The rules and laws governing hunting and slaughtering are given great importance in traditional Islamic jurisprudence, because of the importance Allāh ﷻ and His Messenger Muhammad ﷺ gave them.
The fuqaha (jurists) have explained these rules in great detail in their various works, deducing from the Qurʼān, Prophetic example (sunnah), and the sayings of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them). Very rarely will one find a book in traditional Islamic jurisprudence without a complete chapter on hunting and slaughtering.
We can obviously not cover all of these rules in this brief article; neither is that our aim, but the basic fundamentals and important principles with regards to the slaughtering of animals can be mentioned.
There are three conditions for a valid slaughter according to Shariah:
Most of the four veins must be cut with a knife or a tool that is sharp and has a cutting edge.
The name of Allāh ﷻ must be taken 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). (As mentioned by 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 fulfil them will render the animal unlawful.
Let us look at these rules and conditions in more detail:
The First Condition:
Those animals which are within one’s capacity to slaughter, whether domesticated or wild, it is necessary that its blood is shed by a tool that has a cutting edge, and that it kills the animal with its sharpness and not by its force. This sharp thing may be a knife or anything else. However, it is disliked (makruh) to use a tooth or a claw in the Hanafi School and impermissible to do so in the Shafi’i school. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, 5/208)
Allāh ﷻ says:
“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been invoked the name of other than Allah, that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death, that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal, unless you are able to slaughter it (before the animal dying due to the above causes).” (Qur’an, Surah al-Ma’idah, 5.3)
In a rigorously authenticated (sahih) Hadith recorded by Imam al-Bukhari and others, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“If the killing tool causes the blood to gush out, and the name of Allah is mentioned, then eat (of the slaughtered animal), but do not use a nail (claw) or a tooth.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“Whatever cuts the jugular veins, then (after cutting it) eat the animal.” (Muwatta of Imam Malik, 2/489)
Ibn Abbas and Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with them) report:
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ prohibited the Sharita of Shaytan. It is an animal which is slaughtered by cutting it open and the veins are not cut, and it is then left to die.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
From the above Hadiths and other evidences, the fuqaha (jurists) have deduced that for the animal to be lawful (Halal) it is necessary that its veins are cut open in a way that the blood streams and gushes out. This is to make sure that the impure elements are removed from the animal as much as possible.
The Fuqaha differ as to which of the vessels must be cut. According to Imam Shafi’i, both the wind pipe and the gullet must be slit in order for the animal to be lawful. According to our (Hanafi) school, three from the four must be cut. However, all the fuqaha agree that the place to slaughter is the throat and the upper part of the chest.
The Second Condition:
As far as the second condition (taking the name of Allāh ﷻ) is concerned, the majority of the jurists are of the view that, this is necessary. If one failed to recite the name of Allāh ﷻ intentionally and deliberately, the animal will be unlawful to consume. However, if it is left out due to forgetfulness, it will remain Halal, as the primary texts indicate
This is the ruling according to the majority of the jurists. It is usually related from Imam Shafi’i (Allah be pleased with him) that the animal will be Halal even in the situation of leaving pronouncing the name of Allah intentionally, and to recite the name of Allah is merely a Sunnah. However Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani (Allah preserve him) argues (after giving proofs from the extensive works of the Shafi’i school) that, this is only when it occurs infrequently. If a habit is made of leaving pronouncing the name of Allah due to negligence and taking the matter lightly, it will not be permissible according to the Shafi’i school also.
Some evidences regarding the necessity of pronouncing the name of Allah when slaughtering:
Allāh ﷻ says: “Eat not of (meats) over which Allah’s name has not been pronounced. That would be impiety.” (al-An’ am, V. 121)
The above text is clear in determining the necessity of taking the name of Allah when slaughtering, and the unlawfulness of the animal when it is left out, as the major Qur’anic commentators explain.
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 Allah. Eat what they catch for you and pronounce the name of Allah over it.” (al-Ma’idah, V.4)
Allāh ﷻ says: “Why should you not eat of (meats) on which Allah’s name has been pronounced?” (al-An’am, V. 119)
Jundub ibn Sufyan al-Bajali narrates that: “Once we offered some animals as sacrifices with the Messenger of Allah. Some people slaughtered their sacrifices before the Eid prayer. When the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ completed his prayer, he saw that they had slaughtered before the prayer. 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 mentioning Allāh’s name.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
The Third Condition:
The third condition is that the slaughterer must be either a Muslim or from the people of the book (Ahl al-Kitab). The animal slaughtered by other than Muslims or the People of the Book (namely, Jews and Christians, if the other conditions are also fulfilled) is Haram according to all the jurists of Islam. Scholarly consensus (ijma`) has been transmitted on this matter by major authorities. (See: Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 9.312, and other works)
Allāh ﷻ says: “Today 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.” (Surah al-An’am, V. 5)
The meaning of “food” in the above verse is specifically the animals slaughtered by the People of the book (Christians and Jews). (See Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 2/19).
Overtly, the above verse reads that the animal slaughtered (zabiha) by the People of the Book is permissible and lawful to consume. However, there is a fundamental principle in the science of the exegesis of the Holy Qur’an (Tafsir) which states, very understandably, that, “One part of the Qur’an explains the other.” (See: Qurtubi’s introduction to his al-Jami` li Ahkam al-Qur’an, and Suyuti’s al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur’an)
Therefore, this verse should be understood in the light of another verse mentioned earlier relating to the same matter: “Eat not of (meats) on which Allāh’s name has not been pronounced” (al-An’am, 121).
In light of the both verses, it is deduced and understood that the Zabiha of the Ahl al-Kitab is only permissible when the name of Allāh ﷻ is taken at the time of slaughtering the animal, and the slaughtering itself is done in the proper manner. As mentioned earlier, this condition of reciting the name of Allāh ﷻ is independently necessary.