Answered by Shaykh Ilyas Patel
Question: I have found three opinions concerning cheese made with animal rennet.
Q1) One is that since the rennet is haram, the cheese is haram.
Q2) Another is that since the rennet doesn’t remain a part of the cheese- it is only used to separate the curds from the whey, the cheese is halal.
Q3. Another is that the Prophet (saws) ate cheese, therefore it is halal. I am not clear about this particular one and would like to find out in more detail, i.e. was this cheese made using animal rennet?
So, is cheese/whey made using animal rennet halal or haram, according to the Hanafi School?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
A1. In the Hanafi School, rennet obtained from an animal slaughtered by a non-Muslim or Muslim in accordance with Islamic law or contrary to it, in all cases is permissible, as long as the animal in question is not a pig.
Most well informed people are adamant that rennet, which is used to make cheese, is not derived from pigs.
A2. Rennet, Rennin as an enzyme is used in the food industry for the preparation of cheese by curdling milk. The only way to know whether the source of rennet is animal, plant or microbe is to ask the food industry about it or have it written on the label.
The lawfulness of rennet does not depend on the slaughterer being a Muslim or non-Muslim, in fact it depends upon whether there is life in it or not. The circulation of blood in an organ is the cause of life. No blood flows through rennet, therefore rennet is not a living thing. Therefore, it cannot ‘die’ and it is thus permissible to consume rennet.
[Muslim Food Guide, pg 25-30, http://www.halaal.co.uk ]
A3. It has been narrated in the major hadith collection s from Abdullah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him and hi s father) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was brought cheese in the Battle of Tabuk. He asked for a knife then recited ‘bismillah’ and cut the cheese.’ (Abu Dawud)
Cheese made with animal rennet other than a pig source is halal. The fuqaha explain, however, that it is better to avoid whenever reasonably possible when its source is unknown because of the difference of opinion between the Sunni schools of fiqh regarding its permissibility and the doubt therein.
And Allah alone gives success.