Why has Islam Prescribed Slaughter?
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
Second objection: We accept that nature and creation permits the consumption of meat. Then on the basis of mercy why are we not satisfied with the meat of animals that have died a natural death?
The reply to this question can be found in the second part of the above discussion. Because to ascribe such a meaning to mercy leads to the nullification of the very laws that Islam has prescribed. And Islam has framed laws in order to keep this feeling of mercy in the make up of man.
Moreover if only dead animals had been permitted instead of being beneficial in any way it would be harmful to men as eating carrion causes numerous diseases of the body and is also a bane for human soul. This would itself be against divine mercy as this would have caused untold problems to human beings and people would always be waiting for animals to die so that they may enjoy their meat. (Quoted from Tafhīme al-Mīzan)
Remember! Slaughtering of an animal to consume its flesh is not cruelty. In fact it is the completion of the purpose for which it was created. Because before the slaughter the animal is dumb, unintelligent and senseless. It does not understand anything. But after it is slaughtered and consumed by man, it is transformed into a part of human body that has the power of speech, understanding and reason. For example, no kind of merit or perfection can emerge from the tongue of a sheep. But when it becomes a part of human body it unravels realities and chants the praise of Allah (S.w.T.). In the same way other good actions are performed by other parts of the human body.
Purification through the Prescribed method of Slaughter
The main reason for slaughter is to purify the animal. The procedure is to completely cut off the four big veins of the neck below the bulge of the Adam’s apple. (These four pipes are: wind pipe, food pipe and two big veins near the windpipe). The five additional conditions for purification are:
1. The person who slaughters must be a Muslim whether man or woman. Even a child can do it if he is old enough to distinguish good and bad.
2. The neck of the animal must be cut with a sharp iron weapon. But if an iron weapon is not available and if the animal would die soon if not slaughtered immediately, then a weapon of any other material is allowed. For example glass or sharp edged stone.
3. At the time of slaughter the face, all four legs and the stomach of the animal must face the direction of Qibla. But it does not matter if one forgets or if one does not know the direction of Qibla or if it is not possible to lay the animal in that direction.
4. At the time of slaughter one must recite the name of Allah (S.w.T.) and it is sufficient to say ‘Bismillah’ (In the name of Allah (S.w.T.)). However, it doesn’t matter if one forgets to do so.
5. After being slaughtered the animal must move somewhat. It is sufficient if it even moves its eyeballs, or tail or thrash its legs. It is also a necessary precaution that as much blood must gush from the animal as it normally does.
In case of camel slaughter in addition to the above five conditions it is necessary to pierce it with a sharp weapon at a depression between the neck and the chest. If the animal becomes uncontrollable or it gets into a situation where it is impossible to slaughter it in the proper way; for example if it falls into a well and is about to drown, then one can pierce or wound it with a weapon at any part of its body that would kill it. It would become permissible. It is not even necessary that it should face the Qibla. However, the other conditions are applicable.
The purification of fish is that it should be removed alive from the water. Therefore if a fish with scales is caught alive from the water and dies out of water, it is tahir (pure) and it is permitted to eat it. If it dies in water it is nevertheless tahir (pure) because it does not have warm blood, but it is not permitted to eat it. Also, it is not necessary that the person who catches fish be a Muslim. Hence it is allowed to eat fish caught by a non-Muslim. But one must have the knowledge that the fish has died after coming out of water.
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The purification of locust is that it must be caught alive by hand or other means. And it becomes Halāl to eat after it dies. It is not necessary that the person catching locust be a Muslim or that the name of Allah (S.w.T.) be recited upon it. Eating the locust that has not yet developed wings and is not capable of flying is Harām.
If after hunting or slaughtering an animal one finds a young one in its belly it is tahir only if its limbs have developed or it has hair or fur on its body. It is allowed to eat this young one because its mother too was a Halāl meat animal.
Purification affected by slaughter
Whatever has been discussed so far shows that except for dog and pig all other Harām animals if slaughtered in Islamic way are considered tahir, although eating them is not permitted. And if it has not been correctly slaughtered, its dead body is najis (impure). But if it doesn’t have warm blood it cannot be considered najis even if it dies without purification; its eating is obviously Harām. For example, snake, insects etc. And every Halāl flesh animal, which dies without purification becomes najis (impure) and its eating is Harām. If it does not possess warm blood, eating it is Harām but it is not najis (impure). For example fish that dies in water. Carrion whose eating is Harām is an animal that dies without slaughter prescribed by the Shariah. Whether it dies of some disease or a natural death, or due to external factors, whether it dies suddenly or a slow death. As animal do not usually die a sudden death it is possible that people think this kind of death does not make it a carrion. The Qur’anic verse (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:3) has specially mentioned it among the five kinds of carrion.
1. Munkhafta, animal that dies due to strangulation whether accidental or intentional, whether it is strangulated with an instrument like a rope etc, or by pressing its neck between two sticks. Such and many other types of methods were prevalent during the period of Jahiliyya (Pre-Islamic).
2. Mangooza, an animal that is beaten till it dies.
3. Mutaraddiya, animal that falls from a great height or that which falls into a well.
4. Tatahayya, animal that dies after being wounded by the horns of some other beast.
5. Mā Akala Bassao, an animal that was hunted by a beast and part of it was eaten up.
The phrase “and what is sacrificed on stones set up (for idols)…” prohibits the method of slaughter practiced in Jahiliyya. In the pre-Islamic era the polytheists used to install stones around the Ka’aba and consider them sacred. They used to worship these stones and sacrifice animals upon them. And the phrase, “and that you divide by the arrows…”, prohibits the consumption of the meat of animal that is slaughtered and its meat divided into the participants by drawing arrows.