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HomeHeadlineUnderstanding the Recitation of Basmala in Islamic Slaughter: Its Significance and Interpretations

Understanding the Recitation of Basmala in Islamic Slaughter: Its Significance and Interpretations

One of the main problems faced by Muslim consumers in the field of halal food today, and perhaps the most important one, is the issue of halal meat. For an animal to be considered halal, it must be slaughtered according to Islamic law. In our previous article titled “Whose Slaughter Is Permissible,” we summarized the conditions for Islamic slaughter and mentioned that one of them is the recitation of the Basmala (mentioning the name of Allah) before slaughter. Since the recitation of the Basmala before slaughter is still a topic that raises questions, causes confusion, and has different opinions, in this article, we will try to take a closer look at the subject from the perspective of evidence and different schools of thought.

The recitation of the Basmala before slaughter is a direct command from the Quran and Sunnah. The recitation of the Basmala is commanded in seven different verses in the Quran. Especially in the Surah Al-An’am, it is stated: “So eat of that [meat] upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if you are believers in His verses.” (Al-An’am, 6/118). In this verse, believers are commanded to eat the meat of animals slaughtered with the recitation of the Basmala, while three verses later, it is prohibited to eat animals slaughtered without mentioning the name of Allah, stating: “And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for indeed, it is grave disobedience.” (Al-An’am, 6/121).

Furthermore, in Surah Al-Ma’idah, the recitation of the Basmala is commanded for animals that are hunted (5/4), and in the verses of Surah Al-Hajj, the recitation of the Basmala is commanded for sacrificial animals during Hajj (22/28, 34, 36).

In addition to these, two other Quranic verses also emphasize the recitation of the Basmala. In one of them, while listing some of the bad deeds committed by polytheists, it is stated that one of these deeds is slaughtering animals without mentioning the name of Allah: “And there are those [hypocrites] who say, ‘We take for sale among the Muslims,’ not mentioning Allah except in a few [casual] words.” (Al-An’am, 6/138).

In another Quranic verse, the polytheists who arbitrarily determine what is halal and haram, saying, “We will not eat except what Allah wills,” are criticized for their attitude: “So why do you not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has been mentioned while He has explained in detail for you what He has forbidden you, excepting that to which you are compelled?” (Al-An’am, 6/119).

In addition to these Quranic verses, many Hadiths also command the recitation of the Basmala before slaughtering or hunting animals. For example, in a Hadith found in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, it is stated: “If the animal is slaughtered while a lot of blood flows, and the name of Allah is mentioned, then eat from it.” (Bukhari, zebâih 15; Muslim, edâhî 20). Another Hadith in Sahihayn (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim) instructs: “When you send your trained dog and mention the name of Allah, then eat [from its catch].” (Bukhari, zebâih 2; Muslim, sayd 1).

In another Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commands: “When you throw your arrow and mention the name of Allah, then mention the name of Allah (when eating its catch).” (Muslim, sayd 7; Nasai, sayd 18). Furthermore, after ordering not to eat the catch held by a dog sent with the recitation of the Basmala together with another dog, the Prophet explains the reason for this ruling: “You have only mentioned the name over your dog, but you did not mention the name over the other dog.” (Bukhari, zebâih 9; Muslim, sayd 3).

In addition to these, there are other Hadiths in the books of Hadith that also emphasize the recitation of the Basmala before slaughtering or hunting. Similarly, there are numerous reports about the words and practices of the companions of the Prophet (Sahaba) and the followers of the companions (Tabi’in) regarding this matter. In fact, it is mentioned that there is a consensus (ijma) among the companions that the meat of an animal intentionally slaughtered without reciting the Basmala is considered haram (forbidden). (Serahsi, al-Mebsût, 11/236). Based on the evidence mentioned, scholars (fuqaha) have examined the subject from various angles. However, even someone who is not familiar with the legal discussions and debates surrounding the issue would find it difficult to deny that reciting the Basmala before slaughter is a significant and clear command of the religion in the face of the decisive nature of the evidence from the Quran and Sunnah. In fact, Imam Abu Yusuf stated the following in light of the certainty of the evidence on whether the meat of an animal intentionally slaughtered without reciting the Basmala is halal or haram: “It is not permissible to make ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) regarding whether the meat of an animal intentionally slaughtered without reciting the Basmala is halal or haram.” (Serahsi, al-Mebsût, 11/236).

First and foremost, it should be noted that the obligation to recite the Basmala before slaughter is established unanimously by all scholars. While the Hanafi, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of thought consider this obligation to be obligatory (farz), the Shafi’i school considers it to be a confirmed Sunnah (sunnah mu’akkadah). In this case, according to the three schools, the meat of an animal slaughtered without the Basmala will be impure (najas) and it will be forbidden (haram) to eat it. However, this ruling is related to the deliberate omission of the Basmala. According to the Hanafi and Maliki schools of thought, forgetfulness is exempt from this ruling. This is because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Certainly, Allah has pardoned for my nation: their mistakes, their forgetfulness, and that which they have been forced to do.” (Bukhari, hudud 22).

The Shafi’is, on the other hand, consider the deliberate omission of the Basmala to be disliked (makruh) but not haram. The Shafi’is argue that the purpose of the verses commanding the Basmala in Surah Al-An’am is not to make the meat of animals slaughtered without the Basmala haram but to prohibit the consumption of meat slaughtered on behalf of others besides Allah. They state that the main issue in the verses is not the recitation of the Basmala, but the issue of slaughtering animals in the name of idols. They base their argument on the following verse: “And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for indeed, it is grave disobedience.” (Al-An’am, 6/121).

In addition to the Shafi’i school, the famous scholar Ibn Taymiyyah also argues that the main issue in the verses is not the recitation of the Basmala, but the issue of slaughtering animals for other than Allah. He states that the main issue is to give the animals as a gift to idols, and this is what is meant by not mentioning the name of Allah on them. In this regard, the Shafi’i school and Ibn Taymiyyah give a broader interpretation to the verses.

It should be noted that when interpreting Quranic verses, scholars sometimes have different interpretations based on their methodologies and approaches to jurisprudence. This is why there may be differences of opinion among scholars. However, it is important to give the benefit of the doubt to Muslim butchers who may forget to recite the Basmala, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated, “Certainly, Allah has pardoned for my nation: their mistakes, their forgetfulness, and that which they have been forced to do.” (Bukhari, hudud 22). In this regard, it is essential to maintain the concept of monotheism (tawheed) during the slaughter of animals. Therefore, it is best to always ensure that the Basmala is recited before slaughtering an animal, as it is a clear and direct command from the Quran and Sunnah.

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YUKSEL CAYIROGLU
YUKSEL CAYIROGLU
Professor Yuksel Cayiroglu is a scholar focusing on Islamic Law and Religous Studies.
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