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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Food

 

9.  Ritual Slaughter and Hunting of Animals

 

from the Holy Qur’an, major hadith collections

and Islamic jurisprudence

 

 

Ritual Slaughter and Hunting of Animals

From Islamic Source Documents: Qur’an and Hadith

 

The Qur’an forbids the eating of animals that were killed by strangling, by a blow or beating, by falling or by goring or that have been partly eaten by a wild animal, unless a valid slaughter was still possible and was performed.[1] Similarly, there are hadiths which say that to be permitted for eating, an animal must be stabbed by something sharp rather than beaten with a blunt object.[2] The sharp object used to kill the animal, which may not be teeth or a bone or nails, must cause the blood to flow out freely[3]. (Editor’s note: The requirement for ritual slaughter follows naturally from the prohibition against eating dead meat and also from the admonition to say the name of Allah (God) when an animal is killed for food. The requirement for the blood to flow freely from an animal during slaughter for food use is consistent with the general rule against consuming blood. These issues are discussed on previous pages: Rules Concerning Dead Meat, Reciting Divine Names and Prohibition Against Consuming Blood.)

 

If game is killed by an arrow only, it is permitted to eat it, but not if it was hit by the arrow and then drowned[4] or found in water such that the hunter does not know if it has drowned.[5] If game is shot[6] or killed by a trained dog[7] and is found three days later, it may be eaten if it has not gone rotten. Issues concerning the reciting of the name of Allah when hunting has been discussed on a previous page, Reciting Diving Names.

 

 

Ritual Slaughter and Hunting of Animals

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller

 

Contents

 

Introduction

 

Animals that must be ritually slaughtered

 

Requirements for slaughterers

 

Slaughtering methods

 

Hunting

 

 

The prohibitions against drinking wine, consuming blood, and eating pork or meat from dead animals are mentioned in passing in al-Shafi‛i's Risala[8] and these transgressions are referred to as “disgraceful acts”[9]. (A dead animal is one that died other than by proper intentional slaughter or hunting.)

 

As discussed on a previous page entitled Rules Concerning Dead Meat, Imam Dhahabi (an important 13th-14th century Shafi‛i scholar) is quoted in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller as stating that the eating of unslaughtered meat, blood or swine are “enormities.”[10] Whoever voluntarily eats of these is a criminal.[11]

 

 

Animals that must be ritually slaughtered.  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer says that ritual slaughter (dhakah) is required to make the meat of permitted warm-blooded land animals lawful to eat.[12] Animals from water can be eaten without ritual slaughter.[13] Scholars* disagree about whether amphibians are to be treated as land animals, requiring slaughter, or water animals, not requiring slaughter.[14] According to the Shafi‛i school, all animals must be properly slaughtered before being eaten except for fish and other aquatic animals and locusts.[15] Scholars agree that fish and wild land animals are lawful to eat if they were hunted in a valid way rather than ritually slaughtered.[16] It is generally agreed, for example by the Shafi‛i school as mentioned above,[17] that locusts do not require ritual slaughter, though Malik says that some part, such as the head, must be cut off to kill a locust or other insect (lacking blood) to kill it before it is eaten.[18]

 

Malik says that a domestic animal that has become wild must be captured and slaughtered properly to make eating its meat lawful. In contrast, Abu Hanifa and al- Shafi‛i say that a camel that has run away can be hunted and eaten if it cannot be captured and ritually slaughtered in the proper way.[19] Similarly, according to Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school), if an animal falls into a well or goes somewhere else where it cannot be retrieved, then its meat is lawful to eat if it is killed by shooting.[20] (A 19th century commentator quoted in the translation of this section of Reliance of the Traveller points out that this refers to domesticated animals which, because of where they have gone, cannot be properly slaughtered and so must be hunted.)

 

Most scholars, including Abu Hanifa, Malik and al-Shafi‛i, say that slaughtering a diseased animal that is close to death renders its meat lawful to eat.[21] As stated on the previous page entitled Rules Concerning Dead Meat, meat from an animal that died as a result of strangulation, falling, being beaten, goring or being partially eaten by another animal has the same unlawful status as meat from an unslaughtered dead animal.[22] It is lawful to eat meat from an animal properly slaughtered after it has been strangled, been beaten, fallen, been gored or been attacked by another animal in those cases when the injured animal would have lived in spite of these injuries.[23] Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi‛i say that ritual slaughter makes it lawful to eat meat from an animal that is already likely to die from strangling, beating, falling, goring or attack by another animal, while the best known view of Malik on this topic is that such slaughter does not make the meat lawful.[24]

 

Ritual slaughter purifies the skins of animals that are prohibited from being eaten, including predatory animals; it is permitted to sell or use the parts of such slaughtered animals other than the meat. However, Abu Hanifa, Malik and some others say that the skin of swine is not made pure in this way.[25]

 

 

Requirements for slaughterers.  Scholars* agree that a Muslim man over the age of puberty who is sane and prays regularly may slaughter an animal for food consumption.[26] Most scholars, including Abu Hanifa, Malik and al-Shafi‛i, agree that a woman or child can also perform a valid ritual slaughter.[27] Al-Shafi‛i says that an insane or intoxicated person may perform a valid ritual slaughter; Malik disagrees.[28] All these conditions apply to hunters as well as slaughterers, with the areas of disagreement among scholars being the same also. In addition, a hunter may not be in the sacred state of ihram for pilgrimage (as discussed on a following page, Eating Game When on Pilgrimage.)[29]

 

Scholars agree that it is lawful to eat meat from an animal slaughtered by one of the People of the Book (Jews, Christians) as long as they have slaughtered the animal for themselves, they are not Christians of the Arab tribe of Banu Taghlab or apostates, they mentioned the name of Allah (God) over the animal and it is permitted for themselves to eat. There is disagreement among scholars when one or more of these conditions does not apply and whether fat from such an animal is lawful to eat.[30] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that it is unlawful to eat meat slaughtered by a Zoroastrian, an apostate from Islam, a polytheist or a Christian of the desert Arab tribes.[31] (A 19th century commentator quoted in the translation of this section of Reliance of the Traveller notes that these restrictions mean that the slaughterer must be from one of the groups of people whose women Muslim men are permitted to marry, namely, Muslims, Christians or Jews[32].)

 

 

Slaughtering methods.  There are two types of ritual slaughter (dhakah). The first is dhabh, or cutting the throat, which is applied to cows, sheep, and birds.  The second type is nahr, which is severing the jugular vein at the bottom of the neck, which is for camels and is also permitted for cows. Among the scholars*, Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi‛i say that meat from sheep, birds or camels subjected to either type of slaughter is lawful to eat. According to Malik, the type of slaughter not specified for that animal may be applied to sheep, birds or camels, but only in cases of necessity.[33]

 

Slaughter (dhabh) is valid if four organs are cut: the two blood vessels in the neck (called the jugular veins in the English translation of The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer and the carotid arteries in Reliance of the Traveller), the gullet (food channel), and the windpipe (called the pharynx in The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer and the windpipe in Reliance of the Traveller).[34] Abu Hanifa says that three out of the four designated parts must be cut for the slaughter to be valid.[35] Al-Shafi‛i[36] and the Shafi‛i school[37] say that the gullet and windpipe must be cut for a valid slaughter, even if the two blood vessels in the neck are not severed – though cutting these blood vessels is recommended[38].

 

The Maliki school says that slaughter is invalid if it is done in more than one stroke separated by a period of time in which the slaughterer's hand is raised.[39] The Shafi‛i school says that if the animal dies or is reduced to purely reflexive movement while any part of the windpipe or gullet remain uncut, it is unlawful to eat since it is considered to be an unslaughtered dead animal. The slaughterer should cut swiftly.[40]

 

Reliance of the Traveller calls it a sin to slaughter an animal by cutting from the back of the neck because of the pain it causes to the animal.[41] However, a 20th century commentator quoted in the translation of this section of Reliance of the Traveller says that it is, nevertheless, valid slaughtering and the resulting meat is, therefore, lawful to eat.

 

A valid slaughter may be carried out by using a knife, a sharp rock, a piece of wood or a reed. The Maliki school holds that when an iron knife is available, it should be used for slaughter. There is disagreement among scholars about whether a valid slaughter can be carried out using bone, tooth or claw. Abu Hanifa says that these instruments (bone, tooth or claw) can be used but they must be unattached because only then will they cause blood to flow.[42] In contrast, the Shafi‛i school holds that slaughtering may be performed with any cutting edge except that tooth, bone or claw, either from humans or animals, attached or unattached, cannot be used.[43]

 

For al-Shafi‛i[44] and the Shafi‛i school[45], saying the name of Allah when slaughtering an animal is strongly recommended, but not obligatory. Malik and Abu Hanifa say that it is required when remembered[46], but according to a 20th century scholar cited in Reliance of the Traveller, the Hanafi school holds that reciting the name of Allah when slaughtering an animal is obligatory[47].

 

Scholars also disagree over whether turning the animal to be slaughtered toward the qibla (the direction of prayer – the Ka’ba in Mecca) is required, recommended or simply permitted. For example, according to The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, some scholars of the Maliki school say it is required to face animals toward the qibla when slaughtering them; others say that the failure to do so is abominable, but not prohibited.[48] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that facing the animal toward the qibla is a recommended procedure and not a requirement for valid slaughter.[49]

 

Reliance of the Traveller also says that it is recommend to sharpen the knife, cut rapidly and bless Muhammad when slaughtering an animal.[50] It is also recommended to slaughter camels while they are standing, with the foreleg bound up.[51] Animals other than camels should be lying on their left side during slaughtering.[52]

 

 

Hunting.  Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) details the requirements for killing animals when hunting so that they may be used as food. A game animal that is killed by an arrow or a trained hunting animal is lawful to eat as long as the hunter is not blind. If the animal was killed by an arrow, it may be eaten only if it was the cutting edge of the arrow, and not its weight, that caused the animal to die. If the weight of the trained hunting animal kills the game, the meat from the game is still lawful to eat.[53]

 

Abu Hanifa, Malik and al-Shafi‛i agree that an animal hunted with a blunt weapon, such as a stone or blunt arrow, can be lawfully eaten only if its body was torn by the weapon. While hunting with a dog is permitted, there is disagreement among scholars about hunting with predatory animals other than dogs. Malik and his school say, for example, that it is permitted to use birds or other predatory animals if they are trained.[54]

 

Game that can be caught alive must be slaughtered rather than hunted. A majority of scholars, including Abu Hanifa, Malik and al-Shafi‛i, agree that if a game animal dies after being caught by a hunting animal but before the hunter can reach it, then it is lawful to eat it. If game was wounded but is still alive and no vital organ is damaged, it must be ritually slaughtered to be eaten lawfully.[55] Malik says that it is lawful to eat an animal which was partially eaten by the hunting animal, but Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi‛i disagree,[56] as does the Shafi‛i school[57].

 

The disagreement among scholars concerning whether the name of Allah must be said when hunting falls along the same lines as the disagreement concerning ritual slaughter, as discussed on this page, above.[58] Thus, for Abu Hanifa and Malik, meat from a hunted animal is lawful to eat only if Allah's name was recited by the hunter unless the hunter forgets to do so, while according to al-Shafi‛i reciting the name of Allah by the hunter is but a recommendation based on a strong tradition.

 

It is unlawful to eat the meat of a hunted animal if something other than the hunter's weapon or animal (that is, something which is not a lawful instrument of hunting or ritual slaughter) also wounded the prey and thus may have been partially the cause of its death. Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi‛i say that game can be lawfully eaten if it was killed by a hunter's dog other than the one sent to kill that particular animal, but Malik disagrees.[59]

 

There is also disagreement concerning the eating of meat from a hunted animal that disappeared from sight. Malik says that it lawful to eat from such an animal if the hunter's arrow is in it or marks of hunter's dog are on it and it has not disappeared overnight. According to Abu Hanifa, it can be eaten if the trained dog finds the dead hunted animal after an uninterrupted search, but not if search is interrupted. Al-Shafi‛i says that it cannot be eaten if its track was not visible.[60] According to Reliance of the Traveller, the Shafi‛i school holds that it is unlawful to eat game if it disappeared between the time it was wounded and when it was found dead.[61]

 

If a hunted animal has fallen from a peak, Abu Hanifa and Malik say that it is lawful to eat if the arrow is in a vital organ and is known to have caused the death of the animal.[62] The Shafi‛i school says that it is unlawful.[63]

 

If the hunted animal has fallen into water, Malik says that it is lawful to eat if the arrow is in a vital organ and is known to have caused the death of the animal. Abu Hanifa[64] and the Shafi‛i school[65] say that it is not lawful to eat even if the arrow is in a vital organ.

 

________________

 

*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

 

§The more general term sharia is often used loosely to mean the specific derived laws of fiqh, such as those summarized here.

 

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 14, 2016

 

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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

 



[1] QR 5:3

[2] BK 3:34:270, BK 7:67:384, BK 7:67:385, BK 7:67:386, BK 7:67:394, ML 21:4732, ML 21:4734‑4735‑4736, ML 21:4737‑4738

[3] BK 3:44:668, BK 3:44:684, BK 4:52:309, BK 7:67:406, BK 7:67:411, BK 7:67:414, BK 7:67:417, BK 7:67:451, BK 7:67:452, ML 22:4846‑4847‑4848‑4849

[4] ML 21:4741

[5] ML 21:4742

[6] ML 21:4745, ML 21:4746

[7] ML 21:4747

[8] SR 13 (page 68), SR 161 (pages 170-171)

[9] SR 13 (page 68)

[10] RT p30.1 (page 673)

[11] RT p30.2 (page 673)

[12] DJP 14.1 (Volume 1, pages 529-530)

[13] DJP 14.1 (Volume 1, pages 529-530), RT j17.1 (page 364)

[14] DJP 14.1.6 (Volume 1, page 535)

[15] RT j17.1 (page 364)

[16] DJP 15.1 (Volume 1, pages 548-549), DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[17] RT j17.1 (page 364)

[18] DJP 14.1.5 (Volume 1, pages 534-535)

[19] DJP 15.1 (Volume 1, pages 548-549)

[20] RT j17.11 (page 367)

[21] DJP 14.1.3 (Volume 1, page 533)

[22] DJP 17.1 (Volume 1, pages 563-567)

[23] DJP 14.1.1 (Volume 1, pages 530-532)

[24] DJP 14.1.1 (Volume 1, pages 530-532)

[25] DJP 14.1.2.(Volume 1, pages 532-533)

[26] DJP 14.5 (Volume 1, pages 542-543)

[27] DJP 14.5.3 (Volume 1, pages 544-547)

[28] DJP 14.5.3 (Volume 1, pages 544-547)

[29] DJP 15.4 (Volume 1, pages 558-559)

[30] DJP 14.5 (Volume 1, pages 542-543)

[31] RT j17.2 (page 364)

[32] QR 5:5

[33] DJP 14.2.1 (Volume 1, pages 535-536)

[34] DJP 14.2.2 (Volume 1, page 536)

[35] DJP 14.2.2.1 & 2 (Volume 1, pages 536-537)

[36] DJP 14.2.2.1 & 2 (Volume 1, pages 536-537)

[37] RT j17.4 (pages 364-365)

[38] RT j17.5 (page 365)

[39] DJP 14.2.2.6 (Volume 1, pages 538-539)

[40] RT j17.4 (pages 364-365)

[41] RT j17.4 (pages 364-365)

[42] DJP 14.3 (Volume 1, pages 539-540)

[43] RT j17.3 (page 364)

[44] DJP 14.4.1 (Volume 1, page 541)

[45] RT j17.5 (page 365)

[46] DJP 14.4.1 (Volume 1, page 541)

[47] RT j17.5, (page 365)

[48] DJP 14.4.2 (Volume 1, pages 541-542)

[49] RT j17.5 (page 365)

[50] RT j17.5 (page 365)

[51] RT j17.6 (page 365)

[52] RT j17.7 (page 366)

[53] RT j17.9 (page 366)

[54] DJP 15.2 (Volume 1, pages 549-554)

[55] DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[56] DJP 15.2 (Volume 1, pages 549-554)

[57] RT j17.9 (page 366)

[58] DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[59] DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[60] DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[61] RT j17.10 (page 367)

[62] DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[63] RT j17.10 (page 367)

[64] DJP 15.3 (Volume 1, pages 554-558)

[65] RT j17.10 (page 367)