Surah 5:5


Dr. Zohurul Hoque & Husain Nuri


5:5  This day the good things have been made lawful for you.  And the food of those who have been given the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them; and the chaste women out of the believing women and the chaste women out of those whom the Scripture has been given to before you, when you have paid them their dowers, living chastely, without fornicating and without taking as paramours.  And whoever disbelieves, he then has nullified his work; and he will in the Future be of the losers.

5:5 Interpretation of this verse cannot and should not be oversimplified to include any food of the People of the Book as lawful for the Muslims. Just as pork offered by a Christian cannot be lawful for the Muslims, similarly carrion offered by a Muslim cannot be lawful for the People of the Book. The issue of legality, therefore, must be endorsed by the rulings given in the respective scriptures, including the Qur'ân. The Old and New Testament clearly defines the lawful food for the People of the Book (Acts. 15:29). If these ruling are clearly followed, not every meat sold in the Western supermarkets is lawful even for the People of the Book, let alone for the Muslims. Thus, the lawful food prescribed for the People of the Book is lawful for the Muslims, subject to the express restrictions set up in v. 3 above and reiterated in 6:145; 16:115, particularly about mentioning Allâh's name at the time of slaughtering. The word ta'âm is the verbal noun of root ta'ama (lit. to eat, to feed) meaning food, including crops, fruits meat, vegetables etc. Since the permitted and prohibited food are connected to the manner an animal meat is prepared, evidently the word ta'âm refers to animals slaughtered by the People of the Book, provided that during the time of slaughtering God's name is invoked (6:121). The requirement to invoke God's name is a must. In other words the word ta'âm refers to dhabiha meat i.e. the meat prepared after slaughtering an animal by cutting the throat (jugular vein, carotid arteries and trachea) and during slaughtering Allâh's name is invoked (Ibn 'Abbâs, Mujâhid, 'Ikrimah - all quoted by Tabari, Ibn Kathîr). Thus, meat of lawful animals slaughtered by the People of the Book invoking name of the One God is lawful for the Muslims (cf. 6:118-119,121). 

Regarding intermarriage Islam embraces broad outlook unlike the restrictions seen in Judaism or Christianity (Deut. 7:3-4; II Cor. 6:14). Marital relationship knits the closest bond between different families and communities. The Muslims are permitted to marry muhsanât or chaste women from the People of the Scripture, i.e. from all communities, provided they believe in one God and they are not idol worshippers (2:221; 36:6). As the verse gives permission to marry such woman, it promptly makes it clear to fulfill first obligation of a legal marriage: to pay her the dower. By paying the dower, these women are recognized as family member and they are given property rights from the very first day (2:229; 4:4). Furthermore, relations with such woman must be maintained in true spirit of Islam, without fornicating (4:24-25) and without taking them as paramours. Noteworthy is that the verse has not allowed Muslim women to marry men from other religion. The main reason being Islam encourages non-compulsion in the matter of faith and advocates religious freedom, but in an alien household, Muslim women may not enjoy same rights. As well, Islam granted social dignity and honor to a woman, besides giving her rights to ownership of property, but it cannot be expected in an alien household. Furthermore, a Muslim woman in an alien house runs the risk of religious subjugation leading to possible apostasy.








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