What is the Islamic ruling on consuming an animal whose head was totally cut off after being slaughtered?
It should always be remembered that although Islam gives permission to slaughter certain animals and consume their meat (provided certain conditions are met), it never permits making animals suffer unnecessarily. The guidance of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is clear in this regard. He emphasized in many narrations the prohibition and sinfulness of mistreating Animals. Before the advent of Islam, all possible ways and means were used in acquiring the meat of animals and no consideration was taken in preventing the pain and suffering of these defenceless and innocent creatures of Allah.
The beloved Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) came with clear guidelines regarding animal treatment.
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that “the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade making animals suffer.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
The Shafi’i jurist, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (Allah have mercy on him) mentions in his work on the major sins, al-Zawajir an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir, that causing animals undue harm, such as hitting them painfully, without a sound reason is a major sin (kabira). (al-Zawajir 1/208-209)
As such, in general, harming animals, causing them undue pain or making them suffer is unlawful and sinful. When slaughtering an animal, Islam demands that maximum effort is made in minimizing the suffering of the animal. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:
“Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill (an animal), kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” (Sahih Muslim related by Shaddad ibn Aws, no: 1955)
For this very reason, Islamic jurists (fuqaha), in light of the guidance given in the Qur’an and Sunnah, have highlighted many malpractices that need to be avoided when slaughtering animals. These practices do not render the slaughtered animal as unlawful (provided the basic and necessary requirements for a valid slaughter are met), but they are considered to be prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman):
1) Pulling animals with excessive force and placing them down harshly onto the ground when being slaughtered,
2) Delaying the slaughter after the animal is placed onto the ground,
3) Sharpening the knife or blade in front of the animal,
4) Totally cutting off and separating the head of the animal from the remainder of its body when slaughtering,
5) Cutting the animal from the neck (rear) rather than the throat,
6) One should sharpen the knife as much as possible in order to hasten the act of slaughter. (See: al-Hidaya 2/438, Radd al-Muhtar 6/296 & al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya 5/288)
Cutting off the animal’s head directly after being slaughtered
From amongst these reprehensible and prohibitively disliked practices is to cut off the animal’s head and peel off its skin directly after the animal is slaughtered.
The great Hanafi jurist, Imam Ala al-Din al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
Giving the animal unnecessary pain (ta’dhib) in any way is (prohibitively) disliked such as cutting off its head and peeling off its skin before the animal cools down, meaning the animal stops moving and shaking…(See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar 6/296)
Likewise, it is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya:
It is (prohibitively) disliked for the slaughterer to reach the spinal marrow (i.e. close to the neck) of the animal with a knife (nukha’) (m: or to cut off its head completely) before the animal cools down. Similarly, it is disliked to skin the animal before it cools down. However, if the slaughterer did cut off its head or skinned it before it cooled down, there would be nothing wrong in eating of its meat.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya 5/287)
As such, in conclusion, cutting off the head of an animal, peeling off its skin and generally dissecting its body-parts is considered to be prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) directly after the animal has been slaughtered, for this would be regarded giving the animal unnecessary pain. One must wait until the animal cools down by coming to a complete standstill and it stops shaking and moving. This period may vary from one animal to another. However, if the head of the animal was cut off directly after slaughter, the meat of this slaughtered animal will not become unlawful (haram) provided all the necessary conditions for a valid slaughter are met.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK