The Shar’ee term of Halal slaughtering is Dhakat. Dhakat in Arabic comes from the root idea of making something become good in smell and taste, and making it complete. Dhakat thus means: “to slaughter an animal in such a way as to make to smell and taste good, because slaughtering releases the blood, enabling the meat to dry faster.” (Al Qurtubi V6/P52). As an Islamic technical term, it means releasing the blood of animals by means of a sharp object from a specific place in a specific manner, doing it for the sake of Allah Alone, and mentioning His Name over the animal.
Scholars have agreed that the best and most complete way to slaughter is to cut the windpipe (trachea), the gullet (esophagus) and the two jugular veins in the neck. Slaughtering must be performed on the front of the neck without cutting the spinal cord. Scholars, however, have differed regarding what constitutes the minimum amount of cutting, and the exact point on the neck where it should take place.
Those who understood the Prophet’s Ahadith to mean “kill” the animal think that cutting the throat and the windpipe is good enough to achieve the killing; and those who understood them to mean “release the blood” insisted that in addition to that, the jugular veins, or at least one of them, must also be cut. The important point is that some scholars recommended that slaughtering performed from the back of the neck be avoided, because that results in cutting the spinal cord, and thereby killing the animal, before the actual slaughtering.
The actual slaughtering tool
The basic tool to be used in slaughtering is, of course, a knife. Any sharp edge, however, can be used except teeth, nails, or bone. Examples of materials givinig a sharp edge are: steel, iron, copper, gold, glass, stone, and wood, if it is sharp enough. Kaab ibn Malik, radhiallahu ‘anhu, reported that: “They had sheep that were shepherded by a young woman who noticed at one point that a lamb was dying. When she told me, I broke a stone and slaughtered it, but I told them not to eat of it until I asked the Prophet, who told them to eat it.” (The full version is narrated by al-Bukhari).
And in the Hadith reported by Rafa ibn Khadeej, radhiallahu ‘anhu, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, told the Companions to use “anything that releases the blood, and mention the Name of Allah over it, but do not use a tooth or a nail, for a tooth is bone, and nails are the knives of the Ethiopians.” (Reported by al-Bukhari, Muslim and others). It is said that Ethiopians at that time used to kill their animals in that fashion to show their courage and strength.
In a lengthy discussion of all possible objects for slaughter, Ibn Rushd said: “It does not make sense to differentiate between teeth and bones for he (the Prophet) explained that a tooth is not a good tool by the fact that it is made of bone. And it is well agreed upon in our Madh-hab that anything other than iron is disliked (that is, when iron objects are available) because the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, has said: ‘If you slaughter, then slaughter in the best way. One should sharpen his edge and comfort gently his animal.’” (Bidaiatul Mujtahid VII/p433)
Who should slaughter
Scholars agree that the person conducting the slaughtering can be a Muslim or one of the People of the Book. If the person has not reached puberty yet, or is drunk or insane, scholars have differing opinions. The Shaafi’ee School says that their Dhabeehah is Halal, while the Hanbali School says it is not. The Hanafi School says that the insane person’s, and the boy’s, Dhabeehah is Halal if they are aware of what they are doing. The Malikites say the boy’s Dhabeehah is Halal, but not the drunks or the insane person’s because (under the circumstances) they cannot reason. The main issue behind these differences is that of Niyyah (intention). Those who consider it to be a requirement, do not accept their Dhabeehah as Halal, and vice versa. All scholars agree that the Dhabeehah of the Murtadd (one who has chosen to give up Islam) is not considered Halal.
Invocation of Allah’s name over the animal
Scholars agree regarding the legitimacy (Mashru’yah) of invoking the Name of Allah over the Dhabeehah, but they differ on whether it is obligatory (Waajib) or recommended (Mustahabb). In other words, is it considered a requirement, in order for the Dhabeehah to be Halal, or not? Three major opinions of scholars have been mentioned by Ibn Katheer in his Tafseer (V2/P169) in explaining Ayah 121 of Surah al-An’aam. The Ayah says: “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 following is a brief summary of these opinions:
First: That the invocation is a condition for lawfulness. This opinion is held by the majority of scholars, including Abu Hanifah, Malik, Ahmad, Thawree, Ibn Abbas and many others. They say that in the above Ayah:
1. The order not to eat implies an absolute prohibition because nothing in the Ayah or elsewhere negates it or says otherwise.
2. The absence of the invocation is considered to be Fisq (impiety) or disobedience. That classification is given only to actions that are considered to be Haram.
3. The prohibition is a general one and should not be construed to only mean dead animals killed by Mushriks, as some scholars have claimed. The reasoning behind this is that nothing in the Ayah indicates such a restriction or specification, and the fact that prohibition of dead animals and animals killed by Mushriks has been clearly and specifically mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an more than once.
These scholars also used the following Hadith to support their opinion: Aadee ibn Hatem, radhiallaahu ‘anhu, said: “I said: ‘O Prophet of Allah, I send my [hunting] dog and mention the Name of Allah.’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, told me: ‘If you send your dog mentioning the Name of Allah and he killed, you eat; but if he eats from it, do not eat. He has caught it for himself.’ I said: ‘I send my dog, and then I find another dog with him, and I do not know which one caught for me.’ The Prophet said: ‘Do not eat, because you only invoked the Name on your dog, and not on the other’.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim, among other similar Ahadith).
If the invocation is dropped deliberately, the Dhabeehah is considered to be “dead,” and it is Haram to eat. But if one forgot to mention it, then his slaughter is lawful and the Dhabeehah is Halal.
Second: That invocation is not a requirement, and that if one has not made it (on purpose or just forgot to do so), the slaughter would be lawful, and the Dhabeehah Halal. This is basically the Shafi’ee School’s opinion, but is also one of the opinions reported on behalf of Malik and Ahmad.
Third: That it is a condition for the lawfulness of the Dhabeehah, and that if the Muslim does not invoke the Name of Allah, his Dhabeehah is not Halal. This opinion does not differentiate between those who forget to make the invocation from those who deliberately omit it: the Dhabeehah in either case is not Halal. This opinion was adopted by Abdullah ibn Umar, Dawood Ad-dhahiri and Ibn Sereen.
Forgetfulness, however, is a valid excuse for not applying or associating consequences of actions to the doer. Rulings and conditions cannot be applied to the person who did or did not do something because of forgeting. The same concept also applies to cases in which the person is under duress or has done something wrong by mistake.
In conclusion, the correct ruling regarding the requirement of invoking the Name of Allah over slaughtered animals is that the invocation is obligatory (Waajib) for the slaughter to be Halal, and that if one deliberately omits it, his Dhabeehah is Haram to eat. All this relates to cases in which the person performing the slaughtering is a Muslim.
Halal or Haram?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala sent Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, with a message detailing specific principles, ways and procedures for his followers to live by with regard to eating and food. Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala wanted His servants to enjoy life and eat all that is lawful (Halal) and good, to nurture their bodies and enjoy good health both physically and spiritually.
The Qur’an says: “Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, pure and clean (at-Tayyibaat) (which He has provided) for sustenance? …” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:32)
On the other hand, the Qur’an forbids Muslims from eating unlawful (Haram) and bad foods to protect them from physical and spiritual harm. The Qur’an describes the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam as one who “… allows them as lawful good things (at-Tayyibaat) and prohibits as unlawful bad and evil things (al-Khabaa’ith)…” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:157)
General Rulings on Halal Slaughtering
All scholars are in agreement that a slaughtered animal can be Halal (lawful) with respect to both the use of its meat for food, and the use of its by-products, if it meets the following three conditions:
1. It is not one of the animals or meats that are Haram (unlawful) for the Muslim to consume.
2. No name other than that of Allah is invoked or mentioned over it at the time of slaughtering.
3. The slaughtering has met specific Islamic requirements.
Types of Haram meats and animals
The first thing Muslims are supposed to know about food is what types of animals and meats are Haram for consumption. Some Haram items are mentioned in the Qur’an, and some in the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
The Qur’an says: “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); and that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day those who reject Faith have given up all hope of your religion: so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Ma’idah 5:3)
This Ayah is a further explanation of a previous Ayah in the same Surah, which says: “Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals, with the exceptions named: But game animals are forbidden while you are in the Sacred Precincts or in pilgrim garb: for Allah does command according to His Will and Plan.” (Surah al-Ma’idah 5:1) It is cited here with reference to a main issue in Usoolul Fiqh, namely, “The default nature of things: Halal or Haram,” a topic that Muslims should be aware of, since it is the foundation for a good understanding of all the rulings relating to food and eating.
1. Dead meat
Dead animals here denotes those which die without man’s involvement by slaughtering. Any part cut from a live animal is also considered dead and is not permissible to eat. One exception to this is seafood. Even though we consider sea creatures dead once they are out of the water, the Qur’an clearly states that seafood is Halal: “Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food – for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel.” (Surah al-Ma’idah 5:96)
There is evidence for this exemption also in a Hadith narrated by Jaber, radhiallaahu ‘anhu, in which he told of a whale they found dead on a beach during one of their expeditions. The Hadith indicated that they ate from it and brought some back with them for the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to taste.
The blood meant here is the Masfooh, or that which flows out of the animal when it is slaughtered or wounded. It is considered to be Najass (impure and unclean), and is Haram to eat or use in any form. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has strict laws that require the blood of cows and sheep to be thoroughly drained after slaughter, before the meat can be sold to the public.
3. Pig meat
All scholars are in agreement that the meat, fat and every part of the pig are Haram for the Muslim to consume. It should be pointed out, however, that scholars have differed regarding the impurity of the pig, and thus, on the usability of their by-products (eg, skin and fat) in non-edible products such as soap. The discussion of this subject is beyond the scope of this article, and further information can be obtained by consulting scholars or any major Fiqh book.
4. Slaughtering in other than Allah’s name
Animals over which names other than that of Allah were invoked at the time of slaughter. All scholars agree that if a Muslim invokes the name of other than Allah over a Dhabeehah then it is Haram to consume.
5. Suffocated or strangled animals
As a general rule, for the following five types, if the animal is reached before death, and is then slaughtered, then it is Halal to eat.
6. Animals killed by violent blows or severely beaten.
7. Animals that fall from heights and die. Whether to the ground or into water.
8. Animals killed by being gored.
As well as being gutted.
9. Animals partly eaten by wild beasts.
10. Animals slaughtered on stone (altars)
In his famous book of Tafseer, Al Qurtubi said: “… this type is in the slaughtering to other than Allah category, but because many people would be practising this kind of slaughter, it was important to have it as a separate type.” (V6/P57) This is very true, and even today, this type of slaughter is still being widely practised by non-Muslims and by a few ignorant Muslims.
The above are the major kinds of prohibited meat. Other types are also mentioned in the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Today in the West, where all kinds of animals are being consumed and where many people practise animal slaughtering in different ways and for different purposes, it is highly recommended that Muslims learn the Islamic Ahkaam (rulings) regarding foods and meat in as much detail as possible.
Slaughtering by the People of the Book
The basic rule regarding the food and meat of the People of the Book is that it is Halal. A Muslim can eat their food and marry their women, as stated in the following Ayah: “This day are (all) Tayyibat (good and pure things) made lawful unto you. The food the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers but chaste women among the People of the Book when you give them their due dowers and desire chastity not lewdness nor secret intrigues. If any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).” (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:5)
People of the Book specifically means Christians and Jews. Scholars have discussed in great detail exactly what is meant by the expression “People of the Book” and whether or not that meaning would change with time. The majority of scholars say that the meaning of People of the Book has not changed and should not change with time, even if the Christians and Jews deviate more in their path from the True Path and regardless of how much they practise of their religion.
The reasons for this understanding are very simple. First, all or most of these deviations existed even before the revelation of the Qur’an to our Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, yet Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala called them the People of the Book. Second, Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala did not mention it in the Qur’an – and He surely knows that they are going to change. We should not, therefore, pay attention to these changes, and should treat them, in every way in which we deal with them, as who they are – the People of the Book.
Rasheed Ridhaa, a respected scholar who lived at the turn of the century, said in his book of Tafseer: “Allah prohibited us from marrying Mushrik women, yet He subhanahu wa ta’aala also permitted us – in a clear and direct manner in the same Ayah – to marry the women of the People of the Book. Since marriage is more important than eating, we should not, therefore, put any restriction on the rulings derived from the Ayah regarding their food or who they are.” (Tafseer al-Manar, VI/p353).
It should be pointed out that the Dhabeehah of the People of the Book is Halal regardless of whether their country is considered to be part of the Daar-ul-Harb (at war with Muslims) or Daar-us-Salaam (at peace with Muslims). Imam Nawawee has reported on the consensus of scholars on this matter (al Majmuu’a, V9/P68).
Haram food is always haram
All scholars have understood food in the above Ayah to refer to meat or Dhabeehah of the People of the Book. One should now ask the question: Are all the types of food and meat used by them Halal for us? The answer to that can be summarised by stating that what our Deen has shown us to be Haram will always be Haram. Therefore, all the rulings discussed above apply to their Dhabeehah with one exception – the invocation of the Name of Allah over the slaughtered animal. The same conditions for the Halal requirement of Dhabeehah, are considered again, this time with the People of the Book in mind:
1. According to Ayah 5:5 mentioned Muslims can only eat good and pure meats. Therefore, the flesh of swine, blood, dead animals, etc are not permissible for the Muslim to eat – even items (eg pork) currently eaten by the People of the Book.
2. No names other than that of Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala should be invoked over the animal. If such is done, the Dhabeehah becomes Haram according to Abu Hanifah, Shafiee and Ibn Hanbal. That is the ruling if we actually hear these names invoked at the time of slaughtering. If we do not actually hear them, scholars have said that the ruling is not to ask about it. This ruling is supported by the majority of scholars.
3. According to Abu Hanifah and Ibn Hanbal, the Dhabeehah of the People of the Book is not Halal unless they invoke the Name of Allah over it. According to Malik and Shafiee, however, invoking the Name of Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala is not a requirement, and the Dhabeehah is Halal. This latter opinion is supported by the following:
* The fact that the above Ayah declares their meat to be Halal without imposing any restrictions such as the invocation of the Name of Allah over the animal. Therefore, their meat is Halal for us as long as it does not belong to one or more of the 10 Haram categories discussed here (see box).
* In a Hadith narrated by Aa’isha, radhiallaahu ‘anha, she said: “Some people told the Prophet that some people brought them meat and they did not know whether the Name of Allah had been spoken over it or not. The Prophet said: ‘Speak the Name of Allah over it and eat’.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawood). This Hadith shows that non-Muslims were not used to invoking the Name of Allah during the time of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and that the invocation was required of Muslims because the Prophet had told them to invoke Allah’s Name before eating. That can be interpreted to mean: because their meat is permitted for you, you can eat it, just by mentioning Allah’s Name over it, and it does not really matter whether or not they had invoked Allah’s Name over it because it is not required of them.
* Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala has permitted us to marry women of the People of the Book, and it is well established that the husband cannot force his wife to be a Muslim or to practise Islamic worship. Similarly, we cannot ask the People of the Book to invoke Allah’s Name over an animal they slaughter, because they are not required to do so.
* If one considers Ayah 7:121 of Surah al-An’aam: “Eat not of (meats) on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced” together with the fact that the People of the Book do not invoke Allah’s Name, one may get confused. But the paradox is answered by considering the following: The meat of the People of the Book is exempted from the restriction. The Qur’an prohibits Muslims from marrying Mushrik women but at the same time has exempted women of the People of the Book from the prohibition, as mentioned in the same Ayah. By analogy, a similar exemption applies to the case of their Dhabeehah.
Based on this discussion and other evidences, the following conclusions have been drawn:
1. All meats prohibited in Islam are always prohibited, even if the People of the Book eat them.
2. If a Muslim hears a Christian or a Jew invoking the names of other than Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala, he should not eat from that Dhabeehah. But if he does not hear them, he should not ask about it, either.
3. We cannot force the People of the Book to invoke Allah’s Name when slaughtering. Hence, their Dhabeehah is Halal even without the invocation.
4. The slaughtering procedure used by the People of the Book should not kill the animal before slaughtering it.