Answer by Shaykh Salim Giza
In the name of Allah the most Beneficent and Merciful.
Working in a place that sells Alcohol or Haram food carries a different ruling depending upon the circumstances. Generally it is Haram for a Muslim to work in a place which sells Alcohol or serves Alcohol in it's premises. The same applies for Haram food as the general ruling is; what is Haram to you is also Haram to others', whether they believe it or not.
Our scholars state:
"Anything haram to use oneself is haram to give to another." [Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah; Majalla]
Also regarding Alcohol, The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) explained that among those who are cursed by Allah [i.e. completely distanced from His Mercy, and under His Anger] are the those who accept it and those who serve it. [Tirmidhi and Ibn Maja]
Therefore if a person has employment in such a place they should seek alternative employment as soon as possible.
The exception to the rule is where the main source of income is not from Haram food or alcohol such as a cashier in a supermarket. The scholars state that one must avoid to the best of their ability handling or scanning alcohol but the employment and money earned would be Halal. However, piety is in looking for alternative employment.
The reason for this ruling is as follows:
In the case of the actions mentioned in the question, that which is interdicted takes place through the choice and actions of a willing actor, not as a direct result of the actions of the Muslim in question. i.e. the owner is a non Muslim.
` Ala ' al-Din al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) said in his Durr al-Mukhtar, considered the most definitive commentary in Hanafi fiqh for legal details:
“(And) it is permitted to repair a church or (to transport wine for a non-Muslim) by oneself or one's vehicle (for money).”
Ibn Abidin commented in his Radd al-Muhtar, which is the primary reference for the relied upon positions of the school, (His saying, 'It is permitted to repair a church.')
It is stated in al-Khaniyya(1) that if one got hired to work in repairing a church, there is nothing wrong with it [though it is better not to], because the sin is not in the action itself. (His saying, 'and to transport wine for a non-Muslim')
Now for the scientific bit!
'This is Abu Hanifa's position. His two companions [ Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan] said that it is [prohibitively] disliked (Makrooh), because the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) cursed ten with regards to wine, and he included the one who transports it. Abu Hanifa's reasoning is that the hiring is for transporting itself is neither a sin nor a reason for it. Rather, the sin only occurs through the action of a willing actor (i.e. Non Muslim), and drinking [ which is the sin, for example] is not necessarily done so by the transportation, because it could be [ for a permitted reason such as] to throw away or to transform into vinegar. Therefore the reason to it being hired to press or cut grapes. As for the hadith, it is interpreted to mean transporting with the intention of sin…'
Then, Zayla`i said,
'The same difference exists [between Abu Hanifa and his two companions] if he is hired with a vehicle to transport wine, or if hired to herd pigs. In such cases, the wages are permissible according to Abu Hanifa, and [prohibitively] disliked (Makrooh) according to Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan. (Imam Abu Hanifas two students) although the relied upon position in these issues is that of Abu Hanifa.(2)
It is mentioned in al-Muhit (3) that, '…. If a shoe-maker is asked to make a shoe like that [characteristic] of Magians [or other non-Muslims], or the corrupt, or if a tailor is asked to make clothing like that [characteristic] of the corrupt, it is disliked to do so, because it is a means to the imitation of unbelievers or the corrupt [which is impermissible.]” [Radd al-Muhtar`ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 'Babal-Bay`'] Therefore it is the position of a Muslim to prefer Taqwa (God- consciousness) and piety over doubtful means. Also the true belief that verily livelihood is provided by Allah.
Of course Allah knows best
- Al Khaniyya is the Fatawa works by Qadi Khan who was one of the greatest Hanafi Imamas of the 6th Century.
- When the students of Imam Abu Hanifa differ from the Imam, the position of the Imam is taken. The reason why they differ is that the students were Mujtahid Imams themselves therefore they had the qualification to differ but followers of the Madhab(school of thought) stick to the position of Imam Abu Hanifa as it is his Madhab.
- Al Muhit is the Arabic-English dictionary.