Dhabīḥah (or zabiha, Arabic: ذَبِيْحَة dhabīḥah IPA: [ðæˈbiːħɐ], 'slaughter'(noun)) is, in Islamic law, the prescribed method of ritual slaughter of all lawful halal animals (goats, sheep, cows, chicken) excluding locusts, fish, and most sea-life. Unlawful animals like pigs, dogs, lions, bears, etc. are not allowed to be slaughtered or zabihah. This method of slaughtering lawful animals has several conditions to be fulfilled. The butcher must be Muslim, the name of God or "In the name of God" (Bismillah) must be called by the butcher upon slaughter of each halal animal separately, and it should consist of a swift, deep incision with a very sharp knife on the throat, cutting the wind pipe, jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides but leaving the spinal cord intact.[1]

The precise details of the slaughtering method arise from Islamic tradition educated by Muhammad, himself. It is used to comply with the conditions stated in the Quran:

Forbidden for you are carrion, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that which has been slaughtered while proclaiming the name of any other than God, and one killed by strangling, and one killed with blunt weapons, and one which died by falling, and that which was gored by the horns of some animal, and one eaten by a wild beast, except those whom you slaughter; and that which is slaughtered at the altar and that which is distributed by the throwing of arrows [for an omen]; this is an act of sin.

Slaughtering process

The slaughtering process referred to as dhabīḥah is regulated by a set of rules intended to ensure the health of the animal to be slaughtered and conformance to Islamic religious law, which is derived from the Quran and hadiths.

Relevant verses of the Quran

The following verses of the Quran mention the items which are forbidden to be eaten in Islam; however other have cited many other reasons that discourage the consumption of blood, pork, and carrion.[2][3][4][5]

"He has only forbidden you what dies of itself, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that over which any other (name) than (that of) Allah has been invoked; but whoever is driven to necessity, not desiring, nor exceeding the limit, no sin shall be upon him; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."
Qurʼan, Surah 2 (al-Baqarah), ayah 173[6]
"Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful."
Qurʼan, Surah 5 (al-Maʼidah), ayah 3[7]
"This day (all) the good things are allowed to you; and the food of those who have been given the Book is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them; and the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); when you have given them their dowries, taking (them) in marriage, not fornicating nor taking them for paramours in secret; and whoever denies faith, his work indeed is of no account, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers. "
Qurʼan, Surah 5 (al-Maʼidah), ayah 5[8]
"Therefore eat of that on which Allah's name has been mentioned if you are believers in His communications."
Qurʼan, Surah 6 (al-Anʻam), ayah 118[9]
Say: I do not find in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden for an eater to eat of except that it be what has died of itself, or blood poured forth, or flesh of swine-- for that surely is unclean-- or that which is a transgression, other than (the name of) Allah having been invoked on it; but whoever is driven to necessity, not desiring nor exceeding the limit, then surely your Lord is Forgiving, Merciful."
Qurʼan , Surah 6 (al-Anʻam), ayah 145[10]
"He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit] - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."
Qurʼan, Surah 16 (an-Nahl), ayah 115[11]


According to the laws of dhabīḥah ḥalāl, certain prerequisites must be met before an animal is slaughtered:

5:3 "Forbidden for you are carrion, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that which has been slaughtered while proclaiming the name of any other than God, and one killed by strangling, and one killed with blunt weapons, and one which died by falling, and that which was gored by the horns of some animal, and one eaten by a wild beast, except those whom you slaughter; and that which is slaughtered at the altar and that which is distributed by the throwing of arrows [for an omen]; this is an act of sin." —– al-Maʼidah 5:3 "Eat not of that (meat) on which Allah's name has not been pronounced." [al-Anʻam 6:121] Thus an animal slaughtered by a Christian who did not mention anything at the time of slaughter would be permissible to some, while other scholars would hold it impermissible.

Islamic slaughtering

A ritual slaughter in Esna, Egypt in 1926.

The act of slaughtering itself is preceded by mentioning the name of God. Invoking the name of God at the moment of slaughtering is sometimes interpreted as acknowledgment of God's right over all things and thanking God for the sustenance he provides: it is a sign the food is taken not in sin or in gluttony, but to survive and praise Allah, as the most common blessing is, "Bismillah," or "In the name of God".

Thus the slaughter itself is preceded by the words "In the name of Allah (Bismillah)". It is not regarded appropriate to use the phrase "Bismillah al Raḥmān Al Raḥīm" (In the name of God the Beneficent the Merciful) in this situation, because slaughtering is an act of subdual rather than mercy.

According to Islamic tradition, the animal is brought to the place of slaughter and laid down gently so as to not injure it. It is Sunnah but not Fard that the head of the animal be facing the Qiblah.[14] The blade must be kept hidden until the very last moment while the jugular of the animal is felt. The conventional method used to slaughter the animal involves cutting the large arteries in the neck along with the esophagus and vertebrate trachea with one swipe of a non-serrated blade. Care must be taken that the nervous system is not damaged, as this may cause the animal to die before exsanguination has taken place. During the swipe of the blade, the head must not be decapitated. While blood is draining, the animal is not handled until it has died. While this is an acceptable method, the Egyptian Fatwaa Committee has agreed that an animal can be rendered insensible to pain via electronarcosis and still be halal.[15] It's also important to note that these guidelines also respect the laws in place by the United States government to allow the practice to be permissible in the United States.

It is also compulsory that each animal must be slaughtered individually and in seclusion. In a poultry farm or slaughter house, one animal must not witness another animal being slaughtered.[16]

This method adheres to Islamic law (it ensures the animal does not die by any of the Haraam methods) and helps to effectively drain blood from the animal. This may be important because the consumption of blood itself is forbidden in Islam;[Quran 2:173] however, it is not clear that bleeding the animal removes all traces of blood from the carcass, so the meat may remain unclean. In fact it is stated by Islamic authorities that it is only necessary to drain "most" of the blood from the animal.[17]

Inducing unconsciousness

Stunning the animal with a bolt-gun, as is the standard practice in USDA FSIS inspected slaughtering houses, may cause instant death. Muslims regard meat from such a slaughter to be haraam, considering such meat as carrion.

It is for these reasons that there are ongoing questions and conversations within the North American Muslim community as to whether meat processed in these slaughter houses meets the standard of "halal" (as opposed to dhabīḥah). At center of this debate is the doubt as to whether this meat could qualify under the allowed category of the food of the People of the Book (Jewish and Christians). The first consideration being that standard slaughtering methods could cause the animal to die in a way other than slaughter (death through exsanguination).

Debate continues among Muslim jurists and the general Muslim population about whether or not stunning, anesthetics, or other forms of inducing unconsciousness in the animal prior to slaughter are permissible per Islam. Several halal food authorities have more recently permitted the use of a recently developed fail-safe system of head-only stunning where the shock is less painful and non-fatal and where it is possible to reverse the procedure and revive the animal after the shock.[18]


According to the British Halal Food Authority, stunning is permissible. However, there are different forms of stunning; some of which are prohibited, and some are permitted. According to the HFA, the following are prohibited:

There are two types of stunning that the Halal Food Authority approves:

Controversies on animal welfare

Opponents of dhabīḥah ḥalāl, most notably some animal welfare groups, contend that some methods of slaughter "cause severe suffering to animals" compared to when the animal is stunned before slaughter, which is why the Egyptian Fatwaa Committee has agreed to the electronarcosis. In the United Kingdom, the government funded an independent advisory body Farm Animal Welfare Council but recommended that conventional dhabīḥah (along with kosher slaughter (sheḥitah)) without prior stunning be abolished. The FAWC chairwoman of the time, Dr Judy MacArthur Clark, said, "This is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn't suffer is quite ridiculous." According to Dr Peter Jinman, president of the British Veterinary Association, vets are "looking at what is acceptable in the moral and ethical society we live."[24] Muslims counter this by referring to the problems connected with stunning and the benefits of slaughter without stunning.[25]

It is argued that this method of slaughter without prior stunning leaves the spinal cord, and thus the capacity to feel pain until death, intact.[26]

The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council says that the method by which kosher and halal meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals and it should be banned immediately.[27] According to FAWC it can take up to two minutes for cattle to bleed to death, thus amounting to animal abuse. Compassion in World Farming also supported the recommendation saying "We believe that the law must be changed to require all animals to be stunned before slaughter."[28][29] The UK government rejected its recommendations.[30]

Various research papers on cattle slaughter collected by Compassion In World Farming mention that "after the throat is cut, large clots can form at the severed ends of the carotid arteries, leading to occlusion of the wound (or "ballooning" as it is known in the slaughtering trade). Nick Cohen wrote in the New Statesman, "Occlusions slow blood loss from the carotids and delay the decline in blood pressure that prevents the suffering brain from blacking out. In one group of calves, 62.5 per cent suffered from ballooning. Even if the cut to the neck is clean, blood is carried to the brain by vertebral arteries and it keeps cattle conscious of their pain.[31] "Experiments carried out by the principal of the Swedish Veterinary Institute (Veterinärhögskolan) by order of the Swedish government in 1925 and published in 1928 determined that the blood carried to the brain by the vertebral arteries in bovines is reduced after slaughter by the Jewish method shehitah from 1/30 to 1/40, and on the basis of this and one other experiment Professor Axel Sahlstedt declared the method humane and not cruel. However, on the basis of other experiments that had showed different results, Sahlstedt recommended post-stunning as standard.[32]

However, in a study between 1974 and 1978 Wilhelm Schulze and his colleagues carried out a study at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover University in Germany: "Attempts to Objectify Pain and Consciousness in Conventional (captive bolt pistol stunning) and Ritual (knife) Methods of Slaughtering Sheep and Calves"[33] is reported on Islamic websites[34][35] to have concluded that "the Islamic way of slaughtering is the most humane method of slaughter and that captive bolt stunning, practiced in the West, causes severe pain to the animal." However, recent studies have countered the Schulze study, which is dated and relied on older EEG measurement techniques. Dr. Schulze himself also warned in his report that the stunning technique may not have functioned properly.[36]

Halal and kosher butchers deny that their method of killing animals is cruel and expressed anger over the FAWC recommendation,.[37] Majid Katme of the Muslim Council of Britain also disagreed, stating that "it's a sudden and quick haemorrhage. A quick loss of blood pressure and the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain."[38]

In April 2008, the Food and Farming minister in the UK, Lord Rooker, stated that halal and kosher meat should be labeled when it is put on sale, so that members of the public can decide whether or not they want to buy food from animals that have been bled to death. He was quoted as saying, "I object to the method of slaughter ... my choice as a customer is that I would want to buy meat that has been looked after, and slaughtered in the most humane way possible." The RSPCA supported Lord Rooker's views.[39]

For the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Humane Society International, "the animals that are slaughtered according to kosher and halal should be securely restrained, particularly the head and neck, before cutting the throat" as "movements (during slaughter) results in a poor cut, bad bleeding, slow loss of consciousness, if at all, and pain."[40]

In Europe, the DIALREL project addressed religious slaughter issues by gathering and disseminating information and by encouraging dialogue between the spiritual and scientific communities.[41] Funding for DIALREL was provided by The European Commission, and it began functioning in November 2006. DIALREL produced many fact sheets and ultimately published a final report in 2010, "Report on good and adverse practices - Animal welfare concerns in relation to slaughter practices from the viewpoint of veterinary sciences."

Certain Muslim and Jewish communities expressed frustration with the process of dialogue skewed for non-religious audiences.[42]

Research undertaken in 2010 by Meat & Livestock Australia on animal pain and distress concluded, "technologies available to alleviate such suffering overwhelmingly supports the use of pre-slaughter stunning".[43]

In 2015, in the United Kingdom, concern has been expressed regarding the slaughtering of animals without prior stunning.[44][45]

Ritual slaughter in other religions

Followers of some religions are prohibited from consuming meat slaughtered in the fashion described above. The Rehat Maryada of Sikhism states that in Sikhism, "consumption of any meat killed in a ritualistic manner" is strictly prohibited, therefore prohibiting both halal and kosher meat.


There are many similarities between the rules concerning dhabihah and shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter. The word dhabihah is linguistically similar to the Hebrew term זבח zevaḥ (sacrifice).

Muslims are divided as to whether or not Jewish slaughter suffices as a replacement for Islamic dhabihah halal. Some claim that Jewish slaughter leaves out the takbīr (saying "God is great") and changes the method of slaughter; thus, their meat is haraam. Others claim that the slaughtering processes are similar enough in practice and in theory to render animals slaughtered by Jewish laws as halal.

Jeremiah J Berman wrote in 1941: "At the present day in most of the Islamic world Muslims purchase Jewish meat, though they will not buy Christian meat. This is true in Istanbul, Beirut, Jerusalem and Mogador. Contemporary Muslims in these cities consider Jewish slaughtering as fulfilling all the requirements of their law, while they regard the slaughtering performed by Christians as done in contravention thereof. In Yemen ... Jewish meat is not acceptable." Berman also reports that Jewish meat slaughtered in Salonica (Thessaloniki) was not acceptable to Muslims.[46]

To be kosher, fit for consumption by those of the Jewish faith, meat must be slaughtered by a Jewish shohet who holds a licence from a rabbi and has been examined on the laws of shechitah. This alone means that halal meat is forbidden to those of the Jewish faith. The requirements for the shape of the knife are more severe, the knife must be free from a single nick and the method of cutting is exactly defined. In addition there is an inspection of the lungs (bedikah) that mammals must pass, which Muslims do not have.[46]

See also


  1. [Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, "The Islamic Laws of Animal Slaughter", White Thread Publishers, CA, USA]
  2. "Why Pork and Blood are Forbidden in Islam - a Scientific Explanation". IslamReligion.com. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  3. "Why is Pig Haraam in Islam?". The Muslim Voice. 17 May 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  4. Laher, Sidi Suheil (13 January 2008). "Why is pork meat forbidden in Islam?". askMuslims.com. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  5. "The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam – Part 4". The Review of Religions. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  6. Quran 2:173
  7. Quran 5:3
  8. Quran 5:5
  9. Quran 6:118
  10. Quran 6:145
  11. Quran 16:115
  12. World faiths, Teach yourself - Islam by Ruqaiyyah Maqsood. ISBN 0-340-60901-X. Page 168
  13. Egyptian fatwa Committee, 18 December 1978, "The Opinions of the Ulema on the Permissibility of Stunning Animals", Organic Halal Meat., 1978
  14. http://islamqa.info/en/118435
  15. Egyptian fatwa Committee, December 18th 1978, "The Opinions of the Ulema on the Permissibility of Stunning Animals", Organic Halal Meat., 1978
  16. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2603360/Horror-halal-slaughterhouse-Shocking-undercover-film-shows-needless-suffering-livestock-butchered-without-stunned-first.html
  17. Dr. Abdul Majid Katme (September 18–19, 1986), An Assessment of the Muslim Method of Slaughter, presented at the UFAW Symposium on Humane Slaughter and Euthanasia, held at the Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park
  18. Masood Khawaja (6 October 2001). "Definition of Halal". Halal Food Authority. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  19. http://www.upc-online.org/slaughter/101608thedeath.html
  20. http://halalfoodauthority.com/faq
  21. http://www.grandin.com/humane/elec.stunning.cattle.html
  22. Sam Jones, 6 March 2014, "Halal, shechita and the politics of animal slaughter", The Guardian,” 2014
  23. Egyptian Fatwa Committee, 18 December 1978, "The Opinions of the Ulema on the Permissibility of Stunning Animals", Organic Halal Meat.', 1978
  24. "Halal and Kosher slaughter 'must end'". BBC News. 10 June 2003.
  25. ASIDCOM report. Benefits of Religious Slaughter
  26. Coghlan, Andy (13 October 2009). "Animals feel the pain of religious slaughter". New Scientist. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  27. Hickman, Martin (22 June 2009). "End 'cruel' religious slaughter, say scientists". The Independent. London.
  28. BBC: Should Halal and Kosher meat be banned?
  29. BBC: Halal and Kosher slaughter "must end"
  30. "Slaughter without pre-stunning (for religious purposes)" (PDF). RSPCA. February 2015. p. 2. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  31. Cohen, Nick (5 July 2004). "God's own chosen meat". New Statesman. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  32. "Some Attempts to Obtain, by Means of Physiological Experiments, an Objective Basis for an Opinion as to the Cruelty Alleged to Be Attendant on the Jewish Ritual Method of Slaughtering Cattle" by Professor A. V. Sahlstedt, Principal of the Veterinary Institute, Stockholm. (Abstract from 3 Nordiske, Veterinärmöte Oslo, 11 July 1928
  33. Schulze W, Schultze-Petzold H, Hazem AS, Gross R. Experiments for the objectification of pain and consciousness during conventional (captive bolt stunning) and religiously mandated ("ritual cutting") slaughter procedures for sheep and calves. Deutsche Tierärztliche Wochenschrift 1978 Feb 5;85(2):62-6. (English translation by Sahib Mustaqim Bleher) (German)
  34. The Halal Slaughter Controversy: Do Animal Rights activists protect the sheep or the Butcher? by Sahib Mustaqim Bleher www.mustaqim.co.uk
  35. Is Islamic Slaughtering Cruel to Animals? By Dr. Aisha El-Awady, IslamOnline.net 2 February 2003 Archived 16 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  36. Andy Coghlan (13 October 2009). "Animals feel the pain of religious slaughter". New Scientist.
  37. Halal and Kosher slaughter 'must end' BBC News. 10 June 2003. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  38. Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time, HarperPress, 2006, p.167 ISBN 0-00-723245-4
  39. CIWF Halal and kosher meat should not be slipped in to food chain, says minister
  40. Guideline for Humane Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Livestock, Religious or ritual slaughter, ["?"http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/X6909E/x6909e00.HTM "?"]. "?"
  41. DIALREL Website, Encouraging Dialogue on issues of Religious Slaughter
  42. ASIDCOM (3 March 2010). "Interview with Dr. Joe M. Regenstein : "A live worth living"". ASIDCOM.
  43. Pleiter, Helmut (February 2010). "Review of Stunning and Halal Slaughter" (PDF). Meat & Livestock Australia. ISBN 9781741915730. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  44. Troup Bachanan, Rose (3 February 2015). "What is halal meat and why is it controversial?". The Independent. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  45. Malik, Shiv (3 February 2015). "Halal slaughterhouse staff investigated over alleged animal cruelty". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  46. 1 2 Jeremiah J. Berman, Shehitah (1941)

Further reading

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