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Soaps Made from Animal Fat

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

  Many, if not most, mass-produced soaps contain … substances derived from animal fat.  What is the position of the Shafi’i school on using such soap?  Does it matter if the animal fat came from a cow vs. a pig?  If alternative soaps are not readily available, should one take the Hanafi dispensation mentioned in Reliance of the Traveller, e14.6(4)?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate.  All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all things.  May Allah bless and grant peace to our Master Muhammad, his family, and companions.


All things are assumed to be pure until their impurity has been decisively established.  The one exception to this rule is meat (and the like), which is assumed to be unlawful (and impure) unless the contrary is established.

[Reliance, e14.1(11), f4.8, j16.1]


If it is unclear whether a bar of soap is made from vegetable oil or tallow (animal fat), it is assumed to be pure.  If a bar of soap is certainly made from tallow, but it is unclear whether or not this tallow is impure (because it might be from pigs or improperly slaughtered cattle), then it is assumed to be impure.

In the Shafi’i school, impure substances only become pure in three cases, and the molecular change involved in soap making is not one of them.  Thus, soap made from impure fat is impure.  [Reliance, e14.6]

The fiqh books mention that it is impermissible to apply (al-taDammukh) filth (najasa) on one’s body or clothes.  [I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 1.79] Thus, using impure soap is impermissible.

Many liquid soaps are not made of tallow, so one can look into these as an alternative.  Hard soaps made of vegetable oil can also be found in health food stores.

If one is in a difficult situation and needs to follow the Hanafi dispensation and uses soap made from beef tallow, then one must purify oneself before praying by running water over all parts affected by the filth (soap, in this case) until all traces of it are removed.  Purifying oneself after using pork products is considerably more difficult.

Allah the Exalted knows best and He alone gives success.

Moustafa Elqabbany and Hamza Karamali

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