HALAL & HEALTHY: ZABIHA OR NON ZABIHA
Two Scholorly Opinions
Amongst North American Muslims, there are two predominant views about Zabiha meat. Below, we have provided explanations from scholars representing each view.
The late scholars Syed Abul A’la Maududi and Al Phahim Jobe both argue that the meat must be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic guidelines.
Scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi argues that the meat of the Jews and Christians (called the ‘People of the Book’) is acceptable for Muslims to eat.
Below are the two views.
ONLY ZABIHA MEAT MUST BE CONSUMED
1.Opinion of Syed Abul A’la Maududi
(On a discussion about Quran 5:5): “The food of the People of the Book includes the animals slaughtered by them. The rule that ‘our food is lawful to them and theirs lawful to us’ signifies that there need be no barriers between us and the People of the Book regarding food.
We may eat with them and they with us. But this general proclamation of permission is preceded by a reiteration of the statement: ‘All good things have been made lawful to you.’ This indicates that if the People of the Book either do not observe those principles of cleanliness and purity which are considered obligatory by the Law or if their food includes prohibited items, then one should abstain from eating them.
If, for instance, they either slaughter an animal without pronouncing the name of God or if they slaughter it in the name of anyone else but God it is not lawful for us to eat that animal.
Likewise, if intoxicating drinks, the flesh of swine, and any other prohibited thing is found on their dining table we may not justify our partaking of such items on the ground that the persons concerned are People of the Book.
The same applies to those non-Muslims who are not People of the Book, except for one difference-that whereas the animals slaughtered by the People of the Book are lawful provided they have pronounced the name of God at the time of slaughtering them, we are not permitted to eat the animals killed by non-Muslims who are not People of the Book.”
(Towards Understanding the Quran by Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, Volume 2, Tafseer of Surah Al-Maidah, verse number 5)
2. Opinion of Shaikh Al Phahim Jobe
In response to the question, “is it permitted to eat the supermarket meat? Some people say America is a Christian country, and eating the food of the People of the Book is allowed,” Shaikh Al Phahim answered: “Supermarket meat is not Halal. For the Halal animals meat to be Halal, it has to meet the requirements of slaughter in the Islamic way. This includes invoking Allah’s name before slaughtering it, so that we may remember that all forms of life are sanctified, and we are killing the animal because Allah has given us the right to do so to satisfy our hunger.
Another requirement is that it is slaughtered in a way that most of its blood is drained away.
These principles are derived from the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “Forbidden unto you (for food) are carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, on which has been invoked the name of others than Allah, the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which has been killed by (the goring of) horns, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which you make lawful (by slaughtering)…” (Quran 5:3).
“Eat not (of meats) on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced…” (Quran 6:121).
Ibn Abbas narrates that the Prophet forbade the cutting of the spinal cord of the animal when it is slaughtered (Tabarani).
The second part of the question dealing with the People of the Book also has its answer in the Quran: “this day (all) good things (Tayyabat) are made lawful to you. The food of the people of the Book is lawful for you, and your food is lawful to them.” (Quran 5:5).
It is clear that the food of the Book has to be from among the “Tayyabat”, that means the meat has to meet the Islamic requirements of slaughter as explained in the beginning of my answer.
There are some scholars who are of the view that the supermarket meats are Halal, but their arguments are weak and even they say that the Muslims should try to establish the Islamic way of slaughtering of animals (Zabiha).
I also differ with the statement that America is a Christian country, it is a secular and capitalists nation.”
3. A SIDE NOTE ABOUT “HALAL” MEAT IN NON-MUSLIM COUNTRIES
During a 1997 Islamic Fiqh Academy Meeting, the issue of Zabiha was also brought up.
This is a summary of the discussion.
“The third important topic of discussion was the new methods of slaughtering animals. The meeting discussed which of these new methods are in accordance with Shariah and which are not.
In many Muslim countries, especially in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, meat imported from non-Muslim countries is widely used. The Academy was told by its researchers, based on their personal experience, that the Halal label put on such imported meat is not reliable. The producers exporting this meat from non-Muslim countries to the Muslim countries do not take care to meet the requirements of the Shariah.
Therefore the Academy appealed to the Muslim businessmen that before importing such meat, they should ensure that the slaughter is certified to be performed in accordance with the Shariah, the certification being given by observing Muslims who are knowledgeable about Shariah requirements regarding animal slaughter. The Academy also appealed to the Muslim governments that they should use their embassies in the exporting countries to keep the exporters from using the Halal label without proper Halal certification by reliable Muslim agencies.” (Source: Al-Balagh website)
THE MEAT BY NON MUSLIMS CAN BE EATEN
“Since Allah did not prohibit it, the food of the Jews and the Christians is permitted to you on the basis of the original permissibility of things, and likewise you can share your food with them. Accordingly, you can eat the flesh of the animals they have slaughtered or hunted, and they can eat what you have slaughtered or hunted.” (The Lawful and The Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, page 59).
“The application of the phrase, [part of the verse of the Quran, 5:5] ‘the food of those who were given the Scripture,’ is general and includes their meats, produce, and other foods. All of these are halal for us excepting what is haram in itself, e.g., the flesh of a dead animal, pork, and flowing blood, as these are haram regardless of whether they are obtained from a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim. “ (The Lawful and The Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, page 60)
“If one does not hear from a Christian or a Jew that a name other than Allah’s such as that of Jesus or a saint, was mentioned at the time of slaughter, the meat he offers is halal. If, however, he says that a name other than Allah’s has been mentioned, it is haram, according to the opinion of some jurists who argue that it falls under the heading of what has been dedicated to other than Allah. Some others hold the opinion that the food of the People of the Book has been permitted to us by Allah, Who is aware of what they say when slaughtering an animal.” (The Lawful and The Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, page 60)
“…we know that imported meats, such as chicken and canned beef, originating with the People of the Book are halal for us, even though the animal may have been killed by means of electric shock or the like. As long as they consider it lawful in their religion, it is halal for us. This is the application of the above verse from Surah al-Maidah.” (Sheikh Qaradawi is referring to Quran 5:5) (The Lawful and The Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, page 62)
It should be noted that at a conference of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) in the U.S. a few years ago, where Sheikh Qaradawi is a regular speaker, he became exasperated upon being asked this question. He has encouraged, in the North American context, where Muslim businesses are present, that Muslims buy from these stores as opposed to purchasing from the supermarket.
4 BIG REASONS TO CHOOSE ZABIHA OVER NON-ZABIHA MEAT
Choose what you will, but Zabiha clearly has more advantages over non-Zabiha meat available in supermarkets. Here are some MAJOR reasons why:
1. YOU CAN BE SURE THERE’S NO PORK IN IT
In the last few years, revelations of pork being mixed with meat have surfaced. According to Ahmad Sakr, Professor Emeritus of Food Science and author of “A Muslim Guide to Food Ingredients”, a group of prisoners in San Francisco sued the food industry after discovering this happened to the meat they were being served.
This type of an incident ensures NO Muslim can consume such beef or chicken, for example, which has been mixed with pork, as the consumption of pork is Haram. A more recent and widespread example of this is found in an NBC Dateline consumer investigation report that aired last month. Although in the United States it is illegal to sell “mixed meats” as pure ground beef, the report found it still takes place. This mixing is called adulteration and it is considered a health hazard. Adulteration happens when lamb, poultry, and of special attention to Muslims, pork, are added to and sold as pure ground beef. NBC Dateline went to small supermarkets, large chains and discount stores all over the U.S. that sell food. In each of the ten cities sampled NBC Dateline found supermarkets that failed the ground beef test. Read the whole report at NBC Dateline
2. SUPPORT MUSLIM BUSINESS
Buying Zabiha meat is an almost sure way to support a Muslim business. This way, you’re not only getting your next meal (or meals) by buying straight from a Halal grocery store, but you’re also helping another Muslim gain a livelihood. You’re giving back to the community more than you could if you bought your meat at the nearest supermarket. Today, there are Halal grocery stores in virtually every major city in North America. These were, in most cases, the second type of “institution” established by Muslims on this continent after the mosque. After all, following our need to worship in the house of Allah and gather together in an Islamic atmosphere, what could be as important as eating in accordance with Islamic guidelines, not to mention buying the necessary spices to make Muslim meals from the Middle East and Indian subcontinent? We should be giving them precedence, even if it means driving a little farther out of town, or paying an extra dollar or two for items.
3. ARE YOU SURE IT’S FROM THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK?
And the clincher is this: in today’s farms and slaughterhouses, what guarantee does anyone have that the meat they are eating has been slaughtered by a Jew or a Christian? There is not, to my knowledge, anything in any existing labor code in Canada or the U.S. which allows only Jews and Christians to slaughter meat in “regular” farms and slaughterhouses. That means, it could be ANYONE-Hindu, Sikh, atheist, agnostic, etc. cutting the meat you decide to eat. So the the people whose meat we think we are eating (the Jews and Christians) may not even be directly involved in the slaughter of the meat.
4. ZABIHA IS AGREED UPON
While there are a few scholors who reluctantly allow some type of supermarket meat, all Islamic scholors agree that Zabiha must be preferred and is clear of all doubts.
5 Questions to Ask Your Halal Grocer Making Sure You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth
You may think everything you get from your local Halal grocery shop is as Halal to the tee: Islamically slaughtered, pretty fresh, free of germs, etc. But you may be in for a surprise. Some of the meat sold in smaller Muslim grocery stores may actually be bought from the non-Muslim wholesale market with little connection to Muslim food standards.
Hussain Iftikher is a partner in the company Halal Farms U.S.A., which is marketing products under the name Rehmat Meats in Illinois.
“Most of the people who market Halal products to the mainstream supermarket do not sell Halal products,” he says.
“The [Muslim] store owners would buy 10 to 15 carcasses from me and in most of the cases buy products from American slaughter plants where the cost is a little cheaper,” he explains. “They show the receipt to customers that they are buying [meat certified by] Rehmat Meats but in fact only 10 to 15 percent of the meat is Islamically slaughtered.”
“Muslim consumers should not be complacent,” says Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini, Executive director of Islamic Food And Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), which is involved with Halal certification in the U.S. and abroad. “It is their right, they should ask their manufacturers, retailers and the certifying bodies about the meeting of Halal standards.”
He advises Muslims to ask five questions if they suspect malpractice or wrongdoing involving Halal meat of food products:
1. Ask at the retail store (Halal grocery store) whether or not a given product or products are Halal.
2. When it comes to meat, if it is Halal, who is the certifying agency. The certification should be by a third-party, not the manufacturer and not the retailer.
3. How do you contact the certifying agency? This information has to be public. Muslim grocers, store owners and meat manufacturers have to be accountable to the public because the certifying agencies are supposed to be protecting the consumers’ rights.
They are not there to make profit. They will make profit to run the organization, but they are accountable to the public because they are the ones who are taking the responsibility for saying the meat or product is Halal or not to the satisfaction of the consumer.
4. When you contact the certifying agency, ask who is slaughtering the meat and what are the procedures.
This must be verified because the Muslim consumer should not shrug away his or her responsibility, saying that the retailer or the certifying agency is saying it is Halal, and therefore they are not responsible.
“This attitude has to go away,” notes Hussaini.
5. This enquiry should be ongoing because every so often a certifying agency may be good today, but then becomes lax for one reason or another. The Muslim consumer should keep inquiring, for example, after every six months.
“A vigilant consumer can bring about a respected Halal system and once the system is in place, then we will refine our procedures, we will refine our methods,” says Hussaini. “Until then we must keep inquiring, that way we will keep the certifying agencies on their toes, and they will be cautious, vigilant, and compliant.”
“And eat not of that whereon Allah’s name hath not been mentioned, for lo! it is abomination. Lo! the devils do inspire their minions to dispute with you. But if ye obey them, ye will be in truth idolaters” (6:121).
“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 strangled, and the dead through beating, 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 hath been immolated unto idols.