May God forgive me and guide me regarding any sign that would have been misinterpreted in this study and elsewhere. May He always guide us to a better understanding of His profound scripture so we can purify ourselves and increase our knowledge.
Does the Quran point at a ritual to sacrifice animals? Is it the same ritual as in traditional Islam? Is it forbidden for a Muslim to eat non “Halal” meat? Is the expression “Halal Meat” correct? This article will attempt to answer these questions in the light of the Quran.
Dietary prohibitions in Islam:
(2:173) He exclusively forbade you the carrion, the blood, pork meat, as well as what has been dedicated to other than God. But whoever is forced without being disobedient, and without any desire to transgress, then, there is no sin upon him. In truth, God is Forgiver, Merciful.
(5:3) The only prohibitions there are upon you [regarding your dietary system] are carrions, the blood, pork meat, what has been dedicated to other than God, [any animal] that has been strangled to death, killed by a violent blow, died falling from a height, gored, or [partially] eaten by a wild animal, unless you slaughtered it yourself, and what you sacrificed on stone altars; any partition [of meat] raffling arrows is a sacrilege. Today, those who disbelieved in your religion have given away any hope [of destroying you]; then do not fear them: Fear Me! This day, I have perfected your religion, and completed My grace upon you, and I have decreed for you Islam as a religion. But whoever is forced because of hunger without any desire to transgress, then God is forgiver, Merciful.
(6:145) Proclaim: “I do not find anything forbidden in what has been revealed to me except the carrion, running blood, and pork meat, because it is unclean. Also, what has been dedicated to other than God is a sacrilege. But whoever is forced without any desire to transgress or being disobedient, then your Lord is indeed Forgiver, Merciful.”
(16:115) He exclusively forbade you the carrion, the blood and pork meat, as well as what has been dedicated to other than God. But whoever is forced without any desire to transgress or being disobedient, then your Lord is indeed Forgiver, Merciful.
The Quran forbids “running blood” (6:145), that is to say any blood that comes out from an animal being slaughtered, and also blood in general (2:173, 5:3, 16:115). It is obvious that whatever method is used to slaughter an animal, there will always remain traces of blood inside the meat. The goal is therefore to minimize the amount of blood left inside the meat. We are going to see that the Quran describes such a method with the example of the great sacrifice that takes place during the Hajj.
The notion of sacrifice in Islam
(6:162) Proclaim: “Verily, my ritual prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my life and my death belong to God, Lord of the universe.”
(22:34) And to each nation, we have prescribed a ritual [of sacrifice], so that the name of God be mentioned on the cattle He granted them; your god is one god, so submit to Him, and give good news to the humble ones. (22:35) They are those whose hearts tremble when God is mentioned, and those who endure [with patience] what afflicts them; and those who regularly observe their ritual prayer, and donate [part] of what We granted them. (22:36) We have made sacrificial animals (al Butna) one of God’s rituals. There is in them some benefit for you. Therefore, mention God’s name upon them when they stand in line (waiting for sacrifice), and when they lay on their sides (when they are sacrificed); eat from them and feed those who do not dare to admit that they are in need, as well as beggars. It is why we submitted them for you, so you can demonstrate your appreciation. (22:37) It is not their meat, nor their blood that reaches God; on the contrary, it is your piety that reaches Him. It is why we submitted them to you, for you to magnify God for having guided you; and give good news to people who work righteousness.
God cannot be more clear: There is a specific ritual in Islam to slaughter animals:
(22:34) And to each nation, we have prescribed a ritual [of sacrifice], so that the name of God be mentioned on the cattle He granted them;…
22:36 indicates that God’s name shall be mentioned (at least) twice on the animals in the sacrifice during the Hajj:
- When they stand in line waiting for the sacrifice.
- At the moment they are slaughtered, that is to say when they are laid on their sides in that effect.
Mentioning “God’s name” is self explanatory; we say literally “Bismillah” (in the name of God).
22:36-37 clarifies that the purpose of the sacrifice has nothing to do with meat and blood as such; it is a way for believers to demonstrate their piety by sharing their food with poor people. Only the believers’ piety reaches God, certainly not the sacrifice in itself. The other purpose of the sacrifice is described in the next section:
We need to go back to the sacrifice offered by Abraham mentioned in the Bible and the Quran to fully understand what exact slaughtering method is outlined in the Quran when it is said that animals are “laid on their sides”, and why the animal sacrifice during the Hajj was originally instituted.
There are important differences between the Biblical and Quranic account of the story. The Quran always prevails when it comes to historical truth and we will focus on the common points between the two stories and the message of the Quran.
(Genesis 22:9) And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. (22:10) And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. (22:11) And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said: “Abraham, Abraham”; and he replied: “Here am I”. (22:12) And he said: “Do not lay your hand upon the boy; do not do anything to him: for now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (22:13) And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind him a ram caught by its horns in a thicket: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
The Quran rectifies the historical truth that Ishmael, Abraham’s only son at the time, was the child being sacrificed. The Biblical account confirms it clearly as well despite the obvious manipulation of the text because the child is called Abraham’s “only son” several times in Genesis 22. It is a Biblical fact that Ishmael is Abraham’s first born (Genesis 16:4); it is out of pure jealousy that the children of Israel manipulated God’s revelation. Jewish and Christians have historically rejected this by claiming that Ishmael was an illegitimate child, a great blaspheme. God will eventually show them the truth on the Day of Judgment. Furthermore, only ignorant people can believe that a child can be illegitimate as there is no such thing as an illegitimate child in the eyes of God. We Muslims know full well from the Quran that Ishmael was a noble prophet of God and Abraham’s first born. God’s word is on our side.
(37:102) And when he (Ishmael in the Quranic context) reached the age to work with him, he said: “O my son, verily, I saw in the dream that I am slaughtering you offering a sacrifice. Look what you see.” He answered: “O my father, do what is commanded to you, you will find me, God willing, obedient.” (37:103) And when they had both submitted, he made him prostrate on the forehead. (37:104) And this is when We called him: “O Abraham!” (37:105) “You have fulfilled the dream.” This is how We recompense people who work righteousness. (37:106) Verily, that was an exacting trial. (37:107) And we forgave him by substituting a sublime sacrifice.
The Quran rectifies that Abraham made Ishmael prostrate himself with the intention to slit his throat: The verb “zabaha” (ذبح) in 37:102 means “to slit the throat” during a sacrifice. The same root is found in 37:107 where we find the word “sacrifice” (ذبح = zibih) which implies by definition that an animal was sacrificed by slitting its throat.
It is why Abraham specifically slit the throat of the ram (referring to the animal mentioned in 22:13) that God offered him to expiate his sin. The Quran and the Bible agree perfectly that an angel called Abraham to stop him and save Ishmael.
Cutting the throat (the jugular veins and arteries are severed) creates a catastrophic oxygen deficit in the brain of the animal, and since the spinal cord is not severed, the brain can still send a signal to the heart to pump as much blood as possible to attempt to compensate the lack of oxygen. It is for this reason that the blood is almost completely evacuated from the animal’s body.
Several studies have shown that the meat sacrificed according to the Muslim ritual is more proper for consumption because blood contains toxins and is an ideal environment for bacteria proliferation. Less blood means fewer toxins and fewer bacteria, which extends the product’s shelf life.
Islam is a religion of mercy and if God did submit animals to us for them to be sacrificed (22:37), we must do everything we can to prevent any animal from suffering physically and mentally: It is the strong message of verse 5:3 which shows that the meat of an animal who suffered before its death is forbidden in Islam:
(5:3) The only prohibitions there are upon you [regarding your dietary system] are carrions, the blood, pork meat, what has been dedicated to other than God, [any animal] that has been strangled to death, killed by a violent blow, died falling from a height, gored, or [partially] eaten by a wild animal, unless you slaughtered it yourself, and what you sacrificed on stone altars;…
The animal has to be laid down softly on its side before the sacrifice, while the name of God is mentioned; the blade must be kept out of its sight.
Slaughtering an animal can seem horrible to some people; Scientific studies* proved that the Muslim sacrifice minimizes greatly or avoids any suffering when it is done properly. The animal loses consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds.
* Studies conducted by Wilhelm Schulze in 1978 at the Veterinarian School of Hanover and by the Doctor Pouillade in 2008 for the French Food and Drug Administration.
God allows Abraham to atone for his sin
وفدينه بذبح عظيم
(37:107) And we forgave him by substituting a sublime sacrifice.
The Quran never says that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice hos first son Ismael. If Abraham did demonstrate an immense faith and submission to God by being ready to sacrifice his only son thinking that God had commanded it to him, he had actually grossly misinterpreted God's dream which was in reality a test to see if if he was going to resort to sound judgment: Absolute submission to God cannot be separated from sound judgment, and it was thus “a manifest trial” which Abraham mistakenly interpreted as a divine command to sacrifice his son. God would never ask anyone to perform a human sacrifice, as the Quran states that killing a human being for no valid reason is like killing the entire mankind (5:32). Therefore, He never inspired to Abraham such a horrendous thing as killing his own son, an innocent child.
Depending on the context, the verb fadâ (فدي) in 37:107 means to expiate from a sin by paying a compensation (37:107, 57:15), substitute or compensate (2:196), or pay a ransom in exchange of someone (2:85, 47:4), for instance when someone is kidnapped, or to exchange prisoners.
God manifested His infinite Mercy by commanding to the angel to prevent Abraham from committing an irreparable mistake, and by offering an animal to be sacrificed instead of Ishmael to allow him to expiate symbolically for such a terrible error in interpretation.
Abraham offering a ram to replace Ishmael out of God’s Mercy has established a precedent for the human race and served as the point of departure for the institution of the atoning sacrifice during the Hajj, which is designed to feed the poor (22:36). Every pilgrim or any person who cannot perform the Hajj in person (2:196) is given a chance to atone symbolically for his sins: This is the profound meaning of the sublime sacrifice that takes place on the way to the Sacred Masjid during the Hajj (22:33) and mentioned in the Quran (the sacrifice currently takes place at the entrance of Mecca in Mina, or other places on the territory of Mecca, which is perfectly fine as long as it is "on the way to the Sacred Masjid" per 22:33).
Remark: The so called “symbolical stoning of satan” in Mina practiced in Sunni and Shia Islam is not mentioned in the fully detailed Quran and is therefore a satanic innovation to distract pilgrims from the real meaning of the pilgrimage.
Is it possible to eat meat that was not sacrificed according to the Quranic ritual?
Let us cite the beginning of sura 5 (verses 1 to 5) to fully understand the context:
(5:1) O you who believe! Keep your commitments; All four-legged animals are lawful for you, except what is recited to you; you are not allowed to hunt when you are in a state of Ihram. Verily, God decrees whatever He wants. (5:2) O you who believe! Do not transgress God’s rituals, nor the sacred month, nor the sacrificial animals, nor the garlands, nor those who come to the Sacred House and seek their Lord’s blessings and agreement. Once you have accomplished the sacred rituals, then (only you can) hunt. And do not let the hatred you have towards the people who have barred you from the Sacred Mosque incite you to transgress. Exhort each other in matters of righteousness and piety, but do not exhort each other when it comes to sin and transgression. And fear God; verily, God is stern in punishment. (5:3) The only prohibitions there are upon you [regarding your dietary system] are carrions, the blood, pork meat, what has been dedicated to other than God, [any animal] that has been strangled to death, killed by a violent blow, died falling from a height, gored, or [partially] eaten by a wild animal, unless you slaughtered it yourself, and what you sacrificed on stone altars; any partition [of meat] raffling arrows is a sacrilege. Today, those who disbelieved in your religion have given away any hope [of destroying you]; then do not fear them: Fear Me! This day, I have perfected your religion, and completed My grace upon you, and I have decreed for you Islam as a religion. But whoever is forced because of hunger without any desire to transgress, then God is forgiver, Merciful. (5:4) They ask you what is lawful for them; Say: “All good things are lawful for you; you taught [your] hunting animals, and you teach them what God taught you; then eat what they catch for you, and mention God’s name thereof; fear God! Verily, God is swift in settling the accounts. (5:5) Today, all good things are lawful for you; the food of those to whom the book was given is lawful for you as well; your food is also lawful for them; likewise, chaste women among the believers, and chaste women among those who received the book before you [are also lawful], provided that you have given them their dowry, as long as they are chaste and not debauchee or unfaithful. Whoever rejects faith will have nullified all his good deeds: He will be among the losers in the hereafter.
We saw that God decreed a ritual to slaughter animals:
(22:34) And to each nation, we have prescribed a ritual [of sacrifice], so that the name of God be mentioned on the cattle He granted them;…
The example of the Quran is always the best example, and the sacrifice during the hajj explains in detail the ritual to slaughter animals. Blood (that is not caught within the meat) is forbidden, and the Islamic ritual is meant to minimize the quantity of blood left inside the animal.
This said, it is absolutely critical not to invent false prohibitions in Islam because it is tantamount to idol worship (4:60, 42:21), the most grievous sin. God made Islam a religion easy to practice and verse 5:5 shows us that the food of the people of the book is lawful for us.
People of the book are Jewish and Christians. Jewish people have a sacrificial ritual almost identical to ours, and it makes perfect sense that that their food is lawful for us.
On the other hand, Christians do not have any ritual to sacrifice animals that evacuates blood effectively like in the Jewish or Islamic ritual. Nevertheless, their food is lawful for us according to the Quran, and it is God’s mercy to make the religion easy for us. God controls everything, and if they had sacrificed animals, they would most likely have used a trinitarian blessing, which would have made their food forbidden for us. God wants believers among the “People of the Book” (Muslims, Jews and Christians) to live in harmony despite their differences; it is what is reflected in Quranic laws.
From a practical standpoint, it is clear that Muslims should preferably eat meat that has been sacrificed according to the Muslim ritual whenever it is possible. Lots of Muslims who live in the Western world do not always have that option; it is then possible for them to buy meat in any grocery store.
It is then always possible to let the meat sit on a layer of salt (for example), which will absorb most of the remaining blood.
By extension, Muslims can go to pretty much any restaurant in a Jewish or Christian society, and live a normal life.
When it comes to non Jewish or Christian societies, a Muslim should in my opinion be more careful since meat sacrificed in the name of idols is forbidden. In most cases, no name will have been mentioned when an animal was slaughtered; we then have to make sure that the method used to slaughter animals is not painful as the meat would then be forbidden (5:3). In any case, God forgives us if we suffer from hunger or in other unspecified cases if we are forced to eat something forbidden without being malicious (2:173, 6:145, 16:115).
The most important point regarding dietary prohibitions is summarized in the following verse:
(6:118) Eat, then, from that over which God’s name has been mentioned upon if you believe in His verses.
Whether an animal was sacrificed in the name of God or not, or if it contains more or less blood, the most important is always to mention God’s name when we eat or drink.
The Quran is fully detailed and a detail that shows that food from Christian societies in general is authorized out of mercy to make life easier for us is the fact that God forbids specifically “pork meat” and not pork in general. Lots of restaurants cook with pork fat and lots of Muslims would be in a difficult situation at work when there is a business lunch or dinner, or in their daily lives. Again, God made religion easy for us and His mercy is immense.
In a similar fashion, products like shoes or clothes may contain products derived from pork, and they are thus not forbidden.
Islam will become the primary religion on earth in the near future, God willing; it is up to Muslims throughout the world to insist upon the fact that meat sacrificed according to the Islamic ritual may become the norm, wherever there are enough Muslims to make it possible.
God established a ritual to sacrifice animals (22:34).
The Quran describes a very specific ritual of sacrifice during the Hajj (22:34). It is this example that established the norm for the Muslim society.
The purpose of the sacrifice has nothing to do with the blood or the meat that has been sacrificed (22:36-37): Only the believers’ piety and generosity reaches God.
God’s name shall to be mentioned at the time an animal is sacrificed (22:34, 22:36), and at the time we eat (6:118).
The sacrifice is done by slitting the throat and without cutting the spinal cord, as the Quran tells us with the sacrifice performed by Abraham.
Several studies proved that the Islamic method of slaughtering is less painful for animals than those in place in the western world.
The method of slaughtering in traditional Islam does not contradict the Quranic ritual as long as God alone is mentioned upon the animal (“Bismillah” specifically) and that the throat is slit. Only Quranic verses or sentences should be recited; no hadith or sunna shall be part of the slaughtering ritual.
The consumption of blood (as such) is forbidden in Islam, and the Quranic ritual minimizes greatly the quantity of blood left after the slaughter.
The blood contains toxins; meat that contains blood has a shorter shelf life. It is less safe than meat sacrificed according to the Islamic ritual. God established what is best for the human race.
“Halal meat” is not a correct expression in Islam since the meat of Jews and Christians is also “Halal” (authorized), as well as their food in general, except the pork meat.
A correct expression will be for instance: “Animal slaughtered according to the Islamic ritual”.
The fact that food prepared by Christians is authorized shows that if a there is a larger quantity of blood left in the meat, it is not forbidden, as long as no name other than God is mentioned upon the animal when it is slaughtered. There will always remain some blood anyway regardless of which slaughtering method is used; the Islamic ritual only minimizes it.
God designed Islam as a religion easy to practice and He wants to reunite people despite their differences. It is one of the core messages behind the fact that food prepared by the people of the book (Jews and Christians) is authorized.
Whenever possible, Muslims need to follow the ritual to slaughter animals described in the Quran, even if God gave us alternatives.
The most important is for each and every one of us not to forget to mention God’s name whenever we eat, whether our food contains any meat or not (6:118), and whether the meat was sacrificed or not.