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Islamic View on Using Leather

Shi’a Fuqaha have proclaimed a variety of dimensions about leather including rulings on its sale and purchase, its purity and impurity, eating and feeding it to others and its permissibility in prayers.

As public tendency towards leather garments and objects is increasing, so are fatwās [religious rulings] concerning taharah [ritual purity] and najāsah [ritual impurity] of leather. Shi’a Fuqaha have proclaimed a variety of dimensions about leather including rulings on its sale and purchase, its purity and impurity, eating and feeding it to others and its permissibility in prayers.

This article attempts to elaborate on two of these dimensions;

First: Ruling on Purity and Impurity of Leather

Second: Ruling on Permissibility of Leather in Prayers

For more convenient access to Fiqhi rulings on leather, pertinent rulings of the Shi’a Marajʻ Taqlid are categorized as follows:

  1. Leather That One Is Not Sure Is Natural;

Leather, which a Muslim is either sure or considers it possible to be artificial or is unaware of its nature, is clean and prayers with it is permissible. Moreover, there is no need to inquire whether the leather is natural or artificial.

Note: Even if a leather garment is branded “natural leather” and one is suspicious of its verity, that leather is clean and one can pray in or with it.

  1. Leather That One Is Sure Is Natural;

There are two probabilities in circumstances under which one is sure that the leather he has purchased or received as a gift is natural;

2.1: Leather which is procured from a Muslim or purchased from a Muslim market;

Under this circumstance, the Shi’a Marajʻ Taqlid have issued the following rulings:

Leather, under this circumstance, is clean and one can pray with it;

“His Eminences Grand Ayatollahs Khomeini, Vahid Khorasani, Khamenei, Makarem Shirazi.”

Leather, which is purchased from a Muslim or a Muslim market and it is not clear whether it has been procured from a pagan or it is probable that its purity has been inquired, is permissible to pray with – even if it is procured from a pagan;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Khoei”.

Leather, which is probable to have been extracted from a ritually-slaughtered animal [a clean animal slaughtered according to the Shi’a rituals], is clean and one can pray with it in the following circumstances:

firstly, it should have been produced in a Muslim market, though procured from a pagan; secondly, it should have been procured from a place in a Muslim territory; thirdly, leather imported from a non-Muslim market or territory is clean, provided that its purity and impurity has been inquired.

If owner of a leather garment testifies to its purity or sees Muslims praying in it, that leather is clean and one can wear it in prayers. Except these circumstances, leather is unclean;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Shubeyri Zanjani”.

Leather, which is purchased from a Muslim or a Muslim market and it is not clear whether it has been procured from a pagan or it is probable that its purity has been inquired and even if it is procured from a pagan, it is admissible to pray with it, provided that that Muslim uses it in a way that a permissible leather is used; namely, he prays with it.

Leather, which a Muslim procures from a pagan and refrains from inquiring whether or not it is from a ritually-slaughtered animal, is clean;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Sistani.”

Leather, which is procured from a Muslim in a Muslim market, is clean. But, if it is procured from a pagan, it should be avoided as an obligatory precaution; unless one is sure that that leather has been procured from a Muslim;

“His Eminences Ayatollah Golpaygani and Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani.”

2.2: Leather which is procured from a pagan or purchased from a pagan market;

Under this circumstance, the Marajʻ Taqlid have issued the following rulings:

Leather, which is procured from a pagan and it has not been inquired whether or not it is from a ritually-slaughtered animal, is unclean;

“His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Khomeini.”

Leather, which is procured from a pagan or a Muslim salesman purchases it from a pagan without having inquired whether or not it is from a ritually-slaughtered animal, is unclean;

“His Eminences Ayatollah Khoei and Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani.”

Leather, whose purity and impurity has been inquired, is clean. If owner of a leather product testifies to its purity or sees Muslims praying in it, that leather is clean and one can wear it in prayers. Except these circumstances, leather is unclean;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Shubeyri Zanjani.”

Prayers in leather, which is procured from a pagan or a Muslim purchases it from a pagan without having inquired whether or not it is from a ritually-slaughtered animal, is admissible;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Sistani.”

Leather, which is procured from a non-Muslim marketplace and territory for sale, is unclean and cannot be traded if there is certainty about its impurity. But if one is unsure of its purity or impurity, that leather is presumed as clean; but it is inadmissible to pray with it. And there is no need to repeat those prayers which have been performed without knowledge to this ruling;

“His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Khamenei.”

Leather materials – from animals slaughtered either in Islamic or non-Islamic ways – are clean, but one cannot pray with them unless he is sure the animal has been ritually slaughtered or the leather has been procured from a Muslim territory;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi.”

Leather, which is procured from a pagan or from a pagan market, is unclean unless one is sure that that leather comes from a Muslim territory.

Leather, which is being held by a Muslim in a pagan marketplace, should be avoided as an obligatory precaution; unless that Muslim purifies it and there is probability that it has been purified;

“His Eminences Ayatollah Golpaygani and Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani.”

Now, relevant religious rulings of the Marajʻ Taqlid will be discussed in detail;

  1. Leather bottles or dishes, which are made from skin of unclean animals or a dog or pig, are unclean, so is any liquid or object that comes in contact with it. Drinking from water or eating food defiled by contact with that dish is thus forbidden. Ablution with that defiled water is invalid too. But it can be used for irrigating lands and giving water to animals [Circumstances under which cleanliness of leather is not obligatory].
  2. Prayers with garments made from skin of unclean animals with gushing blood such as lizard, fish and snake – is invalid, even though their corpse is clean;

“Overwhelming majority of the Marajʻ Taqlid.”

Objects and garments, which are made from skins of reptiles like snakes and alligators in non-Muslim countries and sold at marketplaces, are ritually clean and praying with them is permissible;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Sistani.”

  1. There are differences in rulings of the Marajʻ Taqlid regarding probability of purification of some animal skins;

Elephant, bear, monkey and reptiles like snake, mouse and lizard are unclean, if they have gushing blood and die naturally. They cannot be purified even when they are slaughtered, except weasel and lizard;

“His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Khomeini.”

Elephant, bear, monkey and reptiles like snake, mouse and lizard are unclean, if they have gushing blood and die naturally. But, they can be purified if they are either slaughtered or killed by gun;

“His Eminences Ayatollah Khoei and Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi.”

These animals are unclean even if they are slaughtered or killed by gun, and it is an obligatory precaution to avoid them;

“His Eminences Ayatollah Golpaygani and Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani.”

Skin of dog, pig and reptiles with gushing blood like mouse cannot be purified by slaughtering and killing; but skin and meat of other forbidden animals – either predators or non-predators, even elephant, bear and monkey – can be purified by slaughtering and hunting by firearms;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Sistani.”

Elephant, monkey and bear are clean if they are either ritually slaughtered or killed by gun. But, skin of reptiles like mouse with gushing blood and useless skin cannot be purified by slaughtering or hunting; neither can they be purified even if they have useful skin;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani.”

  1. If one rules out probability of impurity of his leather garment and suddenly realizes that that leather is impure, he should immediately take it off; this applies to a circumstance under which he forgets about his garment’s impurity and suddenly remembers it during prayers; unless the forgetfulness is due to negligence, and the obligatory precaution in this circumstance is that he should repeat his prayers;

“His Eminence Ayatollah Sistani.”

  1. If meat, suet and leather are procured from a foreign territory where some animal skins are not forbidden – for example Hanafi and Shafi’i schools of Sunni jurisprudence believe some animal skins can be purified by tanning – one must inquire of the salesman about the method of slaughtering.

Once he ensures the slaughter was in compliance with the prescribed Islamic rituals, the leather or meat can be used. However, one must avoid informing others immediately after the salesman confirms the verity of the ritual slaughter.

Moreover, one should refrain from informing others immediately after someone selling meat or leather in a foreign country confirms it is from a ritually-slaughtered animal; however, religious rulings on ritual purity are instantaneously applicable on that meat or leather;

“His Eminence Shubeyri Zanjani.”

The article compiled by Sayyed Mahdi Narimani and Motahhareh Malmir and translated by Ijtihad Network.

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