Home Articles What is Dhabiha (Zabiha) in Islam and How is it Related to Halal?

What is Dhabiha (Zabiha) in Islam and How is it Related to Halal?

Halal and dhabiha/zabiha often appear together or get confused. But it’s not hard to understand the difference between these related terms.

A person prepares to drizzle sauce over a dish of meat

The terms dhabiha and halal are often used together or even as synonyms, but they do mean distinct things. 

To put it simply, halal means permissible, while dhabiha (sometimes spelled zabiha) means meat prepared according to Islamic principles. For animals of the land and air, they must first be halal, permissible to eat, and then they must also be dhabiha, slaughtered in the proper manner, and thus suitable for consumption by Muslims.

Because of this, you will often see meat or restaurants advertising themselves as “dhabiha/zabiha halal,” that is, both permissible to eat and properly slaughtered. A halal restaurant may not offer some meat dishes if they are not able to acquire dhabiha meat in their area. 

To better understand the ins and outs of dhabiha meat and its relation to halal in Islam, let’s unpack the concept.

What is dhabiha in Islam?

Dhabiha, or zabiha, refers strictly to meat products, including chicken, cows, buffalo, sheep, goat, camel, rabbit, and turkey. The term signifies that meat is from animals who were slaughtered in a permissible way, according to the Quran.

In other words, you can think of dhabiha as “halal slaughtered meat.”

In order for meat to be considered dhabiha, the animal must be slaughtered by an adult Muslim. The Muslim should be of sound mind. They must invoke Allah’s name before slaughtering. This is so that we may remember that all forms of life are sanctified and that we are killing the animal because Allah has given us the right to do so to satisfy our hunger.

Before slaughtering an animal, one must carefully check the knife for any damages that may impact the slaughter or lead the animal to feel any pain. Another requirement is that the animal’s throat is slit in one swift motion, severing the esophagus, jugular veins,  and windpipe. The animal should be in a comfortable position while its throat is being slit, and after the slaughter, all of the blood of the animal must then be drained away. 

Furthermore, dhabiha meat must be processed, produced, manufactured, and stored using equipment, machinery, and utensils that have been washed according to Islamic law.

Dhabiha vs. Halal

The terms halal and dhabiha are often used interchangeably, but they are not identical. The clear distinction is that dhabiha specifically means meat derived from an animal that was slaughtered by a sane Muslim adult across the throat without feeling any pain, while halal is used for anything allowed under Islamic law.

All dhabiha meat will be halal, but foods that are not produced by slaughtering would not be called dhabiha.

Is there a difference between dhabiha halal and halal meat and poultry? 

When it comes to meat and poultry, there is no distinction whatsoever between dhabiha halal and halal meat and poultry. All halal meats are dhabiha and vice versa. 

The common confusion about this topic is that dhabiha halal meat means it is slaughtered by a Muslim, whereas simply “halal” meat is slaughtered by People of the Book (Ahlul Kitab). This is a false binary. 

There is also a misconception that reading “Bismillah” makes the meat harvested by the People of the Book halal. The reading of Bismillah upon prepared food does not determine whether the meal is halal or not. That determination is contingent on the method and person of slaughter.

What is non-dhabiha?

Non-dhabiha means the meat is commercially produced or that the animal was not slaughtered in a manner that is approved by Islam. 

Some Muslims do eat commercially-produced or non-dhabiha meat. They may believe that it is permissible because it is the food of the people of the book (namely Jews and Christians).

However, this is fundamentally incorrect and inapplicable to modern commercially produced meat and poultry for 2 main reasons: 

  1. Dhabiha slaughter must be performed by a Muslim
  2. Many animals in commercial slaughter operations are dead before slaughter through gas stunning. 

Is dhabiha or halal slaughter more humane? 

If you’ve ever watched a documentary about the meat industry, you are acutely aware that not only is it a profit-first endeavor, but there is often a disturbing level of animal mistreatment involved. Under Islam, this is not halal but haram.

According to halal principles, underfeeding, abusing‚ or otherwise mistreating animals is impermissible. Halal slaughter ensures that animals should not see other animals killed ahead of them and should not see the blade or it being sharpened in preparation for the cut.

In fact, halal slaughter was conceived by the historical principle that it was one of the most humane methods available. Yes, the animals are harvested, but while they are alive they are to be treated with respect, humanity, and care. 

Bread, meat, and sauces served in ceramic bowls and plates

Is dhabiha meat healthier than commercial meat? 

Many people believe that dhabiha halal meat is healthier than the meat you buy in the supermarket. Consider the following facts: 

  • In terms of the animal’s diet, a halal animal is generally raised on vegetarian food and grass. Thus, the meat is rich in omega-3 fat, vitamins, and antioxidants which have numerous health benefits for humans. 
  • It is recommended that animals are generally fed a diet that is free of harmful steroids‚ antibiotics‚ hormones, or any unhealthy food to fatten them unnaturally.
  • By contrast, commercially-produced meat often has hormones and additives. The New York Times reported that most chicken feather-meal samples examined in one study contained Tylenol, one-third contained the antihistamine Benadryl, and samples from China actually contained Prozac. The FDA has caught hatcheries injecting antibiotics directly into chicken eggs. Tyson Foods was found to have injected eggs with the dangerous human antibiotic gentamycin.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council has reported the presence of the potentially dangerous herbs fo ti, lobelia, kava kava, and black cohosh in the U.S. food supply as well as the strong antihistamine hydroxyzine. Most of the ingredients are from suppliers in China.
  • Also used in U.S. meat production is Zilmax, a Merck drug similar to ractopamine that the FDA linked to 285 cattle deaths during six years of administration. Seventy-five animals lost hooves, 94 developed pneumonia, and 41 developed bloat in just two years, Reuters reported.
  • Halal harvested animals are bled out properly which enables

If any of that is making you lose your appetite, you may want to consider halal meat! Halal and tayyib meat is free from ingredients that are harmful to human health. Even if you are not religious, you can take comfort in knowing that these industries are much more stringent with how the animals are raised and what they are fed.

The Broader Appeal of Halal

Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life with manners, regulations, and protocols governing every facet of one’s daily routine. With more and more of the population becoming health conscious and wanting to know where their food comes from, halal is clearly appealing to those beyond the Muslim faith. Your body is a divine gift—you should have the highest respect for it by taking care to make the most informed choices possible when it comes to your own health and nutrition. 

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