Question- What is the Ruling on Gelatin Whether Derived from Cows or Pigs?


Question:
What is the ruling on gelatin whether derived from cows or pigs?

The Answer:

In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. All praises are due to Him and we ask Him to bestow His Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad.

We read in the authentic texts that we are taught that Islam is easy and not difficult and/or rigid. Therefore, one should not go out of ones way to find haram. It has been authentically narrated that the Prophet forbade at-takalluf from the Sahabah (meaning that one is determined to find something to be Haram). Although in any given circumstances, if we find (for sure) something to be haram or there is a heavy suspicion that something is prohibited, then and only then we should stay away from that thing. The scholars of Juristic Principles say that the basic ruling for everything is permissibility except that which has been expressly forbidden by either the Qur’an, Sunnah, or consensus of Muslim scholars.

As regards to your question, believe it or not, there is a difference of opinion about the permissibility of gelatin.

The average Muslim and most scholars will tell you that without a doubt anything with gelatin made from animals is Haram especially if it is from Pork. It might be startling to hear this new ijtihad which is based in science. Of course there is no doubt that it is categorically forbidden to eat any type of pig meat or that of a dead animal. So of course before the issue of the chemical molecular process of making gelatin was brought up, there was a consensus that gelatin was forbidden if derived from pork. The new opinion which is held by many scholars on the major Fiqh councils is based in the reality that gelatin is taken from the collagen molecules from the bones or skin usually from pigs and sometimes cows. Through a process called “Istihaalah” in Arabic the chemical structure and molecular class of protein in the collagen is changed to form a new gel-like substance known as gelatin.

Similarly grapes are permissible, but when they are transformed into alcohol then they become forbidden, but then when alcohol becomes vinegar then it becomes permissible.

Regarding this process in general, the scholars are split about the purity of something that changed through istihaalah in which it has transformed due to a chemical reconfiguration to the point that the new substance could not be called by the name of the old. So naturally, the scholars are split on the permissibility of gelatin. Some of those who hold that through istihaalah [seeking to make something impure pure] something becomes pure are not convinced that the process of changing collagen (substance in cow and pig bones) to gelatin is enough to call it different molecular structure than its origin. But many scientists would disagree with them, thus supporting the new opinion. The role in making a fatwa on an issue like this is not to allow the fact that it came from pork to influence the final ruling, instead it should be to establish scientifically if the process of istihaalah took place or not.

I support the first opinion that there is a clear change in chemical structure thus becoming a different substance altogether which does not carry the ruling of cow or pig bone. This opinion is based on thorough scientific research from Muslim and non-Muslim resources. But I am still wary of eating things with gelatin because of the original disagreement of the process of istihaalah.

Some scholars who support the purity of gelatin are Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (Member many Fiqh councils), Dr. Abdul-Ghaffar Ash-Sharif (Former Dean/Professor of Shari’ah Kuwait college), Tahir al-Mahdi al-Baleeli (European Fiqh Council), Muhammad Al-Hawaari (European Council for Fatwa Research).

And Allah knows best,

Abu Majeed

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21 Comments

  1. Chocolate Junky says:

    Alhamdulillah, you now get “halal” gelatine products; i.e., the gelatine is derived from permissible animals killed in the proper Zabihah-fashion. The UK confectionery market has been flooded with halal gelatine sweeties as a result! Yum.

    My biggest concern is with the consumption of manufactured foods that use alcohol (more specifically ethyl alcohol/ethanol) as a carrier for flavourings and other ingredients. From example, vanilla.

    I am aware that there is a difference in opinion on the issue. But even if you followed the opinion that it was not permissible to eat these foods – they are everywhere! 99% of the time, the ingredients on the side of the packet says “flavourings”. So what are we meant to do in this situation of doubt?

    I personally try to minimise consumption of foods, where I’d be left clueless as to what “flavourings” actually means. It’s not the hardest thing, and the added benefit is that it keeps me from eating a lot of junk food (sweets, chocolate, cakes… oh man!). But sometimes I think I am being extreme, which is why I haven’t told anyone about my decision (umm, except now), and politely decline anything offered to me that I know for sure falls into this ‘doubtful’ category, without going into why. I don’t want to spread a habit that is not promoted in Islam, and is simply a personal preference.

    I just realised how long this comment is! Anyhow, any guidance on the matter would be most appreciated.

    Btw, this is one of the examples of where following a particular madhab is so useful. Right now I don’t, and these small, but confusing issues (as well as much larger ones) are one reason why I am seriously considering the madhab way… just a matter of which one and when to make the switch? A completely different topic…

  2. J says:

    As-Salam Alaykum.

    Can you please tell us who brother Abu Majeed is? , i.e. full name, qualifications, etc. ?

    Anyways, barakh-Allah feek for sharing this fatwa; I really think it is important for Muslims to stop being so overly strict with matters in which there is leniency.

    Fi Aman Allah

  3. Does anyone have insight onto what the different madhabs say on this issue?

  4. Abu Majeed says:

    As-Salam alaikum,

    Dear Choclate junky,
    Ma Sha Allah! We pray the Muslims all over the world make a pure Islamic option accessible. It is well known that it is makrooh to put yourself in doubtful matters especially with food since the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned that having pure halal food is a means of having your Du’a answered. That being said, we should not go out of our way to find things to be Haram. As far as the Fiqh of foods with alcohol, can say that based on a fatwa I read by Salman al-Awda in applying the principles to the non-Alcoholic beer, the following, He sent the beer to a Muslim chemist and had him anylize it. They found that yes there is a very small percentage of alcohol. They then did a study to see if it could possibly make one the least bit intoxicated (chemical changes in the brain which lead to the least changes in behavior and mindset). They concluded that one must drink 23 12 oz. cans in 1 hour to have such a change take place. They also confirmed that this would be impossible without causing major damage if not killing the one who attempted it because of putting so much fluid in such a short span of time. Therefore the shaikh says that it is not prohibited to drink such drinks. This is based on the teaching of the Prophet, “Whatever causes intoxication in large amounts then the least bit of it is Haram to consume.” So we understand that the prohibition of alcohol is because of its ontoxicating effects. Therefore I would say- and Allah knows best- generally in the west or at least for sure the law is to prohibit underage individuals from buying food or drink which could possibly intoxicate, therefore if it is something that anyone could buy I would assume that it is not haram for us to eat. Otherwise kids would stock up on those things to get a buzz adn I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    That being said avoiding doubtful matters as individuals is a beautiful manifestation of taqwa which will keep you away from sin and lead you to salvation. On the other hand if someone follows an opinion by an established scholar then we should not accuse them of doing anything wrong. Labeling something Haram in matters of disagreement is not allowed except by scholars themselves. If you want to quote a scholar then fine, but beware of generalizing or labeling things as Haram because you heard or think so.

    Dear J,
    I am a full-time student of Shari’ah for 6 years. I studied for three years at Islamic American University with different scholars in the class and personal lessons, I completed sixteen level + program at Ad-Diwan in Egypt, attended various lectures at Azhar Mosque by a few leading scholars of Fiqh, Hadith, and Usool, I have a certificate from Islamic Institute of Kuwait, and I have spent three years studying three classes a week Fiqh and its principles at the feet of the top Hanbali scholar in Kuwait.

    Dear Coolguy,
    This is a Fatwa related to a new reality that the scholars of the original madhhabs didn’t face. That being said as illustrated the principle has been dealt with in principle thus why some scholars agree with this new ijtihad while many don’t .

  5. Riaz says:

    Assalam-o-alaikum,
    Last week I purchased a herbal medicine for my prostrate gland health. Its one of the ingredients is a gelatine. Similarly, if yoy purchase any multivitamins e.g. A-Z, one of the ingredients is gelatine. The question is: Is that permissible to take these medinines?
    Thanks

  6. Abu Majeed says:

    Dear Br. Riaz,
    According to well-grounded much more established and experienced scholars mentioned in the article it is permissible. As a personal brotherly advice based upon well-known principles of Shari’ah, I would especially encourage you to take this fatwa in the case that required medicines and vitamans which are not available without gelatin. I personally would not hesitate in such circumstances. As far as eating foods that I am well aware are with gelatin, I personally am waiting to see what happens when this opinion is looked into and explained further by different scholars even though those who have concluded as to its permissility openly permit it at http://www.islamonline.net

  7. J says:

    Wa alaykum as-salam.

    Barakh-Allah feek, Shaykh Abu Majeed.

    Please do not take it personally that I asked for your qualifications. It was just so I know who passed this fatwa, before I pass it on.

    May Allah [swt] reward you.

    Fi Aman Allah

  8. R says:

    But regardless of the process of istihaalah, it will not change the pig’s substance into cow’s substance. Is it okay to use any substance, processed or not, come out of the pig? And if the gelatin comes from cow, does the process of Islamic way of slaughtering matters, or not? Am I getting too paranoid over this?

  9. Salafee says:

    I didn’t know the Hanbali madhub was being practiced and taught somewhere in the world – I just thought they all became salafees.

    May Allah unite the ummah, ameen

  10. Abu Majeed says:

    As-Salamu alaikum R,

    Maybe you misunderstood what is being said. The istihaalah process is a process of changing the molecular structure be some process. This process could be as simple as boiling water or as complicated as a chemical process in a lab. At any rate istihaalah has taken place when the molecular structure of something has changed so much that it cannot be called teh original substance anymore. Here we are talking about the boiling of collagen (found in animal bone) and then putting it through a process of temperature change and often adding other ingredients to form gelatin.

    The reason both cow and pigs were mentioned because they are the two most popular ways to make gelatin (while pig being more common for its being cheap). So if it was made with cow substance then it would be permissible for the majority of scholars as long as that cow was slaughtered by the people of the book. In this case istihaalah is of no consequence whether it happened or not since it is permissible in the first place. The Hanafi’s and some who follow individual scholars do not deem the meat of the people of the book Halal, but Hanafi’s do support the permissibility of something was originally impure becoming pure after the process of istihaalah thus making gelatin from pigs or cows legal.

    My dear brother Salafee,

    The title Salafee is oppressed by its claimants in many cases. The Hanbali madhhab is oppressed by those who confuse it with “Salafism”. The truth is that the Hanbali madhhab is just like any of the other madhhabs with some minor differences in its Ijtihad principles thus the Fiqh details. In my experience it is the best for dealing with Aqeedah because of pure submission to the clear meaning of the texts without allowing the human mind to get in. I also found it better in financial contracts because of encouraging more freedom for manmade conditions and considering cultural norms and obligations and finally, believe it or not, in encouraging the rukhas (divine exceptions) in worship. Yes it being taught as it has been from its main texts for 12 centuries.

    Salafi is a word made famous recently by Saudia Arabian scholars as well as their students and Sh. Albani was was in His own class and believe it or not as a non-Arab born in Albania and raised in Syria(ra), He had a heavy influence with Ibn Baz (ra) and Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (ra) in influencing the modern reform in Saudia which is mainly based in the Fikr (thought/minhaj) of Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab al-Hanbali and the Fiqh of Ibn Taymeyyah Al-Hanbali who strayed from the madhhab in about %15 of his ijtihads. If you read the collection of the books by the two you could become highly aware of what is called Salafi today if not a pro at it. The problem is that this is not Salafi. It is focus on two scholars one who was centuries after the Salaf (although no doubt on the level of the best of the Khalaf) and then a relatively recent thinker and their interpretation and leanings as to what was the Salaf. That being said, I don’t think you would be to far off as both were great men who had a great understanding of Islam, but in my own opinion many people don’t understand the context under which some of their intricacies of harshness happened in and making that harshness directed toward anyone who doesn’t agree with the those who are following (taqleed) these two shaikhs. I find that very unwise and imbalanced in approach. And the last thing it is is SALAFI, it is bigotry based on ignorance stemmed in a lack of true studying and blindly following a few scholars and a few books compared to the thousands of scholars and millions of books this Ummah has produced from the east to the west. The vast majority of which took from, of course… the Salaf.

    Long story short the Hanbali madhhab and its true followers are much more comprehensively following and understanding the Salaf than your average modern “Salafi” claimant.

    And Allah knows best

  11. iqbal says:

    Shaykh,

    Which Hanafi scholars say that the meat of the people of the book is not permissible? I have never heard this (I could be wrong). My understanding is that the reason why many people including myself don’t eat this meat is not due to principle, but due mainly to unislamic practices in slaughtering the animals, eating maytah, mixing meats at the butcher, contamination at the restaurant, etc. Perhaps you say “hanafi” because Pakistanis and Indians tend to be more particular about this issue and they are majority hanafi…but like I said, I never knew this to be a madhab issue.

    I have never known it to be anything beyond a contemporary issue which has less to do with fiqh than it has to do with the reality of things at the slaughterhouse and the butchershop.

  12. Syed says:

    Assalamualikum,

    It is mentioned in the above article a quote “Islam is easy”.

    Yes, it is every easy for me to just avoid anything which has gelatin, it is not at all difficult. I don’t do scientific research on gelatin to avoid it, I just avoid it, since it is not at all an important ingredient in our home made foods.

    It is economically beneficial to eat home cooked food.
    It is health wise beneficial to eat home cooked food.
    It is unhealthy to eat processed food or eat at junk restaurants.
    Even if I am traveling I can easily carry authentic halal food easily.

    There is one more quote in the article “It has been authentically narrated that the Prophet forbade at-takalluf from the Sahabah (meaning that one is determined to find something to be Haram)”

    So my question is, Is there any authentic narration that the Prophet sas allowed Sahabah to find something to be Halal when there are thousands of eatables are available. (people doing scientific research to find something REDUNDANT (gelatin) permissible or halal). Do we really need to do scientific research to find gelatin is permissible or not?

    There are thousands of things and alternatives (plants, fruits, vegetables and meat) we can eat without any doubt. Then why do we need to BE RIGID and find if gelatin is permissible.

  13. abul-hussein says:

    We do run into a problem aside from the gelatin issue if we do not use the principle of istihala for beef products. Gelatin personally I avoid in any event but what I found is that most pain relievers use some sort of beef product now if we do not employ the istihala principle we run into a disruption of affairs that is a degree of miscomfort that varies from person to person. Gelatin is definitely an issue but beef products in medicine is another ball game. I mean we can avoid rennet in cheese and pork in food and medicine but when we add pork and beef together we are in hardship unless we like go vegan. Now that is a possibility but in the meantime we need the istihala principle at least on beef abstracts in medicine food stuffs is a different ball game.

    Allahu Al’am

  14. Abu Layla says:

    Looking at the meat industry in general–Anyone seen the Meatrix?

    http://www.themeatrix.com/

  15. Sister says:

    Jazak Allahu Khairan!

  16. Mansoor says:

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    Interesting article, there does seem to be subtle indication though that ‘science’ is on the side of the new fatwa. I remember once speaking to a shaykh trained in hanafi fiqh from sham, about the issue of smoking being haram. The shaykh who had also learnt from the indian sub continent was quick to point out that people jump to conclusions when it comes to the legal basis of rulings and the knowledge of the ulema about developments in science and how those developments effect the original ruling. The shaykh said that in spite of all the scientific evidence that has amounted regarding the catastrophic effects of smoking, he said that after discussing with leading hanafi scholars from the sub continent, that their considering the ruling to still be makrooh(i don’t know whther thay say it is tahreemi or tanzeehi) was in awareness of the scientific developments and was in his eyes still a strongly justifiable ruling according to the principles of the hanafi madhab. In short he was trying to explain to us not to ‘knock’ those ulema or think that they are somehow ignorant of modern developments.

    In light of that, i found the following extract on the issue of gelatin. You will see in the last paragraph that it would be erronous to think that the traditional fatwa on gelatin is being expressed only by those who have defficient knowledge of chemical transformation, rather there seems to be an indication of the opposite, ironically!

    GELATINE
    Gelatine is not a naturally occurring protein, but is derived from the fibrous protein collagen, which is the principal constituent of animal skin, bone, sinew and connective tissue. A very complex chemical procedure is undertaken to extract the gelatine from its raw stage and make it usable for consumption and otherwise. A detail follows on how gelatine is extracted from animal hides in 8 different stages to form the final product.

    Raw Material

    Raw materials intended for medicinal use and food production are generally skin and bone of pig or calf. Some plants use animal tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilage’s and hooves. In the case of animal hides, the prime source of gelatine, leather tanneries wash them in lime solution and chemicals are added to dissolve the hair from the surface. The hides are then sent through various machines which remove traces of meat from underneath the hide and then split the hide horizontally into a number of thin sheets. The top sheets are used in leather production as it has the grain pattern on the surface whilst the bottom layers, known as split hides, are used in gelatine production.

    Chemical Treatment

    Animal hides are preserved in lime solution [pH 13-14] The hides are chopped into pieces 6-8 inches in size and allowed to soak in caustic soda solution. Approximately 1% strength is used, reducing a little in the warm summer months. The soak in caustic soda lasts about 2-3 weeks which has the effect of breaking down [denaturing] the protein, enabling it to be extracted into hot water.

    Washing

    Following the soak, the hide pieces are pumped into special washing equipment. Acid is added to acidify the hides [pH 1.5-2.0] and then washed to remove impurities and salts for 8 hours.

    Extraction

    The washed hide pieces are pumped into large extraction tanks where hot water is added and temperature maintained at about 50c. The hides break down slowly in the slightly acid solution [pH 3.0-3.5] to form gelatine. This is drained off once at certain strengths and then fresh hot water is added at a higher temperature to give another extraction. 3 further extractions are made, producing gelatines of different physical properties, [e.g. setting strength and viscosity].

    Purification

    The gelatine solution drained from the heated hide pieces is then purified. The first stage is filtration and the final stage is through a 2 micron filter to give a solution of high clarity. The gelatine is then de-ionised in order to remove excess salts not removed during washing.

    Evaporation

    Following purification, the gelatine solution is evaporated in large vacuum evaporators to a strength of about 30%.

    Sterilisation

    Before drying, the Gelatine is sterilised to remove all bacteria. The conditions used are standard in the Food industry – 140c at 4 seconds minimum.

    Drying

    The Gelatine solution is chilled to make it set, and then placed in a drying tunnel for 2-3 hours. It leaves the tunnel dry, and is broken into granules for storage purposes.

    Availability

    Gelatine is commercially available in sheets, shreds, flakes or coarse powder. It is white or yellowish, has a slight but characteristic odour and taste and is stable in dry air but subject to microbial decomposition if moist or in solution. It is insoluble in cold water but swells and softens when immersed gradually absorbing 5 to 10 times its own mass of water. In hot water it dissolves to form a thick colloidal mucilage which forms a jelly on cooling. Gelatine varies widely on quality and is usually graded in jelly strengths.

    Uses

    In its raw form it is used for the treatment of brittle finger nails and other non fungal defects but proof of efficiency of such treatment is lacking. It is also used in the preparation of many pastes, throat pastilles, vaginal pessaries and rectal suppositories. Gelatine is the main ingredient in all hard and flexible capsules. Many older tablet formulations still contain gelatine as a binding agent. The most important value in therapy is as an easily digested adjuvant food-when supplemented, it is very widely used for various forms of malnutrition, gastric hyperacidity and ulcer, convalescence and general diets of the sick.

    Edible Gelatine is used throughout the food industry, for example in confectionery, ice-creams, jellies, chocolates, sweets, jams, pastries, desserts, dairy products and the meat industry. It acts as a stabilising and smoothing agent in foods. Gelatine is also used in the manufacture of rubber substitutes, adhesives, cements, lithographic and printing inks, photographic plates and films, matches, sizing papers and textiles.

    Islamic Law Regarding Gelatine

    If the source of Gelatine is derived from a Halaal source then its usage is permissible, whilst if the source is Haraam or Mashqook [doubtful] then it will be considered Haraam. The hide matrix or gelatine protein is basically a piece of skin, which is hydrollised, washed, melted and extracted, purified, evaporated, sterilised, chilled, dried and granulated for further shelf life and easy use. Alkaline treatment tends to remove amide groups present on certain amino acid residues on the collagen protein chains resulting in a lowering of the isoelectric point and consequently an alteration not a transformation of the chemical and physical properties of the protein occurs. Despite the above method of changing a raw product into gelatine under tremendous chemical pressure still retains much of its chemical equation. The collagen triple helix structure is lost during this procedure but the resultant Gelatine product retains the original coil structure. The aspect of Tabdeel-e-Mahiyyat does not take place.

  17. Syed says:

    Brother Mansoor, thanks for the excellent explanation.

    Jazakallah khair.
    Syed

  18. Aref says:

    Assalamulay kum,

    I just wanted to know about the ruling on eating collagen sourced from pork.
    Thanks

  19. Muslim says:

    the entire claim was based on the theory that gelatin is ‘no longer protein’. however scientific research indicates that it is in fact 98-99% of animal protein in the final product (Stevens, P.V. (1992). “Unknown”. Food Australia 44 (7): 320–324. Retrieved 2005-08-11) –

    similar results were found by medical Journal of Health and Healing, stating that the structure of amino acids found in the gelatin are almost identical with the ones found in its source

    i.e. if it is made of pork, you are eating a set of amino acids typical for pork that are not any similar to the set of amino acids found in beef

    so do not be deceived – the process of istihala clearly was incomplete and our Prophet upon him be peace told us to avoid that which is doubtful

  20. Ahsan says:

    I think once an animal(pig) product, changes its chemical form or structure, it becomes halal. Simple reasoning for common understanding is that a dead pig or its manure, when absorbed in soil and transformed in a tree and its fruit, would you classify the fruit as haram because it absorbed the pig. Off course NO. Similarly the chemical constituent of pig product, like Hydrogen or oxygen etc. if converted in to water, can not be termed as haram due to the Hydrogen coming from Pig.

  21. Farid says:

    In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

    Dear Abu Majeed,

    Thank you for your answer to this question. I would like to share a few points of view and some scientific data with you that have influenced my view on this subject.

    As we all know we are allowed to eat meat from a cow, but not from a pig (2:173) as it is impure (6:145). Even though both are called meat and both are rich in proteins, they are different in many ways. This means that by definition meat is not a pure substance. Chemical analysis supports this.

    This also goes for Gelatin [1]. Just like meat being a mixture of similar proteins (/peptides) of which the pork-kind-of-mixture is forbidden for us, gelatin also is NOT a pure substance. If you download the article I refer to above, you will see that bovine gelatin and porcine gelatin both contain the same amino acids (table 1), but in different amounts. Just like meat contains proteins, fat etc, but in different amounts. This means that obtaining gelatine from pork (or beef) is not al-Istihaalah. The remaining substance is a mixture and not pure. In the case of a watery alcohol mixture that turns into vinegar, the forbidden part (alcohol) is replaced by acetic acid, so the resulting mixture does not contain alcohol and is allowed. For pork meat this is not necessarily the case: we do not know the reason why the Quran describes pork/swine as impure. So we can not know if this impurity is neutralized in the process of making gelatin. For all we know pork-gelatin could be a concentrated mixture of the impure pork meat contents…

    [1] http://www.researchgate.net/publication/236971151_differentiation_of_bovine_and_porcine_gelatin_based_on_spectroscopic_and_electrophoretic_analysis/file/60b7d51a894bdce685.pdf

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