By: M. Tariq Miskin
The confusion regarding halal meat is not a new phenomenon, and due to the lack of knowledge on what exactly halal means, it has led to the rise in misinformation among non-muslims regarding halal certification, which is primarily intended for the benefit of Muslims. Halal essentially means “permissible”, which includes food as well as all actions and deeds which are made permissible by Allah, and almost every Muslim knows the difference between haram and halal food. But why do we have to eat only halal food? What are the benefits of eating halal?
Allah mentions in the Qu’ran;
“Therefore, eat of that on which Allah’s name has been mentioned if you are believers in His verses.” (Qur’an 6:118)
This verse clearly indicates that Allah has decreed when it comes to eating meat items, we have to consume slaughtered meat on which Allah’s name has been mentioned. Therefore, Allah has given permission for us to eat meat which is slaughtered in His name.
Allah also goes on to say;
“Do not eat anything over which the name of Allah has not been mentioned. To do so is abomination. The Satans inspire their friends to dispute with you. If you obeyed them, you would then be idolaters.” (Qur’an 6:121)
Thus it is clear that it is a major sin to eat meat which has not been slaughtered in the halal method (i.e. mentioning Allah’s name before slaughtering and following proper procedure). Furthermore, it is not permissible to eat meat on which Allah’s name has not been mentioned even if the slaughtering was done by a Muslim.
By these two ayahs alone we can clearly see the importance of halal food for us Muslims. But Allah’s guidance regarding anything is not without reason. There is infinite wisdom to Allah’s words in the Qur’an. Consequently, we can assume that meat slaughtered in the halal method has also other benefits.
What is the Halal way of slaughter?
Halal meat when compared to other meat, gives us many health benefits. First of all, if implemented the proper way, halal slaughtering is very sanitary, safe and a humane method of slaughtering animals. To be slaughtered in the Islamic way, the animal has have led a pure, healthy life. It should have been treated humanely during its lifetime with no mistreatment or causing of any pain in any way possible. It should not have been restricted in its movement, and should have been given fresh air to breath. It should have been treated for any diseases during its lifetime, fed a healthy feed and clean water, given the proper immunization etc. Even during the sacrifice, the animal should never be slaughtered in front of other animals and the procedure should be as less painful for the animal as possible. Even the knife should not be shown to the animal until the moment of sacrifice. Therefore, the whole procedure is done in such a way that it is one of the most humane methods of slaughtering.
For example, it has been shown that the Islamic method of slaughtering is much less painful than other methods such as captive bolt stunning, which is the most common method used in the western world. For instance, a study using EEG electrodes on sheep conducted by Wilhelm Schulze at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Germany in 1978 concluded that if carried properly, the halal method and kosher method of slaughter is painless for the animal. Also in 2008, the French Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fishing published a report which essentially summarized that the religious methods of slaughter (halal and kosher etc.) is equal or even superior to other methods of slaughter. It is concluded in these reports that the religious slaughter causes less stress and trauma to the animal in comparison to other methods.
What’s so special about Halal slaughter?
The halal method incorporates the slitting of the carotid artery and the jugular vein in the neck of the animal with a sharp knife. Since the spinal cord is left intact the neural connection between the brain and the heart is not disrupted and the heart keeps pumping blood until all the blood is drained from the animal. This rapid loss of blood from the body makes the animal lose consciousness fast. Therefore, the animal feels almost no pain.
Moreover, in the halal method, the blood of an animal, which may carry toxins, bacteria, viruses and parasites, is completely drained. Therefore, the meat is less likely to be contaminated by deadly pathogens unlike other methods and is considered more hygienic. Due to halal meat containing less germs it may even have a longer shelf life and can be more durable than other meats.
Two basic principles of religion are:
- Halal – which Allah and His Messenger have permitted
- Haram – which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden
Allah says in the Quran:
“And this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.” (6:153)
It is evident that Allah has forbidden or made permissible certain things with good reason. Even though, it might not be apparent for us all the time, with his infinite wisdom Allah has commanded us to lead a healthy life, mainly because a healthy person is able to worship and carry out Allah’s commandments better than a sick person. Thus it is advantageous for all of us to eat and drink from that which Allah has made permissible so that we may gain the benefits not only in this world but also the hereafter as well. Inshallah.