Eating with non-Muslims

<QUESTION>

I have recently been abroad for 1 night with work. This trip was very short. In the evening a few people took me out for a meal. I ordered Fish, but my colleagues were drinking wine and eating haram food throughout the meal. Alhamdulillah this did not touch me, but what does Islam say about this sort of a situation where one encounters alcohol + haram food around oneself.

I realise we must abstain from alcohol at all times but o this occasion and on other occasions when it is necessary for me to travel abroad, this situation becomes unavoidable. It is also difficult to ask colleagues to refrain from alcohol and haram food as this is a norm for them. Please help clarify this.
 

<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

There are few scenarios to this question:

If eating with non-Muslim work colleagues entails one eating Islamically unlawful (haram) food such as pork, or drinking alcohol or taking part in prohibited practices, such as music, dancing of semi-nude women, etc, then this would be prohibited.

The reason behind this is obvious, in that a Muslim should abstain from unlawful things unless there is a dire need, and there is no real need here which may make prohibited things permissible. Thus, if one participates in parties where one is involved in eating haram food or partakes in other haram practices, then this would be sinful.

Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) sums this up in one of his Fatawa: He states:

“It is not proper for Muslims to bow down before such avenues of sin. The challenges to what Islam forbids being experienced by you give you all the more occasion to stay firm on your Faith. And should the Muslims living in non-Muslims countries (and they are not that few) could get to agree on not participating in such functions, chances are that non-Muslims themselves would be left with no reasonable option but to weed out such disagreeable practices from their functions.” (See: Contemporary Fatawa, p. 292)

If the party or gathering is connected to some religious event of the non-Muslims, such as Christmas parties, then again it will be impermissible for one to participate. The reason behind this is that, by taking part in their religious functions and gatherings, one will be indirectly approving of their disbelief (kufr) and their religion. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade Muslims from even offering their own Salat at the time of sunrise, zenith and sunset, for there was an element of outwardly resembling the sun worshippers. 

(Note that the followers of every faith, whether Christians or Jews, follow their faith because they feel it is the true faith and the best for humanity. Muslims are no different in this regard. They are Muslims because they feel that Islam is the true and best religion. As such, engaging in an activity which undermines this belief and validates the beliefs and practices of other faiths is considered unlawful. Otherwise, why would a Muslim be a Muslim – and for that matter, why would a Jew be a Jew or why would a Christian be a Christian – if they feel that the beliefs and practices of all other faiths are also valid.

This does not mean a Muslim should reject the right of other faith members to follow their faith. On the contrary, a Muslim should respect the rights of others to follow whatever faith they wish to follow, but at the same time a Muslim has a right to consider his/her own faith to be the true and best of faiths).

The third, and the most common, situation is eating with non-Muslims without one having to eat haram food or indulge in unlawful practices, but at the same time, they (non-Muslims) are drinking wine and eating unlawful (haram) meat, etc.

The ruling with regards to such situations is that, to make a habit of this would be impermissible. However, if there is a genuine need (such as work get-togethers) and it is done infrequently, then it would be permissible, provided one does not be affected by the ways and practices of the Kuffar.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) also accepted the invitation of a non-Muslim by eating at his house. Ibn Qudama (the great Hanbali jurist, Allah have mercy on him) states:

“If a Non-believer (dhimmi) invites one for the marriage feast (walima), our (hanbali) scholars state that it will not be binding to accept such invitation, for accepting the invitation of a Muslim is based on respect, love and brotherhood (which is not the case will non-Muslims), and there is a possibility of their food being contaminated with unlawful and impure substances. However, it will be permissible to accept their invitation because of what Sayyiduna Anas (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that a Jew invited the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) to come and join him for barley bread and soup, and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) accepted his invitation.” (al-Mugni, vol.7, p.3)

Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) invited non-Muslims to his house.

Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) invited a non-believer (kafir) to his house for food. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) commanded that a goat be milked for him. It was milked and he drank its milk. Then a second one was milked and he drank its milk, and then another goat was milked and he drank its milk until he drank the milk of seven goats. On the next morning he embraced Islam. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) commanded that a goat should be milked for him and he drank its milk and then another was milked but he did not finish it, whereupon the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “A believer drinks in one intestine while a non-believer drinks in seven intestines.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 2063)

The above was the practice of the beloved of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in compliance with the statement of Allah Most High:

“Allah forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not concerning your faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for Allah loves those who are just.” (Surah al-Mumtahinah, 8)

It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:

“Is it permissible to eat with a fire-worshipper or any other non-believer? It has been related from Hakim Imam Abd al-Rahman al-Katib that, if a Muslim was afflicted and confronted with this once or twice, then there is nothing wrong with that, but to make a habit of doing this would be (prohibitively) disliked.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5/347)

In conclusion, it will not be permissible to eat with non-Muslims (or even Muslims) if it entails one participating in unlawful things, or if the food party is connected to a religious event of the non-Muslims. Besides that, if one eats with them now and then without forming a habit, and limits it to the genuine need, then there is nothing wrong with that.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK