Note: This is English translation of Fatawa regarding Non-Halaal Slaughtered Animal Rennet, issued by Pakistan’s Most Reputable Fatwa Centre, Dar_ul_Ifta Jamia Uloom_e_ Islamiyah, Banuri Town, Karachi. Original Urdu Fatawa web link is given at the end.
English translation and publication by: SANHA HALAL ASSOCIATES PAKISTAN.
The Shari’ah Ruling Regarding Non-Halaal Slaughtered Animal Rennet
I would like to know what the Muftis say about the following issue: Some time ago, while discussing whether animal rennet is Halaal or Haraam in a program regarding Halaal food, a certain mufti said that “rennet is used when making cheese and it can be derived from (the stomachs of) lambs, calves or piglets. The lambs or calves are slaughtered after they have drunk milk and while the milk is still in their stomachs. The milk which is removed has a fermenting effect and causes liquids to solidify. This is rennet.
If the rennet is removed from the stomach of a Halaal animal (i.e. which may be consumed according to the Shari’ah), such as lambs or calves, it will be Halaal even if the animal was slaughtered in a manner contrary to the Shari’ah. The Imams of the three mazaahib (Imam Shaafi’i, Imam Maalik and Imam Ahmad s) are of the view that such rennet is impure and Haraam. Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad s of the Hanafi mazhab opine that it is pure when solid and impure when liquid.
Imam Abu Hanifah r has stated that the rennet which is derived from a Halaal animal, whether solid or liquid, is pure irrespective of whether it was slaughtered according to the Shari’ah or not. The reasons for this are as follows:
- Only those parts of an animal are labelled “carrion” which had life in them prior to the animal being slaughtered. For this reason, one is allowed to use the skin, hair and bones of a Halaal animal which was not slaughtered according to the Shari’ah (non-Halaal slaughtered animal) as all these parts are pure. Similarly, since there was no life in the rennet prior to being slaughtered, the rennet which is removed from a non-Halaal slaughtered animal will also be pure.
- It is incorrect to make a distinction between solid and liquid rennet by claiming the liquid rennet is impure due to the fact that it comes into contact with the animal’s impure blood. This is because the Quran itself states that milk is produced from the animal’s dung and blood, whereas milk is still considered pure.
- It was common practice among the Sahaabah j to eat cheese. This is because Iran was conquered and the Sahaabah j ate cheese there, Syria was conquered and the Sahaabah ate cheese there and even the Messenger himself g ate cheese during the expedition of Tabuk. One may argue that the Syrians where people of the scriptures and therefore their slaughtered animals are Halaal, but the people of Madaain and Persia were all fire-worshippers and their slaughtered animals are not Halaal. However, despite this, the Sahaabah j ate the local cheese.
For all the above reasons, our elders are of the opinion that we should not consider Halaal (i.e. permissible to eat according to the Shari’ah) but non-Halaal slaughtered animals’ rennet Haraam. This is the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r and there is room for leeway in the matter.”
Firstly, I would like to know if the above-mentioned explanation of the respected mufti is correct. Is this really the accepted opinion (muftaa bihi)?
Secondly, if cheese is imported from foreign, non-Muslim countries and it contains rennet which has been derived from lambs or calves, will such cheese be Halaal (bearing in mind that a non-Muslim slaughtered the animal in a way contrary to the Shari’ah)?
The ruling with regards to rennet is generally found in the books of Fiqh under the section of purity and impurity. Just as it is worth considering the different arguments presented by the jurists as to whether or not the blood found in parts of a slaughtered animal’s body other than the veins – such as the skin or flesh – will render one’s clothes or body impure if it were to settle there; similarly, the jurists also argue that one will consider the milk Halaal and the saliva pure if the animal was slaughtered according to the Shari’ah. However, if the very same animal had to die of any other cause or be slaughtered in a manner contrary to the Shari’ah, since the flesh and skin is now considered impure, will the milk in its stomach (rennet) or the milk in its udders and the meat of the animal still be pure or not? Furthermore, if this milk or rennet (of the above-mentioned non-Halaal slaughtered or dead animal) settles on the clothes or body, will these also be considered impure or not? The jurists have recorded two views regarding this matter:
- All the jurists (including Imam Abu Yusuf r and Imam Muhammad r) unanimously agree that, if the container is impure, the contents will automatically become defiled and impure, as well.
- The second opinion in this regard (which has been attributed to Imam Abu Hanifah r) is that one cannot declare the contents impure if the container is impure and, based on this latter view, the milk and rennet of a dead or non-Halaal slaughtered animal will remain pure.
All the proofs presented by both parties have been mentioned in the books of fiqh and can generally be found in the chapter regarding the rulings of water (باب المياه). At this juncture, we would like to ask: Is the milk or rennet of a Haraam animal (an animal which has either died a natural death or was slaughtered contrary to the rules of the Shari’ah) Halaal or not? One finds allusions to the answer in the various subsidiary issues discussed in the chapter of water. For example:
As proof that it is pure, some argue that the Sahaabah j used to eat the cheese made in places where there is no guarantee that the animals were slaughtered according to the Shari’ah and the use of rennet was well-known and common in those places. This practise of the Sahaabah j indicates that non-Halaal slaughtered animal rennet should be Halaal. This matter will be dealt with in more detail later on in this treatise – Insha-Allah.
Similarly, in the chapter of slaughtering (كتاب الذبائح) it is clearly mentioned that the milk and rennet of non-Halaal slaughtered animals is Haraam according to the principles of Imam Abu Yusuf r, Imam Muhammad r as well as the majority of the jurists; but Halaal according to the principles of Imam Abu Hanifah r.
However, before we issue a verdict and argue in favour of either of the above-mentioned views, it is imperative that we understand an important rule, principle and gauge regarding such matters. The rule is:
For the derived ruling to match the principal ruling in every single aspect is one matter, while it is a completely separate matter for this derived ruling to be the actual accepted (مفتى به) and practiced (معمول به) ruling of the mazhab.
This is a basic rule which every mufti knows and can easily understand. When one scrutinises the above-mentioned view which was attributed to Imam Abu Hanifah r in light of this principle, we find that all the jurists, especially those who had the right to prefer the views of some jurists over those of other jurists (أهل الترجيح), have declared that this view cannot be practised upon and the fatwa of the mazhab cannot and may not be issued according to it.
Accordingly, the commentator of Ad-Durr-ul-Mukhtaar has explained the statement “…this applies to everything which has no life in it, including the rennet and milk according to the preferred view…” as follows:
“The statement ‘according to the most preferred view’ refers to the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r. I (the author) have not come across anyone else who has preferred this view and I surmise that he may have assumed this from the fact that the author of Al-Multaqaa has mentioned it before the view of Saahibayn t as per his normal habit when it comes to showing which view is preferred… from this we gather that the container itself is impure according to the unanimous view of the jurists and, in order to dispel any misconceptions, the author changed the text in his book Mawaahibur-Rahmaan and stated: ‘The same applies to the milk and rennet of dead animals (or non-Halaal slaughtered animals) which has been declared impure by Saahibayn t. This is the most apparently correct view unless the rennet is solid in which case it will become pure if it is washed. This proves that the view of Saahibayn t is the most preferred view.”
From what ‘Allaamah Shaami r has clearly stated (which we just read), it is clear that, if any scholar of Deen finds a reference which indicates that the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r is the preferred and correct view, it is simply a misunderstanding of the texts, because ‘Allaamah Shaami r himself states that he could not find any clear reference anywhere which indicates that any scholar considered the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r to the preferred and accepted view upon which anyone may pass a fatwa.
In his monumental work I’laaus-Sunan, ‘Allaamah Zafar Uthmaani r mentions a detailed discussion regarding cheese containing rennet, a summary of which is as follows:
“It is not permissible to eat cheese which contains the rennet of dead animals, whether they are dead due to dying a natural death or whether they were declared dead due to being slaughtered in a manner contrary to the Shari’ah (i.e. due to an incorrect method or a person whose slaughtered animal is not Halaal).”
From the statements of ‘Allaamah Shaami r and ‘Allaamah Uthmaani r we clearly see that the rennet of dead animals (as explained above) is not Halaal. As for Imam Abu Hanifah’s r view that it is pure and Halaal – neither has anyone issued a fatwa according to it nor has anyone practised upon this view. Instead, all the jurists and muftis have declared the rennet of dead animals impure and Haraam and THIS is the view of the Hanafi mazhab. The view of Imam Abu Hanifah r has been repudiated and, according to the principles of Hanafi fiqh, a repudiated (مرجوح) view is considered either a splinter view (شاذ) or non-existent (neither of which may form the basis of a fatwa). Thus, it is against the principles of Hanafi fiqh to say that the rennet of dead animals is completely Halaal.
We should also remember that the views and proofs of those scholars who consider this rennet to be Halaal were also presented to the jurists and muftis who held the opposite view, but none of them declared it Halaal based on these proofs. Thus, although it is not necessary to even answer the “research” of the scholar mentioned in the question, we have decided to briefly mention our response for the academic benefit it may contain and in order to remove any misconception which may still exist.
As his first proof, the scholar in question mentioned that “only those parts of an animal are labelled “carrion” which had life in them prior to the animal being slaughtered. For this reason, one is allowed to use the skin, hair and bones of a Halaal animal which was not slaughtered according to the Shari’ah (non-Halaal slaughtered animal) as all these parts are pure. Similarly, since there was no life in the rennet prior to being slaughtered, the rennet which is removed from a non-Halaal slaughtered animal will also be pure.”
This argument has been answered in two ways in the books of fiqh. Firstly, the argument would have held weight if we declared the rennet and milk impure only because of the animal’s death. On the contrary, the difference of opinion between the jurists revolves around the fact that the place where the rennet or milk is found is either pure or impure. Since they all agree that the container (the stomach of the non-Halaal slaughtered animal) is impure, they will have to agree that the contents are also impure. This is completely in accordance with sound logic.
Secondly, the statement of the jurists regarding the fact that death does not apply to anything which did not have life in it in the first place and, therefore, impurity will also not apply to those things – the scholars unanimously agree that this applies to solid things such as the bones, nails/hooves, hair etc. However, there does not seem to be any reason preventing us from considering liquids impure. Furthermore, it is obvious that liquids become impure. Despite the fact that there was no life in the rennet before the animal’s death, the liquid will still become impure and it is obvious that impure substances are Haraam.
The fact that the jurists have made a distinction between solid rennet and liquid rennet further supports this view, because, if the rennet had solidified in the animal’s stomach, no impurity would have been absorbed into it and, thus, it may be used. However, this is based on the assumption that the rennet had solidified and hardened in the stomach of the animal before it was slaughtered. If this was not the case at the time of death and it only solidified after the animal’s death, this liquid rennet would be considered impure because of the impurity of the container in which it was found (the stomach of the dead animal) and thus, at the time of the animal’s death it would have already become impure and therefore it would have already been Haraam.
This is like pouring wine or any other impure liquid into ghee – it would become impure and Haraam even if it solidifies afterwards. However, if wine or any other impure liquid had to be poured onto solidified ghee, or the solidified ghee falls onto an impure surface, it would become pure again if it is washed and all the impurities are separated from it. This is further elucidated by the subsidiary ruling in which it is stated that, if a cat or rat had to bite or eat from solidified ghee, or somehow spoil it, the ghee would still be pure by merely removing the affected area and a little of the surrounding area. The exact same ruling will apply to the rennet which had solidified in the animal’s stomach prior to its death. Regarding this, the jurists have written: “This (solid) rennet will not be considered Haraam and impure because of the impure place in which it is found. Instead, it has merely come into contact with filth and impurity which will be removed if this solid rennet is washed.”
At this point, two very important issues need to be considered:
- When will it be possible to draw a distinction between solid and liquid rennet as far as its ruling is concerned? There is no actual discussion about any different ruling regarding whether the rennet is solid at the time of the animal’s death or liquid. Instead, the jurists have only discussed the rennet which was in the animal’s stomach at the time of its death in general terms.
- Due to the prevalence of heat in the body and stomach of the live animal and due to the possibility of this heat remaining for a while after the animal was slaughtered, is it really possible to find solidified rennet in the stomach of the animal, which has the ability to prevent the effect of impurities from being absorbed into it like solid ghee is able to? If it is possible, it will be permissible to use the rennet on condition one conforms to the rules which the jurists have laid down regarding solid rennet. However, if this is not possible (which is obviously most probable), it will not be permissible to use rennet at all because it will be impure and Haraam and, apart from that, our entire discussion regarding the difference between solid and liquid rennet will be completely incorrect.
As far as the second proof which the scholar in question presented – that Imam Abu Hanifah r was of the opinion that rennet (whether liquid or solid) will not become impure despite the fact that it has come into contact with impurities in the animal’s stomach – is concerned, he presented his proof from the Quran itself that milk is produced from blood and dung within the body of the animal whereas, despite both these substances being impure, the milk is still pure. This clearly proves that the rennet will not become impure by coming into contact with impurities. We have, in principle, already answered this question in the passages above – i.e. according to Saahibayn t and all the senior jurists after them, the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r is repudiated and is, in fact, an ijtihaadi opinion based on his own principles of Fiqh. As far as Hanafi Fiqh is concerned, this view has been rejected and, as far as the principles of Ifta are concerned, it is non-existent (i.e. negligible) due to which one may not even mention it as an opinion let alone pass a fatwa according to it.
Another reason why one should give preference to Saahibayn’s t view, which is to consider non-Halaal slaughtered animals’ rennet Haraam, could also be that their view is logical. In other words, it is impossible for a pure liquid in an impure container to be completely free from any impurity. If one had to pour pure milk into a container which is messed with dung, it is obvious that the milk could never remain pure and clean. Similarly, if even a single drop of urine or blood is added to a container of milk, all the scholars of Islam unanimously agree that the milk will become defiled and impure. From this example, we understand that the logic of Saahibayn t is perfectly accurate, far clearer and more understandable than the logic of Imam Abu Hanifah r.
Furthermore, the argument that “milk is produced from dung and blood” needs to be explained in context. Allah d is explaining the miraculous, natural system which He has put in place within the body of the animal. In other words, from the very same sustenance and food which the animal consumes, Allah d creates blood, milk and excreta. Within that very animal’s body, the same excreta and blood which was created from the food it just ate, is used to create milk which then fills up in the udders of the animal in an amazing and miraculous biological system. Throughout the entire process, the milk is protected from getting the colour of the blood or the smell of the excreta. The human mind cannot possible fathom the ingenuity of this incredible system. Therefore, to use this miraculous and unfathomable example as a basis for further extrapolation (قياس) is very difficult (in fact, incorrect) in terms of the principles of Fiqh (not to mention that it is out of context).
Another point worth consideration and which has already been mentioned, is the entire miraculous, natural process of milk solidifying within the stomach or gut of the live animal. The difference between the milk in the Halaal animal’s body and the milk in dead (non-Halaal slaughtered) animal’s body is evidently clear. That is, the flesh of the live animal, which is Halaal, is pure and clean and so is the place where the milk is found. As for the dead animal, both the flesh and the place where the milk is found are impure. It is contrary to the principles of fiqh, which the jurists have formulated, and indeed incorrect to use filth and impurity as the basis for extrapolating a ruling of cleanliness and purity. This is why the great and senior scholars have preferred the view of Saahibayn t instead of the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r, and declared it the view upon which the fatwa will be passed (مفتى به).
As for the third argument presented by the scholar in question – in other words, his claim “It was common practice among the Sahaabah j to eat cheese. This is because Iran was conquered and the Sahaabah j ate cheese there, Syria was conquered and the Sahaabah j ate cheese there and even the Messenger himself g ate cheese during the expedition of Tabuk. One may argue that the Syrians where people of the scriptures and therefore their slaughtered animals are Halaal, but the people of Madaain and Persia were all fire-worshippers and their slaughtered animals are not Halaal. However, despite this, the Sahaabah ate the local cheese. For all of the above reasons, our elders are of the opinion that we should not consider Halaal (i.e. permissible to eat according to the Shari’ah) but non-Halaal slaughtered animals’ rennet Haraam. This is the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r and there is room for leeway in the matter” – his proof seems correct. However, it seems he was unable to delve into the matter and ponder over it as much as was necessary.
There is no doubt that the Sahaabah j would eat the cheese produced in non-Muslim countries, but it is incorrect to insinuate that they would just blindly eat whatever cheese they found, because that is certainly not the case. On the contrary, the books of hadith and the narrations of the Taabi’een s indicate that the Sahaabah j would do due diligence before consuming cheese. There is a narration of Imam Hasan Basri r in which he said: “The companions of Rasoolullaah g would query the ingredients of cheese but they would not query ghee.”
Thus, it would not be correct to say that it was the common practise of the Sahaabah j to eat the cheese produced in non-Muslim countries. Instead, one would have to conclude that, prior to consuming cheese, the Sahaabah j would research and query which animal’s milk and rennet was used, whether or not it is Halaal, whether or not the slaughtered animal is acceptable (Halaal) according to the Shari’ah or not etc.
Since it has now been established that the Sahaabah j would enquire and question the ingredients and the cheese before consuming it, one can deduce that the exact opposite of what the scholar in question has presented is the actual case. In other words, they would only consume that cheese which contained Shari’ah compliant rennet – that is, the animal must be Halaal and it must have been slaughtered by a Muslim or an adherent of one of the divine scriptures (the Bible or TORAH), according to the method of slaughter prescribed by their respective books. Since the opposite of what the scholar has argued seems to be the case, we conclude that it is actually Haraam to eat such cheese (i.e. cheese which contains non-Halaal animal rennet) according to the common practise and habit of the Sahaabah j which is precisely why they would make their enquiries before consuming it.
There is a narration from Hazrat Abdullah bin ‘Umar h in which it is stated that someone asked him about such ghee and cheese. He responded: “Say Bismillaah and eat it.” This is due to the fact that the cheese and ghee came from places where one may generally overlook such possibilities (of it being Haraam). This is why, when his students said that there is a possibility of it containing the by-products of carrion (non-Halaal slaughtered animal rennet) which is unacceptable according to the Shari’ah, he said: “If you know there is carrion in it, then don’t eat it.”
Imam Bayhaqi r explains that: “Some scholars would not question such cheese or ghee because it was generally pure and Halaal and this is what we have narrated from Hazrat Ibnu ‘Abbaas h, Hazrat Ibnu ‘Umar h and others. On the other hand, some Sahaabah j would still query these things for the sake of caution and this is what we have narrated from Hazrat Abu Mas’ood Al-Ansaari h.”
From these narrations, we learn that the common practise, habit and opinion of the Sahaabah j regarding the cheese etc. from non-Muslim countries was not that which the scholar in question has assumed. Instead, they would meticulously enquire about such products before consuming them. Some would ask just to be safe, while the practise of others who would not query was based on the basis that, according to their knowledge, only that cheese would be imported and used which was generally pure and Halaal, as is alluded to by the words “because it was generally pure and Halaal” which we have quoted from Imam Bayhaqi r. Since it was probably pure and Halaal, they would not feel the need to ask.
Now, to deduce that the Sahaabah j (may Allah d protect us) used to generally eat cheese made with rennet from dead (non-Halaal slaughtered) animals and that they considered such rennet to be pure and Halaal is evidently incorrect and, in fact, a very dangerous deduction.
Furthermore, we also cannot agree with the scholar in question’s claim that the rennet of Halaal animals which were not slaughtered according to the prescribed method in the Shari’ah is Halaal according to “our elders” or that this is the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r and, thus, there should be leeway for permissibility”.
Our response to there being scope for permissibility and it being the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r has already been mentioned above. We will now also present the Fatawa of some of our elders, all of whom were erudite scholars of Fatawa, so that the reader can see for himself what their actual view point and opinion is regarding the matter is.
- In the Fatawa of one of our greatest elders, Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Saheb Thanwi r, it is mentioned that the subsidiary rulings of the mazhab clearly indicate that the milk and rennet of Haraam or dead (non-Halaal slaughtered) animals are impure. Whoever is in doubt regarding this should know that he has misunderstood and, in reality, it is not as he has assumed. Furthermore, as far as purity and impurity is concerned, caution demands that one should pass the fatwa that it is impure.
He writes: “The milk of all animals is pure, besides that of a pig… although there is a difference of opinion, caution demands that one should regard it impure according to the quote ‘The milk and rennet of dead animals are pure according to Imam Abu Hanifah r and impure according to Saahibayn t. The latter view seems to be more correct’ according to what has been mentioned in Naf’ul-Mufti. It is mentioned in Mawaahibur-Rahman that the subsidiary rulings of the mazhab clearly indicate that it is impure. Furthermore, the preference which the author of Al-Multaqaa has accorded to the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r does not seem correct and the statement of ‘Allaamah Shaami r that there is ‘no difference of opinion regarding milk’ is not an accepted view because the author of Al-Bahrur Raaiq has indicated that the same difference of opinion regarding milk exists regarding rennet. Moreover, caution in the matters of purity and impurity lies in ruling that the substance is impure.” The question was posed: “Is the milk of animals which may not be consumed Halaal?” To which Hazrat responded: “A clear ruling takes preference over a ruling which is derived by inference. Thus, we should give preference to the ruling of impurity.”
- A similar fatwa is found in Fatawa Mahmoodiyyah, Vol.18, p.201 – The Faarooqiyyah Print:
If a quarter teaspoon of rennet falls into about 14 pounds of milk – bearing in mind the possibility of ‘Umoomul-Balwaa – would it still become impure?
Will we pass a ruling that it is Halaal and permissible based on “majority rules” if a quarter teaspoon of urine, blood or alcohol falls into about 14 pounds of milk? If impermissible cheese is not used, will any important command of Allah d or any important aspect of life be left out? Thus, to assume that there should be leeway and scope because of ‘Umoomul-Balwaa is completely baseless.”
- In response to a question regarding cheese containing non-Halaal slaughtered animal rennet, Hazrat Mufti Rasheed Ahmad Ludhyaanwi r writes:
“If one is certain that any imported cheese contains (non-Halaal slaughtered) animal rennet, it will not be Halaal to eat such cheese. Instead, it will be Haraam as per the fatwa which has been recorded in Ahsanul-Fataawaa, Vol.8, p.117 – the Sa’eed Karachi print – in which it is stated: ‘Cheese can be produced with ingredients other than rennet, as well. Thus, as long as one is certain that the imported cheese did not use animal rennet, it should be Halaal. Nevertheless, it would be better to exercise restraint just to be safe. If one is certain that the cheese contains (non-Halaal slaughtered) animal rennet, it will be Haraam.’”
From the above-mentioned quotes, it is evident that our elders held the very same view regarding non-Halaal slaughtered animals’ rennet which is recorded in the books of Fiqh along with the juristic preference accorded to it – that is: it is impure. Therefore, cheese which contains non-Halaal slaughtered animal rennet is Haraam and may not be consumed.
To conclude, the “research” and arguments presented by the respected mufti in question are incorrect in light of both Fiqh as well as the principles of Fiqh. Furthermore, he has used the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r as the basis of his research, whereas this view is not the one upon which the fatwa of the Hanafi mazhab may be passed. If one single mufti assumed that this view is worth consideration, then all the muftis and erudite scholars who came after him have declared his opinion a misunderstanding and a mistake. In other words, no mufti or jurist considers it correct to issue a fatwa according to the view of Imam Abu Hanifah r in this regard.
Thus, any cheese which comes from non-Muslim countries and contains rennet from either dead animals or Halaal animals which were slaughtered contrary to the prescribed method of the Shari’ah is NOT Halaal and it is imperative to abstain from eating such cheese.
And Allah knows best…
Written by: Mufti Rafiq Ahmad Balakoti
Endorsed by: Muftis Muhammad Abdul-Majeed Saheb Deenpuri.
Dar_ul_Ifta: Jamia Uloom Islamiyah, Banuri Town, Karachi.
 In other words, just because the derived ruling matches the principal ruling perfectly, it does not necessarily make the derived ruling the final answer upon which we pass the fatwa in the Hanafi mazhab.
 Shaami, The Chapter of Water, Vol.1, p.206 – The Sa’eed Print.
 I’laaus-Sunan, Vol.17, p.202.
 Al-Fiqhul-Islaamiyy, Vol.1, p.308.
 I’laaus-Sunan, Vol.17, pg.202: The Chapter Regarding Free-roaming Chickens.
 I’laaus-Sunan, Vol.17, p.202 – The Idaarah Print.
 Imdaadul-Fataawaa, The Chapter of Impurities, Vol.1, p.64 – The Darul-Uloom Karachi Print.
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