Imaam Maalik is the Imaam of the Maaliki school of thought of Islaam. Imaam al-Qurtubi is a Maaliki. He adheres to the Madhhab of Imaam Maalik in fiqh.
Imaam Maalik deemed it impermissible to eat horse meat.
He drew evidence from the following Verse of the Qur'aan:
And [He created] the horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and [as] adornment. And He creates that which you do not know.
Allaah says that the horse was created to be ridden and for ziinah. He did not say it was made to be eaten. Based on this reasoning, Imaam Maalik said it is not permissible to eat horse meat.
This is also the position of the Maaliki school of thought.
Imaam al-Qurtubi, despite being a Maaliki, rejected this understanding. He said what is correct in regards to this matter is that one is allowed to eat horse meat.
He considered Imaam Maalik's understanding of the Verse to be incorrect.
Imaam al-Qurtubi says:
As for the Verse, there is no evidence in it for the meat of horses being impermissible to eat.
Imaam Maalik used the Verse to deem horse meat impermissible. Imaam al-Qurtubi says there is no such evidence in this Verse.
He then goes on to say:
When Allaah mentioned the 'an'aam, He mentioned what they are used for in the majority of cases and what their predominant benefits are. These include eating them and their carrying things. He did not mention riding nor harth nor other things. Yet, they are used for riding, harth, and other things.
Here he draws an analogy. He says consider the case of the 'an'aam.
Allaah told us what they are for. We eat them and we ride them. This is what they are mainly used for. Allaah did not mention that we ride them and use them for harth.
But we do use them for riding and harth. Just because Allaah did not mention riding and harth does not mean it is haraam for us to use them for those purposes!
Hence, on a similar note when Allaah said that horses are for riding and ziinah, then this is what they are predominantly used for. It does not mean we cannot eat them!
He has highlighted the flaw in using the Verse to say you cannot eat horse meat based on the premise that Allaah only mentioned that they are used for riding and ziinah.
Had it been correct to understand the Verse like this, then we would have to stop using the 'an'aam for harth and riding because Allaah never mentioned that they are for harth and riding. However, no scholar says you cannot use them for riding and harth.
Then he goes on to say:
He said in regards to the horse that it is for riding and ziinah. He mentioned what horses are predominantly used for and what benefit they provide in most cases. He did not mention that they can be used to carry things. Yet, horses are used to carry things as is witnessed and likewise he did not mention eating.
The predominant benefits or horses are that they are used for ziinah and riding. This is how most people benefit from horses. Allaah mentioned this.
He did not mention that they are used for carrying things. Yet, we have seen that they carry things and no one says it is haraam to use a horse to carry things.
Same is the case with eating horses. It isn't mentioned in the Verse because most people do not eat horses just like most people do not use horses to carry things. Yet, it is not haraam to use them to carry things. Likewise, it can not be inferred from the Verse that horses are haraam to eat.
If you use the premise that you cannot eat horses because the Verse does not mention eating, then you are forced to apply this same premise and say you cannot use horses for carrying things because that is not mentioned either.
Hence, it is flawed thinking to use the Verse to infer that horse meat is impermissible to be eaten.
Then he goes on to say:
And this cow, its Creator gave it the ability to speak - the One who gives everything the ability to speak - and she said: I have only been created for the purposes of harth. If one is going to say that one cannot eat horses based on the cause that they were created for riding, then one would have to say one cannot eat the cow because it was created for harth. And all of the Muslims agree that one can eat the cow. Likewise, is the case for the horse based on the established Sunnah.
Here he uses another example. He uses the example of the cow.
Allaah gave the cow the ability to speak. She said: I have only been created for the purpose of harth. You can read about the incident in the hadith of Sahiih al-Bukhaari at the end of this article.
The cow said I was only created for the purpose of harth. Now, if we were to use the line of thinking that you cannot eat horses because they were created for riding, then going by that logic we cannot eat the cow either because it was created for harth.
But no one among the Muslim scholars say that you cannot eat the cow. There is Ijmaa that you can eat the cow.
This goes to show that the line of thinking that since Allaah did not mention in the Verse that horses cannot be eaten so we cannot eat them is incorrect.
If you will use that line of thought, then you cannot eat the cow either because it was created for harth.
Finally, after showing the Verse was incorrectly understood by Maalik and his followers, he goes on to mention the authentic ahadiith which clearly state that the meat of horses is permissible to eat.