The following is a useful Q&A published in Khilafah Magazine many years ago.
Question: Are Muslims allowed to buy fresh or canned meat from Jews, Christians, Hindus and other non-Muslims? And are Muslims allowed to buy canned meat for pets?
Answer: Despite the fact that this issue is not crucial to the Ummah, it is something that Muslims always worry about, especially people living and studying in the non-Muslim countries. It is high time that Muslims learnt the verdict of tadhkiya or dhabiha (slaughtering), in order to develop a clear understanding and put a halt to the confusion which government scholars have created.
Tadhkiya in Shari‘ah terminology means the slaughtering of animals. Muslims are forbidden from eating the meat of an animal unless it has been properly slaughtered according to the Shari‘ah rules. The four conditions that must be met to make the meat halal are:
1. The slaughterer must be a Muslim, or be from the People of the Book (a Christian or a Jew). It is forbidden for Muslims to eat meat slaughtered by Hindus, Druze or any other non-Muslim. Allah (swt) has permitted Muslims to eat the meat of an animal slaughtered by the People of the Book,
“The food of the People of the Book is lawful for you.” [TMQ 5:5]
Food in this verse refers to their slaughtered meat and to other food that is lawful in Islam. Evidence about this comes from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (saw) in which he was asked about how to deal with the Majians (fire worshippers). He (saw) said, “Treat them the same way you treat the People of the Book, but do not marry their women nor eat their slaughtered meat.” This clearly indicates that Muslims are allowed to marry the women of the People of the Book and also to eat their slaughtered meat. This also indicates that the slaughterer must be a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew to the exclusion of all others. The slaughterer does not have to be a man, but could also be a woman or a discerning youth.
2. The animal must be slaughtered with the intention of slaughtering it. Every action should be performed with an intention, for the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “Actions are but by intention.” If a man, for instance, attempts to strike another man with a sword but instead strikes and cuts the neck of a sheep, the killed animal is not halal. The meat slaughtered by the mentally handicapped, the intoxicated or a child is not halal either.
3. The slaughtering should be performed with an instrument which satisfies two conditions:
i) It has to be a sharp instrument which has the ability to cut with its edge and not its weight, for the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “Draw blood (while slaughtering) from your livestock and mention the name of Allah.” This can only be achieved by a sharp object. Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “Do sharpen your blades.”
ii) The sharp instrument must not be a tooth or a claw. Rafi‘i ibn Khadij is reported to have said, “O Messenger of Allah, we are going to encounter the enemy tomorrow but we have no knives with us.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “Make haste and be careful (in making arrangements for procuring knives) which would let the blood flow (and along with it) the name of Allah should also to be recited. Then eat, but not the tooth or claw. And I am going to tell you why it is not permissible to slaughter the animal with the help of the tooth and claw; as for the tooth, it is a bone and the claw is the knife of the Abyssinians.”
Apart from the tooth and the claw, it is allowed to use any other sharp instrument for slaughtering, for instance the meat is also halal if the animal is slaughtered by a stone. Ka‘ab ibn Malik reported on the authority of his father that one of their house keepers once slaughtered a sheep that was sick, with a stone, so he said, “Do not eat it until we ask the Messenger of Allah (saw).” They sent someone to ask him (saw) and he (saw) ordered them to eat it.
4. The animal must be slaughtered by cutting the throat and the labba (front of the neck). It is unlawful to slaughter the animal in any other spot. Abu Hurayrah reported, “The Messenger of Allah (saw) sent Badil ibn Warqa’ al-Khuza‘i, riding a camel and shouting hurriedly that the slaughtering of animals must be in the throat and labba.” For the slaughtered animal to be halal, it should die as a direct result of the slaughtering. If the animal dies due to other reasons, its meat becomes haram.
In relation to the following narration of Abu al-Ashra’, on the authority of his father, “ ‘O Messenger of Allah! Is the slaughtering of animals only in the throat and labba?’ He (saw) replied, ‘If you stab it in the thigh it is allowed’ ”, this applies only in the case of not being able to restrain the animal or the bird, but if the slaughterer can control the animal and restrain it (without tying it down), he is not allowed to stab it, but only to slaughter it by way of the throat and labba.
If the bird or the animal was slaughtered from the back of the neck, and the blade reached the throat and labba, the slaughter would still be considered unlawful, because the animal may die from causes other than that of the cutting of the throat and labba. Striking the back of the neck could result in the animal’s death due to the severing of the spinal cord, and not the cutting of the throat and labba. Therefore, any animal slaughtered mechanically by the blade cutting the neck from the back would be unlawful to eat.
The proper slaughtering of the animal must include the slitting of the trachea, the oesophagus and the jugular veins. The trachea and the oesophagus form the throat - the trachea is the respiratory tract, and the oesophagus the passage for food and drink. The jugular veins run on both sides of the throat. A slaughter can be carried out without severing the jugular veins, but this is unlawful. It has been reported that Ibn ‘Abbas and Abu Hurayrah said, “The Messenger of Allah (saw) forbade us from satanic slitting.” (Abu Dawud). The description of it as ‘satanic slitting’ indicates that the forbidding is definitive, hence satanic slitting is completely prohibited. The satanic slitting refers to when the jugular veins are not severed. Imam Ibn Kathir said,
“The satanic slitting is the slaughtering (of an animal) where the jugular veins are not severed and the slaughter is not complete.”
Therefore, the lawful slaughter has to fulfil the above four conditions, otherwise the meat would be considered carrion and prohibited for us to eat.
If any type of food is prohibited by Islam, a Muslim is also prohibited from eating, selling or buying it for another Muslim or non-Muslim, even if it is bought as food for pets. Allah (swt) says,
“Prohibited for you are carrion and blood and swine flesh and that which has been dedicated to any other than Allah, and 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 the death-stroke), and that which has been immolated to idols.” [TMQ 5:3]
Invoking the name of Allah (swt) is not obligatory but mandub. So it is recommended to recite the name of Allah (swt) before slaughtering. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “... and recite the name of Allah.” He (saw) also said, “You may eat any meat that has been slaughtered and upon which the name of Allah has been invoked.” It is clear that the request in this hadith is that invoking the name of Allah (swt) is recommended. Furthermore, according to ‘A’isha, it is reported regarding a group of people who said to the Messenger of Allah (saw), “ ‘O Messenger of Allah! Some people bring us meat and we do not know whether the name of Allah has been invoked on it or not.’ He (saw) replied, ‘Recite the name of Allah and eat.’ ” This hadith indicates that the reciting of the name of Allah (swt) is not obligatory, because their reciting of Allah’s (swt) name replaced the invoking of it prior to the slaughter, and this indicates that it is Sunnah (i.e. recommended), because the Sunnah cannot replace the fard. Besides, Allah (swt) has permitted the slaughtered animals of the People of the Book, and there is no proof that they recite the name of Allah (swt) prior to the slaughter.
As for the understanding of the ayah,
“And eat not of that whereon Allah’s name has not been mentioned.” [TMQ 6:121]
it means, do not eat anything upon which the name of something other than Allah (swt) has been invoked, like the polytheists used to do because it is haram and it should be thrown away. The ayah was revealed in Makkah, and the hadith of Allah’s Messenger (saw) was elaborated in Madinah i.e. after the ayah was revealed. A Muslim should also differentiate between the verdict of reciting of the name of Allah (swt), and the verdict of invoking other than Allah’s (swt) name for sacrifices, which disbelievers and polytheists offer to their idols and clergy.
It is also prohibited to eat any other type of food from the People of the Book if it is not halal to start with, even if it is not meat. We are forbidden from eating anything cooked in wine or in lard, or the fat of unlawful meat. We are not allowed to eat pork, even if the pig is slaughtered, nor are we allowed to eat carrion or any other meat, except what is slaughtered properly as mentioned above, especially with regard to the first and third conditions.
Some people claim that any meat bought from the People of the Book i.e. the Jews and the Christians, can be eaten by the Muslims as long as one says “In the name of Allah...”. However, this applies only to the slaughtered meat. If the animal was killed in any other way, for example by electrocution, shooting, clubbing and so on, then it becomes haram meat and the Muslims cannot eat it even if they recite “In the name of Allah...” over it.
As for canned meat, such as cat food; if it originates from meat that has not been slaughtered according to Islam, or it is carrion i.e. sheep that is electrocuted or died naturally; or if it is from meat which is prohibited to eat i.e. swine; it is prohibited to buy or sell it, whether it is bought as a present or as food for pets. No one can say buying is allowed since it is pet food, because the issue is about buying and selling it and not who or what is going to eat it or what is going to happen to it. Therefore the question that should be asked is: What is the Shari‘ah verdict on the buying and selling of prohibited goods? The Shari‘ah rules are related to actions, and buying and selling are actions, so they require an evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Shari‘ah has decreed that if it is prohibited to eat, drink or to benefit from something, then it is also prohibited to trade with it, unless there is a Shari‘ah text stating otherwise. Imam Ibn Hanbal extracted the following hadith from Abu Dawud (Vol. 4 .page 207) by the authority of Adari, “A man approached the Messenger of Allah (saw) with a jar of alcohol as a gift. The Messenger of Allah (saw) laughed at him and said: Did you not know that Allah has prohibited alcohol? The man replied: No, but what if I sell it and benefit from it? The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: Whatever Allah has forbidden you cannot benefit from it.” No one can claim that he is buying it for a pet and that pets are not accountable for their actions, because buying is an action committed by the human and not the pet, and humans are accountable for their actions. This would be similar to a woman selling her body in order to give sadaqah, or similar to a Muslim buying wine and pork to destroy them. The point at issue for us, in these instances is the buying and selling, and not the purpose for doing so. The animal’s actions have nothing to do with us, and animals can eat what they like.
However, if the canned food consists of the remains of fish, vegetables, cereals or lawful meat, any Muslims would then be allowed to buy and sell it, be it to give as a present, or to feed pets or to benefit from it in any other way.
And it is also worth mentioning that the Shari‘ah principle states ‘every Muslim is trustworthy’, therefore you can go to any Muslim who claims or states that his meat is halal, and you can buy from him and deal with him. Allah (swt) says in surah al-Baqarah, “Allah has permitted for you trading” [TMQ] and there is no restriction in this verse stating ‘do not trade until you are shown a certificate of authenticity’ or ‘the meat must be bought from a particular company or an organisation’. As long as the Muslim is trustworthy, i.e. not involved in haram or selling haram or doing an act of haram which could create doubt in his trustworthiness, one is allowed to buy meat from him.