Ritual Islamic Slaughter

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being script of a speech given by Mufti Ebrahim Desai at the Meat Safety Seminar

Since this is a meat safety seminar, I will endeavour to discuss the positive aspects of meat safety by adopting the Islamic procedure of slaughter.

1. Zabah
The ritual slaughter in Islam is termed as Zabah. Literally, the term Zabah means to purify as the purpose of Zabah is to purify the flesh of the animal from flowing blood. In Islam flowing blood is impure and prohibited for consumption. Among other reasons of flowing blood being impure, some are:

a) Flowing blood transfers nutrients to the tissue cells and returns with the waste products of the tissue cells. These waste products are harmful and are removed from the blood through the function of the kidneys.

b) Blood contains organisms which are responsible for various diseases.

c) The presence of flowing blood in flesh causes the flesh to putrefy.

It is therefore necessary to purify the flesh of the animal from the impure flowing blood, by extracting maximum blood.

In Islamic Jurisprudence, Zabah is to cut the neck in order to severe the two jugular veins, the gullet and windpipe. It will suffice if any three of the four blood pipes are severed. The spinal cord should not be severed as it maintains connection between the brain and the body which enables convulsion after slaughtering. Convulsion squeezes out the remaining blood in the body.

The Islamic procedure of Zabah enables maximum extraction of blood, within a close circuit. The purpose of extracting maximum blood has been explained. The purpose of rapid extraction of blood is to avoid blood clots. Both aspects, removing flowing blood as well as avoiding blood clots are equally important to health. To explain this further, I seek refuge in the verse of the Quran:

3)Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion and blood and swine -flesh. And that which hath been dedicated unto any other than Allah, and the dead through beating, and the strangled, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been killed by (the goring of ) horns and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by the death-stroke), and that which have been immolated unto idols. And (forbidden is it) that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination. This day are those who disbelieve in despair of (ever harming) your religion; so fear them not, fear ME! This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM. Whoso is forced by hunger, not by will, to sin; (for him) lo! Allah is forgiving merciful.

4) They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye reach them that which Allah taught you ; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allahs name upon it, and observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is swift to take account (Maaida verse 3 and 4)

2. The validity of Zabah
i) The person male or female, performing the act of Zabah must be a sane Muslim.

ii) The name of Allah (tasmiyyah) must be pronounced before cutting. The instance on pronouncing the name of God before slaying an animal is meant to emphasize the sanctity of the life and the fact that all life belongs to God. Pronouncing the tasmiyyah induces feelings of tenderness and compassion and serves to prevent cruelty.

iii) The instrument used to perform Zabah must be extremely sharp to facilitate the quick cutting of the skin and severing of the windpipe and blood vessels so as to enable the blood to flow immediately and quickly; in other words, to bring about an immediate and massive hermorrage.

d) The incision must be made in the neck at some point just below the glottis and the root of the neck.

3. Abominable acts in slaying during Zabah

i) It is abominable to first cast the animal down on its side and sharpen the knife afterwards, or to kill one animal in the presence of another.

ii) It is abominable to let the knife reach the spinal marrow or to cut of the head of the animal.

iii) It is abominable to perform Zabah with a dull instrument. The Prophet commanded that knives should be sharpened and should be concealed from the animal to be slain.

4. The procedure of Zabah and pain

Since the operation of Zabah is on an animal which cannot talk, we have to use our perception of pain to determine whether the animal feels pain in the procedure of Zabah or not. The procedure has four stages

a) cutting the skin
b) wound on the neck
c) bleeding
d) convulsion

1) A person who shaves, probably has the experience of cutting his skin sometime or the other, that is not painful.

2) Since the four blood vessels are cut, the animal becomes unconscious and does not feel pain.

3) Bleeding itself is not painful as can be understood by the contribution of a blood donor.

4) Convulsion is not painful as the animal is unconscious. This can be understood by the example of an epileptic. He does not feel any pain during epilepsy.

In conclusion the Islamic procedure of Zabah collaborates with its literal meaning of Zabah purification. Purification in consumption is paramount importance for good health. I conclude by quoting the saying of our prophet Purification is half of faith.