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What prompted to do ask this question is that last week when I was at the school the teacher offered the students some candy after he came back from his vacation. He is Buddhist. I thanked him and sat down next to my friend who is a Muslim too. The moment I was to eat the candy, he told me that it might not be Halal.

I wondered a little, but when I read the ingredients I didn't recognize any Haram substances, and learned that he - the teacher - traveled to U.S., and that it is U.S. made, so I thought it is okay, and ate it. I though that it is Halal to eat because it came from U.S. whose majority of people adhere to Christianity, and that eating from Ahlul-Kitab (People of the Book) is okay as long as they declared it to not to contain Haram substances (ingredients).

Was what I did right? What if it is from non-Ahlul-Kitab (e.g. Hindu)? Why is there a difference between the two (Ahlul-Kitab and the rest)? And how would you respond in such cases?

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The general ruling on food is that everything is permissible (for example, Surat Baqarah:172). Then there are some things that have been explicitly made impermissible, for example in the next ayah Surat Baqarah:173 (emphasis mine):

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.

So as long as you know that some food hasn't had something else's name invoked over it or offered to anything else, it should be fine.

The point of difference between Ahl al-Kitab and others comes over slaughtered meat. Allah SWT has made permissible for us the meat of Ahl al-Kitab but again there are certain conditions (which you can read about in this answer). Also there is a restriction on accepting Ahl al-Kitab meat that comes from a religious celebration or festival.

Finally, as a side point, food made in the US cannot be considered by default as food of Ahl al-Kitab because it is widely known that they do not (in general) follow Christian practices during the slaughter. This is a long discussion and perhaps meant for another question.

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    To the best of my knowledge there are no particular ritual Christian observances re slaughter. It sounds like you are saying there are, but that they aren't observed. – Marc Gravell Jul 14 '12 at 7:33
  • @MarcGravell I believe some of the Eastern Christianity sects have some ritual requirements, in particular, the mention of God's name. For example, in the Syriac-language Nomocanon of Barhebraeus (d. 1286), a Christian butcher is instructed to recite the phrase ba-shma d'elaha haya, “In the name of the living God.” Gregorius Barhebraeus, Nomocanon, ed. Paul Bedjan (Paris: Harrassowitz, 1898); (citation taken from muslimmatters.org/2012/06/22/…) – Ansari Jul 21 '12 at 21:59
  • it is an interesting question. I don't think it is explicitly Biblical, and the only references I can find to that are all actually on Islamic sites. If you don't mind, I'll ask it as a question over on Christianity.SE - it is intriguing (here). – Marc Gravell Jul 21 '12 at 22:09
  • @MarcGravell Indeed a fascinating question. My (very weak) understanding is that the majority of today's Christians don't consider themselves bound by Old Testament law, whereas in the first three to four centuries of Christianity (before Paul's theology was codified as law and anything opposed to it was considered heresy) there were plenty of Christians who did follow Jewish law (e.g. James and his church and other groups). I believe the "Islamic" view is that true Christians are still bound be Jesus' (peace be upon him) law, and he followed Jewish law as far as we know. – Ansari Jul 21 '12 at 22:25
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    does this mean that Islam is applying a definition of Christian that is very different to what Christians would use? In particular there would never have been a time when that sentence could make sense -to Christians when applied to the US... – Marc Gravell Jul 22 '12 at 7:09
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For comparison of Jewish Kosher and Islamic Halal see this article.

As Ansari pointed out, these days Christians in general do not follow religious dietary rules so this does not seem to apply to their food, i.e. because a food is from Christians does not mean it is fine. On the other hand, if the food does not contain meat nor the forbidden substances in Islam then it is fine, not because it is Christian food but because it is halal.

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