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There seems to be an apparent contradiction in the Quran concerning the slaughter of animals for purposes of consumption.

Surah 5 Al-Ma'idah, Ayat 5

Made lawful to you this day are At-Tayyibat [all kinds of Halal (lawful) foods, which Allah has made lawful (meat of slaughtered eatable animals, etc., milk products, fats, vegetables and fruits, etc.). The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals, etc.) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them.

The last sentence allows for the consumption of food slaughtered by people of the Scripture.

Surah 6 Al-An'am, Ayat 121-121

Do not eat of (the animal) over which the name of Allah has not been pronounced (at the time of its slaughtering), for that is a transgression

This sentence quite clearly disallows for the consumption of food over which the name of Allah was not pronounced at the time of slaughtering.

This sentence contradicts the first. Jews and Christians do not follow the same practices of slaughter as muslims, in particular the utterance of the name of God/Allah is not a traditional practice. As an example, kosher meat is not required to be slaughtered under the mentioning of God's name, whether that God's name be Allah or Yahweh. Therefore, to allow the consumption of meat slaughtered by these non-muslims generally contradicts the strict command of not eating meat that has not been slaughtered under Allah's name.

What is the justification or explanation for this apparent contradiction?

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There can be at-least three explanations to this alleged contradiction:

  • Some People of the Scripture do pronounce Allah's name at the time of slaughter. For example in kosher slaughter it is customary to recite the following blessing which includes the name of Allah:

    ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציוונו על השחיטה

    So as long as some people of the book pronounce Allah's name and all of them are not prohibited from pronouncing it, then there is no contradiction. Both verses can be followed if we eat that which one of them has slaughtered after Allah's name and leave that on which they have not. If both commands can be followed then there is no contradiction between them.

  • 6:121 is a general rule while 5:5 is an exception for a specific case, and 5:5 was chronologically revealed later. A general verse and a specific verse are meant to be combined and are not contradictions. The way to apply them is that we do not eat that on which the name of Allah has been omitted, except if the slaughterer is from the People of the Scripture - in which case we are permitted to eat it.

    Consider an example to understand this. Suppose there is a battalion in which there is a soldier named Abdullah. The commander says "Everyone stand up" and then says "Abdullah sit down." The officer's orders are not contradictory even if Abdullah is addressed in both of them, rather the specific order for Abdullah supersedes the general order for the group of which he is a part.

  • According to some interpretations 6:121 does not require literally pronouncing Allah's name at the time of slaughter. Rather the actual intent of the verse is to abstain from eating that which is dedicated to idols or that which dies itself without slaughter. There is no contradiction since normally the slaughtered of a Jew or Christian is neither of these.

    The evidence for this is the context in which the verse was revealed. As some polytheists questionioned: "Do you eat that which you kill and not eat that which Allah kills?", the verse is a response to their attempt at persuading the Muslims to eat that which dies itself.

    This being context is also substantiated by the ending of the verse:

    وإن الشياطين ليوحون إلى أوليائهم ليجادلوكم وإن أطعتموهم إنكم لمشركون

    And indeed do the devils inspire their allies [among men] to dispute with you. And if you were to obey them, indeed, you would be associators [of others with Him].

    Quran 6:121

    And also supported by the incident where the prophet allowed to eat the slaughtered of a Muslim even when it is was uncertain whether they had pronounced Allah's name. Similarly the terms used in the verse such as fisq, shirk and 'devils inspire' are not suitable to one who believes in Allah but does not mention His name at the time of slaughter.

    These are also the basis for other rules, for example the allowance of eating if someone forgets to mention Allah name, or if it is not known whether they mentioned Allah's name.

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