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Slaughter and the Prophet (SAW) Instructions

Human beings should always remember that it is only by the grace of God that they are allowed to slaughter animals such as sheep, cows and poultry for food. They are also permitted to catch fish to eat. Therefore when they slaughter animals and catch fish, they should always show their gratitude to God for His blessings and approach the task of slaughter with humility and propriety. This requires that they should understand and abide by the Islamic teachings which regulate this activity.

The Prophet (SAW) once instructed one of his companions who was about to slaughter a sheep to take it out of sight of other sheep so that they do not see it. Needless to say, the Prophet (SAW) did not want the other sheep to witness the slaughter of one of their members in order to spare them that feeling of sorrow. The Prophet (SAW) also emphasised the need to ensure that the slaughtered animal be placed in the most comfortable position and that it should be allowed to die very quickly and with with minimum pain. He is authentically reported to have said: “ God has indeed prescribed that all things should be done in a proficient manner.

Thus when you kill, kill properly and when you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he is slaughtering.” (Related by Muslim). It is clear that the Prophet (SAW) considers a quick death as part of the proper slaughter. He has emphasised this on several occasions. In another hadith, the Prophet (SAW) says: “ When any of you slaughters, let him ensure the animal’s death.” The Prophet (SAW) once saw a man sharpening his blade after having laid his sheep down. He said to him, “ Do you want her to die over and over again? Could you not have sharpened your blade first before taking her for slaughter.”

All this goes to show that Islam has a clearly pronounced attitude with respect to treating animals in a humane manner, particularly those which we intend to slaughter for food. When people neglect this, they demonstrate their apathy to what the Prophet (SAW) has taught. Needless to say, God will ask everyone of us about his lack of response to the Prophet’s (SAW) teachings. Such people will not be able to provide a good reason for their lack of care.

Moreover Islam has forbidden any painful extraction from animals. The people of Arabia used to cut off the humps of camels or the fat part of the sheep while still alive. The Prophet (SAW) realised that such action would torment the animal and he stopped it by making it forbidden to eat. He said: “Whatever is cut off an animal when it is alive is just carrion.” It is well-known that carrion which refers to any animal dying by natural causes is forbidden to eat.

All this goes to show that Islam does not allow any practice which causes any unnecessary suffering to the animal. To cut the throat of an animal and then to pour boiling water on it when it can still feel the pain is certainly unacceptable. People who do that will certainly have to account for it on the Day of Judgement.

The same applies to fishing. If the catch is found to include some live fish which are unwanted, the proper thing to do is to put them back in the water so that they can survive. The same applies to any other living creature that is taken with the fish. What is not needed should be allowed to live, unless it is harmful. In that case, it should be killed in a humane way.