The debate of what constitutes Halal (permissible), and Haram (forbidden) meat goes on. Some Islamic ulama (scholars) claim it is fine to eat meat from your neighborhood market, if it is not pork and if before it is eaten the name of Allah is pronounced over it. Other scholars say that meat from the “People of the Book” is Halal for Muslims to eat and no prayers need to be said. Finally, there are scholars who qualify the difference between the terms Halal and Zabiha (method of slaughter). They say that, according to the Qur’an and the Hadith, Muslims should only eat Zabiha meat. They explain that a type of meat (poultry, beef, etc.) can be Halal if it is taken from animals that we are permissible to eat, unless these animals are slaughtered in accordance with Shariah law, their meat is not Zabiha and therefore should not be eaten. In other words, all Zabiha meat is Halal, but not all Halal meat is done in the process of Zabiha. To prove which of the above three viewpoints is correct, it must be determined which one agrees with the Qur’an.
The belief that meat can come from local stores as long as “Bismillah” is said over it runs counter to the following Qur’anic Ayah: “He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that over which has been invoked (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (2:173).
Here Allah is telling us that no name other than His should be invoked over the meat we eat. This is obvious, and all Muslims agree. The question is: When must “Bismillah” be said — before eating or at the time of slaughter? For those who argue that it is meant to be said before eating, I ask: Why do we need a special Ayah to tell us this when Muslims must say “Bismillah” over all our food, not just meat? Furthermore, the following Ahadith clarify that it is while slaughtering the animal that “Bismillah” must be pronounced and that there is a consequence for not doing so:
The Messenger ﷺ said to the Companion Sa’d: “O Sa’d! Purify your food and your supplication will be accepted. By the one in whose hand lies the life of Muhammad ﷺ, verily a servant places a morsel of Haram in his stomach, forty days of worship will not be accepted from him” [Imam Tabrani].
Reading these verses of the Qur’an and the above Ahadith it makes it clear that we are not permissible to eat just any brand of supermarket meat; this is not Halal for us. Halal meat must be slaughtered in the Zabiha manner.
There is also the view that animals from the “People of the Book” is Halal meat for Muslims to eat, meaning meat slaughtered by Jews or Christians. However, this view can be disproven as well. Neither Jews nor Christians invoke the name of Allah Subhana T’Allah over the animal before killing it, as Muslims do. If they were calling on Allah, they would be Muslims, right? Some sheikhs, scholars, and Imams argue that the Qur’an states that we can eat the meat of Jews and Christians based on this Ayah: “This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them” (5:5, Surah Al-Maidah). However, the Arabic word used in this Ayah, ‘ta’am’, does not necessarily refer to meat. Those scholars that argue strictly in favor of Zabiha say that this word ‘ta’am’ is referring to grains and produce, not meat, as the edict for meat has been made clear elsewhere. When Allah speaks about meat in the Qur’an it is usually referred to with the word for meat or flesh, which is lahm.
As if the above Ayahs were not enough to make you wonder, in 6:119 Allah says: “And what hath happened to you that ye eat not (meat) of that over which hath been mentioned the name of Allah, what ye were compelled to; and many would lead people astray by their vain desires without knowledge; Verily, thy Lord knows the best the transgressors.” This should make one stop and ponder the validity of the first two arguments.
The third view that is taken by many scholars in Islam is that the only meat that is Halal for Muslims to eat is that which has been slaughtered according to the shariah law. In short, only Zabiha meat is Halal. It is Zabiha to slaughter, kill, or sacrifice an animal by cutting his throat, according to the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. There is no doubting the fact that Zabiha meat is Halal. No one can refute this statement. Zabiha meat is lawful, and it is the best option of all. The Ayah and Ahadith that I have provided are sufficient to prove that Zabiha meat is not only Halal but also Wajib (obligatory).