Not all Muslims agree on the question of whether rabbit meat is halal.
If you are a practicing Muslim, chances are that your family traditions or the advice of your imam have already informed your choices on this subject.
If you raise meat rabbits for sale to the general public, however, you can benefit from a general understanding of how different traditions in Islam regard eating rabbits.
In this article, we will use the honorifics and terminology you need to master to show respect to your Muslim customers and friends.
We are not scholars of Islam, and we are certainly not Islamic authorities. But we can outline the kinds of concerns your Muslim customers and friends may have about eating rabbit.
Is Rabbit Meat Halal?
The good news is that rabbit meat is considered Halal, as rabbits are not predators and do not hunt other animals.
This makes them a permissible choice for Muslims to consume.
It is essential to ensure that the rabbit is slaughtered according to Islamic law to keep the meat Halal.
But I should mention here that some people (from the Shia sect) consider rabbit meat haram.
Sunni View on Rabbit Consumption
Sunni Muslims, constituting the majority of the Muslim population, follow the four major schools of thought: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali.
The consensus among these schools is that rabbit meat is halal and permissible to eat.
For instance, according to IslamQA, all four schools of thought agree that rabbit meat is halal. Many narrations suggest that the Prophet (peace be upon him) approved its consumption.
Shia View on Rabbit Consumption
The Shia view on rabbit consumption is not uniform. Some Shiite scholars believe that rabbit meat is halal, while others consider it to be haram (forbidden).
One reason behind this difference is the absence of a clear-cut ruling on rabbit meat in their religious texts.
Therefore, if you’re a Shia Muslim, it’s essential to consult your local religious authority to determine the permissibility of eating rabbit meat.
An Islamic Argument in Favor of Eating Rabbits
In Hanafi, one of the four schools of jurisprudence recognized in Sunni Islam, rabbit meat is considered halal.
at rabbit meat is halal.
The authority Imam al-Nawawi said that there is no khilaf, no dissension on this matter among scholars including Sa’ad bin Abu Waqqas, Ibn al-Munzir, Ibn al-Musayyib, and Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, among others.
They refer to a hadith (an explanation of the Holy Koran) narrated by Anas, a companion of the Prophet who lived to be 103 who said (again, paraphrasing, not translating):
“We once stirred up a rabbit when we were at Narr-al-Zaharan. The people who were with us chased it until they got tired. Then I caught it. Abu Talha and sent the fat hindlegs as a gift to the Prophet, who accepted it,:
If the Prophet (all peace be unto him) ate rabbit meat, surely rabbit meat is halal, right? Well, that isn’t quite all of the story.
The Problem with Rabbit Meat for Many Muslims
Many Shia Muslims believe that the rabbit mentioned in the hadith may have been halal, but a rabbit in the modern day may not be.
The problem is that rabbits eat their own poop.
Rabbits extract all of the food value of the grass and herbs that they eat in a two-step process. The first pass of their plant food through their digestive tract extracts some carbohydrates.
It mixes the fiber in their food with probiotic bacteria. The semi-digested fiber passes out of the rabbit’s digestive tract as “soft” poops.
The bacteria in the soft, moist fecal matter convert fiber into fatty acids, including butyric acid, the same fatty acid found in butter.
This gives rabbits a source of dietary fat they can’t get from the unprocessed plant.
They can only get the fat they need for long-lasting energy and fight off starvation in hard times from eating their own fecal matter.
The question then becomes whether the soft poops are najlis, ceremonially unclean items.
In Hanafi Islam, there are essential najis and non-essential najis. Essential najis cannot be cleaned. Non-essential najis can be cleaned.
Animals that eat mostly najis and other unclean things are considered jahallah, unclean animals, not to be eaten.
Pigs, for example, are jahallah.
Rabbit excrement is “cleaned” by passing through the rabbit a second time. Or, some scholars argue, that rabbit meat is hallal because the majority of its food is not najis.
Still other scholars argue that whether or not an animal is al-jahallah depends on whether its diet affects its flesh.
Rabbit meat is not tainted by the food the rabbit eats, so, in this line of reasoning, rabbits are clean animals.
Some scholars also point out that rabbits do not have fangs or venom and do not feed on flesh, so their relatively benign nature makes this wholesome to eat.
Just to be on the safe side, some twenty-first-century Sunni authorities recommend quarantining the rabbit for a period of time, feeding it clean grass and fresh water, and making sure it does not consume its own excrement. In their view, this transforms the rabbit meat from markruh (haram) to halal.
An Islamic Argument Against Eating Rabbit Meat
Most Shia authorities regard rabbit meat as haram. This means it is not to be eaten by observant Muslims.
They reach this conclusion from other hadiths that are considered differently by Sunni scholars.
There are three reasons Shia authorities regard rabbits as haram for three reasons:
Rabbits have undergone transformation
Shahid Thani, the Second Martyr, noted that people had been transformed into monkeys, elephants, dogs, mice, wolves, and rabbits, so, since these animals entrapped a human soul, eating them is impermissible.
Not all monkeys, elephants, dogs, mice, wolves, and rabbits were once human, but since there is no way to tell which are, none should be eaten.
When God punishes people by turning them into animals, in this view, they only live for three days.
Waiting three days before eating a rabbit would seem to take care of this problem, but there are other considerations.
Rabbits have claws
Other Shia authorities point out that rabbits, like cats and other predator animals, have claws.
You can’t eat animals that feed on animal flesh, which you recognize by their claws, so you cannot eat rabbits.
Rabbits have blood similar to human menstrual blood
Some other authorities claim that rabbits have blood similar to human menstrual blood.
Sheikh Hurr Ameli makes this statement in Wasailul-Shia, vol.24, pg.109. Modern Shia commentators note that this is a curious thing to have written, but they regard it as divinely inspired, so they advise observant Muslims to avoid rabbit meat.
So, Does This Mean You Should Offer Rabbit Meat to Sunni Muslims?
Even if you market rabbit meat to Muslims who consider the animal to be halal, it still needs to be slaughtered in a halal manner.
Here are the zahibah, the rules, for slaughtering rabbits:
- Any Muslim who has reached puberty may kill the animal to be prepared for food. However, this person should be of good mental condition and observant of the religion. Apostates may not prepare food for Muslims. Rabbits slaughtered by non-Muslims are not halal.
- The Muslim slaughtering the rabbit must point the rabbit’s face toward Mecca. In some situations, this requires using a phone app called a Mecca finder. If slaughter is done routinely, the Muslim working in the slaughterhouse will generally know the right direction to point the animal.
- The knife must be very sharp. No rough edges are permitted. The knife must have been sharpened in the presence of the animal to assure it that the process of slaughter will be painless.
- The rabbit must be slaughtered in the name of Allah, glory to Him, the exalted. Typically, the butcher would say “Allahu akbar.”
- The rabbit must be killed with a single pass of the knife over its throat that severs the carotid artery, the jugular vein, and the throat (trachea). The beating heart will force blood (which must not be eaten) out of the animal.
- The rabbit must be drained of any remaining blood before it is further butchered. Unlike kosher preparation, halal meat does not always (or nearly always) have to be salted.
Rabbits must be alive at the time of slaughter.
Dead rabbits cannot be collected and eaten.
Can You Market Rabbit Meat to Muslims?
Not all Muslims, of course, keep halal.
But even those who do not may not wish to be too closely associated with a vendor of rabbit meat (such as a vendor at a farmer’s market) who does not know and respect the rules of halal food preparation.
Be very sure that if you advertise rabbit meat as halal that it actually is (at least under Sunni rules) prepared in a halal-compliant manner.
You cannot do the butchering if you are not a Muslim and call your product halal.
If you are selling large amounts of rabbit meat to Muslim clients, you may even want to get an internationally recognized halal certification.
Can I Sell Pet Rabbits to Muslims?
There are no Islamic texts that prohibit keeping rabbits as pets.
However, Muslims are required to treat their pets with kindness. They must make sure any pet rabbits are well-fed and well-housed, and treated with respect.
There is a reference in Sahih Muslim 2242 to a woman who kept a cat tied up until it died, so she was cast into Hell in the afterlife.
If you are a Muslim and you get a pet rabbit, you probably should make sure it is well cared for.
What Makes Animals Halal or Haram
As someone who follows Islamic dietary laws, you might be curious about which animals are considered halal (permissible) or haram (forbidden).
Here’s a quick guide on the characteristics that define whether animals and their meat are permissible for consumption or not.
Grazing Animals and Herbivores
Halal animals are typically those that are considered “clean” and are herbivores or grazing animals, meaning they eat plants only. Some common examples are cows, sheep, goats, and chickens. These animals are allowed for consumption in Islam as they are not known to be harmful to human health and are not considered filthy.
Predators and Carnivorous Animals
On the other hand, haram animals include predators and carnivorous animals.
These animals have fangs or talons and are known for hunting and consuming other animals.
Examples of such animals are lions, tigers, and birds with talons like eagles or hawks.
Fish, however, are considered halal even though they consume other animals, as they live in water and are clean.
Islamic Law and Humane Treatment
One of the key principles in determining whether an animal is halal is how it is slaughtered.
According to Islamic law, the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim in the name of Allah, and the animal must be treated humanely.
It is important to make sure the animal does not suffer during the process.
To better understand the distinction between halal and haram animals, here’s a simplified table:
|Halal Animals||Haram Animals|
|Grazing animals (herbivores)||Predators and carnivorous animals|
|Animals slaughtered according to Islamic law||Animals not slaughtered according to Islamic law|
Keep in mind that while rabbits are considered herbivores, their classification as halal or haram in Islam is not as straightforward.
Some scholars argue that rabbit meat is halal, while others may disagree.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has reportedly consumed rabbit meat which suggests it may be permissible. Always consult your local Islamic scholar when in doubt about such matters.
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