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A commentary on the verse: “And the food of those given the scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them” (Qurʾān 5:5)

Translated by Usman Khan and Abu Zayd

In the name of God, most Merciful, most Compassionate

They said to me: We have some problems understanding verse five of Sūrah al-Māʾidah: “and the food of those given the scripture before you is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them.” So, please assist us in solving the ambiguity and unveiling its hidden meaning. I replied: The book of God is surely worthy of our striving in understanding its vagaries, clarifying its difficulties, and explaining its secrets. I thank God that He granted you success in seeking to be guided by His definitive revelation.

I asked them: What is the source of your difficulty with this verse? They replied: What is the meaning of ‘food’ here? And what is the meaning of the part of the verse which says, ‘and your food is lawful for them?’ Moreover, what necessitated the issuing of this ruling in the first place?

I replied: May your knowledge be beneficial. Indeed, questioning is half of knowledge. It is evidence of your endeavor to know the correct aspect of the interpretation of the verse. And it is right for you and others that they seek out an explanation regarding the verse. For indeed, this noble verse is of central importance within sūrah al-Māʾidah. Certainly, the books of tafsīr have erred in conveying its appropriate meaning and intent.

They said: Can you point out the exact error in the books of tafsīr? I replied: Commonly, the books of tafsīr define ‘food’ (ṭaʿām) in this verse to refer to slaughtered meat (dhabīḥah). So the meaning of the verse would be that the slaughtered meat of the people of the Book is lawful for you. The problem is that the word ṭaʿām is never used in the Book of God for the meaning of dhabīḥah, nor did the Arabs use it in this way in their poetry or in their general speech. First, observe the usages of the word ṭaʿām in the various places in sūrah al-M āʾidah itself:

“And his mother was a supporter of the Truth, they both used to eat food.” Qurʾān 5:75
“So, its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people, from the average of what you feed your own families.”
Qurʾān 5:89
“There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness blame concerning what they have eaten.”
Qurʾān 5:93
“Or an expiation: the feeding of needy people or the equivalent of that in fasting.”
Qurʾān 5:95
“Lawful to you is the game from the sea and its food as provision for you and the travelers.”
Qurʾān 5:96
Next, observe the various usages from the others sūrahs:
“And recall when you said, O Moses, we can never endure one (kind of) food.”
Qurʾān 2:61
“And upon those who are able (to fast, but with hardship) – a ransom (as substitute) of feeding a poor person.”
Qurʾān 2:184
“So, whoever drinks from it is not of me, and whoever does not taste it is indeed of me.”
Qurʾān 2:249
“Look at your food and your drink; it has not changed with time.”
Qurʾān 2:259
“All food was lawful for the Children of Israel.”
Qurʾān 3:93
“Creator of the heavens and the earth, while it is He who feeds and is not fed.”
Qurʾān 6:14
“And they say, these animals and crops are forbidden; no one may eat from them except whom we will.”
Qurʾān 6:138
“Say, I do not find within that which was revealed to me (anything) forbidden to one who would eat it.”
Qurʾān 6:145
“He said, you will not receive food that is provided to you expect that I will inform you of its interpretation.”
Qurʾān 12:37
“Except when you are permitted for a meal, without awaiting its readiness.”
Qurʾān 33:53
“Is food for the sinful.”
Qurʾān 44:44
“Nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor.”
Qurʾān 69:34
“Nor any food except from the discharge of wounds.”
Qurʾān 69:36
“For them there will be no food except from a poisonous, thorny plant.”
Qurʾān 88:6
“And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.”
Qurʾān 89:17
“And does not encourage the feeding of the poor.”
Qurʾān 107:3

In fact, the word ṭaʿām never comes in God’s book to mean slaughtered meat, whether in sūrah al-Māʾida or any other sūrah. Just think about this: If this were in fact the intended meaning, then what would the statement, “and your slaughtered meat is lawful for them,” really mean? Because the People of the Book eat wherever and whatever they eat, and it does not concern them what the Qurʾān makes lawful for them.

They asked: So then what is the meaning of the word in this particular verse? I replied: The intended meaning of the Qurʾān in all of these verses, without exception, is for the term to refer to all things which are eaten, including animals and other things.

They asked: What is the tafsīr of the verse then? I replied: Observe! Did God not use the word ṭaʿām in the context of the People of the Book?

They replied: Yes, for instance: “All food was lawful to the Children of Israel except what Israel had made unlawful to himself before the Torah was revealed. Say, (O Muhammad) so bring the Torah and recite it, if you should be truthful.” (Qurʾān 3:93) I asked: Then what is the meaning of this verse? They replied: Can you explain it for us.

I replied: Its meaning is that all good food was permissible for the children of Jacob, upon him be peace, except for what Jacob make unlawful for himself due to illness. And that was before the revelation of the Torah. When the Torah was revealed, God made unlawful for the Children of Israel some foods that were previously lawful. That was because of their injustice and transgression. Read the confirmation of this in God’s words: “And to those who are Jews We prohibited every animal of uncloven hoof; and of the cattle and the sheep We prohibited to them their fat, except what adheres to their backs or the entrails or what is joined with bone. (by) That we repaid them for their injustice. And indeed, We are truthful.” (Qurʾān 6:146)

I continued: So some foods were subsequently made unlawful for the People of the Book. Now, is there any mention in the Qurʾān of re-permitting certain foods which were forbidden for the Jews? Yes indeed, for God says: “Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who will enjoin upon them what is right and forbid them what is wrong and make lawful for them the good things and prohibit for them the filthy things and relieve them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So, they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him, and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.” (Qurʾān 7:157)
The verse indicates that from the signs of the unlettered Prophet, whom the Jews had been anticipating, is that he makes lawful the good things and makes unlawful the impure things. And the lawfulness of all pure and wholesome things necessitated the inclusion of those pure things that were previously made unlawful to the Jews due to their transgression. So the unlettered Prophet ‘will relieve them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them.’ The Jews had been awaiting this “unlettered Prophet whom they find written in what they have of the Torah.”

Thus, God announces this in sūrah al-Māʾidah, which is a sūrah representing the completion of blessings, the perfection of religion, and the fulfilment of pledges. In other words, the Messenger that you have been awaiting has now come to you at last. God said, “This day all good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those given the scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them.” (Qurʾān 5:5) His statement, “This day all good foods have been made lawful,” fulfills the prophecy: “He will make lawful for them the good foods.” The statement, “And the food of those given the scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them,” fulfills the prophecy: “and [he will] prohibit for them the evil and relieve them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them.” When He says, “and the food of the people of the Book is lawful for you,” it excludes impure foods because they were already forbidden for the People of the Book. However, from the perspective of some of the previously lawful things which were made forbidden for them, He states, “and your food is lawful for them,” i.e. from your food which was deemed lawful under the category of wholesome foods, some of which was later forbidden but is now allowed once again.

I further said: This verse confirms the good news of our Prophet, peace be upon him, for the People of the Book. Today, they see Muslims deeming wholesome foods permissible and forbidding filthy things, while eating those good foods which were once lawful for them and later forbidden due to their transgressions. The permissibility of those wholesome things has returned due to the blessing of the advent of this Prophet.

They said: The meaning of the verse is now clear to us. But are you forbidding us from the slaughter of the People of the Book? I replied: No, I only intended to clarify the meaning of the verse, which is not about slaughter.

If you want to know how the Messenger, peace be upon him, deduced the permissibility of the slaughter of the People of the Book, then understand this: The third verse in sūrah al-Māʾidah establishes the impermissibility of the dead animals—which are those animals which are not slaughtered—as well as those offered to other than God. From this, it is known that for pure animals, there is in additional condition before they become permissible: that they be slaughtered and not offered except for God. So, the Prophet instructed his Companions to slaughter these animals with God’s name. When God mentioned that the food of the People of the Book is lawful for them, it is automatically understood that permissible animals are to be slaughtered with the name of God prior to consumption.
The food of the People of the Book and the Muslims is wholesome, and this includes animals, but they are only consumed after proper slaughter and the mention of God’s name. If you desire further clarification, read continuously from, “And lawful for you are chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture.” (Qurʾān 5:5) The chaste women from the People of the Book are lawful for us, like chaste Muslim women are lawful for us. However, the understood condition is marriage, which applies to chaste women of the People of the Book as it applies to chaste Muslim women. Similarly, the understood condition for consumption of lawful animals is slaughter and God’s name.

They asked: So why is the condition of reciting the name of God not mentioned in the verse? I replied: There is no need to mention that, because it has been made clear two verses previous to that.

They said: Certainly, the meaning of the verse is now clear, and doubts have been removed. We also know the great position of the verse and that it came to us as a confirmation of what is in the Torah as good news. We also know that it is not about the command for the slaughter of the animals of the People of the Book, and that the translation of the word ṭaʿām as slaughter deprives the verse of its grandeur, loftiness, and proof of the Prophethood of the Seal of Prophets, and Master of the Messengers, prayers and peace of God be upon him.

They said: Thank you for what you have benefited us with. I replied: Praise your Lord, the one who guided us and taught us. Had He not guided us or taught us, we would be misguided and ignorant. I call upon Him that He makes beloved to you the pondering of the meanings of His book, benefiting others by it, following its commands. It is surely the just word, and the complete command. “Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or behind it, (it is) a revelation from (a Lord who is) Wise and Praiseworthy.” Qurʾān 41:42.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

تفسير “وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم وطعامكم حل لهم”

بقلم: محمد أكرم الندوي

قالوا: أشكل علينا قوله تعالى “وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم وطعامكم حل لهم” (سورة المائدة الآية 5)، فأعننا على حل الإشكال والكشف عن خفي معناه، قلت: كتاب الله أحق ما نبذل جهدنا في فهم غامضه، وتجلية مشكله وإيضاح خفيه، فاشكروا الله على أن وفقكم للاستهداء بتنزيله المحكم، واذكروا منشأ استصعابكم للآية، قالوا: ما معنى الطعام هنا؟ وما موضع “وطعامكم حل لهم”؟، وأي حاجة لبيان هذا الحكم؟ قلت: هنيئا لكم العلم، والسؤال نصف العلم، دالا على تطلعكم إلى معرفة الوجه الصحيح في تأويل الآية، وحُقَّ لكم ولغيركم من سائر الطلاب أن يستفسروا عنها، فإنها آية جليلة ذات خطورة في موضعها من سورة المائدة، وقد أخطأتْ كتب التفسير في حملها المحمل اللائق بها والكشف عن مرادها.
قالوا: حدِّد لنا موضع الخطأ؟ قلت: إن عامة الكتب تفسر الطعام في الآية المسؤول عنها بالذبيحة، أي: ذبيحة الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم. والطعام لم يستعمل في كتاب الله تعالى في معنى الذبيحة أبدا، ولا عرفت العرب هذا المعنى في شعرها وعامة كلامها، انظروا في موارد “الطعام” في سورة المائدة نفسها: وَأُمُّهُ صِدِّيقَةٌ كَانَا يَأْكُلَانِ الطَّعَامَ (المائدة ٧٥)، فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ (المائدة ٨٩)، مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ (المائدة ٨٩)، لَيْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جُنَاحٌ فِيمَا طَعِمُوا (المائدة ٩٣)، أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُ مَتَاعًا لَكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ (المائدة ٩٦).
ثم انظروا في موارد تلك الكلمة في السور الأخرى من كتاب الله تعالى: وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ يَا مُوسَىٰ لَنْ نَصْبِرَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامٍ وَاحِدٍ (البقرة ٦١)، وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ (البقرة ١٨٤)، أَوْ كَفَّارَةٌ طَعَامُ مَسَاكِينَ أَوْ عَدْلُ ذَٰلِكَ صِيَامًا (المائدة ٩٥)، قَالَ لَا يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلَّا نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ (يوسف ٣٧)، إِلَّا أَنْ يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ (الأحزاب ٥٣)، طَعَامُ الْأَثِيمِ (الدخان ٤٤)، وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ (الحاقة ٣٤)، وَلَا طَعَامٌ إِلَّا مِنْ غِسْلِينٍ (الحاقة، ٣٦)، لَيْسَ لَهُمْ طَعَامٌ إِلَّا مِنْ ضَرِيعٍ (الغاشية ٦)، وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ (الفجر ١٨)، وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ (الماعون ٣)، فَمَنْ شَرِبَ مِنْهُ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَمَنْ لَمْ يَطْعَمْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي (البقرة ٢٤٩)، فَانْظُرْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ (البقرة ٢٥٩)، كُلُّ الطَّعَامِ كَانَ حِلًّا لِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (آل عمران ٩٣)، فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَهُوَ يُطْعِمُ وَلَا يُطْعَمُ (الأنعام ١٤)، وَقَالُوا هَٰذِهِ أَنْعَامٌ وَحَرْثٌ حِجْرٌ لَا يَطْعَمُهَا إِلَّا مَنْ نَشَاءُ (الأنعام ١٣٨)، قُلْ لَا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ (الأنعام ١٤٥).
فلم يأت “الطعام” في كتاب الله، لا في سورة المائدة ولا في غيرها من السور، بمعنى الذبيحة، ثم ارجعوا إلى أنفسكم وفكروا: إن كان الطعام في معنى الذبيحة فما معنى قوله “وذبيحتكم حل لهم”؟ وأهل الكتاب يأكلون من المطاعم ما يأكلون ولا يهمهم إذا كان القرآن أحله لهم أم لا؟
قالوا: فما معنى الطعام في الآية إذن؟ قلت: هو المعنى الذي أراده القرآن في الآيات المذكورة قاطبة، وهو المطعوم من الحيوان وغيره، قالوا: فما تفسير الآية؟ قلت: انظروا: هل هناك مكان آخر استعمل الله الطعام في سياق أهل الكتاب؟ قالوا: نعم، ” كل الطعام كان حلا لبني إسرائيل إلا ما حرم إسرائيل على نفسه من قبل أن تنزل التوراة قل فأتوا بالتوراة فاتلوها إن كنتم صادقين” (٩٣ آل عمران)، قلت: فما معنى هذه الآية؟ قالوا: اشرحه لنا، قلت: معناها: كل الأطعمة الطيِّبة كانت حلالا لأبناء يعقوب عليه السلام إلا ما حرَّم يعقوب على نفسه لمرض نزل به، وذلك مِن قبل أن تُنَزَّل التوراة. فلما نُزِّلت التوراة حرَّم الله على بني إسرائيل بعض الأطعمة التي كانت حلالا لهم؛ وذلك لظلمهم وبغيهم، واقرأوا تصديق ذلك في قوله تعالى “وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ هَادُوا حَرَّمْنَا كُلَّ ذِي ظُفُرٍ وَمِنَ الْبَقَرِ وَالْغَنَمِ حَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ شُحُومَهُمَا إِلَّا مَا حَمَلَتْ ظُهُورُهُمَا أَوِ الْحَوَايَا أَوْ مَا اخْتَلَطَ بِعَظْمٍ، ذَٰلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُم بِبَغْيِهِمْ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ” (سورة الأنعام 146).
قلت: فقد حرم على أهل الكتاب بعض الأطعمة. والآن انظروا في القرآن هل فيه ذكر لإحلال ما حرم على اليهود من الأطعمة؟ يقول تعالى: الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (سورة الأعراف 157).
فدلت الآية أن من علامات النبي الأمي الذي ينتظرونه أنه يحل لهم الطيبات ويحرم عليهم الخبائث، ويستلزم إحلال الطيبات تلك الطيبات التي حرمت على اليهود ببغيهم ويضع عنهم إصرهم والأغلال التي كانت عليهم، فكانت اليهود ينتظرون هذا النبي الأمي الذي يجدونه مكتوبا عندهم في التوراة.
فأعلن الله في سورة المائدة، وهي سورة إتمام النعمة وإكمال الدين والإيفاء بالعهود، أن النبي الذي كنتم تنتظرونه قد جاءكم، فقال تعالى: “اليوم أحل لكم الطيبات وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم وطعامكم حل لهم”، فقوله “أحل لكم الطيبات”، تحقيق بشارة “ويحل لهم الطيبات”، وقوله “وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم وطعامكم حل لهم” تحقيق بشارة “ويحرم عليهم الخبائث ويضع عنهم إصرهم والأغلال التي كانت عليهم”، فلما قال: “وطعام الذين أوتوا الكتاب حل لكم” خرجت منه الخبائث، لأنها كانت محرمة على أهل الكتاب، ولكن من ضمن ما حرم عليهم بعض الطيبات، فقال: “وطعامكم حل لهم”، أي وطعامكم مما أحل لكم من الطيبات، وقد كان بعضه محرما على أهل الكتاب، قد أحل لهم الآن.
قلت: فهذه الآية تصديق بشارة نبينا صلى الله عليه وسلم لدى أهل الكتاب، والآن يرون المسلمين يحلون الطيبات، وبحرمون الخبائث، ويأكلون تلك الطيبات التي كانت حلالا لهم، ثم حرمت عليهم ببغيهم، وأعيد تحليل تلك الطيبات ببركة مجيئ هذا النبي.
قالوا: قد تبين لنا معنى الآية، فهل أنت تحرم ذبائح أهل الكتاب؟ قلت: لا، وإنما أردت بيان معنى الآية، فإنها ليست في الذبائح.
وإذا أردتم أن تعرفوا كيف استنبط النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم حل ذبائح الكتاب، فاسمعوا، نصت آية المائدة الثالثة على تحريم الميتة، وهي التي لم تذبح، وعلى تحريم ما أهل لغير الله به، فعرف أن البهائم الطيبة يزاد لإحلالها شرط آخر، وهو أن يذبح ولا يهل به لغير الله، فعلَّم أصحابه ذبح الحيوان باسم الله تعالى.
ولما ذكر الله تعالى أن طعام أهل الكتاب حلال لهم عرف أن الحلال من الحيوان لابد أن يذبح باسم الله قبل أن يؤكل، فطعام أهل الكتاب وأهل الإسلام كله طيب، ولا يؤكل الحيوان منه إلا بعد الذبح وتسمية الله تعالى، وإن أردتم مزيد بيان، فاقرأوا قوله متصلا به “والمحصنات من الذين أوتوا الكتاب”، فالمحصنات من أهل الكتاب حلال لنا كما أن المحصنات من المسلمين حلال لنا، ولكن يشترط النكاح لمحصنات أهل الكتاب، كما يشترط النكاح لمحصنات المسلمين، وكذلك يشترط لطعام الحيوان الذبح باسم الله تعالى.
قالوا: فلم لم يضع شرط الذبح والتسمية في الآية؟ قلت: لا حاجة لأنه قد سبق بيانه قبل آيتين.
قالوا: قد تبين لنا الآن معنى الآية وارتفع عنا كل إشكال، وعلمنا عظم موقعها وأنها جاءت تصديقا لما في التوراة من بشارته، وأنها ليست في بيان حكم ذبائح أهل الكتاب، وأن ترجمة الطعام إلى الذبيحة سلبت الآية عظمتها وجلالها ودلالتها على نبوة خاتم النبيين وسيد المرسلين صلى الله عليه وسلم.
قالوا: فالشكر لك على ما أفدتنا، قلت: احمدوا ربكم الذي هدانا وعلمنا، ولو لم يهدنا ولم يعلمنا لكنا ضالين جاهلين، وادعوه أن يحبب إليكم تدبر معاني كتابه مستغنين به عن غيره، واتباع أحكامه، فهو القول العدل، والأمر الفصل، لا يأتيه الباطل من بين يديه ولا من خلفه، تنزيل العزيز الحميد.