Halal meat has become the latest battleground in the clash of civilisations between Islam and the west. There was a media frenzy recently over reports that halal meat was unknowingly being served to the British public with the Daily Mail claiming ‘Britain goes halal’.
According to the Mail, “Animal welfare campaigners have long called for a ban on the traditional Islamic way of preparing meat.” Interestingly halal meat is singled out in these articles with no real focus on Jews and kosher meat except in the small print. This shows that Islamic practices rather than any sincere concern for animal welfare is at the heart of such articles.
Yesterday’s Independent waded in to the halal meat debate with an article by Johann Hari under the headline ‘The religious excuse for barbarity.’ Unlike the tabloid press more prominence was given to kosher meat alongside halal meat with emphasis on religion in general being used to inflict animal cruelty. Hari as an atheist naturally distances himself from any religious guidance on the slaughtering of animals and instead falls back to science and personal bias for his views.
He quotes the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) who has demanded an end to halal and kosher slaughter calling it ridiculous that the animals do not suffer. He does quote opposing views from a Jew and Muslim who support animal slaughter through throat cutting but according to Hari, “This has been proven by science to be false.” In fact this is not the case and there is a lot of scientific evidence and highly qualified scientists who dispute FAWC’s claims which can be read here in an old article by Dr. Abdul Majid Katme.
When defending the Islamic method of animal slaughter many Muslims respond through quoting their own scientific research to prove that it’s not cruel or painful for the animal. The problem with this type of response is the debate becomes centered around quotes from scientists with both sides simply quoting scientific evidence that supports their point of view. Scientific results by their nature are not definite and different scientists will conclude different results from them. Some may view the result as strong whilst others view the result as weak. For a layman with no scientific background and even for scientists themselves more often than not it’s other views and personal biases that shape their final opinion. This is especially true when theoretical physicists discuss the origins of the universe.
As Muslims who submit themselves to the will of Allah (Most High), the Creator, there is a very clear, simple and strong answer to any who dispute the Islamic method of animal slaughter which is that Allah (Most High) knows best. He (Most High) created human beings and the animals and therefore knows which animals should be eaten and how they should be killed. No human scientific research can ever match the unlimited knowledge of the Creator Allah (Most High).
Furthermore, unless the Islamic rule (sharia) has been revealed with a divine reason (‘illah) we cannot use our minds to make up a reason, even if that reason is based on scientific evidence. This is because the ‘illah (divine reason) is bound to the Islamic rule, so if the ‘illah exists then the rule exists but if the ‘illah does not exist then the rule does not exist. So if someone invents a divine reason (‘illah) for the Islamic method of animal slaughter that it’s to minimise pain to the animal, and scientific research proves that stunning is less painful, then halal slaughter through throat cutting would cease and be replaced with stunning. This in fact is where the debate is heading which is why arguing on the basis of scientific research is dangerous to the sharia.
The sharia rules related to foodstuffs have been revealed without any divine reason (‘illah). So Muslims don’t eat pork because Allah (Most High) forbade it in the Qur’an not because pork is unclean or poses health risks, because pork clearly poses little if any health risks when it’s eaten.
Allah (Most High) says:
حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ
“You are forbidden to eat carrion; blood; pig’s meat; any animal over which any name other than God’s has been invoked; any animal strangled, or victim of a violent blow or a fall, or gored or savaged by a beast of prey, unless you still slaughter it [in the correct manner]; or anything sacrificed on idolatrous altars.”
It should be pointed out that there are many Islamic rules governing the slaughtering of animals and Muslims are ordered to spare suffering to the animal. The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
إنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الْإِحْسَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ، فَإِذَا قَتَلْتُمْ فَأَحْسِنُوا الْقِتْلَةَ، وَإِذَا ذَبَحْتُمْ فَأَحْسِنُوا الذِّبْحَةَ، وَلْيُحِدَّ أَحَدُكُمْ شَفْرَتَهُ، وَلْيُرِحْ ذَبِيحَتَهُ
“Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” [Narrated by Abu Yaala Shaddad bin Aws in Sahih Muslim]
Although this hadith states, “let him spare suffering to the animal” this is not a divine reason (‘illah) for slaughtering (ذبح) and is qualified by the words “he slaughters” (ذَبِيحَتَهُ). Therefore the method of slaughtering (ذبح) meaning killing by cutting the throat is fixed.
Today Islam and its noble beliefs, laws and values are squarely in the sights of the west. Nothing is off limits and the intellectual attack will continue until the declaration of faith (kalimah) of “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger” will itself come under attack for being extremist and intolerant. This intellectual attack is inevitable and we must respond to it using wisdom and good debate but most importantly the basis of arguing and defending Islam must be correct.