Do you have to pronounce God’s name before eating anything?
Most Muslims believe that you must pronounce God’s name only before slaughtering animals to make the meat halal. However, according to verse 6:118, you must pronounce God’s name before eating any food.
|فَكُلُوا مِمَّا ذُكِرَ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كُنتُم بِآيَاتِهِ مُؤْمِنِينَ|
|So eat of that upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you are believers in His verses. (6:118)|
This verse does not restrict the pronouncing of God’s name on animals so as to produce halal meat. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even say you’re supposed to pronounce God’s name before slaughtering any animal. This verse indicates that one should mention God’s name before eating.
Reason for pronouncing God’s name before eating
The spiritual reason for pronouncing God’s name on our food before eating it is to constantly remember and be appreciative of God’s blessings on us. This is explained in verse 16:114.
|فَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ اللَّهُ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَاشْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ –|
|Then eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And be grateful for the favor of Allah, if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. (16:114)|
This act of showing appreciation to God by reciting God’s name before we eat would not belong to us if only people who slaughtered animals had to recite God’s name.
Similar statement in the Torah / Bible
In the Torah / Bible, we find a similar commandment in Deuteronomy 8:10.
|… “When you have eaten and are satisfied, bless (praise) the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.” … (Deuteronomy 8:10)|
In this verse, however, it says to bless “after the meal” and not before the meal.
You must pronounce God’s name before eating anything, not just meat. In Christianity, this is called “saying grace” which is a statement of appreciation of the food one is about to eat.
What really is “halal” food?
Most Muslims believe that meat can only be eaten if it is “halal” meat and that “halal” meat is only meat from an animal that had God’s name pronounced on it just before slaughtering it. However, according to the Quran, the recitation of God’s name, e.g. bismillah, is required before eating all food and is not required before slaughtering an animal.
Popular definition of “halal” meat
Most Muslims believe that “halal” meat is meat that had God’s name pronounced on it just before slaughtering it. Some Muslims will add additional requirements such as a particular way the animal is slaughtered to minimize suffering and expedite death. These requirements are nowhere to be found in the Quran. Jews have a similar understanding with the concept of “kosher” meat.
Quranic definition of “halal” food
The Quran makes it clear that all food is halal except for specific ones, e.g. pig, alcohol, running blood, and except for ones in certain conditions, e.g. animals gored to death or rotting carcasses.
Do not prohibit the lawful and vice versa
By changing the meaning of verse 6:118 to prohibit eating meat that isn’t considered “halal” meat, one would find himself in violation of verse 16:116.
|وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ|
|And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, “This is lawful and this is unlawful,” to invent falsehood about Allah . Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed. (16:116)|
As you can imagine, prohibiting something that God never prohibited can have serious consequences. In verses 6:148-150, we see that some people prohibited something that God never prohibited. God told Muhammad not to agree with them.
|قُلْ هَلُمَّ شُهَدَاءَكُمُ الَّذِينَ يَشْهَدُونَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ حَرَّمَ هَٰذَا ۖ فَإِن شَهِدُوا فَلَا تَشْهَدْ مَعَهُمْ ۚ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَالَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ وَهُم بِرَبِّهِمْ يَعْدِلُونَ|
|Say, [O Muhammad], “Bring forward your witnesses who will testify that Allah has prohibited this.” And if they testify, do not testify with them. And do not follow the desires of those who deny Our verses and those who do not believe in the Hereafter, while they equate [others] with their Lord. (6:150)|
Prohibited food and meat
Verses 2:173, 5:3, 6:145, and 16:115 make it clear what food is halal (lawful) and haram (prohibited).
|حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ وَمَا ذُبِحَ عَلَى النُّصُبِ وَأَن تَسْتَقْسِمُوا بِالْأَزْلَامِ …|
|Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. … (5:3)|
The food of the People of the Book
According to verse 5:5, we see that God made it lawful for Muslims to eat the food fo the People of the Book (Jews and Christians).
|الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ ۖ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ …|
|This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. … (5:5)|
In general, we know that non-Muslims do not pronounce the name of God before killing an animal. Nevertheless, according to verse 5:5, God has made their food lawful for Muslims. This further proves that God does not require Muslims to pronounce God’s name before slaughtering an animal. However, if we eat food, e.g. steak, that originated from a Christian slaughterhouse, which God has allowed us to do, then we would still have to pronounce God’s name on it before eating it to comply with the requirement in verse 6:118.
Halal meat and halal food is any food that isn’t prohibited in 2:173, 5:3, 6:145 and 16:115
Do you have to pronounce God’s name before slaughtering an animal?
Some Muslim scholars argue that since verse 22:36 indicates that God’s name should be uttered before slaughtering animals, then not doing so would render the meat non-halal and forbidden for consumption. On first impression, their claim seems valid. However, upon closer inspection and considering the context of neighboring verses, we discover the correct meaning of the verse as explained below.
|وَالْبُدْنَ جَعَلْنَاهَا لَكُم مِّن شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ لَكُمْ فِيهَا خَيْرٌ ۖ فَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا صَوَافَّ ۖ فَإِذَا وَجَبَتْ جُنُوبُهَا فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا وَأَطْعِمُوا الْقَانِعَ وَالْمُعْتَرَّ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ سَخَّرْنَاهَا لَكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ|
|And the camels and cattle We have appointed for you as among the symbols of Allah; for you therein is good. So mention the name of Allah upon them when lined up [for sacrifice]; and when they are [lifeless] on their sides, then eat from them and feed the needy and the beggar. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may be grateful. (22:36)|
There are a few important points to note:
- This verse speaks about the ritual of animal offering / sacrifice during the Hajj. The surah containing this verse is called “Hajj” and if we start reading from verse 27, we see the subject of these related verses has to do with the hajj and hajj rituals. This means that the rules given in these verses apply only during the hajj.
- While the animals are lined up during the Hajj, those observing the Hajj should commemorate the name of God on these animals. The people who are pronouncing God’s name are the people who are observing the Hajj, not the people who are slaughtering the animals. The utterance of God’s name is not associated with the actual slaughtering.
- To further prove that the uttering of God’s name on these animals during Hajj has nothing to do with make makes meat halal, we note that God’s command to utter His name while the animals are lined up is no different from God’s command to those observing Hajj to constantly utter and commemorate God’s name throughout the Hajj. This is indicated in the following verses
|And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass – That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of God on known days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the despondent poor. (22:27-28)|
|And remember God during [specific] numbered days. (2:203)|
|But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember God at al- Mash’ar al-Haram. (2:198)|
|And when you have completed your rites, remember God … (2:200)|
The verses above indicate that God should be commemorated during every step of the Hajj. Commemorating and pronouncing God’s name on the animals while they are lined up for sacrifice is just a continuation of the rule to constantly commemorate God’s name throughout the entire Hajj from beginning to end.
You do not have to pronounce God’s name before slaughtering an animal.
Is slaughtering the only approved way of killing an animal for food?
Some Islamic scholars claim that slaughtering is the only Islamic way of killing animals for food. However, this is nowhere stated in the Quran. Some people justify their claim by saying that blood is prohibited for consumption and that slaughtering is the only way to remove all blood from a dead animal. Obviously, that argument is false and can easily be verified. If you buy a cut of meat from any “halal butcher”, then take it home and place it under running water, you will always see blood come out, which was presumably slaughtered according to the Islamic way.
When an animal is slaughtered, the main arteries in the neck are severed. This drains from the body all the blood that was in the main arteries. However, the body of all animals contains a vast number of tiny veins and millions of capillaries. Capillaries are the smallest of the body’s blood vessels. Some of them are only one cell thick. The blood in the very small blood veins and capillaries will not all be drained from the flesh of the slaughtered animal. Much of the blood will remain trapped in the flesh regardless of the method of killing.
Verse 5:3 states that eating “blood” is prohibited. If this means that even a speck of blood was prohibited for consumption, then all meat would be prohibited, which can’t be true since verse 22:36 indicates that, during the hajj, animals are to be sacrificed to be eaten. Fortunately, verse 6:145 clarifies that the type of blood that is prohibited is “running blood”.
|قُل لَّا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَن يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَّسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ …|
|Say, “I do not find within that which was revealed to me [anything] forbidden to one who would eat it unless it be a dead animal or blood spilled (running blood) out or the flesh of swine – for indeed, it is impure – or it be [that slaughtered in] disobedience, dedicated to other than Allah. … (6:145)|
God knows that there will always be blood trapped in all flesh and that we will never be able to flush it all out. For that reason, God made it clear in 6:145 that the prohibition is against “running blood”.
Any meat we buy from any “halal butcher” will not contain running blood but will always contain trapped blood. Similarly, the meat we buy from any supermarket will not contain running blood but will contain trapped flood.
Food of the People of the Book
If God decreed slaughtering to be the only lawful way to kill an animal, then why did God allow us in verse 5:5 to eat the food of the People of the Book as long as we pronounce God’s name on it before eating it when we have no idea how it was killed?
Animals killed by trained birds of prey and dogs
Similarly, if God decreed slaughtering to be the only lawful way to kill an animal, then why did God allow us in verse 5:5 to eat animals killed by trained birds of prey and dogs? These animals are already dead when we take them from the mouth of the birds and dogs.
Similarly, if animals had to be slaughtered, how can we eat fish since fish are not slaughtered? Like the meat of cattle, fish contain traces of blood when we buy them. We can remove some of the blood by running the fish under running water but not all.
- God never decreed that slaughtering is the only lawful way to kill an animal.
- Slaughtering does not remove all blood from a dead animal
- The prohibition from God is against “running blood” and not trapped blood which is impossible to flush out completely.
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