Dhabiha, literally means slaughtered in Arabic and Halal means permissible for Muslims. The root of the word dhabh which connotes purification or rendering something good, wholesome or complete. The word Dhabiha in Arabic is pronounced Zabiha in Urdu. General perception among the Muslims of South Asian origin, in North America is that Zabiha Halal means slaughtered by a Muslim by hand. A Halal animal has to be slaughtered in accordance with the Islamic rites. Hence certain conditions, as follows, must be fulfilled to meet the requirements of Zabiha Halal.

  1. The animal to be slaughtered must be of acceptable Halal species. Pigs are not Halal and do not qualify for this process of Zabiha.
  2. The person performing the act of slaughtering (Zabh) must be an adult Muslim of sound mind, who understands the invocation and intends to carry out the process for the purpose of food. A slaughter person could be a male or a female of reasonable age to perform the act of Zabh properly.
  3. The knife used to perform Zabh must be extremely sharp, made of metal, so that the act is performed without unnecessary suffering to the animal.
  4. The incision must be on the front of the neck, cutting all four passages, without cutting through the bone in the neck. It is generally acceptable if only three passages are severed.
  5. The name of God must be pronounced while making the incision. A common pronouncement is Bismillah Allahu Akbar (In the name of God, God is Great).

The above conditions describe a method of slaughter when animals or birds are killed by hand. Chickens slaughtered by machine even in the presence of a Muslim are not considered Zabiha Halal, because perception of the term Zabiha Halal among the Muslim consumers is that the chickens are slaughtered by a Muslim by hand. Some individual or groups involved in marketing or certifying the chicken might stretch the definition of Zabiha Halal to include mechanically slaughtered chickens.

Muslims in North America consist of diversified cultural and religious backgrounds, practicing different variations of their faith, following different schools of thought such as Hanafi, Shafii, Hanbali, Maliki, Jaafari and others. They also follow their customs, habits and traditions different from each other. The Muslims of North America are divided over the issues of Halal meat. Some consider the meat in the super market as totally Haram, while others consider it totally Halal. Those in between consider it Mashbooh or Makrooh. Some Muslims think that kosher meat is Halal while the meat of animals slaughtered by Christians is not Halal. Still others feel that all meat is Halal except pork. This results in confusion (Sakr, 1996) for the average Muslim. To meet the demand of growing Muslim population a number of non-Muslim and Muslim owned grocery stores have opened up to sell Halal meat. Each store owner claims that the meat he sells is 100 percent Zabiha and Halal. It depends on which of the above concepts they follow or pretend to follow. No matter which concept a businessman is following, one thing is clear. They are all competing for the consumer who is looking for Zabiha Halal meat.


Maulana Maududi on Meat by Ahlul Kitab:

“This day are (all) good things (tayyibat) made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them.”

(Al-Quran V: 5)

The words of this verse (Pickthall, 1984) clearly point out that the only food of the People of the Book which has been made lawful for us is that which falls under the head of the tayyibat. The verse does not, and cannot, mean that the foods which are termed foul by the Quran and sound traditions and which we may not, in our own home or in the home of some other Muslim, eat or offer to a Muslim to eat, would become lawful when offered to us in a Jewish or Christian home. If someone disregards this obvious and reasonable interpretation, he can interpret the verse in one of the following fours ways only.

1. That this verse repeals all those verses which have occurred in connection with the lawfulness and unlawfulness of meat in the surahs an-Nahl, al-An’am, al-Baqarah and in al-Ma’idah itself; that this verse of the Qur’an renders unconditionally lawful not only the poleaxed animal but also carrion, swine flesh, blood and the animal immolated to other-than-God. But no rational (aqlee) or transmissive (naqlee) evidence can ever be produced in favour of this alleged cancellation. The absurdity of the claim is shown by the fact that the three conditions of lawful meat occur in the surah al-Ma’idah itself, in the same context, and just before the verse now under discussion. These three conditions are:

A. It should not be the meat of the animals which have been declared to be unclean in themselves by God and His Prophet.

B. The animal must have been slain in the manner prescribed by the Shari’ah.

C. God’s name must have been taken over the slain animal.

What right-minded person would say that, of the three consecutive sentences in a passage, the last would nullify the first two?

2. That this verse countermands only slaughtering and taking God’s name and does not alter the unclean nature of swineflesh, carrion, blood and the animal sacrificed to other-than-God. But we doubt if there exists, besides this empty claim, any solid reason for drawing a distinction between the two types of orders and for maintaining the one type and canceling the other….

3. That this verse fixed the dividing line between the food of Muslims, and the food of Jews and Christians; that in the case of Muslims’ food, all the Quranic restrictions would continue to be effective, but in respect of the food of Jews and Christians, no restrictions would obtain, which means that, at a Jew’s or a Christian’s home, we may unhesitatingly eat what is presented to us.

The strongest argument which could be added in favor of this interpretation is that God knew what kind of food the People of the Book ate, and that if, having that knowledge, He has permitted us to eat their food, it means that everything they eat – including swineflesh, carrion, and the animal sacrificed to other-than-God – is pure and lawful for us. But the verse on which this reasoning is based itself knocks the bottom out of this argument. In unambiguous terms the verse lays down that the only foods of the People of the Book which Muslims may eat are those which are tayyibat.

4. That, out of the foods of the People of the Book, swineflesh alone may not be eaten, all other foods being lawful; or that, we may not use swineflesh, carrion, blood, and the animal slaughtered in other-than-God’s name, though we may eat of the animal which has been killed in some way other than slaughtering and over which God’s name has not been pronounced. But this interpretation is as unsustainable as the second point above.

No rational or transmissive argument can be given to justify the distinction between the injunctions of the Quran, to explain why, in respect of the food of the People of the Book, injunctions of one type remain in force while those of the other are rendered inoperative. If the distinction and the exception are grounded in the Quran, verses must be cited in proof, and if in the Tradition, the particular traditions must be referred to. And if there is a rational argument for it, it must be put forward (Khan 1982).

The majority of Islamic scholars are of the opinion that the food of the Ahlul Kitab must meet the criteria established for Halal and wholesome food, including proper slaughtering of animals. They believe that the following verse from the Quran (Pickthall, 1994) establishes a strict requirement for Muslims.

And eat not of that whereupon Allah’s name hath not been mentioned, for lo! It is abomination…  

(Al-Quran VI: 121)

However, some Islamic scholars such as Al-Qaradawi (1984) are of the opinion that this verse does not apply to the food of Ahlul Kitab. They opine that meat of Halal animals sold in Western countries is acceptable for Muslims. They contend that God’s name may be pronounced at the time of eating rather than at the time of slaughtering of an animal. Regulatory agencies in countries that import Halal meats, Halal certifiers, Halal meat suppliers and even Muslim consumers may accept or reject products based on this reasoning and interpretation.

For Muslims who want to follow the requirements of Verse VI: 121 quoted above, none of the food of the Ahlul Kitab meets the Islamic standard, except vegetable items and fish if not prepared with alcohol or contaminated with prohibited ingredients (Riaz and Chaudry 2004).

Allah (SWT) knows best!!!



Al-Qaradawi, Y. 1984. The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam. The Holy Quran Publishing House, Beirut, Lebanon.

Khan, G. M. 1982. Al-Dhabh – Slaying Animals The Islamic Way. Ta Ha Publishers Ltd. And Islamic Medical Association, London, UK.

Pickthall, M. M. 1994. Arabic Text and English rendering of The Glorious Quran, Library of Islam, Kazi Publications, Chicago, IL.

Riaz, M. N. and Chaudry, M. M. 2004. Halal Food Production. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, Florida, USA.

Sakr, A. H. 1996. Understanding Halal Foods Fallacies and Facts. Foundation For Islamic Knowledge, Lombard, Illinois, USA