According to some scholars, eating cooked meat, or meat that has been roasted on open fire, requires new ablution before one can offer prayers. This is due to the fact that one day the Prophet (peace be upon him) and some of his companions were eating together and the main course of the food was roasted camel meat. After the meal, prayer was due and the Prophet told his companions: “Whoever ate camel meat should have a fresh ablution.”
While this is a clear case and the instructions given after the meal are also clear, most scholars do not consider that eating such food requires a fresh ablution. They point to a number of Hadiths, which show the Prophet having eaten cooked meat of all sorts without performing a fresh ablution for prayer. We will look at some of these Hadiths:
• Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s wife, reports that she “placed before the Prophet a large, roasted portion of a sheep. He ate of it then went out for the prayer without performing a fresh ablution.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Nassaie and Al-Tirmidhi.)
• Abdullah ibn Al-Harith reports: “Bread and meat were brought to the Prophet when he was in the mosque. He ate of it and we ate with him. Then the prayer was called. The Prophet stood up and prayed. We also prayed with him. None of us did anything more than wiping our hands in the sand.” (Related by Ibn Majah and Al-Baghawi.)
• Abdullah ibn Abbas reports that “God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) ate of a lamb shoulder and then he prayed without performing a fresh ablution.” (Related by Malik, Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)
• Jaafar ibn Amr ibn Umayyah reports that “his father saw the Prophet cutting a portion of a lamb shoulder when he was called to prayer. He put the shoulder and knife down and went to pray without performing a fresh ablution.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
In all these Hadiths, the last two of which are highly authentic, we see that the Prophet ate cooked meat, some of which cooked on open fire, without subsequently performing a fresh ablution for prayer. This is a clear enough evidence confirming that eating such meat does not invalidate ablution. It is taken for granted that in all these cases, the Prophet had already performed ablution, but did not need to renew it for merely eating cooked meat.
Another Hadith gives two different situations on the same occasion. Jabir reports: “The Prophet went out once and I accompanied him. He entered the home of a woman from the Ansar. She slaughtered a sheep for him and he ate of it. She then brought him a plate of dates and he ate of it. He then performed ablution and offered Dhuhr prayer and left. I brought him some delicacies from the sheep and he ate of it. He then prayed Asr without performing a fresh ablution.” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Baghawi.)
In this Hadith we see the Prophet performing ablution after eating of the cooked sheep, but then he ate more of it without performing ablution for his next prayer. This makes it clear that he first performed ablution because he had not performed it earlier. The fact that he ate cooked meat afterward did not alter the situation. He did not need to renew his ablution as a result.
How do we reconcile the requirement of performing ablution for prayer after eating camel meat, as indicated in the first case we mentioned? And why do some scholars consider this to be needed for the validity of prayer? We should remember that the first case, when the Prophet said to his companions that they needed a fresh ablution after eating camel meat, is a well known case and there is no doubt about what the Prophet said on that occasion. This is indeed the reason why some Hadith scholars enter the above-related Hadiths, and similar ones, under a heading like, “abrogating the need for ablution after eating cooked meat.” In this way, they consider that this was a requirement that was subsequently abrogated.
Some discerning scholars argue it differently. They point out that the Prophet was too careful in his dealings with his companions and other people. He tried his best to avoid embarrassing anyone, particularly in the presence of other people. On the occasion when he told his companions to perform ablution after eating camel meat, he might have realized that someone had invalidated his ablution by discharging wind. Had he told that particular person to have a fresh ablution, or had that man been the only one to perform ablution, it would be known to all that he was the one who discharged wind and caused the bad smell when they were all eating. That would be particularly embarrassing. The Prophet wanted to cover up for the man, and he did so by telling everyone to have a fresh ablution, linking this requirement to eating meat rather than the discharge of wind, which is known to invalidate ablution. These scholars point out that this was the only occasion when the Prophet made such a requirement. Prior to this he did not do so. His subsequent practice shows that no ablution is needed as a result of eating cooked meat. This is a valid explanation that reconciles the opposite implications of the relevant Hadiths. Moreover, it is fitting with the Prophet’s character and the way he took good care of his companions.
Some scholars make it clear that a fresh ablution is not required after eating cooked meat. However, they say that to renew one’s ablution after it is preferable, because it provides a way out of this controversial issue. This may be so, but we should be clear that no such requirement is needed.