Zabiha is the Islamic method of slaughter prescribed by Allah. It involves three main steps:
- Making a swift incision using a sharp knife to cut the jugular vein of the animal.
- Reciting the takbeer, Allah o Akbar (God is the Greatest) while doing the above.
- After exsanguination, putting the animal in a position to allow all the blood to drain from the animal that is practically possible.
Whether following all these steps is necessary for an animal to be fit for consumption for Muslims is a hotly debated issue in the Muslim world today. I don’t want to sound judgmental or holistic. Very simply, I eat zabiha, but the purpose of this blog is not to convince anyone to follow the same course. Choosing a zabiha lifestyle does not make me better than anyone else. We need to follow hundreds of other God’s commands to become good Muslims. I think that we are all trying to do the best we can.
The only piece of advice I would give someone is this: Be informed. Do not follow one or the other because someone said so. Find out for yourself.
So, the references to zabiha in the Quran are:
Surah An Am, The Cattle (6:118)
“So eat of (meats) on which Allah’s name hath been pronounced, if ye have faith in His signs.”
Surah An Am, The Cattle (6:121)
“Eat not of (meats) on which Allah’s name hath not been pronounced: That would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if ye were to obey them, ye would indeed be polytheists.”
These ayat (verses) have only one meaning and that is undisputed. It is not ambiguous or subjective. It simply means what it says.
Surah Al-Maidah, The Table (5:4)
They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food). Say: lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what ye 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.
Following are a few arguments against eating zabiha, and why I don’t agree with them.
1. The main argument against this stems from the fact that in another verse, Allah states that as long as no other god’s name is pronounced over the meat, it is lawful for Muslims to eat.
Surah Al-Maidah (5:3)
“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah, that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye 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.”
On most non-zabiha meat, no other God’s name is pronounced which should be good enough if we only consider this verse. However, there are still the above mentioned verses that say it is necessary to pronounce Allah’s name. We are not given the option of choosing one command or the other. It’s a matter of embracing each saying and following all the specifications and not disregarding the inconvenient ones. The other verses are also God’s command. They can’t be ignored or overlooked.
2. Muslims just need to say Takbeer, (God is the Greatest) before eating the meat. Takbeer is to be said during slaughter. This is also clear from the command not to eat of that over which any other’s name has been pronounced. This is done at the time of slaughter. No one takes your plate and pronounces another god’s name over it. This is also made very clear from the following verse:
Surah Hajj (22:36)
“The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the symbols from Allah: in them is (much) good for you: then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice): when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat ye thereof, and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility: thus have We made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful.
Moreover, before beginning a meal (or any task) Muslims are supposed to say bismillah (In the name of Allah, Most Beneficient, Most Merciful), not takbeer. The takbeer is specifically said at the time of slaughter, and not bismillah, because the slaughter is not an act of mercy.
3. Muslims can eat what Jews and Christians eat.
Surah Al-Maidah, The Table (5:5)
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. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when ye 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).
We can deduce from this verse that God gave the same rules to all three nations. It is a well known fact that the Jews were given detailed dietary laws, including rules of slaughter, and they are followed to this day. I personally think that eating kosher meat and the derivative products is quite acceptable, with the exception of alcohol.
This verse is quoted to make the argument that since Christians eat everything, that makes it lawful for Muslims to eat everything too. But most Christians today do not follow these laws. I believe that for us to eat what has been made lawful to Christians, Christians first have to follow the dietary laws that God laid down. But since Muslims can see that they are not following them in this day and age, they don’t need to go after them. Muslims have been clearly instructed in this regard and do not need to go after one or the other in what to eat. Allah also says,
Surah Hajj (22:34)
“To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food).”
4. The USDA drains the blood from the slaughtered animals, fulfilling the sunnah.
It is also argued that because the USDA does not pronounce any god’s name during the slaughter and all the blood is drained from the animals, a crucial requirement for zabiha, therefore USDA slaughtered meat is permissible for Muslim consumption. But I believe that as stated in the verses quoted above, Allah’s name must be pronounced during the slaughter.
In addition, any method that renders the animal unconscious, like stunning, captive bolt, gas etc (all USDA approved and used) before the slaughter is out rightly rejected by the Jews. These methods may cause injury or death to the animal, making it unfit for consumption as per their laws. The animal must be conscious and the slaughter must be performed by hand with a sharp knife. While Muslims are divided as to the use of these methods, I concur with the Jews.
5. Hadith (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)
Different versions of this hadith are quoted to make the case that it is alright to eat non zabiha.
“It has been narrated from Aisha that some persons said to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ‘People bring to us meat. We know not whether the name of Allah has been taken (upon its slaughter) or not?’ The Prophet (pbuh) replied, ‘You people say Bismillah and eat it.’ Aisha says, ‘The people referred to (in this Hadith) were new Muslims.’” (Bukhari vol.2 pg.828; Deoband)”
First of all, after all the clear references to zabiha in the Quran, it is quite irrelevant to go into hadith regarding the issue, because any hadith that goes against the teachings of the Quran may be disregarded.
Having said that, however, this hadith is misquoted as an argument against zabiha. It simply means that the slaughterers were new Muslims, and the people who came to the Prophet (pbuh) were concerned that they might not be performing the slaughter as required. The Prophet (pbuh) reply makes it clear that it is to be assumed that all Muslims perform the slaughter as prescribed by Allah, and it is not suitable to doubt that. He states that they should just say bismillah and consume the meat.
In the end, a million arguments cannot convince you to eat zabiha. It’s all about the moment that the words of the Quran just touch your heart and you make a life-changing decision. It is only afterwards that you think about all the arguments, and they only reinforce a belief that you’re already convinced of. If you are constantly trying to find arguments against zabiha, then maybe you’re just not ready for it. Nevertheless, the resource is here, if you ever need it!