Question: AsSalamu alaikum,
We as people of the sunnah understand the Quran and sunnah the way that the sahabahs understood it therefore i would like if you can explain to me why commercial vinegar is halal in light of the narration by Umar RA that says “… There is nothing wrong with a man buying vinegar from the people of the Book, if they sell it, so long as he knows that they did not deliberately process it from wine.” (Al-Mughni, 8/330). We know today that the majority of vinegar is intentionally produced from wine. I read the ingredients of my ketchup pack and it said cane vinegar meaning cane alcohol was used to produce vinegar. Many people think that vinegar is just another name for acetic acid but that not true as explained by the FDA http://www.versatilevinegar.org/faqs.html .Hence, can you explain to me why the Hanafi madhab chooses to allow the consumption of vinegar and their opinion of the narration of Umar RA. because my heart is not at ease consuming something that a great companion RA did not agree with.
Answer: Assalaamu alaikum,
It is a fact that most if not all vinegar made today is made by a two-step process: Alcoholic fermentation followed by bacterial fermentation which changes the alcohol into vinegar.
In some cases the starting material is the fruit such as crushed apples in the making of Apple cider Vinegar. In other cases the starting material is alcohol, such as wine used to make wine vinegar.
In both cases the vinegar will be Halaal, except where there is a definite process which leaves some alcohol in the vinegar such as Balsamic vinegar.
The Hadith you mentioned and others which are similar are meant to indicate the prohibition of wine and even its storage or trade is not permissible. Other Ahadith which came later have given the allowance for the use of vinegar that is produced continually from the starting material or deliberately changed from alcohol into vinegar.
In one Hadith narrated by Jaabir (R.A) and found in Sahih Muslim, THE Prophet (S.A.W) was reported to have said: “What a good food is vinegar!” Proving its general allowance.
In the specific case you have mentioned, the cane vinegar is most likely obtained from cane juice from which the two fermentations occur one after the other. Even if however ther cane alcohol was first fermented and then the vinegar made subsequently there will be acceptance of this product as Halaal.