In modern times, many of the ingredients of processed food may be derived from pork. Is it a sin if a muslim consumes one of these ingredients without prior knowledge? What should be done when finding out?
Islam is a very forgiving religion. One of the main issues that addresses your question is the principle that you are only a sinner if you sin intentionally and knowingly.
That is, you sin if:
- You do something sinful (like eating pork)
- With full knowledge that it is a sinful act, and
- Still intentionally do it
There are caveats. For example, if you are dying of starvation in the wilderness, and you find some pork meat, you would be allowed to consume enough of it to keep yourself alive, even though pork is prohibited otherwise.
I see you updated your question. As Muslims, we must perform due diligence about the foods we eat. Many foods today contain traces of animals in them (rennet, mono and diglycerides, gelatin, etc.) Generally, our options are:
- Avoid the food (easier)
- Inquire with the manufacturer if the ingredient is from plant or animal sources
- Find a similar product without that ingredient (eg. certain brands of yogurt).
To answer the question succinctly, the Prophet (sal Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Certainly, Allah has pardoned for me my ummah: their mistakes, their forgetfulness, and that which they have been forced to do under duress" [ibn Majah, Bayhaqi]
"Mistakes" in this case means you ate the pork mistakenly (not knowing what it was). It won't be a sin with the condition that there was no way to find out or you did your best to find out.
Asalamu wa alaikum,
As ashes999 said above you are a sinner only if you sin intentionly.
قُل لَّآ أَجِدُ فِى مَآ أُوحِىَ إِلَىَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ۬ يَطۡعَمُهُ ۥۤ إِلَّآ أَن يَكُونَ مَيۡتَةً أَوۡ دَمً۬ا مَّسۡفُوحًا أَوۡ لَحۡمَ خِنزِيرٍ۬ فَإِنَّهُ ۥ رِجۡسٌ أَوۡ فِسۡقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِ بِهِۦۚ فَمَنِ ٱضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٍ۬ وَلَا عَادٍ۬ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬ (١٤٥)
Say (O Muhammad SAW): "I find not in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be Maitah (a dead animal) or blood poured forth (by slaughtering or the like), or the flesh of swine (pork) for that surely is impure, or impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allâh (or has been slaughtered for idols or on which Allâh's Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But whosoever is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, (for him) certainly, your Lord is Oft¬Forgiving, Most Merciful." (145)
I find it very good to read the ingredients before eating, so if you find pork after reading the ingrediants and you still eat it then you have sinned. But if you do not continue eating then you haven'd sinned. But your question was what should be done when you find out, well you should repent from it (Tawbah) and do not go back to it, remember you only sinned if you had knowledge of the pork in the product.
Take the following verses from the Holy Qur'an:
"O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. 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." Qur'an 2:172-173
Let us study the ayaths as follows:
- But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him.: flesh of swine is indeed pork. You are forbidden from pork unless it is absolutely necessary, and you hate it and eat just to a limit and to save yourself from hunger and not to fill your stomach.
Allah is Forgiving and Merciful: Allah forgives what you do in ignorance and unknowingly.
Say, "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful." Qur'an 39:53.
So, If you did eat it unknowingly, you just have to repent before Allah and promise him that you will try maximum not to commit it again, even accidentally, and also seek His guidance and help.
And verily, Allah knows best...
If you do an evil in ignorance and return as soon as you learned Allah will forgive. As stated in the Qur'an (an-Nisa:17):
إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا (نساء/17)
God shall turn only towards those who do evil in ignorance, then shortly repent; God will return towards those; God is All-knowing, All-wise.
Do you think God is unfair? He Said in Quran that He is All-Just and declared Himself that He has forbidden for Himself too injustice, and He will never wrong anyone.
If He knows that you are by mistake, He has the doors of repentance open for everyone and He’s ready to forgive any sin that you commit intentionally or unintentionally till the Day Sun Rise from West, that’s the Day when He’l close that doors of repentance.
So, if you really regret, then if God wishes, He’ll forgive you, just seek His forgiveness.
Remember! He is the Most Merciful and Most Kind and He also loves to forgive.