‘Naturally’ Brewed Soy Sauces & Sanha

Q. Some people claim that soy sauces are ‘naturally brewed’.  According to Sanha, ‘fermentation in itself is not a cause for prohibition, but is when it causes intoxication. It occurs in many common foods such as breads, atchaar, vinegar etc.’ Is Sanha’s claim valid?

A. Simply do not believe what the Sanha Shayaateen have to say. The Ulama of Sanha went to court to close the Masaajid. Therefore, when a Molvi is incapable of understanding the importance of performing Salaat with Jamaat in the Musjid, then such a Molvi cannot be trusted on matters pertaining to Halaal and Haraam. The brains of such Munaafiqeen are thoroughly fermented.

Consider the Kikkoman soy sauce. The alcohol in the Kikkoman product is acquired by the fermentation (brewing) process. It is not ‘naturally occurring’ for the simple reason that the Kikkoman product is not a ‘naturally occurring’ product. It is made from several items – wheat, salt, water and soybeans. The alcohol content renders it haraam. This is not the same as bread to which no Haraam ingredient was added.

Sanha has failed to differentiate between a brewed product and a baked product. Brew means to prepare (beer, ale, etc.) by steeping, boiling, and fermentation. Bread is baked. It is not brewed. However, soy sauces are brewed. An example of the process of producing soy sauce is as follows:

“The soybeans are steeped in water for 16 hours; then the soaked beans are dehulled and cooked. The beans mixed with wheat flour or grit are inoculated with fungi Aspergillus orzyae and incubated for three days with occasional stirring. This is called the Koji stage. The resulting material is mixed with brine. A ferment dominated by yeasts and lactic acid bacteria then develops, this being Mormi stage. After an incubation of one month to three years, a dark salty liquid with a pleasant savory aroma is drained from the fermentation vessel, clarified, pasteurized and packaged for sale. Yeast growth is vigorous during incubation period and the production of carbon dioxide indicates that an alcoholic fermentation is taking place. Typically, a full brewed soy sauce will contain between 1 and 2 % (V/V) ethanol.”

Now what logic is it to compare soy sauce with baked bread? Since no alcohol ingredients have been added to the bread, it will be halaal. The percentage alcohol found in bread due to modern chemical tests is most probably the effect of the yeast. Bread was made since time immemorial and no one of the Shariah’s authorities ever made an issue with it.

As far as vinegar is concerned, Tabdeel-e-Maahiyat (A Shar’i concept of complete metamorphosis) takes place. Hence, it is silly and extremely unacademic to compare soy sauce with vinegar. Soy sauce does not undergo Tabdeel-e-Maahiyat! The Sahaabah Radhiyallahu Anhum consumed vinegar! Just like vinegar, after Tabdeel-e-Maahiyat, will have an alcohol residue, but remain halaal, so too is it with bread.

Miniscule alcohol content which is present naturally does not affect the permissibility of the item nor is it a basis for pronouncing halaal products to which alcohol is added. Consider fruit. Chemical analysis will establish a miniscule alcohol content in even some fruit, especially if overripe. Since alcohol is not added to fruit to give it its miniscule residue, the fruit remains halaal. But if one drop of khamr is added to the fruit, it becomes haraam regardless of the miniscule quantity.

Miniscule residue of alcohol is not a basis (asal) for the employment of Shar’i Qiyaas. One cannot foolishly argue that since fruit which Allah Ta’ala declared to be Halaal, is proven to contain alcohol due to chemical experiments, now this will prove that all other products containing minute quantities or extremely insignificant percentages of alcohol are automatically permissible. Such reasoning is baatil.

We simply do not know what atchaar the carrion cartel certifies as Halaal, but the mango or carrot atchaar which Muslims prepare at home, are undoubtedly Halaal as long as no Haraam ingredient has been added to it. Soy/soya sauces which are brewed are not permissible!

And as far as the feeble intoxication argument is concerned, alcohol produced by the brewing system is Haraam. A few teaspoons of beer will not intoxicate a person. Yet, it will be Haraam! Regardless of the soy sauce not intoxicating, it is haraam. A fundamental property of all alcohols is the intoxicating attribute. However, due to the small quantity the sauce will not be intoxicating. Nevertheless, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has prohibited even a small quantity of a substance which intoxicates when consumed in a large quantity notwithstanding the non-intoxicating effect of a small quantity.