It was the autumn of 1973. Two years had passed almost since I came to the USA to study at M.I.T. These were the formative years that eventually crystallized my own orientation towards life and Islam through study and experience. These two years had been good years. I had learnt a lot. And I led a life of a simple Muslim. I did not indulge in any known vice by any standard.
In terms of my food habits again, I did not consume anything that I thought was outright haram
. I shunned alcoholic beverages and pork products. However, strangely enough, I never thought that there was any harm in eating the beef, lamb and poultry products that were available off the shelf at any of the super markets. In fact, I used to relish going to the Hay Market in the old Boston city to buy large chunks of juicy pink beef rump. Along with other Pakistani friends, I would get some good cuts for T-bone and other types of steak. Or I would have the meat cut up into cubes to be cooked in our standard Pakistani dishes.
My conscience was always clear. I toed the general line that the meat sold in the supermarkets was slaughtered by Jews or Christians and the Qur’an had declared these as permissible. Besides, as long as you utter the name of Allah at the time of eating, the meat was halal
. Never once did it occur to me that I might be doing anything that is wrong. In fact, I was the President of the M.I.T. Islamic Society, and I considered it to be a great responsibility. I was aware of a couple of Muslims in the entire Boston area who used to consume kosher meats, and we all used to look at them with suspicion. There were no halal
meat shops within a radius of 250 miles of Boston. The nearest one was in NY City. Therefore, obtaining halal
meat was out of question.
On that evening in 1973, I sat reading the Qur’an along with its commentary. As I flipped through the pages, the initial verses of surah
) lay before me. I read them, and I read them again. And as the night progressed, I had gone through all the cross-references in the Qur’an. It dawned on me for the first time that all the meat I had consumed over the previous 2 years was forbidden. I realized that I was in error and had indeed sinned over the past 2 years of my life. I asked for forgiveness from Allah.
I sat puzzled. I was aware that there was a debate amongst scholars, but there was supposedly a strong view amongst the Arabs in particular that the meat available in the market was halal
. I called a friend – Ahmad Attar, a black American revert to Islam – who always shared in my thinking. We discussed the verses of the Qur’an and were convinced that we had to find a way to acquire halal
meat at least for ourselves, even if we had to go to NY to buy it.
A few days later, it was Eid day, and at the annual Eid dinner, I read out the verses of the Qur’an and invited all Muslims to join our halal
meat club. Ahmad and I volunteered to go to NY every other weekend to bring the halal
meat for all members of our club. Around 20 of them joined us, starting a halal
meat service in the Boston area for the first time. Within months, one of the local mosques decided to take up our project, leading to a regular supply within the city. Indeed Allah is Great, Who guides us to the Straight Path.
Since that eventful day, I have come across several verbal and written arguments in favor and against the consumption of meat available in the supermarkets of the Western countries. I have studied these and have come to the conclusion that my simplistic view on that fateful day stands. Let me summarize these for your clearer understanding of the subject. We shall state the problem and then try to analyze it in light of the Qur’an, the hadith
and the views of some prominent scholars.
The divergent views:
Several years ago, Dr. Ahmad Sakr, a founding member of M.S.A. of US and Canada, and Director of the Rabetat al-Alam al-Islami office to the UN in New York in the mid-1970s, tried to summarize the views of Muslim scholars with regards to the consumption of meat slaughtered by Jews and Christians as follows:
“The question may be raised here whether animal products (excluding pork and including poultry) slaughtered by Jews and Christians are lawful to Muslims. Two schools of thought of fiqh
(Islamic jurisprudence) claim that although Jews and Christians are considered to be the “People of the Scripture”, the meat which is slaughtered by them is prohibited to Muslims unless the name of God is mentioned while slaughtering. The Muslims in the Western Hemisphere who follow these two schools of thought either advocate eating Kosher meat, abstain from eating meat entirely, or make arrangements to do their own slaughtering. Those who eat kosher meat rely on the claim that the name of God is mentioned by a rabbi before slaughtering. However, in another school of thought, namely Shafi`i, it is felt that the meat of animals slaughtered by Jews and Christians is lawful to Muslims since the Qur’an allows this without any restrictions, and the Muslim must mention the name of God immediately before eating. This school claims that even Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to eat meat prepared by Jews and Christians. However, all schools of thought agree that if the name of a person instead of God is mentioned, the meat is entirely prohibited.
- “Meat of animals slaughtered by people other than Muslims, Jews and Christians is considered unlawful to Muslims, particularly that which is prepared by atheists.”
Indeed this was the position of the Muslims in North America. In this article, Dr. Sakr implied that the second view was also a valid view. A vast majority of Muslims in North America followed Dr. Sakr’s view of the Shafi`i school which was shared by the Muslim Students’ Association of US and Canada (or MSA). The MSA had also published articles during the early 1970s that advocated this view. One of the major opponents of this view in North America at that time was Dr. Soliman Donia, Director of the Islamic Center of NY in the 1970s. He published a very interesting refutation of the MSA view in the Magazine of the Islamic Center of New York in December 1974.
Verses of the Qur’an:
The Law given to us by Allah is based on the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet (s). Although the Qur’an does not normally enlighten us on many of the legalistic issues, interestingly it does throw substantial light on the matter of slaughter of animals. This shows the importance Allah gives to life, whether it be human or animal.
Although there are innumerable hadith
on the issue of slaughter of animals, we shall be quoting only the verses of the Qur’an since these do give us a sufficient answer to the questions raised. I would also encourage the readers of this article to read the innumerable hadith
in the major and minor collections, which corroborate the Qur’anic view.
The issue of halal
meat is mentioned in the Qur’an in 6 different places. As we read these verses, we see a clear progression in terms of the command of Allah.
General view of haram and halal:
Before we look at the specific injunctions about the consumption of meat, let us first understand that the Qur’an lays down a very clear general injunction about haram
in general. It admonishes us not to make unlawful that which Allah has made lawful for us.
- 5:90 O you who believe! Make not unlawful the good things, which Allah has made lawful for you, but commit no excess: for Allah loves not those given to excess.
- 5:91 Eat of the things which Allah has provided for you lawful and good: but fear Allah in Whom you believe.
This is reiterated in the following verses:
Halal is good:
- 16:116 But say not for any false thing that your tongues may put forth "This is lawful and this is forbidden" so as to ascribe false things to Allah. For those who ascribe false things to Allah will never prosper.
- 16:117 (In such falsehood) is but a paltry profit; but they will have a most grievous Penalty.
- By and large, Muslims of today get so carried away that we start calling very trivial things as haram. We tend to take very strong views and are not willing to compromise. Therefore, we must guard ourselves against that extreme as well. These ayat will have further implications at a later stage of my discussion and I hope that you will bear this in mind.
Next, we find a recommendation to eat good and lawful things and to watch out for the Shaytan. In other words, that which is good is halal
, and that which is harmful is haram
Eat halal meat – a positive statement:
- 2:168 O you people! Eat of what is on earth lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of the evil one (Shaytan) for he is to you an avowed enemy. 
- 2:169 For he commands you what is evil and shameful and that you should say of Allah that of which you have no knowledge.
- 2:170 When it is said to them: "Follow what Allah has revealed" they say: "Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers." What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?
- 2:171 The parable of those who reject faith is as if one were to shout like a goatherd to things that listen to nothing but calls and cries; deaf dumb and blind they are void of wisdom.
- 2:172 O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is Him you worship.
Amongst the good and pure things that Allah has allowed us to eat, we find an injunction that the meat of animals over which Allah’s name is invoked is halal
. When we invoke Allah’s name at the time of taking the life of the animal, we basically acknowledge that all life belongs to Allah alone
, and He alone has the right to give life and take away the life
. Thus, by pronouncing His name, we acknowledge that we take the life of the animal with His permission for the sake of food and not out of impiety or out of disobedience to His laws.
- 5:5 They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food): say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what you have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allah; eat what they catch for you but pronounce the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah; for Allah is swift in taking account.
In another place this is reinforced as follows:
- 6:118 So eat of (meats) on which Allah's name has been pronounced if you have faith in His Signs.
- 6:119 Why should you not eat of (meats) on which Allah's name has been pronounced when He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you except under compulsion of necessity? But many do mislead (men) by their appetites unchecked by knowledge. Thy Lord knows best those who transgress.
In these verses, the Qur’an makes a positive statement commanding us to eat the meat on which Allah’s name has been pronounced. Why should you not eat such meat? This meat is now food, and food should not be wasted. Thus so far we see that we should eat the meat on which Allah’s name has been pronounced.
At the same time, all four-footed animals are described as being lawful for consumption with some exceptions that are mentioned in the Qur’an or the Hadith.
Shun haram (forbidden) meat – a negative statement:
- 5:2 Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals with the exceptions named: but animals of the chase are forbidden while you are in the Sacred Precincts or in pilgrim garb: for Allah does command according to His Will and Plan.
After encouraging us to eat that which is good, Allah tells us what is forbidden in the following verse. In this verse, the Qur’an virtually equates pork and blood with dead meat or meat that has been slaughtered through unacceptable means
- 2:173 He has only forbidden you dead meat and blood and the flesh of swine and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah but if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. 
In this verse, there are four categories
that are clearly defined as haram
- Dead meat, i.e. carrion
- Flesh of swine (pork, etc.)
- Meat on which the name of any thing, person or deity is invoked other than the name of Allah.
In other words, while slaughtering the animal, if the name of Ram, Krishna, Jesus or any other man or idol or symbol is uttered, that meat is absolutely haram
. All Muslim scholars are agreed on this point. The reason is that by invoking any other name, it would imply that that person or deity controls the life of the animal being slaughtered, and thus his permission is sought. The Qur’an emphasizes that it is Allah alone who has the right over the life of any animal and therefore it is His name alone that should be invoked.
Another important point to note here is that all the 4 categories are mentioned in the same verse as being equally haram. Many Muslims are under the mistaken view that pork is “more” haram than the other 3 categories. This is not the case. Eating dead meat or blood or meat on which the name of another deity or person is mentioned is as good as eating pork.
You will find a reinforcement of the same idea in the following verse:
- 6:145 Say: "I find not in the Message received by me by inspiration any (meat) forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it unless it be dead meat or blood poured forth or the flesh of swine for it is an abomination or what is impious (meat) on which a name has been invoked other than Allah's." But (even so) if a person is forced by necessity without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits thy Lord is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.
And in another place:
Forms of death of animal that makes it haram:
- 16:114 So eat of the sustenance which Allah has provided for you lawful and good; and be grateful for the favors of Allah if it is He whom you serve.
- 16:115 He has only forbidden you dead meat and blood and the flesh of swine and any (food) over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked. But if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits then Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.
Then Allah goes on to elaborate on the forbidden meat further in the following ayat
by describing certain forms of death of animal that make its meat forbidden.
- 5:4 Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat blood the flesh of swine and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah that which has been killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a headlong fall or by being gored to death; that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless you are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any forced by hunger with no inclination to transgression Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.
The methods of slaughter described above, which render the animal’s meat as forbidden are:
- if it is killed by strangling,
- if it is killed by a violent blow,
- if it is killed by a headlong fall,
- if it is killed by being gored to death,
- if it is killed after being partly eaten by another animal,
- if it is killed by sacrifice on a stone altar, as a part of an idolatrous rite.
- if its meat is divided by raffling with arrows etc. which was also an idolatrous rite amongst pagan Arabs.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali clarifies in his commentary, “If an animal dies by strangling, or by a violent blow, or a headlong fall, or by being gored to death, or by being attacked by a wild animal, the presumption is that it becomes carrion, as the life-blood is congealed before being taken out of the body. But the presumption can be rebutted. If the life-blood still flows and the solemn mode of slaughter (zabh
in the name of Allah) is carried out, it becomes lawful as food.”
By and large, the common method in use in North America is to strike a blow on the head of the animal in order to make it unconscious before it is slaughtered. The blow is so violent that it almost kills the animal. There are few slaughterhouses there, which use different methods like slitting the throat.
What about meat where no name is pronounced:
So far, the injunctions discussed above can be summarized as follows:
- Eat that meat on which Allah’s name is pronounced at the time of slaughter. Why should you not eat such meat?
- Do not eat dead meat or carrion.
- Do not eat that meat on which there was a mention of ghayr Allah (any entity other than Allah) at the time of the slaughter.
- Do not eat meat of an animal that dies of strangulation, violent blow, headlong fall, that which was gored to death, which died because of being partly eaten by another animal, which was sacrificed at an altar, or if the meat was divided by raffling with arrows.
But what about the meat on which no name is pronounced
? Can we consume such meat? Most of the meat sold in the supermarkets in the West falls in this category. Let us turn to the following verses for the answer.
- 6:120 Eschew all sin open or secret: those who earn sin will get due recompense for their "earnings."
- 6:121 Eat not of (meats) on which Allah's name has not been pronounced: that would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you; if you were to obey them you would indeed be pagans.
The verses state clearly that we cannot consume the meat on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced. Therefore, without the mention of Allah’s name, the meat is definitely forbidden.
The question then arises – why is there confusion? After such clear injunctions in the Qur’an, why is there a difference of opinion amongst Muslims? What are arguments of those who favor consumption of meat available in supermarkets in the West?
There are 4 key questions that have been debated as follows:
- In light of the Qur’anic ayat allowing Muslims to eat the food of the “Ahl al-Kitab”, is the meat available in the supermarkets slaughtered by Jews and Christians halal?
- Can you utter the name of Allah over the meat at the time of eating it in case Allah’s name was not uttered at the time of slaughtering the animal?
- The issue of “doubtful things”
- The hadith narrated by Hz. Ayesha
There is no debate among the scholars about whether the food prepared by atheists, Hindus, Buddhists and other polytheists is permissible or not. Such food is clearly forbidden.
Let us examine these four questions.
Is the meat slaughtered by Jews and Christians halal?
The first confusion is created by some of our Muslim brothers due to the statement in the following verse:
- 5:6 This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.
Many people accept this statement without any qualification. Does this mean that any food offered to us by Jews and Christians is halal
? Does it mean that if they offer us pork or wine, is it halal
? After all, they consume both of these in today’s world?
The real matter is deeper than this simplistic view propagated by those who would like to take the easy way out. The fact of the matter is that Allah had given laws to the Jews and Christians regarding what food is permissible to them and what is forbidden. This is recorded even in the present day Bible. Despite all the distortions that the books of Moses (a) and Jesus (a) have gone through, the Bible still preserves the law about the proper food that is allowed for the Jews and Christians. The regulations for the Jews and Christians are specified in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Bible (Old Testament) and in the Talmudic tradition.
If you study these regulations in the Bible and the Talmud, you will come to the conclusion that the meat offered in the supermarkets of the West is also forbidden for the Jews and Christians according to their own Scriptures. In other words, when a Jew or a Christian is presenting you with food, which is even forbidden to him according to the Bible, how can that food be permissible for you, O Muslim?
A similar corollary is that of a Muslim presenting you with food or drink that is forbidden to Muslims. Normally, one would accept that the food presented by a Muslim is halal
. However, if you know for sure that he is offering you food that is haram
according to the laws of Islam, such food or drink must be refused. Likewise, if a Jew or a Christian offers you food that is haram
for him according to the Bible, then it is also haram
Dr. Donia very aptly summarizes this point as follows:
- “Did Allah make the food of Jews and Christians, both of which is lawful and which is not lawful for them, permissible for consumption by Muslims? Or did Allah make only that permissible or lawful for Muslims which is lawful for Jews and Christians according to their scripture?
“Here we might as well touch upon the other part of the same verse of the Qur’an which states that all food of Muslims is lawful for Jews and Christians. Does it mean that all food which Muslims might use, whether or not Allah made it lawful for them, is lawful for Jews and Christians? If we interpret the two parts of the verse in this manner, the result will be as follows:
- “All food which Jews and Christians use, whether Allah made it lawful for them or unlawful, will be lawful for Muslims.
- “All food which Muslims might use, whether Allah made it lawful for them or not will be lawful for Jews and Christians.
“ It should be emphasized, however, that the law of Allah is higher than the simplistic conclusions of such absurd interpretations. The true meaning then of these two parts of the Qur’anic verse which suits the glory of Allah’s Law may be summarized as follows:
Does saying bismillah at the time of eating make the meat halal?
- “All food which Allah made lawful for Jews and Christians in their respective Scripture is lawful for Muslims.
- “All food which Allah made lawful for Muslims in the Qur’an is lawful for Jews and Christians.”
Some Muslims argue that since the Qur’an decrees the mention of Allah’s name for the meat to be halal, one may just simply say bismillah
at the time of consumption if he has doubt of it having been slaughtered properly.
Dr. Donia addresses to this question as well very beautifully in the following words:
- “I have never heard that saying Bismillah on food which is unlawful turns it into lawful food. What I am sure of is that the Prophet (pbuh) used to say Bismillah when he commenced eating any food or drinking liquids, thereby blessing them and making them useful with the grace of Bismillah. Furthermore, he advised Muslims to do the same, but he never told them that what was unlawful could be lawful by saying Bismillah over it.”
It should also be noted that the practice of saying bismillah
before consuming food was the practice of the Prophet (s) for all
food, i.e. even the meat that was halal
. He never asked his followers to take the name of Allah only over that food where one has doubts. This is part of Islamic manners and tradition. It is a recognition that the nourishment received is out of His Mercy. He alone is our Provider.
Secular versus religious governments
Since the Renaissance, the modern West has turned away from religion at large. The American and European governments profess secular ideologies, and officially forbid the establishment of governments based on religion. Therefore, all laws are based purely on human needs on Earth, and have no relationship with God’s commandments. The laws of the land are bound neither by the Biblical laws nor by the laws of Judaism and Christianity as they emerged over the centuries. The Western countries are thus, by definition, non-Christian and non-Jewish nations. The only remnant of Judaeo-Christianity is the effort of the society to profess the Biblical values; but the laws are all secular.
Like all other laws, the laws related to food and meat are based more on consumer needs. The FDA is not ruled by Biblical commands. Certain groups, like the orthodox Jews, may establish their own practices like kosher foods. However, this is not regulated or ordained by the state.
Who slaughters in the Western slaughterhouses?
Over the past few decades, the demographic make-up of Europe and North America has changed substantially. These societies are multi-religious and multi-ethnic. Non-Judeo Christian religions are practised in abundance. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism and other polytheistic religions abound due to massive immigration from Asia over the past few decades. Besides, since the rise of the hippie movement, many Christian and Jewish Americans and Europeans who had been disillusioned by Judaism and Christianity sought answers in the exotic religions and philosophies of the Orient. The materialistic priorities of modern societies led to a search for alternative spiritual solutions. This gave rise to conversion to the Hare Krishna movement, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Bahaism, Satanism, Scientology, Moonies and many other spiritual or pseudo-spiritual philosophies and cults.
Therefore, there is no guarantee that the person slaughtering the animals in American and European slaughterhouses is indeed a Jew or a Christian. In fact there is a high probability that he is not from the Ahl al-Kitab
, since new immigrants take up many of these ‘menial’ jobs. Thus, there is a possibility that the animal may have been slaughtered in the name of ghayr
Allah (a god other than the One and Only) like Krishna, Hanuman, Guru Nanak, Zoroaster, Buddha or some other such god.
This leads us to a very important issue of how to deal with something which is doubtful. Can one take advantage of doubtful things?
The issue of doubtful things
Dr. Donia takes the plea that when a matter becomes doubtful, then a Muslim should abstain. This is based on the famous hadith
of the Prophet (s) reported by An-Nu`man ibn Bishr:
- What is lawful is clear and what is unlawful is clear, but between them are certain doubtful things which many people do not recognize. He who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honor blameless. But he who falls into doubtful things, falls into what is unlawful just as a shepherd who pastures his animals round a preserve will soon pasture them into it
Using this hadith
, he argues that there are a number of counts on which the consumption of such meat is doubtful.
- The method of slaughter is doubtful. The animal is probably not slaughtered by slitting its throat
- Bismillah is not said at the time of the slaughter, which makes the meat improper for consumption.
- There are disputed fatwas issued by different authorities on this point, including the fatwa by the Committee of Fatwa of Al-Azhar versus the fatwa by the Libyan Committee. The Islamic Center of Washington and the Islamic Center of NY differ on this point likewise.
- It is doubtful that the meat available in the supermarkets was indeed slaughtered by a Jew or a Christian, even if he is does not practices his religion.
Therefore, since this whole matter is thrown into doubt, one needs to refrain from such disputed judgements in light of the hadith
of the Prophet on doubtful things.
Hadith of Hz. Ayesha (r)
Another argument given in favor of consumption of such meat sold in the Western supermarkets is based on a hadith
narrated by Hazrat Ayesha. This one hadith
has led many Arab ulama’
to conclude that the meat sold in the Western countries is not haram
. Among the proponents of this idea are some very famous Arab ulama’
. This particular hadith
is as follows:
Some people came to the Prophet (s) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Some people who have recently converted to Islam usually bring meat to us, and we do not know whether they mention the name of Allah at the time of slaughtering the animal or not’. The Messenger of Allah (s) said, ‘You mention the name of Allah and eat the meat’.
Until I had read this hadith
, I used to classify all meat sold in the supermarkets here as completely haram
. This was based on my understanding of the Qur’anic ayats
we read above. However, if you recall the ayat
of the Qur’an 5:90-91 where Allah admonishes us not to make unlawful that which is lawful, one needs to reconsider his attitude. Can one categorically declare all such meat to be haram
in light of this hadith
? I still say yes but with greater caution now. Let me explain what I mean.
If you read this hadith
carefully, it is really an exception rather than a rule. In this particular instance, these Muslims seemed to be facing an acute problem. They were not sure whether the people who slaughtered the animal mentioned the name of Allah over it or not. One can ask the question as to why did these Muslims not ask the new Muslims who had slaughtered the animals whether they had mentioned the name of Allah over it or not? That would have solved their problem. Or why did the Prophet (s) not ask them to inquire about this matter from them and then follow the proper rule? What was the hindering factor that they did not inquire of those people? The answer is not found in clear-cut words within the hadith
However, there is a hint and a very strong one too. It spells out that the people who brought the meat were new Muslims. Therefore, the likelihood of their knowing the Islamic injunctions was very remote. In other words, it is implied that the probability was greater that they had not mentioned the name of Allah over it.
One possibility was that the Muslims should have admonished them against this abominable practice that was forbidden. However the fear was that they would have taken this matter negatively and would have turned away from Islam.
The Prophet (s) always employed the method of gradual imposition of laws. It was like the growth of a child. He imparted the knowledge of the injunctions in a phased out manner. An example of this is the manner in which alcohol was forbidden. There were no injunctions against its consumption for years after the first revelations were given to him. At first, the Muslims were told that there is good and bad in consumption of alcohol, but the bad far exceeded the good. In a second stage they are told to refrain from prayer when they have consumed alcohol and are drunk. Lastly, it was in the 2nd year of the hijrah
when the injunction imposing total prohibition was revealed. Through hadith
we learn that even great sahabah
like Hazrat Hamzah (r) and Hazrat `Umar (r) used to get drunk even after they had become Muslims. The Prophet (s) recognized that it takes time to change the ways of mankind, particular when such drastic measures are taken against accepted norms of the society.
Thus, in this case as well, we find the Prophet (s) taking an exception to the rule. Rather then telling those new Muslims to conform to the law, he advises the other Muslims to consume that meat after having pronounced Allah’s name over it. In other words, wisdom was the dominating principle in this matter. It was far more important to bring those people closer to Islam than for these other Muslims to insist on being absolutely legalistic about the matter. This is the true spirit of Islam. This same spirit is reflected in the verse 16:125 of the Qur’an:
- Invite (all) to the Way of Your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching;
- And argue (or discuss) with them in ways that are the best and most gracious:
- For your Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.
In another important ayat
of the Qur’an (2:177), Allah stresses that righteousness (al-birr
) is not couched within legalism devoid of the spirit of Islam. Along with belief, actions become supreme – particularly those which have a direct involvement with other creatures of Allah.
Therefore, the message of this hadith
is that the situation warrants an exception to the rule. If we realize that there is a situation in the initial stages of da`wah
(invitation to the Straight Path) which warrants a similar need, then we may consider following this practice. In other words, if we are in a situation where we do not want to hurt the feelings of our host who is keen to learn about our ways and the Truth while we preach Islam to him, then we may consume the meat after saying bismillahir rahimanir rahim
. This could be while preaching to a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Many of today’s Muslims are like the new Muslims who have little knowledge of Islam. Likewise, when Muslims living in the West visit the homes of Christians and Jews, they can get themselves into an embarrassing situation by refusing to eat the food that is offered. This could hurt the feelings of the host while the visitor is trying to tell him about Islam.
I have myself been in such embarrassing situations. There are ways to overcome this matter as well. One solution that I had adopted was to first invite such a person to my house before he would invite me. I would then serve him typical Pakistani food. This would give us an opportunity to discuss food, our habits and practices and the Islamic injunctions. The guest would then inquire about where such halal
ingredients can be procured. Whenever he would invite me back, he was then careful about what he offered me to eat.
Convincing Muslim friends has been far more difficult. However, I have been able to bring many of them around by showing them the Qur’anic verses. It is practice that finally proves the point. They can see that not only can you survive easily on halal
foods, but also consumption of haram
foods is not a necessity at all.
I might state here that this exception might be used only in the early stages of preaching. In case you feel that the other party does not have the desire or will to even consider Islam or respect our religion and our ways, then this situation does not apply at all.
In reality, I think that it is a matter of taqwa
(seeking righteousness). This hadith
of Hz. Ayesha demonstrates that it is taqwa
and wisdom and the need to spread Islam that governs the exceptions. It is the state of mind that demonstrates how close one is to Allah and how close he wishes to be. Therefore one should refrain from such meat unless he can justify to himself that the rule of exceptions applies.
The proper practice of zabh (slaughtering the animal):
There are a couple of other points that I would also like to mention here. There are 2 aspects to the slaughter of the animal from the Islamic point of view:
- the mention of name of Allah, and
- the method of the slaughter which should be least painful to the animal and which drains out the blood
The first of these is mentioned in the Qur’an, while the second is to be found in the hadith
. It should be borne in mind that in case the method of slaughter is such that the blood is not drained out completely, then the meat is not haram
. It is makruh
or detestable for consumption. It is better not to eat it, but one may do so. The prime consideration is the mention of Allah’s name in recognition of His Sovereignty in recognition of the fact that it is He Alone Who gives life to any human being or to an animal, and He Alone has the right to take that life. Thus we slaughter the animal for food with His permission. Hence, not mentioning Allah’s name definitely makes it haram
If you will recall, in verse 5:4 some categories were made haram
based on the method of slaughter. All methods mentioned there are inhumane methods where the animal died in pain. Thus, the method should be such that it is least painful. Besides, blood is haram
and it should be drained out from the body of the animal. It is probably impossible to drain out every drop of blood, but an attempt should be made to remove almost all of it.
Several years ago, “Professor Schultz and his colleague Dr. Hazim of the Hanover University, Germany, proved through an experiment, using an electroencephalograph (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) that *Islamic slaughter is THE humane method of slaughter* and captive bolt stunning, practiced by the Western method, causes severe pain to the animal.”
According to this article, our method of slaughter is in fact the least painful for the animal.
The experimental details of their research project were as under:
- Several electrodes were surgically implanted at various points of the skull of all animals, touching the surface of the brain.
- The animals were allowed to recover for several weeks.
- Some animals were slaughtered by making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck cutting the jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides; as also the trachea and esophagus-Halal Method.
- Some animals were stunned using a captive bolt pistol humane slaughter by the Western method.
- During the experiment, EEG and ECG were recorded on all animals to record the condition of the brain and heart during the course of slaughter and stunning.
The results of their experiments were dramatic. According to the authors, when the skin is slit open it is not painful. Imagine the feeling you would have when you cut your finger with a sharp knife. It is not painful although it may bleed profusely. Rather, it is the act of striking that causes pain. If you bruised yourself and started bleeding because of a fall, the pain is not due to the bleeding but because of the impact.
Thus when the jugular vein of the animal is split open with a sharp knife, the animal feels little pain. The blood supply to the brain is cut off almost painlessly. However, since the spinal cord is not cut, the brain still has a link with the heart through the nervous system, which is intact. The brain starts sending emergency signals at once to the heart to pump more blood since it is not receiving any. Thus the heart pumps harder and harder, causing the blood to flow towards the jugular vein and ooze out of the slit throat.
Since the vein is slit, the blood from the heart does not reach the brain, and it is said that within 3 seconds the brain becomes numb due to shortage of blood, a condition of deep sleep or unconsciousness. After another 3 seconds, the brain even stops sending any signals, and records no pain. However, the heart keeps on pumping the blood that oozes out from the slit vein. Thus, death is painless and fast, and at the same time there is a mechanism to ensure the maximum outflow of blood.
Why is blood considered to be impure and unfit for consumption? The reality is that all the impurities and the refuse of the body is transported through the blood to be absorbed into the excreta. Therefore, blood is probably the last thing one might want to eat anyway. Besides, the presence of blood causes decay of meat at a much faster pace. You can preserve meat better without the blood.
The experiments also established the fact that the Western method of slaughter is indeed very painful for the animal. Although the animal seemed to be apparently unconscious after the stunning blow on its head, the EEG recorded severe pain signals. The heart also stops pumping much earlier, and a lot more blood is retained within the body.
The Law of Necessity
You are aware that under necessity, haram
. If anyone feels that he has gone to that limit where it has become absolutely necessary to consume haram
to save his life, then he may eat without guilt.
Summary of halal and haram meat:
Based on the ayats of the Qur’an read above, we can summarize the halal
- Meat of permitted 4 footed animals on which Allah’s name has been pronounced at the time of slaughter
- Meat that is otherwise haram under force of necessity without willful disobedience of Allah
- Meat of animals slaughtered by Jews and Christians as long as they follow their own Book
- Meat of animals where there is doubt of the method and whether Allah’s name is mentioned only in case it promotes the cause of Allah
Having read these ayats of the Qur’an, one should not require any further argument about what makes the meat halal and haram. These ayats are supplemented by innumerable ahadith, which state the same thing. All you need to do is to turn to any hadith collection and look up the section on zaba’ih (sacrifice). You will find the relevant quotations.
- Dead Meat
- Flesh of swine (pork, etc)
- Meat of animals on which the name of any entity or deity (other than Allah) has been mentioned.
- Meat of animal on which no name has been mentioned.
- Meat of animals whose death was caused due to the 7 causes mentioned in ayat 5:4
- Food prepared by atheists, Hindus, Buddhists and other polytheists
Ahmad H. Sakr, Dietary Regulations and Food Habits of Muslims
, N.Y., Muslim World League Office to UN, 1971.
Dr. Soliman Donia, “Of Meat Prepared by Ahl al-Kitab”, Magazine of Islamic Center of NY
, NY, December 1974
Abdullah Yusuf Ali (The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary
, Lahore, 1934) states in his notes on this verse: “Islam follows the Golden Mean. All well-regulated societies lay down reasonable limitations. These become incumbent on all loyal members of any given society, and show what is "lawful" in that society. But if the limitations are reasonable, as they should be, the "lawful" will also coincide more and more with what is "good."”
A. Yusuf Ali states: In the matter of the killing for meat, the general rule is that the name of Allah, the true God should be pronounced as a rite in order to call our attention to the fact that we do not take life thoughtlessly but solemnly for food, with the permission of Allah, to whom we render the life back. The question of hunting is then raised. How can this solemn rite be performed when we send forth trained hawks, trained hounds, or trained cheetahs or other animals trained for the chase? They must necessarily kill at some distance from their masters. Their game is legalized on these conditions: (1) that they are trained to kill, not merely for their own appetite, or out of mere wantonness, but for their master's food; the training implies that something of the solemnity which Allah has taught us in this matter goes into their action; and (2) we are to pronounce the name of Allah over the quarry; this is interpreted to mean that the Takbir
should be pronounced when the hawk or dog, etc., is released to the quarry.
A. Yusuf Ali states in his footnotes to these ayat
: “Dead meat: maitat
: carrion; animal that dies of itself; the original Arabic has a slightly wider meaning given to it in Fiqh (Religious Law); anything that dies of itself and is not expressly killed for food with the Takbir
duly pronounced on it. But there are exceptions, e.g., fish and locusts are lawful, though they have not been made specially halal
with the Takbir
. But even fish or locusts as carrion would be obviously ruled out. For prohibited foods, cf. also Q. v. 4-5; vi. 121, 138-146; etc. The teachers of Fiqh
(Religious Law) work out the details with great elaboration. My purpose is to present general principles, not technical details. Carrion or dead meat and blood as articles of food would obviously cause disgust to any refined person. So would swine's flesh where the swine live on offal. Where swine are fed artificially on clean food, the objections remain: (1) that they are filthy animals in other respects, and the flesh of filthy animals taken as food affects the eater; (2) that swine's flesh has more fat than muscle-building material; and (3) that it is more liable to disease than other kinds of meat; e.g., trichinosis, characterized by hair-like worms in the muscular tissue. As to food dedicated to idols or false gods, it is obviously unseemly for the Children of Unity to partake of it.
A. Yusuf Ali, in his footnote commentary on the above verse.
Consumption of blood is prohibited in Gen
. 9:4, Lev
. 3:17, Lev
. 7:26, Lev
. 19:26, Deut
. 12:16. Swine is forbidden in Lev
. 11:7, Deut
. 14:8. Dead meat is forbidden in Lev
. 11:39, Deut
. 14:21. The method of slaughter is specified through the Talmudic tradition. Food offering to idols is forbidden for Christians in 1 Cor
Soliman Donia, pp. 9-10.
I am indebted to Br. Omer Bin Abdullah for his thoughts on the secular issues and the multi-ethnic make-up of present day Western societies.
 Mishkat al-Masabih
, Lahore, vol. 2, p. 592
is found in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (chapter of Slaughtering). The text is also found with minor differences in words also in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari (in 2 different chapters: “Bargains” and “Slaughter”), in the Sunan of Ibn Majah, and in the Sunan of Darimi. Of the four books I have mentioned above, three (excluding Darimi) are included in the “sihah sittah
” or the 6 sound collections of hadith
as accepted by the Sunnis. Therefore, this is considered to be an authentic hadith
“Islamic method of slaughtering animals is better”, http://TheModernReligion.com