Question:

What is the ruling of buffets?

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

Transparency and specification of the particular subject matter is a pre-requisite for the validity of a transaction.  Jahālah Fāḥish (gross obscurity) in transactions is prohibited in Shari’ah. 

Abu Hurayrah raḍiallahu `anhū narrates,
“The Messenger of Allah ṣalalallahu `alayhi wasallam forbade transactions determined by throwing a stone and transactions which involved some uncertainty.” (Narrated by Muslim).[1]

Transactions with gross obscurity and uncertainty are prohibited by all of the jurists (Fuqahā’)[2]

Imam al-Qarāfī discusses seven places where obscurity (Jahālah) and uncertainty (gharar) can transpire in transactions:

1)    In the existence of a commodity
2)    In the acquirement of a commodity
3)    In the genus of a commodity
4)    In the type of commodity
5)    In the amount of the commodity
6)    In specifying when there are multiple commodities
7)    In the continued existence of a commodity in particular foodstuff[3]

However, when certain transactions become a customary practice and norm, the level of jahālah decreases and is overlooked. 

Imām al-Dasūqī rahimahullah states,
“Minimal uncertainty is that which people tolerate,”  (Ḥāshiyah al-Dasūqī)[4] .Furthermore, when an existing jahālah does not generally create discord or disharmony, it also weakens the influence of the jaḥālah on a transaction. 

A juristic objection raised against buffets is that at the time of transacting, no particular dish is specified.  This creates an element of obscurity as one pays having a number of options to select.  Despite buffets having a certain amount of obscurity and uncertainty, since the prices are fixed and usually the dishes are fixed, the obscurity is not gross.  Furthermore, such transactions are a customary practice which do not generally lead to disputes.  Hence, buffets are permissible.  This is also the opinion of Mufti Taqi Uthmani hafiẓahullah in his monumental work ‘Fiqh al-Buyu”.

One may argue that there is no obscurity at all since the transaction session can be regarded as one whilst one is in a restaurant eating.  Therefore, by the end of the transactional session, all the subject matters of the transaction will be known.[5] 
 
And Allah Ta’ālā Alone Knows Best
Mufti Faraz Adam,
www.darulfiqh.com
 
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[1]  عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ: «نَهَى رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَنْ بَيْعِ الْحَصَاةِ، وَعَنْ بَيْعِ الْغَرَرِ» (صحيح مسلم رقم الحديث 1513)

[2]  الْجَهَالَةُ الْفَاحِشَةُ:

وَهِيَ الْجَهَالَةُ الَّتِي تُفْضِي إِلَى النِّزَاعِ وَهِيَ تَمْنَعُ صِحَّةَ الْعَقْدِ، وَمِنْ شَرْطِ صِحَّةِ الْعَقْدِ أَنْ يَكُونَ الْمَعْقُودُ عَلَيْهِ مَعْلُومًا عِلْمًا يَمْنَعُ مِنَ الْمُنَازَعَةِ.

وَمِنَ الْجَهَالَةِ الْفَاحِشَةِ بُيُوعُ الْغَرَرِ الَّتِي نَهَى عَنْهَا رَسُول اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَبَيْعِ حَبَل الْحَبَلَةِ، وَبَيْعِ الْمُلاَمَسَةِ، وَالْمُنَابَذَةِ، وَالْحَصَاةِ، وَبَيْعِ الْمَضَامِينِ، وَالْمَلاَقِيحِ، فَهَذِهِ وَنَحْوُهَا بُيُوعٌ جَاهِلِيَّةٌ مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَى تَحْرِيمِهَا، وَهِيَ مُحَرَّمَةٌ لِكَثْرَةِ الْغَرَرِ وَالْجَهَالَةِ الْفَاحِشَةِ فِيهَا. (الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية ج 16 ص 169 الطبعة الثانية، دارالسلاسل – الكويت)

[3]  ثُمَّ الْغَرَرُ وَالْجَهَالَةُ يَقَعَانِ فِي سَبْعَةِ أَشْيَاءَ:

1 – فِي الْوُجُودِ، كَالآْبِقِ قَبْل الإِْبَاقِ.

2 – وَالْحُصُول إِنْ عَلِمَ الْوُجُودَ كَالطَّيْرِ فِي الْهَوَاءِ.

3 – وَفِي الْجِنْسِ كَسِلْعَةٍ لَمْ يُسَمِّهَا.

4 – وَفِي النَّوْعِ كَعَبْدٍ لَمْ يُسَمِّهِ.

5 – وَفِي الْمِقْدَارِ كَالْبَيْعِ إِلَى مَبْلَغِ رَمْيِ الْحَصَاةِ.

6 – وَفِي التَّعْيِينِ، كَثَوْبٍ مِنْ ثَوْبَيْنِ مُخْتَلِفَيْنِ.

7 – وَفِي الْبَقَاءِ كَالثِّمَارِ قَبْل بُدُوِّ صَلاَحِهَا، فَهَذِهِ سَبْعَةُ مَوَارِدَ لِلْغَرَرِ وَالْجَهَالَةِ (الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية ج 16 ص 169 الطبعة الثانية، دارالسلاسل – الكويت)

[4]  (قَوْلُهُ: غَرَرٌ يَسِيرٌ) أَيْ وَهُوَ مَا شَأْنُ النَّاسِ التَّسَامُحُ فِيهِ (حاشية الدسوقي على الشرح الكبير ج 3 ص 60 دار الفكر)

[5]  (قَوْلُهُ: إلَّا إذَا بَيَّنَ فِي الْمَجْلِسِ) قَالَ: فِي الْبَحْرِ: فَإِذَا ارْتَفَعَتْ الْجَهَالَةُ بِبَيَانِ أَحَدِهِمَا فِي الْمَجْلِسِ، وَرَضِيَ الْآخَرُ صَحَّ لِارْتِفَاعِ الْمُفْسِدِ قَبْلَ تَقَرُّرِهِ فَصَارَ كَالْبَيَانِ الْمُقَارَنِ. (حاشية ابن عابدين ج 4 ص 538 السعيد)

(وَ) صَحَّ (فِي) مَا سَمَّى (صَاعٌ فِي بَيْعِ صُبْرَةٍ كُلُّ صَاعٍ بِكَذَا) مَعَ الْخِيَارِ لِلْمُشْتَرِي لِتَفَرُّقِ الصَّفْقَةِ عَلَيْهِ، وَيُسَمَّى خِيَارَ التَّكَشُّفِ (وَ) صَحَّ (فِي الْكُلِّ إنْ) كِيلَتْ فِي الْمَجْلِسِ لِزَوَالِ الْمُفْسِدِ قَبْلَ تَقَرُّرِهِ

(قَوْلُهُ: لِزَوَالِ الْمُفْسِدِ) وَهُوَ جَهَالَةُ الْمَبِيعِ وَالثَّمَنِ. (قَوْلُهُ: قَبْلَ تَقَرُّرِهِ) أَيْ قَبْلَ ثُبُوتِهِ بِانْقِضَاءِ الْمَجْلِسِ ط. (حاشية ابن عابدين ج 4 ص 539 السعيد)