Zabah:Islamic Method of Slaughter

 

By: IMAM Dr Abduljalil Sajid

Islamic Food and Nutrition Council

The Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony

8 Caburn Road Hove BN3 6EF (UK) Tel: 01273 722438

FAX: 01273 326051 Mobile: 07971861972

Email: sajid@imamsajid.com, imamsajid@yahoo.co.uk

 

Under European animal welfare regulations, all farm animals must be stunned before slaughter, unless they are killed by religious methods known as halal for Muslims and shechita for Jews. Both methods involve religiously trained slaughter men using sharp knives to cut the throats of cows, sheep and chickens and letting them bleed to death for food consumption.

 

The Farm Animal Welfare Counci (FAWC), which is appointed and funded by the Government, has concluded after a four-year study that Jewish and Muslim methods of slaughter are inhumane. It insists they be brought into line with mainstream regulations. However, consultations between the council and religious groups have broken down, and the council has been accused of "institutionalised religious prejudice".

 

Let us examine Islamic position of Zabah and Stunning:

1. Zabah

The main Islamic sources of Law (Qur’an and Sunnah (the proven practices of the Prophet peace be upon him) are very clear on what is permissible to eat and what is not permissible. There are strict rules when it comes to meat ffor fiood purposes.

In Chapter Al-Maida (The Table) Allah says: "Forbidden to you [for food] are: Al-Maytatah (the dead animals -cattle-beasts not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah, or has been slaughtered for idols, etc., or on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering, and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns - and that which has been [partly] eaten by a wild animal - unless you are able to slaughter it [before its death] ­ and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on An­Nusub (stone altars). [Forbidden] also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision, [all] that is Fisqun (disobedience of Allah and sin). This day, those who disbelieved
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 as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin [such can eat these above-mentioned meats], then surely, Allah is Of Forgiving, Most Merciful." (The Holy Qur’an 5:3-4)

The Islamic practice of slaughtering animals by means of a sharp cut to the front of the neck has frequently come under attack by some animal rights activists as being a form of animal cruelty, the claim being that it is a painful inhumane method of killing animals. In the West, it is required by law to stun the animals with a shot to the head before the slaughter, supposedly to render the animal unconscious and to prevent it from reviving before it is killed so as not to slow down the movement of the processing line. It is also used to prevent the animal from feeling pain before it dies.

The ritual slaughter in Islam is termed as Zabah. Literally, the term Zabah means to purify as the purpose of Zabah is to purify the flesh of the animal from flowing blood. ‘Zabiha’ means ‘slaughtered’. The ‘slaughtering’ is to be done by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck causing the animal’s death, but without cutting the spinal cord.

Prohibition of Carrion

a) Animals that Die in an Accident or due to an Injury

As is clear from the above explanation, carrion - flesh of dead animals - was clearly prohibited by the Qur'an. Nevertheless, there could still have remained some doubt regarding whether this prohibition applies only to animals that die a natural death or would it also extend to animals that die because of an accident or an injury caused by other animals or by a fall etc. The Qur'an, in Al-Maaidah 5: 3 completely clarified the situation and removed all doubts that could have existed in this regard. It declared: Carrion, blood, flesh of swine and that which is consecrated for anything other than God has been made unlawful for you. And [this includes animals] which die due to strangulation, due to an injury, due to a fall and due to being gored by [the horn of] another animal and those, which have been
[partly] eaten by a wild animal - [all these are included in carrion,] except those [which are found alive and which] you properly slaughter.

Thus, according to the Qur'an, a dead animal, whatever may have been the cause of its death, must not be eaten.

b) Parts Cut-off from Living Animals

The prohibition regarding carrion will also apply to any part cut-off from a living animal, and, therefore, the cut-off part shall not be considered as eatable. At the time of Hijrah, the people of Medinah used to cut off the humps of their camels and the fat in the tails of their rams for eating. When this practice was brought to the notice of the Prophet (pbuh), he did not approve of the practice. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

Whatever is cut-off from a living animal is [to be considered as] carrion. (Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Sayd)

c) Regarding Dead Fish and Locusts

The word used in the Arabic language for carrion or the flesh of dead animals is (Maetah). In the Arabic language, the usage of this word is, traditionally, restricted. The word, for instance, is not used for dead fish or dead locusts.

Thus, Al-Zamakhshariy, the acknowledged linguist of the Arabic language, writes:

The word [for carrion] has been used [in the Qur'an] in its generally held connotation [rather than a literal connotation]. Notice, when someone says: "He ate 'Maetah' [i.e. carrion]", this does not bring to mind someone eating a dead fish or a dead locust, just as when one says: 'He drank blood', this would not bring to mind someone eating liver or the spleen. Thus, it is precisely on the basis of the generally held connotations of words that Muslim jurists have said that if a person has vowed to avoid meat, but later on eats fish, his vow shall not be rendered broken, even though [in a literal sense] he has, in fact, eaten meat. (Al-Kashaaf, Vol. 1, Pg. 215)

It is precisely on this basis that the Prophet (peace be upon him ) is reported to have said:

Two animals even when dead and two kinds of blood are allowed for you to eat. As for the two animals that you can eat if they are dead, they are fish and locusts. As for the two bloods, they are liver and the spleen. (Ibn Maajah, Kitaab al-At`imah)

This is precisely what the words: "Its [i.e. the sea's] dead are allowable for eating" ascribed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) imply. The "dead of the sea" in this narrative ascribed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) is used for such fish of the sea, which were generally not construed by the word "Maetah" in the Arabic language, even though from a purely literal or a legal perspective, the word would apply to all dead animals.

Blood should be drained

The blood has to be drained completely before the head is removed. The purpose is to drain out most of the blood, which would otherwise serve as a good culture medium for micro organisms. Hence, for this purpose, the spinal cord must not be cut, otherwise the nerve fibbers to the heart would be damaged during the process causing cardiac arrest, resulting in stagnation of the blood in the blood vessels. In Islam flowing blood is impure and prohibited for food consumption. Among other reasons of flowing blood being impure, Blood is a good medium for germs, bacteria, toxins, etc. some are:

a) Flowing blood transfers nutrients to the tissue cells and returns with the waste products of the tissue cells. These waste products are harmful and are removed from the blood through the function of the kidneys.

b) Blood contains organisms, which are responsible for various diseases.

c) The presence of flowing blood in flesh causes the flesh to putrefy.

It is therefore necessary to purify the flesh of the animal from the impure flowing blood, by extracting maximum blood.

In Islamic Jurisprudence, Zabah is to cut the neck in order to severe the two jugular veins, the gullet and windpipe. It will suffice if any three of the four blood pipes are severed. The spinal cord should not be severed as it maintains connection between the brain and the body, which enables convulsion after slaughtering. Convulsion squeezes out the remaining blood in the body.

The Islamic procedure of Zabah enables maximum extraction of blood, within a close circuit. The purpose of extracting maximum blood has been explained. The purpose of rapid extraction of blood is to avoid blood clots. Aspects, removing flowing blood as well as avoiding blood clots are equally important to health.

To explain this further, I seek refuge in the verse of the Quran: 5:3 “Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood and swine -flesh. And that which hath been dedicated unto any other than Allah, and the dead through beating, and the strangled, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been killed by (the goring of) horns and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by the death-stroke), and that which have been immolated unto idols. And forbidden is that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination. This day are those who disbelieve in despair of (ever harming) your religion; so fear them not, fear ME! This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have
chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM. Whoso is forced by hunger, not by will, to sin; (for him) lo! Allah is forgiving merciful.” They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye reach them that which Allah taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allah’s name upon it, and observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is swift to take account (The Holy Qur’an 5: 4)

According to the Qur'an, of the things, which have normally been used by man for eating, the following are haraam or prohibited.

· Flesh of pig;

· Dead animals;

· Flowing blood; and

· Animals, which are not sacrificed in the name of God.

The Qur'an has itself given a few details regarding the second and the fourth category.

In case of the second category of prohibited meat, the Qur'an says that whatever has been the cause of the death of the particular animal, it is not suitable for eating; the only exception is that the animal was found dying, but was not actually dead and consequently it was slaughtered in the prescribed manner. The Qur'an has termed such "slaughtering in the prescribed manner" as "Zakkaitum", meaning slaughtering in such a way that most of the blood flows out of the slaughtered body.

 

In case of the fourth category of prohibited meat, the Qur'an says that animals which are slaughtered at specific, revered places (like darbars, i.e., graves of saints and other places considered to be holy and sacred etc.) should also not be eaten. Furthermore, the Qur'an also prohibits eating such animals, which are slaughtered without taking the name of God.

These are the directives of the Qur'an regarding Haraam meat. Besides these categories, the Qur'an has allowed all other animals, which have normally been used for eating by man.
2. The validity of Zabah
i) The person male or female, performing the act of Zabah must be a sane Muslim.

ii) The name of Allah (tasmiyyah) must be pronounced before cutting. The instance on pronouncing the name of God before slaying an animal is meant to emphasize the sanctity of the life and the fact that all life belongs to God. Pronouncing the tasmiyyah induces feelings of tenderness and compassion and serves to prevent cruelty.

iii) The instrument used to perform Zabah must be extremely sharp to facilitate the quick cutting of the skin and severing of the windpipe and blood vessels so as to enable the blood to flow immediately and quickly; in other words, to bring about an immediate and massive haemorrhage.

d) The incision must be made in the neck at some point just below the glottis and the root of the neck.

e) ‘Zakkaytum’ is a verb derived from the root word ‘Zakaah’ (to purify). Its infinitive is ‘Tazkiyah’, which means purification. The Islamic mode of slaughtering an animal requires the following conditions to be met:

f) Meat slaughtered by Islamic way remains fresh for a longer time due to deficiency of blood in the meat as compared to other methods of slaughtering.

"Tazkiyyah" - An Essential First Condition

The words: "except those [among these animals, which] you properly slaughter", at the end of the referred part of the cited verse of Al-Maaidah 5: 3 clearly evidence the fact that it is only the method of 'proper slaughtering' of all such animals which need to be slaughtered for eating that renders such animals fit for eating. This proper slaughtering of an animal in the Arabic language is called "Tazkiyyah".

In the Arabic language, the term Tazkiyyah of an animal connotes draining of the blood from the animal through the infliction of an injury with a sharp-edged instrument, in such a way that the animal dies primarily due to loss of blood. In this manner, the body of the animal and its meat is completely relieved of the "uncleanness" of the blood. The two methods generally followed for attaining Tazkiyyah of an animal are known as "Zibh" or "Nah'r". The former is generally used for the "Tazkiyyah" of animals like goats, sheep, cows, hens etc., while the latter is generally used in the case of animals like camels. In "Zibah", an incision is made across the throat of the animal in such a way that its trachea (windpipe) and esophagus or the trachea and the jugular veins are severed. In "Nah'r", on the other hand, the trachea of the animal is pierced with a sharp-pointed spear-like instrument in such a way that it results in a gushing discharge of the blood and,
in some time, renders the animal lifeless.

However, if due to any reason, it is not possible to adopt any of these two methods of attaining "Tazkiyyah", and then it would suffice to use any other method of inflicting such an injury to the animal, which drains it of its blood. Once, when one of the companions of the Prophet (Peace be Upon him) asked him regarding what method of "Tazkiyyah" should one employ in a situation where he does not have a knife, the Prophet (Peace be Upon him) said:

Inflict an injury, which drains it of its blood, by whatever instrument you may and pronounce God's name upon it. (Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Dhuhaayaa)

Animals killed by arrows, gunshots or any other method should also be considered in the light of the above explanation. Moreover, if a trained hunting animal - like trained hounds or hunting birds - while retrieving the prey, injures and kills it, it would still be considered allowed for eating and shall not be considered carrion[1][11]. The Qur'an has clarified the issue in Al-Maaidah 5: 4. The Qur'an says:

“They ask you regarding what they are allowed to eat. Say: 'All suitable things are allowed for you and also that which your hunting animals, whom you have taught of the knowledge that God gave you, [hunt for you]. Thus, eat of that which they have held back for you [without eating from it] and pronounce God's name on this. Fear God [and obey His commandments, for] indeed God is swift in reckoning.” (The Holy Qur’an 5:4)

As is clear from the style and the context of the verse - especially the preceding verse in which the Qur'an had already prohibited all animals that die due to being attacked and [partly] eaten by a wild animal (except if they are found alive and slaughtered in the proper way) - that this verse is a response to the questions asked regarding the position of such a hunted animal, which is killed or which dies due to an injury or a wound that it may have suffered while being retrieved by a properly trained hunting animal. The Qur'an, in response to this question, has declared that when the prey is killed or fatally injured by a properly trained hunting animal, it may be eaten. This actually implies that, according to the Qur'an, such a killing or injuring by a properly trained hunting animal is a substitute for
other methods of attaining "Tazkiyyah" of the prey. However, in such a case, the Qur'an has qualified the permission with the condition that the trained hunting animal must not have eaten from the prey and should have held it back for its master. The words: "which they have held back for you" clearly point toward the stated condition. The Prophet (Peace be Upon him ) has clarified this condition, which was inherent in the referred verse as follows:

When you let your dog loose on a prey, pronounce God's name at that time. If you find that the prey is still alive, then pronounce God's name upon it, while slaughtering it, while if you find that the dog has killed it, but has not eaten any part of it, then you can eat it, because this is what it has held back for you. However, if you find that the dog has partly eaten it, then you should not eat it, for this is what it has held back for itself. And if you find other dogs with your dog, and you find that the dogs have killed the prey, even though they have not eaten from it, you should not eat it, for you cannot be sure which of the dogs may have killed it.

Limitations on the Prohibition of Blood

Blood, as is clear from all the cited verses of the Qur'an is also included in the list of prohibitions of the Shari`ah. The Qur'an, in one of the verses cited above (Al-An`aam 6: 45), has also clarified that it is only the flowing blood, which has been prohibited. The words (i.e. flowing or flown blood) clearly point to this fact. The phrase 'flowing/flown blood' is used in its generally implied and construed connotation. According to this connotation, liver and spleen are not included in blood, even though they may, in fact, be composed mainly of blood. Furthermore, any static blood that may remain in the veins of the animal would also not be included in the stated prohibition.

“Tasmiya” - An Essential Second Condition :

Slaughtering Without the Pronouncement of God's Name

 

If an animal is not slaughtered in God's name, even though it is not consecrated for other deities, it would still be grouped with the meat of animals consecrated for other deities and those slaughtered at shrines and altars. The Qur'an has termed refusal to take God's name on animals as "a grave disobedience" and "a sacrilegious act" and has thus grouped it with consecrating animals for deities other than God and with sacrificing animals at shrines and altars.

 

The Qur'an, in Al-An`aam 6: 121, declares:

And do not eat of that upon [the slaughter of] which God's name has not been pronounced, for that, indeed, is a grave disobedience. And these devils inspire their partners to debate with you, and if you [O people,] were to follow them, you would then, indeed, be polytheists.

 

Pronouncing God's name, while sacrificing animals, implies the acknowledgement of God's blessings, submission to His directives and being grateful and thankful toward Him. Obviously, no one other than God deserves to be included in this declaration; and a refusal to pronounce His name is clearly ingratitude and thanklessness toward Him. This pronouncement further implies the fact that life - even that of an animal - is sacred and sanctified. Our pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughter implies that it is only with God's permission and His approval that we are depriving a living thing of its life. Seen from this perspective, refusal to take God's name at the time of slaughter or adding names of false deities with that of God at this time is not only a sign of disrespect toward the life that is being taken but also toward the sole
source of all life - the One God. Finally, this pronouncement is also a sign of consecration of all life for the Sole Being that deserves this consecration. Slaughter, as is well known, has always been a part of worship rituals and a show of extreme reverence and salutations. Thus, the pronouncement of God's name - and only His name - is a declaration to the effect that all salutations, all reverence and all worship is owed only to Him, Who is the sole source of all the blessings that we have been bestowed with.

 

If the pronouncement of God's name is such an essential element in the slaughter ritual that its absence renders the animal prohibited in the Shari`ah, then, one might ask, what would be the position of an animal on the slaughter of which the pronouncement of God's name has unintentionally been missed.

The referred verse of Al-An`aam, if closely examined, provides a clear answer to this question, as well. Those who know the Arabic language can easily appreciate that due to the word "Lum" the phrase (mimma Lum yuzkarismallah `alaiyhe) is no longer merely a simple negative clause. On the contrary, the word "Lum" has added a certain kind of stress in the negative aspect of this clause. Thus, now the phrase:

(mimma Lum yuzkarismallah `alaiyhe) would apply only to those animals upon the slaughter of which God's name has intentionally not been pronounced or such pronouncement has been refused. In other words, the stated prohibition would not apply to a case where the pronouncement of God's name has, unintentionally, been missed.

 

Moreover, another question that may arise in one's mind relates to a situation of doubt. What should one do, if one is not certain whether God's name has been pronounced on an animal or not? In such a situation, if the slaughterer is a Muslim or ascribes to any such other creed which considers the pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughter to be essential - as was the case of the Ahl e Kitaab (the Jews and the Christians) in the Arabian Peninsula, at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an and is still, generally, the case with the Jews and some Christians - then the meat would be eaten on the confidence that such a person would have pronounced God's name on his slaughter. Muslim, in his compilation of narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), reports:

 

According to Ayesha (ra) people from amongst the Bedouins would bring us meat. We used to be unsure whether they had pronounced God's name According to Ayesha (ra) people from amongst the Bedouins would bring us meat. We used to be unsure whether they had pronounced God's name on such meat or not. The Prophet (pbuh), [when asked about such meat] said: 'Pronounce God's name upon the meat [as a Muslim should on every food] and eat it'.

 

On the contrary, if the slaughterer ascribes to a creed, which does not consider the pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughtering an animal to be essential, then, obviously, it would no longer be a matter of doubt regarding whether or not God's name was pronounced on the animal. In such a case, a Muslim, because of the clear directives of the Shari`ah, should consider the meat prohibited for eating.

 

3. Abominable acts in slaying during Zabah

i) It is abominable to first cast the animal down on its side and sharpen the knife afterwards, or to kill one animal in the presence of another.

ii) It is abominable to let the knife reach the spinal marrow or to cut of the head of the animal.

iii) It is abominable to perform Zabah with a dull instrument. The Prophet commanded that knives should be sharpened and should be concealed from the animal to be slain.

In nut shell, Zibah is the method or the act of slaughter also known as zibah-al-Ikhtiyaariy by which an animal or a bird is slaughtered by a Muslim by saying shahada or tasmiya, Bismillah Allahu Akbar. If the slaughter is not done by zibah method, any meat or derivatives from such carasses can not be deemed to be halal or permissible for Muslims to consume. Requirements for zibah are:

1- Animal or bird should be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter.

2- Animal skin or fur, and bird feathers must be clean prior to slaughter and be free from faeces, mud or other unhygienic substances

3- Jugular vein, windpipe and carotid artery should be cut by a single swipe of a sharp knife, without damage to the spinal cord

4- Stunning is not used to kill the animal or the bird

5- A licensed Muslim slaughterer should slaughter by pronouncing shahada or tasmiya (when putting the knife on the throat of the bird of animal being slaughtered) Bismillah Allahu Akbar

6- Flowing blood should be drained out from the carcass by natural convulsion

4. The procedure of Zabah and pain / Slaughter procedures

The slaughterer must be an adult Muslim, and holder of a current slaughtering license

* The knife to be used must be razor sharp; the blade must be straight and smooth, and free from any serration, pits, notches or damage. The length of the blade must be at least four times the width of the neck of the animal to be slaughtered. The blade must not flex noticeably in use.

* The animal must not be anaesthetised, stunned, killed or otherwise rendered wholly insensible prior to slaughter. It must be conscious and alive when it is slaughtered.

* Poultry and other birds must be restrained either in an upright or prone position for slaughter.

* Lamb, sheep, goats, calves (of less than 60kg dead weight) and other similar sized animals must be placed on a cradle for slaughter.

* Larger bovines, equines, deer and similar sized animals must be restrained in a standing position for slaughter.

* The act of slaughter (Zibah-al-Ikhtiyaariy) must be done with a simple swipe across the neck. The cut should not be any deeper than necessary to sever the carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe and must not sever the spinal cord. The slaughterer must pronounce aloud the Arabic words, Bismillah, AllahuAkbar (in the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest) in a reverential tone, when slaughtering.

* After being slaughtered, lambs, sheep, goats and other similar sized animals must be restrained in situ for at least 20 seconds. Bovine and other similarly sized animals must be restrained in situ for 60 seconds. Poultry and other bird must not be subjected to any further processing for at least 20 seconds. During the aforementioned period they must not be further injured, nor subjected to unnecessary stress or pain. Indeed it is desirable that efforts are made to clam them during this period.

* The slaughterer must clean the knife after slaughter of every animal or bird and must check that the knife still conforms to rule above. If damaged, the knife must be replaced. If it is no longer razor sharp, it must be sharpened, say, on a flat stone and approved by an HFA inspector before further use. Note that the knife must not be sharpened in sight of animals awaiting slaughter.

* The slaughterer or supervisor must ensure that all the flowing blood has been drained from the chicken or ovine or bovine carcass.

* The water used during the poultry de-feathering process must be at the lowest practical temperature in vogue.

* At the abattoir, slaughterhouse, distribution centre and retail outlets, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF), Meat Hygiene Commission (MHC), European Commission (EC) and local hygiene laws and regulations should always be adhered to, and strictly followed at every stage of the process.

Since the operation of Zabah is on an animal, which cannot talk, we have to use our perception of pain to determine whether the animal feels pain in the procedure of Zabah or not. The procedure has four stages
a) Cutting the skin
b) wound on the neck
c) bleeding
d) convulsion

1) A person who shaves, probably has the experience of cutting his skin sometime or the other, that is not painful.

2) Since the four blood vessels are cut, the animal becomes unconscious and does not feel pain.

3) Bleeding itself is not painful as can be understood by the contribution of a blood donor.

4) Convulsion is not painful as the animal is unconscious. This can be understood by the example of an epileptic. He does not feel any pain during epilepsy.

The Islamic procedure of Zabah collaborates with its literal meaning of Zabah purification. Purification in consumption is paramount importance for good health. Here I quote the famous saying of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him “Purification is half of faith. “

Islamic slaughtering of animals is a blessing to both the animal and to humans alike. In order for the slaughtering to be lawful, the one performing the deed must take several measures. This is to ensure the highest benefit to both the animal and the consumer. The swift cutting of vessels of the neck disconnects the flow of blood to the nerve of the brain responsible for pain. Thus the animal does not feel pain. While dying, the animal appears to struggle, writhe, shake and kick, not due to pain, but due to the contraction and relaxation of the muscles deficient in blood and due to the flow of blood out of the body. In this regard, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful when you kill and when you
slaughter: sharpen your blade to relieve its pain".

The object used to slaughter the animal should be sharp and used swiftly. The swift cutting of vessels of the neck disconnects the flow of blood to the nerves in the brain responsible for pain. Thus the animal does not feel pain. The movements and withering that happen to the animal after the cut is made are not due to pain, but due to the contraction and relaxation of the muscles deficient in blood. The prophet (peace be upon him) also taught Muslims neither to sharpen the blade of the knife in front of the animal nor to slaughter an animal in front of others of its own kind.

The cut should involve the windpipe (trachea), gullet (esophagus), and the two jugular veins without cutting the spinal cord. This method results in the rapid gush of blood draining most of it from the animal’s body. If the spinal cord is cut, the nerve fibbers to the heart might be damaged leading to cardiac arrest thus resulting in stagnation of blood in the blood vessels. The blood must be drained completely before the head is removed. This purifies the meat by removing most of the blood that acts as a medium for microorganisms; meat also remains fresh longer as compared to other methods of slaughtering.

Therefore accusations of animal cruelty should very rightly be focused on those who do not use the Islamic way of slaughtering but prefer to use those methods which cause pain and agony to the animal and could also very well cause harm to those consuming the meat.

Slaughtering Without the Pronouncement of God's Name

If an animal is not slaughtered in God's name, even though it is not consecrated for other deities, it would still be grouped with the meat of animals consecrated for other deities and those slaughtered at shrines and altars. The Qur'an has termed refusal to take God's name on animals as "a grave disobedience" and "a sacrilegious act and has thus grouped it with consecrating animals for deities other than God and with sacrificing animals at shrines and altars.

The Qur'an, in Al-An`aam 6: 121, declares:

And do not eat of that upon [the slaughter of] which God's name has not been pronounced, for that, indeed, is a grave disobedience. And these devils inspire their partners to debate with you, and if you [O people,] were to follow them, you would then, indeed, be polytheists.

Pronouncing God's name, while sacrificing animals, implies the acknowledgement of God's blessings, submission to His directives and being grateful and thankful toward Him. Obviously, no one other than God deserves to be included in this declaration; and a refusal to pronounce His name is clearly ingratitude and thanklessness toward Him.

This pronouncement further implies the fact that life - even that of an animal - is sacred and sanctified. Our pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughter implies that it is only with God's permission and His approval that we are depriving a living thing of its life. Seen from this perspective, refusal to take God's name at the time of slaughter or adding names of false deities with that of God at this time is not only a sign of disrespect toward the life that is being taken but also toward the sole source of all life - the One God. Finally, this pronouncement is also a sign of consecration of all life for the Sole Being that deserves this consecration. Slaughter, as is well known, has always been a part of worship rituals and a show of extreme reverence and salutations. Thus, the pronouncement of God's
name - and only His name - is a declaration to the effect that all salutations, all reverence and all worship is owed only to Him, Who is the sole source of all the blessings that we have been bestowed with.

If the pronouncement of God's name is such an essential element in the slaughter ritual that its absence renders the animal prohibited in the Shari`ah, then, one might ask, what would be the position of an animal on the slaughter of which the pronouncement of God's name has unintentionally been missed. The referred verse of Al-An`aam, if closely examined, provides a clear answer to this question, as well. Those who know the Arabic language can easily appreciate that due to the word "Lum" the phrase (mimma Lum yuzkarismallah `alaiyhe) is no longer merely a simple negative clause. On the contrary, the word "Lum" has added a certain kind of stress in the negative aspect of this clause. Thus, now the phrase: (mimma Lum yuzkarismallah `alaiyhe) would apply only to those animals upon the slaughter of which God's name has intentionally not been pronounced or such pronouncement has been refused. In other words, the stated prohibition would not apply to a case where the pronouncement of God's name has, unintentionally, been missed.

Moreover, another question that may arise in one's mind relates to a situation of doubt. What should one do, if one is not certain whether God's name has been pronounced on an animal or not? In such a situation, if the slaughterer is a Muslim or ascribes to any such other creed which considers the pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughter to be essential - as was the case of the Ahl e Kitaab (the Jews and the Christians) in the Arabian Peninsula, at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an and is still, generally, the case with the Jews and some Christians - then the meat would be eaten on the confidence that such a person would have pronounced God's name on his slaughter. Muslim, in his compilation of narratives ascribed to the Prophet (peace be upon him ), reports:

According to Ayesha (ra) people from amongst the Bedouins would bring us meat. We used to be unsure whether they had pronounced God's name on such meat or not. The Prophet (pbuh), [when asked about such meat] said: 'Pronounce God's name upon the meat [as a Muslim should on every food] and eat it'.

On the contrary, if the slaughterer ascribes to a creed, which does not consider the pronouncement of God's name at the time of slaughtering an animal to be essential, then, obviously, it would no longer be a matter of doubt regarding whether or not God's name was pronounced on the animal. In such a case, a Muslim, because of the clear directives of the Shari`ah, should consider the meat prohibited for eating.

c) Slaughter of the Polytheists and non-adherents to Creeds Based on the Teachings of a Prophet

To be grouped with the allowable animals, the animal should be slaughtered by a person, who believes in One God, does not ascribe false partners to Him and is an adherent and follower of any one of the known creeds that are based on the teachings of a true prophet of God. Thus, besides the animals slaughtered by the Muslims, the Qur'an has restricted the permission of edible meat to that of the animals slaughtered by the Ahl e Kitaab (i.e. the people of the Book - the Jews and the Christians). The Qur'an, in Al-Maaidah 5: 5, declares:

“Now, all suitable things have been rendered fit for you to eat and also the food of the people of the book is fit for you to eat and your food is fit for them.” (The Holy Qura’n 5:5)

It is quite clear that the factors, which make the Ahl e Kitaab distinct from other creeds and similar to the Muslims - due to which only their food, contrary to the other's, has been rendered fit for the Muslims - are: 1) belief in God; 2) strict restraint from knowingly ascribing partners to God; and 3) ascribing to a creed that is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God. Thus, it logically follows that the absence of any of those factors, the presence of which in the Ahl e Kitaab qualifies their food as allowable for Muslims, shall render the food prohibited for Muslims. In other words, an animal slaughtered by a person, who:

does not believe in God; or

ascribes partners to the One God; or

is not an adherent to a creed that is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God

shall be grouped with those animals that entail a grave spiritual uncleanness and is, thus, prohibited for eating.

An Exception Regarding the Prohibitions

The aforementioned list of prohibitions is to be strictly followed under all circumstances. The only exception is where a person is forced by necessity into benefiting from any of the stated prohibitions. The Qur'an has, generally, referred to this exception in the following words (Al-Baqarah 2: 173):

“Nevertheless, whoever [eats of these things], due to being driven by necessity, intending neither sin nor transgression, there shall be no sin upon him. Indeed God is extremely Forgiving, Eternal in mercy.” (The Holy Qura’n 2:173)

The same words have been repeated in Al-Nahl 16: 115. However, in Al-Maaidah 5: 3, the Qur'an has altered the words by adding a slight clarification of the phrase 'driven by necessity'. The related part of Al-Maaidah 5: 3 reads as:

“Then, whoever, being forced by hunger [eats of these things], without the inclination toward sin, then indeed God is very forgiving, eternal in mercy.” (The Holy Qura’n 5:3)

As is clear from the style and the words of this exception to the rules regarding the prohibitions, it refers to a situation where a person is forced to save his life by eating something which is clearly prohibited by the Shari`ah. However, even under such circumstances where a person is forced to take advantage of any of the express prohibitions of the Shari`ah, he should do so with dislike and abhorrence, rather than with the inclination of his heart.
This is what the words 'intending neither sin nor transgression' and 'without the inclination toward sin' imply in the two cited verses, respectively. The permission to take advantage of the express prohibitions of the Shari`ah, in the presence of these words, should be purely with the spirit to save one's life, which obviously implies that it should be restricted to the quantity necessary to save one's life and it should, under no circumstances, exceed this limit.

The Islamic Law (Shariah) at a Glance relating to edibles

The following section summarizes the directives of the Shari`ah relating to the lawful and the prohibited in edibles:

The basic guiding principle in considering an item prohibited/lawful for eating is that all things suitable for eating are permitted, while those, which are not suitable for eating should be refrained from. Man, through his natural instincts and inclinations, has generally taken the correct decision and is therefore not in need for an exhaustive list of items that he may or may not use as edible. Canines, birds of prey, such animals that due to their habit of eating filth develop a kind of stench in them, mules, horses, liquor and other intoxicants etc. belong to the category of things that man has generally not considered suitable for eating;

As a guidance regarding the things, which man may have mistaken as eatable, the Shari`ah has prohibited:

1.Carrion or the flesh of dead animals;

2.Blood;

3.Flesh of swine; and

4. Anything consecrated for other deities.

Some explanations given by the Shari`ah regarding the prohibition of carrion include:

All animals that die in an accident or due to an injury shall be grouped with carrion;

1. Parts cut off from a living animal shall be grouped with carrion;

2. Dead fish and locusts shall not be grouped with carrion and can, therefore, be eaten;

3. 'Tazkiyyah' or the proper bleeding of an animal is an essential requirement for it to be considered allowable. Any animal that is killed without the fulfilment of the condition of 'Tazkiyyah' shall be grouped with carrion.

4. The animals that are retrieved by trained hounds, hunting birds or any other species trained for the purpose are allowed for eating, even if the animal is injured or killed by the retrieving hound or bird etc.

The prohibition of blood does not apply to:

1. Any static residual blood in the veins of a slaughtered animal; and

2 The liver and the spleen.

Some details given by the Shari`ah, regarding the prohibition of animals consecrated for other deities, include:

1. Animals slaughtered at shrines and altars are also prohibited;

2 Animals, on the slaughter of which God's name is intentionally not pronounced are also prohibited; and

3. Animals slaughtered by polytheists and non-adherents to any creed, which is based on the teachings of an established prophet of God are also prohibited;

4. Any food earned through prohibited means (like stealing, gambling etc.) is prohibited;

5. If a person is driven by hunger, he may eat of any of these prohibited items to save his life. However, in so doing, the person should neither be inclined toward crossing the limits set by God, nor toward taking more than what is necessary to save his life;

6 All the listed items are prohibited only for use as edibles. Their parts may be brought under any other use, except as edibles.

Animal welfare and slaughter

The provisions of current UK and EC legislation according to health, welfare and slaughter of animals and poultry, as appropriate, must be complied with. A traceability certificate must be provided for beef slaughter

Every practical effort must be made to ensure that the animal is unstressed before being taken for slaughter

Each animal must be taken and slaughtered individually. Slaughtering, wherever possible must not be done in sight of others awaiting slaughter

At all stages, handling and restraining must be done with minimum amount of force. The aim must be to avoid causing unnecessary harm, pain and stress to the animal

The slaughterhouse and abattoir operators must ensure that the animal cannot come into contact with any non-halal animal before, during or after slaughter

The Islamic (halal) method of slaughter can be described as follows:
The animal has to be lawful to eat, alive, healthy, to be slaughtered only for the reason of food, in the name of The Creator, ALLAH (s.w.t) and not for any other reasons (it has to be well-fed, not thirsty handled and moved gently and individually).
The slaughter-man must be in possession of a clear mind and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, trained in the job, with an awareness of what he is doing.
The act of slaughter (Al-Dhabh) starts by pronouncing the name of ALLAH (s.w.t), The Creator (BISMILLAH ALLAHU AKBAR ), to take His permission and in order to make the Slaughter-man accountable and responsible and to give compassion and mercy to the animal during this act. Besides, any action we do in our daily life should be commenced with the mention of the name of ALLAH (s.w.t ) The Most Kind, The Most Merciful.
The Qur’an says:
“And eat not of that where on ALLAH’s name has not been mentioned for verily it is abomination. (Surah Anam 6/121)
Then, by a very, very sharp knife (which should be kept like a surgeon’s knife in sharpness and cleanliness, as previously stated by DR Ghulam Khan (UFAW, 1971), a Deep swift cut done instantaneously and quickly to the blood vessels of the neck (the two caroid arteries which carry blood to the brain and head, the two jugular veins which bring blood from the brain back to the heart), the trachea (windpipe) and the oesophagus (gullet), but the central nervous system (the spinal cord) should be kept safe and intact (not cut).

This deep, large cut through all the blood vessels of the neck causes acute blood loss and haemorrhagic shock: we know the blood is under great pressure, especially in the big carotid arteries (systolic pressure ) and at high speed and, according to physical law, the pressure always goes from the high to low resistance - the point of the cut is the scene of low resistance for blood to and from the brain. As we have a fully intact, alive heart, so most of the blood is going to be pumped and poured out instantaneously and quickly under pressure leading to a rapid fall in the blood pressure. Thus depriving the brain of its main source of oxygen and glucose, and with no blood which is necessary to keep the animal alive and functioning and able to deal with any perceptive sensation this leads to anoxia and almost
immediate loss of consciousness (anesthetization or “stunning”). The cerebrospinal fluid pressure falls even more rapidly than the blood pressure because of the jugular veins being cut, and these results in a deep shock and more loss of consciousness

The Qualifications of a Halal slaughter man

The slaughterer must be an adult Muslim, and holder of a current slaughtering license

* The knife to be used must be razor sharp; the blade must be straight and smooth, and free from any serration, pits, notches or damage. The length of the blade must be at least four times the width of the neck of the animal to be slaughtered. The blade must not flex noticeably in use.

* The animal must not be anaesthetised, stunned, killed or otherwise rendered wholly insensible prior to slaughter. It must be conscious and alive when it is slaughtered.

* Poultry and other birds must be restrained either in an upright or prone position for slaughter.

* Lamb, sheep, goats, calves (of less than 60kg dead weight) and other similar sized animals must be placed on a cradle for slaughter.

* Larger bovines, equines, deer and similar sized animals must be restrained in a standing position for slaughter.

* The act of slaughter (Zibah-al-Ikhtiyaariy) must be done with a simple swipe across the neck. The cut should not be any deeper than necessary to sever the carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe and must not sever the spinal cord. The slaughterer must pronounce aloud the Arabic words, Bismillah, AllahuAkbar (in the name of Allah, Allah is the greatest) in a reverential tone, when slaughtering.

* After being slaughtered, lambs, sheep, goats and other similar sized animals must be restrained in situ for at least 20 seconds. Bovine and other similarly sized animals must be restrained in situ for 60 seconds. Poultry and other bird must not be subjected to any further processing for at least 20 seconds. During the aforementioned period they must not be further injured, nor subjected to unnecessary stress or pain. Indeed it is desirable that efforts are made to clam them during this period.

* The slaughterer must clean the knife after slaughter of every animal or bird and must check that the knife still conforms to rule above. If damaged, the knife must be replaced. If it is no longer razor sharp, it must be sharpened, say, on a flat stone. Note that the knife must not be sharpened in sight of animals awaiting slaughter.

* The slaughterer or supervisor must ensure that all the flowing blood has been drained from the chicken or ovine or bovine carcass.

* The water used during the poultry de-feathering process must be at the lowest practical temperature in vogue.

* At the abattoir, slaughterhouse, distribution centre and retail outlets, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF), Meat Hygiene Commission (MHC), European Commission (EC) and local hygiene laws and regulations should always be adhered to, and strictly followed at every stage of the process.

References

 

I have heavily relied on various researches in this field. The following are a few references:

1. Assesment of The Muslim Method of Slaughtering http://www.azhar.jp/info/halal-eng/halal5.html.
... Presented by Dr. Abdul Majid Katme, (Chairman of the Islamic Medical Association in the UK Dr.A.Majid Katme Chairman, Islamic Medical Association31 North Circular Road, Palmers Green, London N13 5EG, UK Tel & Fax: 0208 345 6220) at the UFAW* Symposium on Humane Slaughter and Euthanasia, held at the Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, on the 18th and 19th September, 1986. www.azhar.jp/info/halal-eng/halal5.html cached | more results from this site I am very grateful to Dr Abdul Majid Katme to allow me to quote from his research article and use his references.

2. Al-islam.org slaughtering and hunting of animals Islamic laws.1997
3. Naik, Zakir Islamic way of slaughtering looks cruel Islamicvoice.com.09/1999
4. Aisha El-Awady has a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Cairo University and is currently working as instructor of Parasitology in the Faculty of Medicine. She may be contacted at aawady@islam-online.net.

5. Impact International magazine: 23 August 1985 and 26th September 1985 and 10 October 1985.

 

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