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Hunting & Islam

The Quransays:

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ وَلَحْمُ الْخِنزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ بِهِ وَالْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَالْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَالْمُتَرَدِّيَةُ وَالنَّطِيحَةُ وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ

Forbidden to you [for food] are: meat of dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which Allah’s Name has not been invoked while slaughtering, and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns – and that which has been eaten by a wild animal – unless you are able to slaughter it [before its death]. (5:3)

It needs to be kept in mind that like other words, the word maytah isused in the above mentioned directives according to its usage in the Arabic language. No doubt, it has a literal meaning; however, its usage in the Arabic language does not include all the dead, as is the case with its Urdu usage. In such a case, it becomes confined to a certain specific meaning, and anyone who is aware of this intricacy, for example, will never include dead fish or dead locust in its connotation:
Imām al-Zamakhsharī writes:

قصد ما يتفاهمه الناس و يتعارفونه في العادة ‘ ألا تري أن القائل إذا قال : أكل فلان ميتة ‘ لم يسبق الوهم إلى السمك والجراد كما لو قال : أكل دماً ‘ لم يسبق إلى الكبد والطحال ‘ ولاعتبار العادة والتعارف قالوا : من حلف لا يأكل لحماً فأكل سمكا لم يحنث وان أكل لحماً في الحقيقة

The word مَيْتَه (maytah) mentioned in the Qur’ān must be understood according to its linguistic usage. Is not the case that when someone says that he has eaten maytah, we never include a fish or a locust in its connotation. This is similar to the fact that if a person says that he has drunk blood, we never include liver or spleen in its connotation. Precisely because of such usage, jurists say that if a person swears that he will never eat meat and then he consumes fish, this will not break his oath although in reality he has eaten meat.[1]

Owing to similar reasons, about sea water, the Prophet (sws) is ascribed to have said:

هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ الْحِلُّ مَيْتَتُهُ

Its water is pure and its maytah is not forbidden.[2]

In other words, the above quoted words of the Prophet (sws) also pertain to dead fish and certain other similar things which cannot be regarded as maytah as far as the usage of the word is concerned but which are maytah in the literal sense of the word.
It is evident from 5:3 (quoted above) that the explanation of the word maytah and the words إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ (except if you slaughter it in the prescribed way) after وَمَا أَكَلَ السَّبُعُ (what has been eaten by a wild animal) that the only form of death that does not make an animal maytah is تَذْكِيَه (tadhkiyah). Tadhkiyah is a sunnah established by the Prophets of Allah and as a term means to slaughter an animal in such way that it drains out all the blood in the animal’s body and the animal dies because of this very reason. It is only this method of killing an animal which cleanses its meat from the impurity of blood.
The correct methodology for tadhkiyah is ذِبْح (dhibh) or نَحْر (nahr). Dhibh specifically concerns the cow, goat and similar animals, while nahr specifically relates to the camel and animals similar to it. Dhibh means to cut the throat of an animal such that the gullet and the throatis slit open or to cut the throatand the jugular veins. Nahr means to pierce the throat of the animal with a sharp edged weapon like a spear so that blood bursts out from the wound and the animal dies because of blood loss.
If it is not possible to adopt the above outlined prescribed methods of slaughter, then the Prophet (sws) has directed the believers to use any other thing to inflict a cut on the animal such that all the blood is able to drain away from that wound:

عَنْ عَدِيِّ بْنِ حَاتِمٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ أَحَدُنَا أَصَابَ صَيْدًا وَلَيْسَ مَعَهُ سِكِّينٌ أَيَذْبَحُ بِالْمَرْوَةِ وَشِقَّةِ الْعَصَا فَقَالَ: أَمْرِرْ الدَّمَ بِمَا شِئْتَ وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

Adī ibn Hātim says: “O Messenger of Allāh! Is it okay to slaughter a prey with a stone or a piece of wood if the prey is at hand and we do not have a knife to slaughter it?” He replied: “Drain out the blood with whatever you have and take the name of Allah on it.”[3]

Killing a prey with a gun or an arrow would also be conditional to what has been said above. If a tamed animal cuts open a prey, its case is also similar, as explained by the Almighty in the Qur’ān. If such an animal is not found alive, then also it should not be considered as maytah:[4]

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَمَا عَلَّمْتُمْ مِنْ الْجَوَارِحِ مُكَلِّبِينَ تُعَلِّمُونَهُنَّ مِمَّا عَلَّمَكُمْ اللَّهُ فَكُلُوا مِمَّا أَمْسَكْنَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

They ask what is lawful to you: “Say all good things are lawful to you as well as [the prey of] the beasts you have taught, training them as Allah has taught you. So eat of what they catch for you and [before you let lose the beast to catch the prey], pronounce upon it[5]the name of Allah. And have fear of Allah. Swift is He in taking account.” (5:4)

It is evident from the context of the above verse that since the verse preceding it states that an animal that has been cut open by a beast is only allowed to be eaten if it is found alive and then slaughtered in the prescribed way, it was but natural that the question should arise: Is such an animal allowed to be eaten as has been pounced upon by a tamed beast of prey and the animal dies before one gets the chance to slaughter it in the prescribed way? The verse answers the question in the affirmative and says that cutting upon of an animal by a tamed beast of prey is tantamount to tadhkiyah, and therefore it can be eaten even if it has not be slaughtered in the prescribed way with one condition: the tamed beast of prey has preserved the prey for his master and has not eaten from it. In case it has, then such an animal should not be eaten. This condition is stated in the words مِمَّا أَمْسَكْنَ عَلَيْكُمْ (what they have preserved for you). Moreover, in this regard, there is no need to discriminate between tamed beasts of prey and tamed birds of prey. Birds like falcons, eagles, and hawks also can be tamed for catching a prey.
The Prophet (sws) is reported to have explained this Qur’ānic purport in the following words:

إِذَا أَرْسَلْتَ كَلْبَكَ فَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ فَإِنْ أَدْرَكْتَهُ لَمْ يَقْتُلْ فَاذْبَحْ وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنْ أَدْرَكْتَهُ قَدْ قَتَلَ وَلَمْ يَأْكُلْ كُلْ فَقَدْ أَمْسَكَهُ عَلَيْكَ فَإِنْ وَجَدْتَهُ قَدْ أَكَلَ مِنْهُ فَلَا تَطْعَمْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإِنَّمَا أَمْسَكَ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ وَإِنْ خَالَطَ كَلْبُكَ كِلَابًا فَقَتَلْنَ فَلَمْ يَأْكُلْنَ فَلَا تَأْكُلْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإِنَّكَ لَا تَدْرِي أَيُّهَا قَتَلَ

When you release your dog to catch the prey, take the name of Allah while doing so. If you then see that it has not killed the prey, slaughter it in the prescribed way and take Allah’s name while slaughtering it. If it has killed the prey but did not take a bite, then you can eat it since it has preserved it for you. However, if it has eaten from the prey, then such a prey is forbidden for you because the beast of prey has in this case preserved it for itself. And if you see other dogs besides yours who have also killed the prey, then do not eat from it since you do not know which of the dogs has actually killed the prey.[6]

[1]. Al-Zamakhsharī, Al-Kashshāf, vol. 1, 215.
[2]. Al-Nasā’ī, Sunan, 7, (no. 59).
[3]. Abū Dā’ūd, Sunan, vol. 3, 102, (no. 2824).
[4]. However, if it is not cut open by a tamed animal and the animal dies of fear, then it is a maytah. Similarly, if it has not been cut open by a tamed animal and is found alive, then it must be slaughtered in the prescribed way. It is obvious that the requirement of tadhkiyah is not fulfilled without it.
[5]. In the opinion of this writer, the antecedent of the pronoun in عَلَيْهِ (on it) is وَمَا عَلَّمْتُمْ مِنْ الْجَوَارِحِ (and [the prey of] the beasts you have taught). The reason for this is that if مِمَّا أَمْسَكْنَ (that which has been caught) is considered to be the antecedent, then this would merely be a repetition of what has already been stated earlier in the words إِلَّا مَا ذَكَّيْتُمْ (except if you slaughter it in the prescribed way), and if the antecedent is related to فَكُلُوْا (so eat), then it would pertain to the normal etiquette of eating, which of course would be totally out of place here.
[6]. Al-Nasā’ī, Sunan, 594, (no. 4268).


1. Conditions related to the hunter:
(a) Hunter must be Muslim, mumayyiz (person who has reached the age of discretion), sane or one of the people of the book, that’s, Christian of Jewish. The meat of the animals hunted by people apart from these cannot be eaten and also animals slaughtered by them cannot be eaten, either.
(b) While the hunter is shooting the prey, or while he is sending the animal that is going to catch it, he must utter bismillah. If he does not utter bismillah deliberately, the meat of that prey cannot be eaten.
(c) Hunter must take action right away, without occupying himself with anything else, after shooting hunt animal or having it caught by the trained hunter animal. Sometimes it is possible that the hunter may have missed the animal and it may not have been killed. If he does not search where it is but occupies himself with something else and finds the animal dead later, the meat of that animal cannot be eaten. Yet, if he finds the animal he injured as dead, without waiting after shooting it, its meat can be eaten. (Maydani, al-Lubab, III, 220).
(d) Shooting hunt animal or sending the trained animal to catch it must be done by an expert hunter and anyone who is unfamiliar with hunting must not interfere in this. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) prohibited hunting with stones, wrist rockets and clubs. A hadith narrated by Muslim is as follows:
“Stone neither hunts nor injures the enemy. It only breaks teeth and wounds eyes.”
A hunter shoots the prey yet loses it and finds after a while. The following hadithes related to this was narrated from Adiy b. Hatem:
“Eat the prey if you find it outside of water after shooting your arrow. Otherwise, you cannot figure out if it was water or the arrow that killed it.”
“If you cannot find any bruise made by a wild animal on your prey and if you conclude that it was your arrow to have killed it, eat it”
“If you find your prey three days after shooting it and it yet does not smell rotten, eat it”
Mercy and need are the leading necessities to be taken into consideration in hunting. A Muslim who hunts for his needs must be merciful. He must not hunt during mating and reproduction periods. A true believer will be responsible for a great sin if he hunts to the degree that makes animals extinct and spoil nature’s balance.

2. Conditions related to the hunt animals:
(a) Hunted animal must be a species that is permitted to eat. (see edible animals)
(b) It must be wild in disposition and not domestic or tamed.
(c) It must not be pests or insects.
(d) As for sea animals, it must be fish (species of fish living in soft water or hard water).
(e) Animal must have died because of hunting. If the hunter catches the injured animal before it dies, he needs to slaughter it. Otherwise, it cannot be eaten.

3. Conditions related to the hunting tools:
Animals are hunted with trained animals such as dogs, hawks, falcons, goshawks or by nets and traps or with weapons. These trained animals must have the conditions listed below:

(a) They must go for the prey when they are sent.
(b) They must be trained for hunting.
A dog is accepted to be trained when it does not eat the animal it caught for three times and animals such as falcons and hawks are considered to be trained if they return when called back.
(c) They must not eat even a morsel from the meat of the animal they have caught.
(d) They must not kill the animals by choking them. If the animals die for another reason after being injured, they cannot be eaten.
(e) Any other untrained animal such as foxes and others must not help them with hunting.

In our day, Falconer must utter bismillah before sending the Bird of prey, must run to it right away after getting it caught slaughter it if it is not dead yet. If it has died because of bird of prey before the falconer reaches it, it can be eaten without the need to do any thing else.
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