In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets. The Prophets did not leave behind dinars or dirhams, rather they left behind a heritage of knowledge, and the one who acquires it acquires an abundant portion”. (1)
The writers at Wikipedia stated: In March 2014, Al-Fawzan denied that he issued a fatwa banning ‘all you can eat’ open buffets, claiming he only said that open buffets should identify the quantity so that people don’t end up buying the “unknown”. [End of quote]
Indeed, the language employed above in relation to this subject matter appears to imply that Al-Allaamah Saalih Al-Fawzaan [may Allah preserve him] is disputing something he previously stated and then stating something else! However, a detailed examination of his first and second pronouncements reveals that there is no contradiction or denial on his behalf, nor is he making empty claims.
First and foremost, what is a buffet? They say it is “a meal where people serve themselves different types of food”. (2) “a meal set out on a buffet or table for ready access and informal service”. (3) “a variety of dishes presented in a line, from which diners in a restaurant serve themselves, usually at a fixed price regardless of how much one eats”. (4) “A buffet is a meal of cold food that is displayed on a long table at a party or public occasion. Guests usually serve themselves from the table”. (5) “a meal for which different foods are placed on a table so that people can serve themselves”. (6) “a meal at which people serve themselves from a table and then stand or sit somewhere else to eat”. (7)
According to the preceding definition, a buffet is a meal or selection of foods from which customers serve themselves, and the question presented to Al-Allaamah Saalih al-Fawzaan was not whether buffets are allowed! Rather, the question concerned a specific type of business transaction related to buffets, which is that some restaurants offer open buffets, in which customers pay a set amount of money and then eat anything they want, regardless of whether they consume more or less than the set amount of money. So, Al-Allaamah Saalih Al-Fawzaan responded by saying that this is not permissible because there is uncertainty and speculation in this type of transaction (i.e. a Gharar). Listen here: https://youtu.be/NgCS9Lh4LBQ?si=_NmvXGvyBG6yIIey
In this first Fatwa, it is abundantly obvious that Al-Allaamah Saalih Al-Fawzaan [may Allah preserve him] was responding explicitly to the description of a certain type of transaction relating to buffets, rather than buffets in and of themselves.
Then, on another occasion, he was asked if he had issued a Fatwa against open Buffets! So he responded that this was a lie; rather, he was asked about a buffet where a person – for example – is charged 50 riyals and then told to eat whatever he wants, and this type of transaction is Majhool (i.e. a transaction in which what the seller sells and what the buyer receives is speculative, ambiguous, or unknown), whereas buying and selling is to be based on clarity. Listen here: https://youtu.be/hkm7HF66J5I?si=jCd5hAYWRa4-fyvv
Therefore, no contradiction, controversy, denial of facts, or baseless assertions can be attributed to Al-Allaamah Saalih Al-Fawzaan in this matter. Rather, it is quite evident that the verdicts focused on the distinction between buffets in and of themselves and buffets accompanied by the type of transaction that would be tantamount to conjecture, uncertainty, or ambiguity. When the buffet with an ambiguous transaction was described to him, he gave the verdict it deserved because the upright scholars do not flatter anyone or go along with the desires of the people, but rather pass verdicts based on the knowledge Allah has bestowed on them with piety and honesty. There is no contradiction between his first and second declarations since the first forbids a particular type of transaction that is connected to a buffet, and the second necessitates that no prohibition was mentioned against buffets that do not involve this type of transaction. Neither did he issue an erroneous verdict against the transaction that was described to him nor is there a contradictory denial or claim in what he said from the beginning to the end of this affair. We ask Allah to protect our Salafi Scholars from the tongues of the ignoramuses Aameen. Finally, Shaikh Abu Khadeejah provided the following brief comment regarding this topic at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxRWDX5xCDo
To be continued InShaaAllah