Understanding Islamic Practices:

An In-Depth Look at Zabiha

By Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Posted: 18 Safar 1422, 12 May 2001

Almighty Allah Ta'ala in His infinite Mercy has made certain animals halal (permissible) for this Ummah. We are required to be thankful to Him by following the dictates of the Qur'an and Sunnah by ensuring that His name is taken upon slaughtering of the animal. Allah Ta'ala states in the noble Qur'an:

  1. “For every nation We have specified a rite (for slaughtering) so that they may take the name of Allah Ta'ala upon (the slaughter of) the animals granted to them as sustenance.” (Al-Hajj 22:34)
  2. “And consume not of that whereupon the name of Allah Ta'ala was omitted (at the time of slaughter). Indeed it is a transgression. Verily the Shayateen inspire their friends to cause division with you. If you obey them, you are indeed Mushriks (ascribing partners to Allah).” (Al-An'am 6:121)
  3. “So take the name of Allah upon them (at the time of slaughter) while they stand in rows.” (Al-Hajj 22:36). In reference to Camels which are slaughtered by Nahr (a swift stab of the neck which severs the four arteries) while standing.
  4. “…and such animals upon which they mention not the name of Allah only to fabricate a lie against him.” (Al-An'am 6:138)
  5. “Forbidden to you are Maytah (carrion), flowing blood, the flesh of swine and that slaughtered for other than Allah as well as the (animal) expiring by strangulation, illness or pain, falling (from a height), by a wound (sustained through fighting) and by falling to a predator and (about to be consumed), excepting those (animals) upon which you effect Zakah (Shar'ee slaughter).” (Al-Maidah 5:3)

From the above verses the following points are understood:

  1. Meat is not in the same category as other food items.
  2. The most important condition is that tasmiyah (pronouncing the name of Allah) be performed at the time of slaughter. The verses clearly explain the impermissibility of the meat of those animals whose slaughter was not preceded by tasmiyah.
  3. The impermissibility of the meat of those animals whose lives were ended by means other than Zabah (Shar'ee slaughter) of which tasmiyah is a condition. All such animals are Maytah (carrion) and are expressly forbidden.
  4. The Zabiha (animal slaughtered) by a Kafir (non-believer) or Mushrik (polytheist) is haram (unlawful). However, those Ahlul Kitaab (People of the Book) who also believed in the requirement of tasmiyah at the time of slaughter have been excluded from the Kuffaar majority.
  5. The verse number 121 of Al-An'am explains consumption of meat not slaughtered with tasmiyah as fisq - transgression and disobedience.  The verse then explains that to regard consumption of such meat as halal is nothing but a teaching of Shaytaan to cause division among the Ummah. The verse also warns that obedience of Shaytaan in this matter is akin to Shirk (ascribing partners to Allah).

Imam Bukhari has quoted this same verse in his magnum opus under the chapter, “Intentional Omission of the tasmiyah at the Time of Slaughter” to the same import as explained by Hafiz ibn Hajar, the renowned commentator of Sahih Bukhari in the following words:

“Imam Bukhari (RA) wishes to point out by citing this verse the reproach against using it as proof to legalize omission of tasmiyah by inventing baseless interpretations of the verse and understanding it in a manner contrary to clear import.” (Fathul Bari vol.9 pg.778; Qadeemi)

Intentional Omission of Tasmiyah

The Jurists (Fuqahaa) have unanimously agreed that consumption of an animal slaughtered by a Muslim with intentional omission of tasmiyah or out of Istikhfaaf (regarding it as insignificant) is unlawful (haram). Imam Shaaf'ee (RA) has also concurred with this view. (Jawaahirul Fiqh vol.2 pg.388; Darul Uloom from Kitaabul Umm and Tafseer Mazhari)

Imam Abu Yusuf states:
“The ruling regarding the animal upon which tasmiyah was omitted (at the time of slaughter) is not subject to Ijtihaad (independent deduction of a ruling from Qur'an and Hadith). If a judge rules the permissibility of its sale, his ruling will not be given effect due to it being contrary to consensus of opinion.” (Ibid pg.390; Hidaaya)

It should be noted significantly that the above discussion of impermissibility is with regard to a Muslim slaughterer who intentionally omits pronouncing the name of Allah upon slaughter, not to speak of a non-Muslim.

In the case of a Muslim forgetfully omitting the tasmiyah, the animal will be permissible for consumption as is the ruling of all the four Madhaahib based on the Hadith of Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. “A believer always slaughters upon the name of Allah, whether he (remembers to) recites it or not.” (Fathul Bari vol.9 pg.793; Qadeemi)

Animals Slaughtered by Modern Day Jews and Christians

“The food of Ahlul Kitaab (People of the Book) is lawful for you as is your food for them.” (Al-Maidah 5:5)

Regarding the word, “Ta'aam” (food), ibn Abbaas, Ibn Umamah, Mujaahid and others, Radi-Allahu anhum, say that it refers to slaughtered animals. This matter (permissibility of these animals) is unanimously agreed upon by all scholars since they also hold the belief of the prohibition of slaughter save in Allah's name and also due to the fact that they mention only the name of Allah Ta'ala upon their animals of slaughter. (Jawaahirul Fiqh vol.2 pg.4040; from Ibn Katheer)

The reason for permissibility has been explained clearly by Allaamah ibn Katheer that due to the unity of belief regarding slaughter between Muslims and the Jews and Christians of that particular time, Allah Ta'ala had permitted consumption of their slaughter. The Ulama of the time had based their rulings on this very same reasoning.

When this unity of belief came into doubt, many great Sahaba, Radi-Allahu anhum, had not hesitated to rule prohibition.

“With regards to a Kitaabi, when he omits tasmiyah (the name of Allah) upon his slaughter and takes some other name, his slaughter is not consumable. This is the ruling of Abu Darda, Ubadah bin Saamit and large faction of the Sahaba, Radi-Allahu anhum.” (Jawaahirul Fiqh vol.2 pg.407; Darul Uloom - from Bahrul Muheet)

Regarding the Christian tribe of Banu Taghlib, Sayyidna Ali, Radi-Allahu anhu, ruled the following:
“Hafiz ibn Jawzi (RA) has narrated with his Sanad (chain of narrators) from Ali, Radi-Allahu anhu, 'Do not consume the slaughter of the Christians of Banu Taghlib since they have not held to any more of Christianity than their drinking of wine.'” (Ibid pg.460 - from Tafseer Mazhari)

It is a well-known fact that the majority of present day Christians and Jews no longer hold this Aqeedah (belief) regarding slaughter. They do not hesitate to consume meat slaughtered by even Pagans and Mushriks (polytheists) and atheists. They have held to even less of Christianity than the Banu Taghlib. Most of them are just Christians and Jews by name, “atheistic” in their beliefs and actions. Their abattoirs employ machine slaughter wherever possible and do not hesitate to employ pagans and polytheists, e.g. Chinese, Koreans, etc. to carry our slaughter.

The Ruling

Based on the above juridical references, Qadhi Thanaullah (RA) a renowned Jurist of his time states the following:
“The correct and accepted view according to us is the first one that the slaughter of the Ahlul Kitaab with intentional omission of tasmiyah (taking the name of Allah) or slaughter in some other name (besides that of Allah) is not consumable, if this fact is ascertained with certainty or this is the condition prevailing among them. By this, the prohibition (of the Sahaba) from consuming the slaughter of the Christian Arabs can be easily understood. Likewise, the ruling of Ali, Radi-Allahu anhu, (regarding the Banu Taghlib)' becomes clear. It is likely that Ali, Radi-Allahu anhu, had ascertained their omission of tasmiyah upon slaughter or that they slaughtered in some other name (besides Allah). A similar ruling has been issued regarding the non-Arab Christians that if it is their normal habit to slaughter without tasmiyah, their slaughter is not consumable. Concerning the present day Christians there is no doubt that their methods do not fulfill requirements of Shar'ee slaughter, but they usually cause the death of their animals by other lethal measures, e.g. machine slaughter, etc. hence, their slaughter is impermissible.” (Jawaahirul Fiqh vol.2 pg.411; from Tafseer Mazhari)

The Correct Understanding of the Hadith of Bukhari

Let us now turn to the hadith in Bukhari that is often by many people to justify the claim that tasmiyah is not required. The hadith is as follows: “It has been narrated from Aisha, Radi-Allahu anha, that some persons said to Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam'People bring to us meat. We know not whether the name of Allah Ta'ala has been taken (upon its slaughter) or not? Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallamreplied, 'You people say Bismillah and eat it.' Aisha, Radi-Allahu anha, says, 'the people referred to (in this Hadith) were new Muslims.'” (Bukhari vol.2 pg.828; Deoband)

It is clear that the slaughterers were Muslims, not disbelievers. This is further elucidated by Imam Malik (RA)'s narration (of the same Hadith) where the addition of, “this was in the beginning of Islam.” (Fathul Bari vol.9 pg.792; Qadeemi) is found.

To believe that these people were non-Muslims is in fact tantamount to accusing the noble Sahaba of Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallamof the heinous crime of consuming meat slaughtered by polytheists which is expressly forbidden in the Qur'an:

“Forbidden to you is carrion… and that slaughtered for other than Allah.” (Al-Maidah 5:3)

The actual meaning of this Hadith, as understood by similar narrations is that one should not entertain unfounded doubts about a Muslim that he would neglect to mention the name of Allah upon his slaughter.

“This is what is understood by the context of the Hadith since the answer of Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallamto the question was, 'Say Bismillah and eat.' It is as though they (questioners) were told, 'That is not your concern, rather what should concern you is to consume it (wholesomely in the Sunnah manner) by saying Bismillah before partaking thereof.” (Fathul Bari vol.9 pg.793; Qadeemi)

Hafiz ibn Abdul-Barr (RA) has emphasized this point very clearly: “Similarly, the slaughter of the Bedouin Muslims will be permissible (for consumption) since they usually know of the tasmiyah (at the time of slaughter).” Ibn Abdul Barr (RA) has concluded, “In this Hadith, it is understood that the slaughter of a Muslim should be consumed and he should be regarded as having performed tasmiyah upon its slaughter (even when one is not certain about this fact) because with regards to a Muslim, one should entertain nothing but good thoughts unless concrete evidence is established to the contrary.” (Fathul Bari vol.9 pg.793; Qadeemi)

This import is borne out by other narrations of this same Hadith as follows: “The narration of Ibn Uyayna (RA) (one of the Huffaaz of Hadith) has the addition, 'accept their oaths and eat', i.e. take their word for it that they have taken tasmiyah upon slaughter (and partake without doubts).” (Ibid pg.793)

The Narration of Abu Sa'eed

Imam Tabrani has recorded the narration of Abu Sa'eed though with a difference in wording that he said, “Accept their word that they have effected (Shar'ee) slaughter.” (and consume it without doubt). (Ibid)

The Narration of Imam Tahawi (RA)

“Some of the Sahaba, Radi-Allahu anhum, asked Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallamthat, 'Some Bedouins bring to us meat, cheese and fat. We know not the condition of their Islam, (i.e. they are Muslims but of what caliber, we are unaware).' Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallamreplied, 'Check that which is prohibited by Allah and abstain therefrom. In whatever Allah Ta'ala has not discussed, he has given you a concession. Your Rabb (Lord) does not forget. Thus, say Bismillah (and partake).” (Ibid)

Explaining this Hadith, Allaamah ibn Teen comments: “Concerning tasmiyah upon slaughter carried out by others of which they are unaware, there is no obligation upon them regarding it. The (slaughter) will only be held incorrect when such evidence is established. Allah Ta'ala has not made it obligatory upon any Muslim to be aware of tasmiyah upon the slaughter of another Muslim, since the slaughter of another Muslim will be always regarded as correct (accompanied by tasmiyah) unless evidence is established to the contrary.” (Ibid pg.794)

The above should be sufficient to clarify any doubt in the meaning of the Hadith of Bukhari.

Importance of Muslim Unity with Regards to Halal Meat

Shaytaan is ever prepared to bring about division as this will inevitably lead to the collapse of the Muslim Ummah. In his untiring efforts, he has overlooked no sphere of life to cause his mischief even to the extent of nourishment. Allah Ta'ala has warned us of Shaytaan's inroads in this regard as has been explained already. Shaytaan, possessed of a keen intelligence and discernment knows full well that once the Muslims cannot interact and mix with one another due to suspicion in regards to halal and haram, this will bring about the much awaited split in the global community of Islam. To combat this, it is required that Muslims take courage and band together to solve this problem, irrespective of color and race, since the commands of Allah Ta'ala are universal. Due to this solidarity, the Muslims of South Africa, although a minority (around 3 - 4 %) have progressed far ahead in eliminating this problem. With a bit of extra physical and monetary sacrifice, they have managed to establish their own abattoirs in different parts of the country.

If Muslims in other parts of the world who have, Alhamdulillah, become a sizeable community were to show such unity and get together, there is every confidence that the problem would be eliminated with little difficulty.

To conclude this, let us ponder upon the following words of Nabi Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam:
“The lawful is clear and the unlawful is clear. Between these lie matters of confusion. Regarding these, many are ignorant. Whomsoever falls into these, falls into the unlawful, like a shepherd grazing (his flock) upon a sanctuary's perimeter very soon falls into trespass. Beware! Every king possesses a sanctuary and the sanctuary of Allah Ta'ala are His prohibitions. Take note! In the body there is a piece of flesh such that when it is good the entire body is good; when it is corrupt the whole body is corrupted. Listen! It is the heart.” (Arba'een Nawawiy)

And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best

Al-Ameen, October 11, 2002, Volume.1, Issue 5.



Being script of a speech given by Mufti Ebrahim Desai at the Meat Safety Seminar

Since this is a meat safety seminar, I will endeavour to discuss the positive aspects of meat safety by adopting the Islamic procedure of slaughter.

1. Zabah:

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. In Islam flowing blood is impure and prohibited for consumption. Among other reasons of flowing blood being impure, 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. Both 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:

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 it) 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.

4) 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 (Maaida verse 3 and 4)

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 hermorrage.

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

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.

4. The procedure of Zabah and pain:

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.

In conclusion the Islamic procedure of Zabah collaborates with its literal meaning of Zabah purification. Purification in consumption is paramount importance for good health. I conclude by quoting the saying of our prophet "Purification is half of faith."

The end