The Prophetic Etiquette of Slaughtering
How merciful was our beloved Messenger Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him)! He was even merciful when he slaughtered animals! He established certain criteria for animal slaughter to avoid causing them pain and suffering in their last moments. Let us see how merciful the Prophet was even when he slaughtered animals. He instructed Muslims to:
To sharpen the slaughtering knives
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commanded anyone who wishes to slaughter an animal to sharpen his slaughtering knife well in order to make a quick (fatal) cut without torturing the animal. Ibn ‘Abbas (may God be pleased with him) narrated that a man laid down a sheep (in preparation to slaughter it) while sharpening his knife. The Prophet told him, “Do you want to kill it twice? You should have sharpened your blade before laying it down.”
To drive the animal gently to its slaughter
The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) instructed us to drive the sacrificial animal to its slaughter with kindness and gentleness. The Prophet’s honorable companions followed his etiquette of slaughtering. Mohammed Ibn Sirin reported that ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him) once saw a man directing a sheep to its slaughter. So he beat him with his whip and said, “Woe to you! Direct it to death with mercy.”
Not to slaughter animals in front of each other
Abdullah Ibn‘ Umar said, “The Messenger of God ordered us to sharpen the blades of our knives and to hide them from the animals; he said, ‘If one of you is about to slaughter [an animal], he should prepare his tools beforehand.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned us not to slaughter an animal in the presence of another as to avoid causing it any psychological suffering. He commanded us not to display the slaughtering tool before the animal; the slaughterer must conceal the slaughtering tool so that the animal does not see it.
One of the aspects of the Prophet’s mercy and a matter recommended by scholars, is to give the animal that is about to be slaughtered water to drink.
To turn the animal towards the direction of prayer
After doing the above, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would gently lay the animal on its left side, turn it towards the direction of prayer and put his right foot on its right side. Anas ibn Malik said, “I saw the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) slaughter his sacrificial animal with his own hands and he put his foot on its side.” Jabir (May God be pleased with him) said, “Whenever the Prophet wished to slaughter an animal, he would turn it towards the direction of prayer.” Ibn Umar and others disliked to eat from the meat of animals which were not turned towards the direction of prayer when they were slaughtered.
It is also recommended that when slaughtering an animal, one should tie three of its legs and leave its right hind leg free.
To mention the name of God
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would then mention God’s name, saying, “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar, Allahumahadha Minnak wa Lak, Allahuma taqqabal minni” (In the name of God, God is Great. O God! This is from You and for You. O God! Accept it from me).
Following to the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) jurists have maintained that when slaughtering an animal, one should cut its windpipe (the channel of breath) and esophagus. It is also recommended to cut the two carotid arteries (the two blood vessels on the sides of the neck) or one of them along with the windpipe and esophagus and this is the locus of slaughtering. The Prophet said, “Verily God has prescribed ihsan (proficiency, perfection) in all things. So if you kill then kill well; and if you slaughter, then slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.”
To refrain from skinning and cutting up the animal before it dies
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned Muslims not to start skinning the sacrificial animal or break its bones before it dies. Al-Farouq, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him), said, “Do not deal hastily with (slaughtered animals) until all life has departed from them.”