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Slaughtering Sheep on Eid Day: Cruelty to Animals?



Reply Date

Sep 12, 2016


My question is about sheep slaughter on Eid day. Please could you let me know if it would be permissible to do it in animal welfare-conscious establishment (who do not necessarily drug or stun the sheep but just tie them in ways that do not cause them discomfort, etc.)? I noticed many people insist on doing the slaughtering themselves even if they are not trained in this aspect, thinking they get rewarded by doing the act of slaughter themselves. Surely that is not the point, right? Please give insights on this matter. Many thanks.



Slaughtering Sheep on Eid Day: Cruelty to Animals

Salam Dear Selma,

Thank you for your lovely question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Your words reflect your positive and natural human instinct of love and mercy towards animals. This is how a Muslim should feel and act with any of his fellow-creatures.

Many get carried away in some brutal acts, thinking that God having favored mankind to His other creations by the ability to think and plan means they are to master the world in complete selfishness that lacks mercy. This stand is completely un-Islamic by any means.

A Muslim needs to realize that he or she is a creation of God, among many. God, being the Most Merciful, has bestowed His mercy on mankind by having them master this life through their brains and intellectual power. Having done this, He has ordered mankind to nourish mercy within their hearts and to have it reflected in their deeds.

Thus, a Muslim who realizes this fact needs to peacefully submit to the divine law of mercy and to apply it with all God’s creations. Among these are animals, plants and any living being.

Let me first answer your question about if it would be permissible to practice slaughtering in animal welfare-conscious establishment. The answer is “yes”. But I need to add here that any time and place wherein the slaughtering process takes place, according to the Islamic rulings, that should be a perfectly animal welfare-conscious environment. The problematic fact, honestly speaking, is that many a time such idealistic but simple rulings are neglected.

In your question you have mentioned those who decide to slaughter their sheep unprofessionally on the day of Eid. Simply speaking, those who slaughter their sheep without being trained to do so are completely mistaken and acting against a Prophetic order.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has ordered any person who takes the responsibility of slaughtering the sacrifice, to sharpen his knife and make it a “good” slaughter and let the slaughtered animal die comfortably. (Muslim)

By this order, the Prophet meant to have the death take place very quickly, since the knife would be sharp. The Prophetic hadith literally states that “Allah has enjoined goodness to everything”. (Muslim)

It also orders the person in charge to “slaughter in a good way” and to “sharpen his knife” in order to “let the slaughtered animal die comfortably”. This hadith has been misinterpreted by those who lack the knowledge of its full text and of the wisdom behind the order.

On the other hand, there is no hadith that orders the owners of the sacrifice to practice the slaughtering themselves. The only mentioning of some related point in the hadith is when Prophet Muhammad recommended people to “witness” the process of slaughtering.

Muslims are here recommended to “witness” the process of slaughtering, not that they have to practice it themselves. The point here is simply to get people enthusiastic about fulfilling the action, which in itself is to emphasize the importance of the event as a vehicle towards social solidarity.

Again, many have misunderstood this order, thinking it is a call for witnessing the bloodshed of the sacrifice. The wisdom behind this order is completely different. The point is to urge the owner of the sacrifice to hasten in distributing the meat to the poor. Those poor are usually waiting since dawn for their share.

I would here like to reflect on the idea that there is always a need to “tie” the sacrificial animal without drugging it in a way that keeps it “comfortable”. Actually it was never mentioned in any hadith or in any Quranic verse that the sacrifice or any animal that is going to be slaughtered to be tied “uncomfortably” before it is slaughtered.

The only related rule is that according to the Islam, the different sheep or cattle are not to witness the slaughter of each other. This rule goes for the Eid sacrifice as well as any slaughtering process.

Actually, the Islamic ruling does not only stop at trying to avoid causing unnecessary physical pain to the slaughtered cattle or sheep. But it cares to avoid causing it any psychological pain or fear as well.

In the Quran, there is a verse that says what means:

{There is not an animal that walks upon the earth, nor a bird that flies by its wings, but they are peoples (communities) like you…} (Al-An`am 6:38)

The Islamic stand deals with the animal kingdom as a creation that forms different communities. These enjoy the gifts of feelings and individual psychological systems. This is why you find the order of never to slaughter one in front of the other. They might fear, panic, and feel for their fellow slaughtered ones and that is to be avoided as much as possible.

As for tying the animal before slaughtering it or during the process of moving it, I guess there is a universal rule here. All around the world, Muslims and non-Muslims do tie the cattle during moving them and before slaughtering them. I personally do not like to see a tied animal. But being a non-specialist, I guess this is the only way to control the animal during these processes.

Drugging or stunning them might seem “merciful” to some, yet to others it is completely negative. Islam prohibits eating sick or dead animals, because it is unhealthy to eat stagnant blood. Slaughtering is only permitted with the previous conditions since the animal is purified and drained from its blood.

Accordingly, eating a drugged or stunned animal would even be more harmful if we are discussing the matter from the healthy and hygienic perspectives.

Maybe here I need to add that it is not only the Islamic sacrifice that is used for nutrition by mankind. It is a universal fact that mankind has taken nutrition from other creatures long time ago. Humans have eaten animals and plants since life started on earth.

No matter what the process of developing a living animal into a human meal is, the moment of departure of the animal has always been painful.

The moment of death has always been painful for any creation losing its life. This applies to humans, animals, and even plants and flowers. Losing life is in itself a painful process, but this is how life has been going and will keep on going, in order to have others survive. I did not set the rule, it is there.

Bluntly speaking, attention is becoming a bit of an extreme in stereotyping the Islamic sacrifice as being an aggressive act. How about the millions of burgers or the thousands of Thanksgiving turkeys available on various menus throughout history?

I personally do not see “killing” the turkey to have it for dinner as being an act against animals. I would not personally prefer to witness it, but I do eat turkey and I enjoy it terribly.

Any edible creation goes through the process of death. Seafood originated in flogs of swimming fish. Many burgers were vital cows and roasted turkeys were morning alarms some moments ago.

Different nations have different cuisines and table habits. There are nations that take zebra for nutrition, and others take rabbits or pigeons. Others have frog soup as a main dish.

Human nations differ in what they see appropriate for their menu, but they finally agree on eating what was once a living creature. That goes even for vegetarians, even if they do not notice it.

The cycle of life and death is an endless puzzle. I cannot guarantee that cutting a flowering shrub of parsley to add it to our soup does not cause pain to the flowering parsley.

It finally loses its life and if we do not cook it as soon as possible, it would finally lose its brightness and freshness. It turns dry brownish-yellow as a sign of its death, doesn’t it? This means that it dies. We only do not hear it dying, as we do with humans and animals. It is just a different species of creation. Does this mean that we can eat nothing but stones?

Never, we will keep the nutrition process going. We just have to apply the most merciful rules possible during our consumption. These above mentioned rules are the most merciful applicable according to the Islamic stand.

Maybe I need to add that Muslims are ordered to treat animals with mercy under all conditions. For example, they are forbidden to hunt animals for the sake of sport. They should never take hunting as a joy or a process of entertainment in their leisure time. Hunting is only for the sake of providing nutrition, not to terrify animals or to display one’s skill in hunting.

It is worth mentioning here the story of a man who saved a dog in the desert by offering it water to kill its thirst. The Prophet said:

“A man saw a dog eating mud from (the severity of) thirst. So, that man took a shoe (and filled it) with water and kept on pouring the water for the dog till it quenched its thirst. So Allah approved of his deed and made him to enter Paradise.” (Al-Bukhari)

I think I will stop at that. If I am to explain more about the merciful stand Islam has towards animals, I would never stop writing. I just need to add that the writer of these words is an animal lover and a pet owner. This is why I described your question at the beginning of my answer as being lovely, for I understand where it comes from.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


About Sister Dalia Salaheldin

Sister Dalia Salaheldin is: - An instructor and consultant of interfaith & intercultural Dialogue - A speaker and orator on interfaith and intercultural discourse - An instructor of Arabic and Quranic language at the American University in Cairo - A trainer of interfaith and intercultural discourse and dialogue - A founder of Reading Islam Website - A bilingual writer and proem poet - A social and political activist who has traveled through the world widely - A human development adviser and alternative medicine practitioner

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