The Islamic Perspective on Eating Meat & Slaughtering Animals
It is common knowledge that eating meat goes back to the advent of man. Man has been consuming meat from the very early times. However, before the advent of Islam, all possible means were used in order to acquire the meat of animals. The flesh of dead animals was consumed. At times a part of the body of a living animal would be cut and eaten. No consideration would be taken in preventing the pain and suffering to the defenceless and innocent creatures of Allah.
Then, Allah blessed humanity with His Beloved Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace), as a light and life-giving.
The Sacred Law (Shariah) of Islam that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) came with from Allah differentiated between a living and a dead animal. Dead animals were declared unlawful (haram). Certain animals that were harmful to the wellbeing of humans were also prohibited, such as: pigs, dogs, cats and wild animals.
Animals that were declared lawful (halal) were also subjected to certain rules & regulations, which would ensure that the blood and other impure elements come out from their body as much as possible and that the slaughter be done in a way that was least painful and most merciful to the animal. The ritual nature of the slaughtering also serves as a reminder to humans of the tremendousness of the gift of life, and the blessing of food in general and meat in particular.
The Sacred Law of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) also distinguished between the consumption of animals and other types of food. Animals are similar to humans as they possess a soul and the five senses. They are able to experience pains and pleasures. Due to this fact, it would appear that the consumption of animal meat should not have been lawful for humans. Some people, in different civilizations and times, whose intellects have not been enlightened by the light of revelation, came to this conclusion.
However, Allah Almighty through his infinite Mercy and Grace permitted humans to consume the meat of certain animals. He made humans the best of creations and created everything for their benefit. Allah Most High Says:
“It is He, who has created for you all things that are on earth.”(Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2.29).
With this, Islam stands out from the man-made religions and faiths in that it has appointed and fixed certain methods and ways for the slaughtering of animals. It has laid down principles, and prescribed laws without which the animals are not lawful to consume.
The issue of slaughtering animals is not a normal and mundane issue, in which an individual may act as he/she desires, without being restricted to rules and principles. Rather it is regarded from the acts of worship, and there is sacredness associated with it, for the reasons mentioned above.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:
“Whoever prays our prayer and faces our Qiblah and eats our slaughtered animals, is a believer who is under Allah’s and His Messenger’s protection.” [Recorded by Imam al-Bukhari on the authority of Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him)]
In another hadith, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) stated:
“I have been ordered to fight the people until they say: ‘There is no God but Allah.’ When they do so, and pray like our prayers, face our Qiblah and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacrosanct except by due legal right.” [Bukhari]
The above two narrations of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) are very clear in determining that the slaughtering of animals holds a significant position in Shariah. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) counted the slaughtering of animals with praying Salat and facing the Qiblah. He considered it from those specific features of Islam, which distinguishes a Muslim from a non-Muslim and regarded it as one of the hallmarks of a true believer with which his life and wealth is protected.
Therefore, those who believe that the slaughtering of animals is a normal and non-religious affair and that one may practice the slaughter in the manner one wishes, are clearly in contradiction with the sayings and guidance of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). How can one regard it as a purely mundane act when our Beloved Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) considered it to be sign of a Muslim?
Thus, it may be seen that the Shariah is very clear with regards to the consumption of animals. It has prescribed certain principles, rules, regulations and laws to which a Muslim must adhere. Some of these laws are connected to the actual lawfulness of the animal and others to the slaughtering of the animal. Failing to comply with these rules may well render the animal haram.
By: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani