّنِ التَّعَرُّفُ وَالتَّفَحُّصُ، وَمِنَ التَّثَبُّتِ: الْأَنَاةُ وَعَدَمُ الْعَجَلَةِ، وَالتَّبَصُّرُ فِي الْأَمْرِ الْوَاقِعِ، وَالْخَبَرِ الْوَارِدِ حَتَّى يَتَّضِحَ وَيَظْهَرَ.

“What is meant by tabayyun is knowing and verifying first. Among the matters included in verification is taking time and not rapidly (spreading a news) as well as looking in depth towards the reality of an occurrence until it becomes clear and enligthened on the matter” (Refer Fath al-Qadir Li al-Syaukani, 5:71)

Hence, Muslims should be more cautious in spreading a news. It should be verified first whether it is true or not. Spreading news which is untrue and inaccurate may cause chaos in the public which tarnishes the trust towards authorities especially religious authorities. Do search for a true and accurate information.

Conclusion: The Public Authorities’ Obligations and Actions towards the Abettors

The matter which already took place is highly regretted. However, from a different aspect, this shows that our people have become very careful and conscientious on syara’ rulings related to halal and haram. This is a sensitive issue which shows how strong is the religious belief of our Muslim community in Malaysia. Alhamdulillah.

Together with other Malaysian Muslims, we also hope that the individuals involved in this matter are brought before the laws with much honesty, efficiency and justly. Indeed, Allah SWT visualized how big is the amanah needed to be carried in His saying:

 إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولً

Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant.

Surah al-Ahzab (72)

Individuals involved in such irresponsible activity including those who abet shall be brought before the court and prosecuted based on the proofs and evidences gathered. Stern actions and punishments upon them in this matter shall be implied so that it becomes a lesson for the public to never giving in the public maslahah for personal interest and benefit.

Besides, inspection, examination and enforcement also has to be tighten and done more efficiently and thoroughly to ensure such issue will not happen again in the future. Lastly, a big gratitude and congratulations for those who uncover this matter due to conscientious, as well as government agencies involved for being responsive in handling this issue.

Mufti’s Office of Federal Territories

END NOTE:

[1] Izwan Rozlin & Muhammad Afham Ramli, “Gudang Kartel Proses Daging Babi”, website  Sinar Harian, surfed on 12 December 2020, https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/113228/LAPORAN-KHAS/Gudang-kartel-proses-daging-babi.

[2] Izwan Rozlin & Muhammad Afham Ramli, “Kartel Ciplak Tiga Jenama Daging Australia”, website  Sinar Harian, surfed on 12 December 2020, https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/113375/LAPORAN-KHAS/Kartel-ciplak-tiga-jenama-daging-Australia.

[3]Mohd Hafiz Ismail, “Kartel Daging Haram: Tiada daging babi ditemui”, website  Sinar Harian, surfed on 12 December, https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/113795/BERITA/Nasional/Kartel-daging-haram-Tiada-daging-babi-ditemui.

[4] Izwan Rozlin & Muhammad Afham Ramli, “Kartel Tukar Daging Haram Jadi Halal”, website Sinar Harian, surfed on 12th December 2020, https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/112898/LAPORAN-KHAS/Kartel-tukar-daging-haram-jadi-halal.

[5] LSee: Tafsir Ibnu Kathir, 1/478 / Tafsir al-Maghari, 2/42.

[6] “Jakim akan Keluarkan Senarai Pengimport Daging Berlesen” website Sinar Harian, surfed on 29 December, https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/116615/BERITA/Nasional/Jakim-akan-keluarkan-senarai-pengimport-daging-berlesen