Sunday, April 17, 2011

Useful ruling on Gelatin

Recently at the school I work at an issue came up where some of the teachers told the parent group that they could not serve certain yogurt because it contained kosher gelatin. They said that even when it says its kosher it might not be and is haram. These sisters are from the Sufi masjid, and have caused fitnah like this before. 2 years ago it was that Capri Sun juice boxes were also haram because one of the flavorings had a carrier that is produced using alcohol... no clue what that meant or how they know that, but if it isn't on the ingredients I don't worry about it.

In any case, I was very bothered by this accusation that we were eating haram yogurt, so I did some research and I found this ruling on gelatin by Sheikh Albaani.

Bismillahi wa salaatu wa salaamu 'alaa rasulillah,

(Taken entirely from a dars given by Sh. Muhammad Bazmool, translated by Moosa Richardson and a fatwa given by Sh. al-Albaani)

Istihala is when something becomes pure. It was najis (impure) but it is now taahir (pure). A good example would be maitah (animal carcass): it is najis, but should it be burned and become ashes, or decompose and become earth, then it is taahir, it is no longer najis. This can happen with dung or feces or whatever. Whenever something changes from one property to another, then the ruling likewise changes.

Example: Let us say that someone uses the fat of a dead animal to make soap. That fat is najis, but the chemical change that it was put through makes it taahir.

Ibn Hazm put it concisely when he said,

"Ruling upon an object is upon what it is named (what it is), if the name (what it is) changes then so does the ruling."

He also mentioned in his book of fiqh, Al-Muhalla: "If the quality of the substance of naturally impure objects changes the name which was given to it so that it is no more applicable to it and it is given a new name which is given to a pure object, so it is no more an impure thing. It becomes a new object, with a new rule."

Meaning that if the natural composition of a substance changes to another substance of a different composition, so much so that you can no longer call the new substance by the name of what it was-- ruling upon that substance changes too.

Proof/Example 1:

The companions (radyallahu anhum) used to eat a cheese that came from the land of the disbelievers. In that cheese was a part of the calf which was slaughtered by the disbelievers in a way that is not in accordance with Islaam. The companions knew this, but they also knew that the prohibition was upon the calf, what is directly from the calf, and what could be properly called part of the calf; the ruling is not upon that which you cannot identify as part of the calf nor is it called any longer such-and-such part of the calf. This is called istihala.

Proof/Example 2:

Another proof from the Sunnah: The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) forbade making vinegar out of wine, but he said that if you should come across vinegar that has been made from wine then it is halaal.


The ruling is upon what the object is, and not what it was. Wine is haraam; vinegar is not, and before the wine became an intoxicant, it was halaal. Why? Because it was fruit before that.

Proof/Example 3:

Allah says in the Qur'an:

"And surely there is a lesson for you in the cattle we give you to drink of what is in their bellies from between the feces and blood, pure milk, wholesome to those who drink it." (16:66)

Allah is putting forth an example for us of how something pure can come from something impure.

And we can also use as proof something that we've already gone over. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that when the hide of maitah (the carrion) is tanned, then it is taahir. He (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) gave us a method to purify something which was first impure.

Let us examine things we are familiar with: mono and diglycerides, whey, gluten, emulsifiers, gelatin, and whatever else is on the international haraam list. These by-products sometimes come from animals, pigs even, in which case the ruling on the initial substances is that they are haraam. But the initial substances (e.g. fat, marrow, cartilage, etc.) are put through chemical change so that you no longer can even call it "pig fat" or "animal bone" or "skin" or "cartilage", etc. because it is no longer that, hence it is taahir, it is halaal.

What is gelatin? As Oxford dictionary of science defines: "A colorless or pale yellow, water-soluble protein obtained by boiling collagen with water and evaporating the solution. It melts when water is added and dissolves in hot water to form a solution that sets to a gel on cooling." (page 290)

Is this a chemical change or is this not a chemical change? Is it protein any longer? No, it is not.

You are in disbelief so you ask, "But how can it be halaal when it came from something haraam?"

Because of the proofs mentioned above, the ruling is not based upon what it was, the ruling is based upon what it is. A Hanafi scholar, Ibn Abedin gave the example: "the swine which drowns in a salt lake and decomposes and becomes salt itself, is now halaal."

And other Hanafi scholars go on to say: "salt is different from meat and bones. If they become salt, they are salt."

To take the salt example further: salt consists of sodium chloride (NaCl) when together they are the halaal food known as salt, when separated they make up two poisonous substances which are then haraam for consumption.

The ahnaaf (Hanafis) also use as an example the human semen, saying that it is najis, then when it inseminates the egg and becomes a blood clot it is still najis, but when it becomes flesh it is no longer najis. And the ahnaaf are not the only ones who take this position.

The examples are numerous and they extend beyond food: Yesterday a man was kaafir and going towards Hell, today he is Muslim, so what is the ruling upon him? It is based upon what he is today.

We must be careful when we call things haraam because it is a form of thulm (oppression). Scholars have said that it is worse that you make something halaal to haraam rather than making something haraam to halaal. This deen Allah has made yusr (easy) let us not make it 'usr (hard). Wallahu 'Alim.

For me, this cleared up a lot of things. What are your thoughts on it?


Juste said...

Assalam Aleikum,
so is kosher gelatin halaal or gelatin at all?

Jamilah said...

Kosher gelatin should be fine, based on this ruling. It does seem to also say that any gelatin is fine because of the process it goes through... but Allah swt knows best

Banana Anne said...

Alhamdulillah, this is good to know. I always trusted kosher gelatin anyways (as I trust all kosher products, as long as they don't contain any alcohol). I'm personally going to avoid non-kosher, non-halal gelatin just to be on the safe side, though; also, by now I'm so used to not eating it that I don't even miss it anymore/have found halal or kosher substitutes for it.

Sara said...

Assalaam Aliakum Jamilah,

I've been following your blog for some time, and am generally a silent reader, however felt compelled to respond to this post because although I've heard the opinion of the permissibility of Kosher gelatin, the majority and most sound opinion is that it is not permissible.

According to the following source:

"Gelatine could be made from either consumable or non-consumable animal bones or hide. The animals could further, either be slaughtered or not. Thus we have a total of eight different scenarios. Below these scenarios have been listed together with their rulings:

If metamorphosis’s (Qalb-ul-Mahiyat) takes place, gelatine would be halal (permissible). However, Darul-Ifta does not agree that metamorphosis’s takes place. Below is an article written by Muhammad Ansar Husain Nadwi (B.Tech. Chem. (Spl. in Leather), M.C.A.)."

Why the making of gelatine cannot be considered Qalb-ul-Mahiyat in the Shariah:

"Gelatine is nothing but raw collagen dissolved in hot water. Collagen is a structural protein found in all animals. It constitutes approximately 90-95% of the total corium of an animal skin. During the manufacture of gelatine, the hair, flesh, nerves, veins, sweat glands, albumins and other proteins are removed from the skins by means of very dilute solutions of acids (approximately 1-5%) or alkalis to leave only the corium layer of the skin. This skin is then dissolved in hot water to yield gelatine. Collagen which is present in the skin remains collagen itself in its essence even after the treatment with acid or alkali.

It is known that the collagen constitutes 90-95% of the corium layer of the skin. Now if the source of the skin is an animal which is Najis-ul-Ain then this 95% part of its skin is also Najis-ul-Ain. This means that during the manufacture of gelatine this Najasah remains in its original form until the skins are ready for boiling. After heating this collagen in water it is converted to gelatine. So the main change occurs during the heating process. Now since the mere boiling of Najis-ul-Ain substance in water is not considered Qalb-ul-Mahiyat in the Islamic Shariah therefore the change of collagen to gelatine cannot be considered Qalb-ul-Mahiyat."

Sara said...

Here are a few other sources you may want to check out as well:

Lastly, when my mom called the Kraft Food Corporation a few years ago to inquire about the animal sources that are used to make the Kosher gelatin used in Jello, her call was transferred to a Rabbi who was, at the time, head of the committee that decides whether the gelatin is permissible by Kosher standards. He informed her that the guidelines most companies that use Kosher Gelatin follow are formed by a permanent committee of Rabbis in North America that focus in this specific area. The majority of the board is comprised of liberal Jewish Rabbis and therefore the standards differ from traditional orthodox Judaism due to the changing and diversifying American market. He further explained that the animal sources used in Kosher Gelatin are generally "hooves and hide" of the pig, which according to non-orthodox Jews (and most Jews today) is considered permissible. In this case, and taking into consideration that a sufficient transformation does not take place, Kosher Gelatin would not be considered permissible.

I sincerely apologize for the lengthy comment, but just wanted to provide as much information on the issue as possible. Allahu a'lam, and may Allah continue to guide us all.

On a side note, I seriously love your blog, and think your mehndi/henna designs are so pretty, mA! =)

Jamilah said...

Askiman and sunnipath are very Sufi sources which I do not take from, but would not tell others they could not.

Jamilah said...

Another point to make is that all of this digging around and calling companies is not necessary. In surah al kaaf we are told about the jews that asked about the cow they were to sacrifice....they asked too many questions and therefore Allah made it hard for them. The food of the people of the book is permissible. That should be enough for us. We can make our own choices on what to eat and what not to but we can't make things hara for others when there are two clear opinions on the matter

Candice said...

I don't know much about kosher food except that I've heard about Muslims eating kosher where actual nhalal was hard to find. It never seemed to mean that kosher=halal but I guess there are similarities- I'll have to look into that myself.
But for kosher gelatin vs gelatin, what is the difference? This ruling seems to support any gelatin as halal.

Sara said...

Salaam Jamilah,

How come my first comment wasn't approved? The one that explains the science behind why Kosher gelatin, or any gelatin for that matter, is not permissible to eat.

And I disagree. Comparing the excessive questioning by the Jews in Surah-tul-Kahf regarding the she calf that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala ordered be sacrificed cannot be equated with seeking the correct information about whether pork or pork by products are permissible to consume. There is no direct comparison. I don't believe the question is a matter of whether certain meat of the Ahl-e-Kitab (People of the Book) is permissible to eat, but a question of whether gelatin, directly derived from the pig (explicitly prohibited to consume in Islam) is permitted.

Jamilah said...

Sorry about that, sometimes I think I have approved them and it does not go through.

You are free to have your opinion as I, and the scholars I trust, are free to have ours. Once something is no longer what it once was, it has changed. As for surah al Kaaf, no, it's not a direct comparison and I didn't say it was. It is to show us that if we dig and dig and ask things we don't need to ask that things will be hard for us.

I don't follow Sufi scholars or their fatawah sites, like askimam or sunnipath.

Nikki said...

For one thing, I have kosher gelatin (Kojel brand) in which it clearly states the gelatin is made from a type of seaweed, not animal products. For another, I still eat Jello brand gelatin due to the ruling you posted in your blog (and due to the fact that it's just like 100x better than the Kojel, especially when cooking with it).

I believe Allah prohibits eating pork products for actual health reasons, not just "because", as some test to us with no logic behind it. For this reason, even if some part of the pig (bones, hooves, I don't know) was used initially, it is not pork anymore after undergoing this extensive chemical process so there is no longer a logical justification for avoiding it.

I don't think Allah meant for us to make things as difficult as we have today. I know Muslims who won't eat skittles or doritos or really any cheese because of the rennet (enzymes from animals) that may be used.

What's a Muslim in a non Muslim country left to eat? Also, our nearest halal food is over 2 hours away, we do buy our meat there, but we have to buy in bulk and it is VERY expensive. If we had to go over two hours to also get all of our cheese, and any product containing gelatin, and this and that and the other, we would never have anything to eat.

It is a very dangerous thing to make something haram that Allah has made halal. I think Muslims would do well to keep this in mind.

Sara said...

That's all right sister Jamilah, not a problem. =)

And I completely respect that you do not follow the fatawa or opinions of Sufi sites such as Sunnipath or Ask Imam. I'm a firm believer myself that the respected scholars on the path of the Salaf are the best to turn to as well.

In providing my first source (from Ask Imam) however, I wanted to denote the emphasis placed on scientific rationale provided by the scientist in question, in regards to why there's an issue with the permissibility of Gelatin, regardless of whether it's Kosher or not.

If one argues that Istihala takes place, whereby the composition of a substance is altered changing it into something else and therefore allowing the najis to become pure, without understanding whether in actuality such a change occurs or not, then that becomes an illogical argument. In order to prove a conclusion is true, one must be able to provide evidence that supports this. Otherwise this is a fallacy of relevance.

As we're aware, the facts presented state that the collagen in skin constitutes 90-95% of the corium layer of the skin (i.e. deep tissues of the flesh). If this source of the skin is an animal which is Najis-ul-Ain then the 95% part of its skin is also Najis-ul-Ain. This means the impure substance, the skin, remains in its original form until its ready for boiling. The scientist goes on to state, "After heating this collagen in water it is converted to gelatine. So the main change occurs during the heating process. Now since the mere boiling of Najis-ul-Ain substance in water is not considered Qalb-ul-Mahiyat in the Islamic Shariah therefore the change of collagen to gelatine cannot be considered Qalb-ul-Mahiyat."

Merely heating something doesn't make it something else. Take the example of boiling a potato. When we heat one, it doesn't turn into a carrot or anything else. In the text you referenced, Ibn Abedin (may Allah be pleased with him) stated: "the swine which drowns in a salt lake and decomposes and becomes salt itself, is now halaal.", yet we can see from the above that the skin has remained in its original/initial form until boiled, and that cannot in and of itself change the composition.

Jamilah said...

Sis Sara... thats just it. That one particular scientist explains it one way, and another will explain it entirely differently. Just as we all learned in 6th grade science, there are physical and chemical changes. If a ball smashes through a window, a physical change occurs. The shape of the glass changes, but its still glass. When we mix ingredients to bake a cake, it is a chemical change. All of the ingredients, eggs, oil, flour, water are mixed together to create something else. Once they are mixed and baked, you can't ask for the egg back. Just as gelatin cannot be un-done and made back into the animal protein it once was.

We can go back and fourth forever on this. Main point here to take away from all of this... when there are two valid opinions to an issue you can't tell someone else that they are absolutely wrong, or make something haram to them. We are all free to follow which ever opinion we find more convincing, as long as it has valid proofs behind it.

Jamilah said...

Asalamu Alaikum Nikki

I'm totally with you... thanks so much for the comments!

Umar said...

Making gelatin is not as simple as boiling skin and bones and then serving the boiled skin and bones, so the analogy of boiling a potato is not valid. The process involves boiling the skin and bones, straining out the skin and bones from the waters and discarding them, allowing the water to cool, so the fat rises to the top, removing the fat and discarding it. At this point all the parts that can be identified as part of the original flesh and bones has been discarded and what is left behind is the gelatin that is now a different substance and can not be turned back into what it once was.

Sara said...

You're right Jamilah, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this. It was interesting however, to hear another perspective/ruling on the matter. =)

AlabasterMuslim said...

Asalaamu Alaikum sister,
As you can see it is very hard for others to accept this ruling because they have had it drilled into them again and again and again that it is haraam. When I was first told it wasn't I fought it for about a year lol but alhamdullilah i was shown proof by scholars (that are trustworthy. None of this online fatwa stuff lol) and have accepted it.

Jamilah said...

Asalamu Alaikum

There was a comment from a young sister that I meant to hit publish, but was on my teenie tiny phone screen and deleted it by accident. She provided a link to her blog which is

So sorry for deleting it, feel free to repost!

AidaFashionista said...

Thanks! You gave the link correctly. It is a fashion blog intended to help other young or young spirited muslimahs find modest yet fun and stylish hijab clothing. I post outfit designs and links that make it easy to find the clothes so that the "look" can be copied by the reader. The attractive to the eye and most often the wallet too! I am a muslim revert livng in the usa.

zahid said...

@ Sister Jamilah, is not a sufi site. This site is run by Madrasah In’aamiyyah scholars in South Africa. They have scholars from all four schools of thoughts. As for Mufti Ibrahim Desai, his is hanafi. My brother studied in this madrassa, thats how I know. I dont know where did you get the information that this is a sufi site. (I don't know about sunni path, so wont comment). JazakAllah Khair.

Jamilah said...

Zahid... my mistake, I meant to say deobandi... which is not much better.