Taking Allah’s Name while Slaughtering
The Dietary Shari‘ah
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I have an issue on my mind. The issue is about whether one can eat meat if the name of Allah is not pronounced at the slaughter. The concerned verses are generally translated with the word ‘meat’ in parenthesis:

So eat of [meats] on which Allah’s name has been pronounced, if you have faith in His Signs. (6:118)

Why should you not eat of [meats] on which Allah’s name has been pronounced, when He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you -- except under compulsion of necessity? But many do mislead [men] by their low desires without knowledge. Your Lord knows best those who transgress. (6:119)

Eat not of [meats] on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced: That would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if you were to obey them you would indeed be Pagans. (6:121)

My question is: Why is the word ‘meat’ in the verses in parenthesis when God did not put it there? Isn’t it possible that what is meant here is simply mentioning the name of God before eating anything, including meat, vegetables, fruits, etc? The reason I say this is because the actual Arabic does not contain the word meat, and I think if Allah wanted to say meat, he could have. Also, it doesn’t say when it should take place, before or after the slaughter. I look forward to your insight, as I am trying to keep an open mind on the subject.

Answer: class="Paragraph">The Qur’ān has a context and background with regard to its addressees. It is known that the Mushrīkīn (polytheists) of Arabia would sacrifice their animals and eat their meat after taking the name of other deities while sacrificing these animals. Those who are aware of the history of various religions know that animal sacrifice is deeply linked to idol worship. To please various deities, the polytheists would sacrifice animals in their names and present their meat to them. They believed that these idols consumed this sacrificial meat and also enjoyed its aroma.

The Qur’ān has referred to this practice in the words mā uhilā bihī lighayrillāh1 (that animal which is sacrificed in the name of some one other than Allah) and forbade this type of food. 

At one place, while refuting this concept of theirs, the Qur’ān makes a mocking reference to this practice by saying that the real Allah is the One who feeds instead of being fed (6:14).

It is therefore clear with all these background details that the verses you have referred to are referring to a special practice of the polytheists of Arabia. They cannot be applied to taking Allah’s name before eating food or to eating fruits or vegetables.




1. See for example 2:173 and 16:115

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