Slaughtering animals mechanically is becoming a widespread phenomenon in many abattoirs, plants and firms in a number of countries. The idea and objective behind slaughtering animals mechanically rather than manually are to speed up the process of slaughter, thus cater for a mass production.
There are many methods of slaughtering the chickens mechanically. In some major plants, one machine takes care of all the stages of slaughter and production, in that the chickens enter the machine from side alive and exit from the other with all the stages of slaughtering, removing of the feathers, cleaning, cutting into pieces, packaging, etc. being taken care of by this colossal electrical appliance.
Normally, chickens are transported to the place of slaughter through a conveyor belt on which the chickens are hanged upside down with its legs tied to the hooks on the conveyor. These chickens, after passing through extremely cold water, arrive at the place where a gyratory blade or knife cuts the chickens. Thereafter, the chickens move along to the other stages of cleaning, cutting, packaging, etc.
In some plants, a Muslim pronounces the name of Allāh (tasmiyah) before switching the machine on which caters for the slaughtering of thousands of chickens. In other places, two Muslims stand at each of the two production lines. One pronounces the name of Allāh (tasmiyah) during the slaughter process, while the other makes sure that the machine has missed no chicken. A fifth “spare” stands-by to cover breaks, lunches, and prayer. At times, each line slaughters up to 140 chickens per minute or 8400 chickens per hour.
To understand the Shariah ruling with regards to machine-slaughter, one must remember that, for an animal to be considered Islamically lawful (Halal), there are basically three conditions.
- Most of the four veins must be cut with a knife, blade or any tool that is sharp and has a cutting edge.
- The name of Allāh must be pronounced at the time of slaughtering, whether actually or effectively (such as when it is forgotten by someone who would normally have said it);
- The slaughterer must be either a Muslim or from the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab). (See: al-Haskafi and Ibn Abidin in Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar)
It should be also remembered here that all these conditions are necessary individually and separately. Failure to fulfill them will render the animal unlawful.
Condition 2, which is to pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ, has a great bearing on the issue of machine-slaughter, thus it is imperative that we understand it in great depth and detail. Some people argue that pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ is not a pre-requisite in order for the animal to be Halal, rather it is merely something that is Sunnah. This understanding is incorrect due to various reasons:
Firstly, the Qur’an is quite clear with regards to the obligation of pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ.
Allāh ﷻ says: “Eat not of (meats) over which Allāh’s name has not been pronounced. That would be sinful (fisq).” (Surah al-An’am, 121)
This verse quite clearly mentions the necessity of pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ without any ambiguity or doubt. And Allāh ﷻ did not just suffice on this command, rather followed it up by saying “that would be sinful (fisq)” removing any doubt that Tasmiyah may not be necessary.
Similarly, Allāh ﷻ says: “They ask you what is lawful for them (as food). Say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure and what you have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allāh. Eat what they catch for you and pronounce the name of Allāh over it.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, V.4)
“Why should you not eat of (meats) on which Allāh’s name has been pronounced?” (Surah al-An’am, V. 119)
And there are cattle on which, (at slaughter), they do not pronounce the name of Allāh, a fabrication against Him. Soon He will require them for what they have been fabricating.” (Surah al-An’am, 138)
This verse is also quite stern on the necessity of pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ. So much so that Allāh ﷻ called the non-pronouncement of his name, a fabrication against Him ﷻ.
There are many other verses also that clearly and categorically illustrate that pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ at the time of slaughtering an animal is an absolute necessity and a fundamental ingredient to a valid slaughter.
Secondly, there are many narrations of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that also show the importance of pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ.
Jundub ibn Sufyan al-Bajali narrates that: “Once we offered some animals as sacrifice with the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ. Some people slaughtered their sacrifices before the Eid prayer. When the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ completed his prayer, he saw that they had slaughtered before the prayer, so he said: “Whoever slaughtered before the prayer, should slaughter another animal (sacrifice) in place of it, and those who did not slaughter until we prayed, should slaughter by pronouncing the name of Allāh.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 5500)
Rafi’ ibn Khadij narrates that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “if the killing tool causes the blood to gush out, and the name of Allāh is pronounced, then eat (of the slaughtered animal).” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 5498)
Adi ibn Hatim narrates that he said: “O Messenger of Allāh! At times, I let go of my hunting dog but I find with it another dog and I am unaware which of the two hunted the animal? The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “Don’t eat (from the hunted animal), for you have pronounced the name of Allāh on your dog and not on the other.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no 5486)
There are many other rigorously authenticated narrations of the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ that signify the importance and necessity of pronouncing the name of Allāh at the time of slaughter.
Thirdly, almost all the Islamic jurists (fuqaha) are of the view that pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ is a pre-requisite for an animal to be considered Halal. The only exception is the situation when one forgets to pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ.
Imam al-Haskafi from the Hanafi school states:
“An animal slaughtered (zabiha) by other than someone from the people of the book (ahl al-Kitab), such as a fire-worshipper, idol-worshipper, etc. will not be Halal…Similarly, the animal on which the name of Allāh was not pronounced intentionally (will be haram) …However, if it was left out due to forgetfulness, it would be Halal.”
The great Hanafi jurist, Allamah Ibn Abidin explains the above by stating:
“Meaning a slaughtered animal will not be lawful to consume (halal) if the name of Allāh was intentionally not pronounced whether the slaughterer was a Muslim or from the people of the book (kitabi), because of the (clear) text of the Qur’an and the consensus (ijma) of all the scholars.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 5/298-299)
In the Maliki Madhab, it is stated in Sharh al-Kabir of al-Darder:
“Pronouncing the name of Allāh (tasmiyah) is necessary at the time of slaughtering the animal or sending for hunting if one remembers and is capable of doing so. Thus, it is not necessary for a person who forgets, neither on a person who is dumb and neither on the one who is forced to not pronounce it (mukrah).”
Imam al-Dasuqi (also a major Maliki jurist) explains the above by stating:
“The meaning of the Qur’anic verse: “Eat not of (meats) over which Allāh’s name has not been pronounced” is that on which the name of Allāh was not pronounced intentionally with having capability of doing so. However, if Allāh’s name was not pronounced due to forgetfulness or incapability, then the animal would be lawful (halal). An individual ignorant of the ruling (jahil) will be treated in the same manner as the one who deliberately and intentionally does not pronounce the name of Allāh (a’mid).” (See: Hashiyat al-Dasuqi ala al-Sharh al-Kabir, 2/167-168)
From the Hanbali Madhhab, Imam al-Bahuti states:
“If the slaughterer fails to pronounce the name of Allāh deliberately (amadan) or ignorantly (jahlan), the animal will not be lawful (Halal), due to the statement of Allāh Most High: “Eat not of (meats) over which Allāh’s name has not been pronounced”. However, if he failed to pronounce the name of Allāh forgetfully, then it would be lawful (halal) to consume from the animal, due to the Hadith of Shaddad ibn Sa’id wherein the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him & give him peace) said: “The Zabiha of a Muslim is Halal even if he does not pronounce the name of Allāh as long as it is not left out deliberately, narrated by Sa’id.” (Kashaf al-Qina’ ala Matn al-Iqna, 5/181)
As far as Imam Shafi’i is concerned, it is usually related from him that the animal will be lawful to consume even when one does not pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ intentionally, and that to pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ is merely a Sunnah.
However, the great contemporary jurist, Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani (may Allāh preserve him) discusses the viewpoint of Imam Shafi’i in his Arabic treatise “Ahkam al-Dhaba’ih” concluding that this is only when it occurs infrequently. If a habit is made of not pronouncing the name of Allāh due to negligence and taking the matter lightly, the animal would not be lawful according to the Shafi’i school also.
Mufti Taqi Usmani states:
“It appears by looking into the book “al-Umm” of Imam Shafi’i that he did not explicitly mention the lawfulness of the animal on which the name of Allāh is not pronounced, rather he only stated that the animal on which the name of Allāh was not pronounced forgetfully would be lawful (halal). The text of Imam Shafi’i (Allāh have mercy on him) is as follows:
“When a Muslim sends his (hunting) dog or bird, both of which are trained (to hunt), I would prefer that he pronounces the name of Allāh. If he did not pronounce the name of Allāh forgetfully, and the animal was hunted, then it would be Halal to consume from it….” (Kitab al-Umm, 2/227)
Further along, Imam Shafi’i clearly states that the one who does not pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ by taking the matter lightly, then the animal slaughtered by him would not be lawful. He states:
“If a Muslim forgets to pronounce the name of Allāh Most High, the slaughtered animal is Halal to consume. However, if he did not pronounce the name of Allāh by taking the matter lightly (istikhfafan), then the slaughtered animal will not be lawful to consume.” (al-Umm, 2/131, Bab Zaba’ih ahl al-Kitab)
These texts of Imam Shafi’i quite clearly illustrate that the Shafi’i school does not give a general permissibility of consuming from animals on which the name of Allāh ﷻ was not pronounced intentionally, rather, the slaughtered animal will be unlawful (haram) in the Shafi’i Madhhab also if the name of Allāh ﷻ was not pronounced due to being negligent or taking the matter casually and lightly, and that one makes this a habit.
The upshot of all of this, is that the ruling of permissibility (of animals on which the name of Allāh ﷻ was not pronounced, even intentionally) according to Imam Shafi’i (Allāh have mercy on him) is only restricted to the situation where one leaves the Tasmiyah once or twice by coincidence, and not due to being neglectful or taking the matter casually. And even in that situation, it will be disliked (makruh) to consume from the animal, for Imam Shaf’i stated:
“I would prefer that he pronounces the name of Allāh”, thus the Shafi’i fuqaha have clearly mentioned that if one does not pronounce the name of Allāh intentionally, it will be Makruh and one will be sinful for doing this. (See: Buhuth fi Qadhaya Fiqhiyya Mu’asara, p. 393-394)
It becomes clear from the above that, if the name of Allāh ﷻ was not pronounced on an animal intentionally and deliberately, then the slaughtered animal will be unlawful (Haram) without doubt according to the Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools of Islamic sacred law. It will also be unlawful (Haram) to consume it according to the Shafi’i school if it was not pronounced due to negligence and forming a habit of it. However, if the name of Allāh was not pronounced once in a while, then (according to the Shafi’i school) despite this act being Makruh and sinful, it will not be Haram to consume from the animal.
Some people try to justify the lawfulness of the animals on which the name of Allāh ﷻ was not pronounced (even intentionally) with the following Hadith recorded by Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih:
Sayyida A’isha (Allāh be pleased with her) narrates that a group of people said to the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ: “Some people bring us meat and we do not know whether the name of Allāh was pronounced over it or not.” He ﷺ said, “You pronounce the name of Allāh on it and eat from it.” A’isha states: “Those people had embraced Islam recently.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 5507)
However, their claim cannot be substantiated with the above narration, for this Hadith is merely implying that if a Muslim was to foreword you some meat, then one should assume that the name of Allāh ﷻ was pronounced thus it is Halal. One should have a good opinion regarding fellow Muslims. This is the reason why Sayyida A’isha stated that these people had embraced Islam recently, thus there may be doubt in the meat slaughtered by them. However, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ commanded that one should regard a Muslim to have fulfilled the requirements of a valid and lawful slaughter even if he has newly embraced Islam.
The above Hadith has nothing whatsoever to do with the situation where one is positive and sure that the name of Allāh ﷻ
was not pronounced intentionally. Thus, if one was aware that Tasmiyah did not take place, the animal would be unlawful.
In conclusion, the Hadith is referring to the situation where one has not seen the animal being slaughtered with his naked eye (as is the case with most of us), thus has to rely on the word of the one who is selling him. If there is no reason to doubt him, one may purchase the meat and eat of it. The Hadith is not referring to the situation where one knows for certain that the name of Allāh ﷻ was not pronounced at the time of slaughter. The difference between the two situations is quite clear and apparent.
Having understood the importance of pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ at the time of slaughtering animals, we once again return to our discussion on machine-slaughter. There are few points that need to be taken into consideration here:
Firstly, the machines have a blade that keeps turning around like a rotating hand mill or grinder. This blade is quite sharp and moves very rapidly, and the necks of the chickens and birds (that are hanged upside down) pass on it with the veins being instantly cut. If that is the case, then there is nothing wrong (in this issue) from a Shariah perspective.
If the blade was so sharp that it was to totally cut off and separate the head of the bird from the rest of its body, then despite this act being disliked (makruh), the animal would remain lawful (Halal).
It is stated in the famous Hanafi fiqh work, al-Hidaya:
“If one reached the spinal marrow (nukha’) with the knife or cut off the whole head, the act will be Makruh, although it will be permissible to consume from the animal.” (al-Marghinani, al-Hidaya, 2/438)
However, at times it is possible that the bird moves due to some reason when passing by the blade, thus the neck and veins may not be completely cut or may be cut but only slightly leaving doubt whether the veins that must be cut in order for the animal to be lawful have been cut or otherwise. If that is the case, then the animal would be unlawful.
Therefore, one needs to be assured whether the veins of all the birds and chickens are slit in a proper manner. If this cannot be assured, then it would not be permissible to use these machines or one must use something that guarantees the cutting of veins properly.
The second (and fundamental) issue here is of pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ. There are few scenarios:
As you may be aware that the machine does not slaughter all the birds at once, rather the birds are slaughtered one after the other. Thus, if a Muslim was to pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ and switch on the machine, then the first bird that is slaughtered may be Halal but the rest would remain unlawful, for it is a condition that each animal individually has the name of Allāh ﷻ pronounced over it. Yes, if some animals or birds were slaughtered simultaneously, then one pronouncement would be sufficient.
The verse of the Qur’an quoted earlier where Allāh ﷻ says: “Eat not of (meats/animals) over which Allāh’s name has not been pronounced. That would be sinful (fisq)” indicates that each animal separately must have the name of Allāh pronounced over it.
Imam al-Haskafi states:
“The condition (for an animal to be Halal) is that the animal is slaughtered straight after the pronouncement of Allāh’s name (tasmiyah) before one begins doing something else (tabaddul al-majlis). So much so that if a person laid down two sheep, one over the other, and slaughtered them simultaneously with pronouncing the name of Allāh once, then they will both be Halal, contrary to the situation where one slaughters them one after the other (m, in that only the first will be Halal). The reason behind this is that the repetition of the act (m, meaning the act of slaughtering) necessitates repetition of Tasmiyah.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al- Durr al-Mukhtar, 6/402)
The same has also been mentioned in the other fiqh schools. See for the Hanbali school: Ibn Qudama, al-Mugni (11/33), and for the Maliki school: Muwaq al-Maliki, al-Taj wal Iklil (3/219).
Moreover, the jurists (fuqaha) have mentioned that the animal must be slaughtered straight after the pronouncement of the name of Allāh without having a considerable delay.
Imam al-Haskafi states:
“If the slaughterer pronounces the name of Allāh then engages in eating or drinking something, and then slaughters the animal, in such a case, if the period was considerably lengthy, it will be unlawful to consume the meat. However, if the period was not that long, it would be Halal. And “being long” is what an onlooker would regard it to be a considerable time.” (Durr al-Mukhtar with Radd, 6/302)
Ibn Qudama, the great Hanbali jurist, states:
“If a person laid down the sheep in order to slaughter it and pronounced the name of Allāh, thereafter put the knife down and picked up another knife or replied to a greeting (salam) or spoke to someone, etc., and then slaughtered the animal, it will be Halal to consume it. The reason being is that he recited the Tasmiyah for that particular animal without separating the Tasmiyah and slaughter with a considerable time. Thus, it is as though he did not speak.” (al-Mugni, 11/33)
In conclusion, the majority of the jurists (fuqaha) have stipulated that the pronouncement of the name of Allāh ﷻ must be on each and every individual animal, and that there should not be a major separation between the Tasmiyah and slaughter.
As such, pronouncing the name of Allāh ﷻ when switching the machine on will not render all the chickens to be lawful (Halal). The reason being is that the one who pronounced the name of Allāh ﷻ the first time did not pronounce it on each and every individual animal, and secondly, there is a separation of hours or even a whole day (in some cases) between the pronouncement and the slaughter of thousands of chickens, both of which are not acceptable in order for the animal to be considered legally Halal.
The second scenario here is that a Muslim stands close to the blade in the appliance and pronounces the name of Allāh ﷻ when the chickens come close to the blade and are slaughtered. This also has many problems from an Islamic perspective.
Firstly, it is a condition that the name of Allāh ﷻ is pronounced by the one who is slaughtering the animal. However, in the mentioned scenario, the one standing next to the blade has nothing to do whatsoever with the chicken. He did not switch the machine on, neither did he turn the blade nor moved the chicken towards the blade. He is merely like an individual who was passing by a slaughterer who was slaughtering his animal. There is no connection whatsoever. Suppose he did pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ and another person pronounced the name of other than Allāh ﷻ, then to whom will the slaughter of the animal be attributed to?
Secondly, there are thousands of chickens that are slaughtered in the machine, thus it is impossible that the name of Allāh ﷻ is pronounced on each and every individual bird. The one who is blessing the chicken must not move for even one moment or take his eye of the machine, for if he failed to pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ on even one chicken, it will become unlawful (Haram). Even if he did take all reasonable measures to pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ on every chicken, it is virtually impossible, given the magnitude of chickens that are slaughtered.
In light of the above, it is very difficult to say that birds and chickens that are slaughtered mechanically are lawful (Halal), whether one pronounces the name of Allāh ﷻ when switching on the machine or whether there are individuals who pronounce the name of Allāh ﷻ when the chickens come close to the blade in the machine.
Some people argue that “Islamically there is no difference between hand-slaughter and machine slaughter” thus, one should not insist on the chickens to be slaughtered manually. However, the question here is not of hand-slaughter and machine-slaughter, rather, the issue here is of fulfilling the Shariah requirements with regards to a valid slaughter. If the conditions for a valid slaughter are fulfilled (regardless of whether it is hand-slaughter or machine-slaughter), the animal would be lawful (Halal) to consume. However, if these conditions are not fulfilled, it will render the animal unlawful (Haram). If these conditions were not fulfilled in hand-slaughter, even then the animal will become unlawful. It is not a case of favoring one over the other.
Internationally renowned scholar, Shaykh justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allāh preserve him) has mentioned the solution to this problem in his Arabic treatise Ahkam al-Zaba’ih and in his English book Contemporary Fatawa: He states:
“The only solution to this problem is that instead of one person, three Muslims be employed to cut the throats of chicken manually. They can slaughter the hanging chicken, alternatively. The speed of the machine need not be slowed down, nor does the production need to be reduced. Each one of these three persons will cut the throats of chickens by pronouncing the name of Allāh”.
This procedure has been practiced in a number of countries where the objective of mass production was never harmed or adversely affected. In the same Maple Lodge Slaughter House, we had seen a number of jobs being done manually by persons standing by the railing on which the chickens pass continuously. The same method can easily be applied at the stage of slaughtering also. This will require only two or three more persons to be employed which should never be a problem for such a big firm…. If this objective is achieved, one should not insist on it being manual or mechanical.
In the way I have suggested, all the process of the mechanical production will remain as it is. The only act to be done manually is the act of cutting the throat without slowing down the machine. You can see that the separation of liver and some other parts of chicken is still being done manually, while it does not in any way, slow down the process. The same method is suggested for cutting the throat also.” (Contemporary Fatawa, p.288-289)
In conclusion, there is no justification of machine-slaughtered chicken, neither is there a great need for it. As Shaykh Taqi has pointed out that, many firms have employed the method suggested by him and that it did not have an effect on mass production. Given this and all the other proofs outlined above, it will not be permissible to mechanically slaughter chickens where the necessary conditions are not fulfilled. However, if they are fulfilled, then the animal would be lawful (Halal) to consume.
Finally, one must remember that machine-slaughter is a new phenomenon created by the rapid progress in modern technology. Thus, it is obvious that it is impossible for one to find express rulings with regards to it in the classical sources of Islamic jurisprudence. Its ruling can only be derived from the general principles and guidelines set down in the Qur’an, Sunnah and the classical works of Islamic jurisprudence. Thus, they may be some differences of opinion with regards to this issue and we respect the opinion of other scholars. However, the above is what I have understood from my teachers, especially Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani, upon whose Arabic work (Ahkam al-Zaba’ih) this article is primarily based.
One must also remember that this is a very important issue for a Muslim. Consuming Halal food is one of the most important things for a believer, for it has a bearing on all the other worships religious obligations.
Allāh ﷻ says:
“O people! Eat of what is in the earth, Halal and Pure, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, for you he is an open enemy.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 168)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allāh be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “Allāh the Almighty is pure and accepts only that which is pure. Allāh has commanded the faithful to do that which he commanded the Messengers, and the Almighty has said: “O Messengers! Eat of the pure things and do right”. And Allāh the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the pure things We have provided you.” Then he (Allāh bless him & give him peace) mentioned (the case of) a man who, having journeyed far, is dishevelled and dusty and who spreads out his hands to the heavens (saying): “O Lord! O Lord!” —while his food is unlawful, his drink unlawful, his clothing unlawful, and he is nourished unlawfully, so how can he be answered!” (Sahih Muslim)
Thus, the food we eat has a direct effect on us. It is the primary thing that needs to be considered by a Muslim. Supplications (dua) are not accepted due to consuming unlawful food. Hence, a Muslim should abstain from that which is doubtful also.
One should also remember that, originally all things are permissible unless proven to be unlawful (al-Asl fi al-Ashya al-Ibaha), however, the case with meat is different, in that it is unlawful until proven to be Halal.
The proof on this is the narration of Adi ibn Hatim (Allāh be pleased with him) already quoted where he said to the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ: “O Messenger of Allāh! At times, I let go of my hunting dog but I find with it another dog and I am unaware which of the two hunted the animal? The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “Don’t eat (from the hunted animal), for you have pronounced the name of Allāh on your dog and not on the other.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no 5486)
This Hadith clearly indicates that when there is doubt in the animal being Halal, it will be unlawful to consume it, which signifies that meat is originally unlawful (hurmah) until proven to be Halal. Had it been originally Halal, the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ would not have ordered Adi (Allāh be pleased with him) to abstain from consuming it.
This also serves as an answer to those who state that the organization certifying products as “Halal” is responsible, and thus, any sins for eating the chickens will go to the certifying organization. It is the responsibility of every individual that he/she investigates the authenticity of such statements and then consumes the meat.
Moreover, if one did that which was in one’s capacity (i.e. investigating), and the meat was Haram, then although the sin for consuming Haram meat may not be committed but the effects of eating Harm will still remain. This effect, as stated previously, will have its toll on one’s worship, Dua, and on life in general.
May Allāh ﷻ guide us all to the straight path and keep us far away from unlawful and doubtful food, Ameen. And Allāh knows best