We spoke with a cross-section of halal consumers in Illinois about whether there was a difference between halal and Zabiha, and if there was, did they have a preference for one over the other? In 75 percent of the answers we received, respondents saw a distinct difference between halal and Zabiha. Only 20 percent felt that meat could be consumed by Muslims if it were not Zabiha. A small minority were altogether unfamiliar with what Zabiha entailed. When asked if they maintain Zabiha strictly, 50 percent of all respondents said that while they do so at home, they may consume meat that is halal but not Zabiha at restaurants.

Sara Kadir, a Glenview resident, says that while growing up in Saudi Arabia, halal and Zabiha were synonymous terms. It was only when she moved to the West that she learned of the difference. “Looking back I realize that this difference is probably a non-issue in a Muslim country. With regards to the meats we consume here, (besides being halal) there is the additional requirement that the meat also be Zabiha. Zabiha is the method of slaughtering the halal animal in the name of God, ensuring that all the blood drains out, while minimizing the pain experienced by the animal.” While she maintains strict Zabiha at home that is not the case always, outside home. “However, I am so proud of my 12 year old son, Yousuf, who keeps 100% Zabiha and is an inspiration and role model for me,” she adds.

According to Mateen Hussain of Glendale Heights, halal should be Zabiha. “Unfortunately, some Muslims classify things as halal based on the animal, not on the method of slaughter. I once visited a restaurant in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and checked with the owner if the food was halal, and he said it was very much halal and that no pork was served. He was also very candid in mentioning that it was NOT Zabiha, if that’s what I was looking for,” he says.

Dr. Syed Warsi, who is in charge of ICNA Chicago’s New Muslims Services agrees and doesn’t believe there is a difference between Zabiha and halal. “Meat consumption is halal (lawful) only when it is Zabiha, so I maintain only Zabiha irrespective of who tells me it is okay to consume something else. First, the animal should be halal, like goat or cow or sheep. If it is inherently haram, like pork, then even if it is slaughtered properly, it can never be permissible or halal. Also, to be halal that animal should be acquired properly, not by theft or stealing, slaughtered in a proper way by Muslims or People of the Book. I do not understand how meat could be halal (without it being) Zabiha. An animal can be halal (lawful to consume) only if all the requirements are met. If any of the requirements are missing then it is not halal and not lawful to consume.”

According to Aliya Husain, a Lisle resident, “Zabiha is the order of God. I try my best to obey His orders. Purity of our food affects our spiritual state. Ergo, Zabiha allows us the ability to maintain a state of spiritual purity.”

When it comes to choosing between halal and Zabiha, Ms. Hilali, a Bloomingdale resident, says she is very careful to offer Muslim guests only that which they are comfortable eating, while for her own family she wouldn’t consider it a sin to bring home chicken nuggets from a mainstream grocery store.

Mateen Hussain on the other hand finds it especially easy to maintain halal and Zabiha even when purchasing non-meat products. “Most household items,” he says, “are repeat purchases including cheese, vitamins, milk, bread, candies, cereal, etc. It is quite easy to go to the websites of corporations that produce these items and send them an email requesting information as to whether particular products include any ingredients that are derived from an animal source. I usually get a response in two-three days, and use this as a basis for my shopping list. In some cases I have called the toll free numbers on the products right from the store and that too worked out well”.