The Divisive Taboo of Halal for Sikhs

Like many Sikhs, I grew up eating meat. It was something I never really questioned until I was in college and started learning more about the treatment of animals on factory farms and the environmental impact of the meat industry.

But growing up I never thought about where my spicy deep-fried chicken strips were coming from. Or the living (and dying) conditions of the cow that made up the thinly sliced pieces of meat in my Arbys roast beef sandwich. As long is it wasnt halal, it was all good.

I never understood what halal truly meant, but the message I got from my parents and others in the community went something like this: Halal is the way Muslims slaughter animals, and it involves killing the animal slowly and painfully. And lots of gushing blood. We Sikhs dont believe in torturing animals, so we dont eat halal meat. Sound like a familiar story line?

This, of course, contributed to my perception of Muslims as barbaric people who were dirty, had multiple wives and questionable morals, and killed my ancestors during partition. In the context of the messages I received from family and community growing up, the story about halal fit right in yet another way Muslims are backwards.

As is abundantly clear in my writing on this blog, this is in stark contrast to how I see Islam and the Muslim community at this point in my life. But I grew up with these messages and stereotypes just like most of my Sikh peers did.

Really, whats all the fuss about halal? Why arent Sikhs supposed to eat halal meat?

Section Six of the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct) states:

The undermentioned fourtransgressions (tabooed practices) must be avoided:

1. Dishonouring the hair;
2. Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way;
3. Cohabiting with a person other than one’s spouse;
4. Using tobacco.

The most common argument I usually hear to explain the halal ban is simply that the Rehat Maryada says so. No disrespect to the Rehat Maryada or the (attempted) consensus-based process through which it was created in the first half of the 20th Century, but this is not a sufficient reason in and of itself. If the lives our Gurus have taught me anything, it is to think critically, question everything Im told, and to always keep the love of Waheguru in my heart. So an argument based solely on citation of the Rehat Maryada (which our Gurus were not involved in writing) is not convincing to me.

Another common argument I hear is the aforementioned animal welfare argument: that slaughtering the Muslim way is unnecessarily painful for the animalits a slow death and a form of torture. With jathka meat, on the other hand, the animal is killed swiftly, experiencing minimal pain.

Scientific research reveals a more complicated reality, however. A 1978 German study found that halal slaughtering actually caused less pain to calves and sheep than slaughtering after the animals were stunned by a captive bolt (the industry standard). A more recent New Zealand study, on the other hand, found that stunning reduces the pain of the slaughter. However, according to a study cited by the Guardian last year, 90% of animals killed for halal food in 2004 were stunned first. As in mainstream food production, the animal’s throat is then cut. So this supposedly sinister method, it seems, is not that different after all.

Research studies aside, the intention of halal (and for Jews, kosher) slaughtering is to minimize pain and suffering to the animal. The Guardian states:

The definition of halal is anything that is legal or lawful for Muslims. In terms of meat, this can apply to what kind of animal is used (not pigs, for instance) and the way they are killed: an animal must be healthy, the butcher must make a recitation dedicating it to God, and the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe are cut with a single swipe from a sharp knife. As with kosher meat, the idea is that the animal dies immediately and the blood drains away. [my emphasis]

And in fact, if the animal is not killed immediately with a single swipe, it is not considered halal.

Thus, not eating halal because of our concern for animal welfare simply doesnt make sense. If this was our primary concern in our food choices as a community, then I would argue we should talk about a Sikh prohibition of all factory-farmed meats, eggs, and dairy products. Animals on factory farms (or the official term, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs) live in grotesquely unnatural, overcrowded conditions, never seeing the sun or grazing in the grass. Pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics, these animals are treated simply as units of production rather than living beings. There is nothing respectful or humane about the treatment of animals on factory farms, so why are we so concerned about halal and not worried about the cows that become our Big Mac or produce the milk in our cha?

A final explanation of the Sikh ban on halal meat I have often heard is we should not partake in the ritual or sacrificial killing of an animal. Of course, we Sikhs are not proponents of ritual for the sake of ritual:

jaalo aisee reeth jith mai piaaraa veesarai ||
Burn away those rituals which lead you to forget the Beloved Lord.
naanak saaee bhalee pareeth jith saahib saethee path rehai ||2||
O Nanak, sublime is that love, which preserves my honor with my Lord Master. |

(Guru Granth Sahib, p. 590)

But talk to a devout Muslim or Jew about halal or kosher, and youll likely find that they think of their respective religions practice of killing an animal as a necessary means to show respect to the animal and to God, since the animal is a creation of God. Is saying a prayer and remembering God while ending the life of a living being for the purposes of eating a blind ritual? Even if we dont see it as a necessary step for our own religious practice as Sikhs, I would argue that it is not fundamentally contrary to the Sikh way of life.

Yes, I am raising questions and concerns about a guidelines set forth in the Rehat Maryada, and perhaps some readers will take issue with that. But over sixty years after our code of conduct was officially approved by the Panth, dont we owe it to ourselves as a community to continually look inward and ask questions about where we are and where we are going?

From my own observations about the Sikh prohibition of halal meat, it does little to protect the well-being and humane treatment of animals and even less to get us closer to Waheguru. Instead, the prohibition of halal meat spreads misinformation and perpetuates stereotypical and demeaning attitudes about Islam and the Muslim community. While I have heard some say the prohibition is not about halal specifically, but about any sacrificial meat, the Rehat Maryada explicitly singles out an animal slaughtered the Muslim way. Rarely do I hear any talk of kosher meat being taboo for Sikhs.

At the heart of Sikhi is Ik Onkar One Divine Light that shines in all human beings. Waheguru connects us all. Guru Gobind Singh was always clear that the Khalsas war was never against Muslim people or Islam, but it was against tyranny, which at the time was epitomized by Aurangzeb’s empire. Sadly, many in the contemporary Sikh community maybe even a majority have taken home a different message which they have taught to their kids, and their kids taught to their kids, and so on.

When do we stop this legacy and get back to the heart of Sikhi?

Sikhi is arguably one of the most inclusive philosophies of the major world religions. Yet it seems to me that prohibiting the eating of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way serves only to divide.


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124 Responses to “The Divisive Taboo of Halal for Sikhs”

  1. Banda Singh says:

    Halal meat is sacrificial meat. If you wish to eat meat, then eat it because you want to, not because your eating it in the name of God.

    This is why Sikhs are forbidden from eating Halal.

    • Zee says:

      As the post explains, Muslims believe animals are a gift from God, and you must respect the sacrifice they are making to keep us nourished. So yes, all meat is sacrificed in that they are honored as a gift from God. Everything is a gift from God, if we go by what we "want" without understanding its purpose, then we will never appreciate the gifts God has given us.

      Wonderful post, I am Muslim and greatly appreciate your insight. I have felt a strong bond with Sikhism and in the end feel that anything in the name of God should be celebrated across all religions.

      • Banda Singh says:

        So are you saying killing in the name of God is justified?

        • Zee says:

          Yes, anything in the name of God is justified. Especially killing.

          I wish there was a sarcasm font.

          • H S says:

            What I have heard is the way Muslims slaughter the animal (below the neck) is least painful and immediate death of animal. Plus, it also drains out most of the blood from the animal. I somehow believe it to be scientific thought while I also expect many people would argue how it could have been thought back then. There are also some other things mentioned in Koran which have scientific basis, which is hard to imagine that those thoughts originated long back.

        • sha says:

          Fact: halal is not just eating halal meat. vegetarian food also is halal. halal have very wide meaning. halal is a guide of healthy dietary… well, if some muslim choose not to eat halal meat, it's still ok because of there are many choice of halal food to eat.

          i believe if the animal was killed for a good reason there's no problem with that.

  2. Sukhwinder Singh says:

    This Note posted by you my friend shows how you Disregard the Sikh rehat Maryada. A sikh is never meant to eat any kind of meat in his life be it the halal or Jhatka. The thing you have listed in the 4 Mryadas of sikhs 'Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered in a Muslim way'. Let me ask you something mate, is there any right way of killing someone? If you go out and intend to kill someone you can't think of a right or a wrong way. Either you kill him/her slowly or in a single swipe as you say. A sin is a sin. These lame excuses are made by those people who Disrespect and oppose the Guru. A true Gursikh is the one who never questions the Guru's ability and decision. You are not alone who keep an eye of suspicion on the Maryada. There a Millions out there who want to disscuss this kind of stuff just to make themselves look more knowledgeable and putting forth a view which fits their own way of life.
    Myself, I lived 17 years in Punjab and have my roots connected to a Family of Amritdharis and I am too a proud Guru Ka Sikh since I was a kid. Its been 3 years now that I moved abroad, I haven't touched any kind of meat be it Halal or Jhatka by the Akal Purakh's Grace and I see people pretending to be true followers of Sikhism and on the contrary put up views opposing the Sikh Rehat Maryada just to live the life they want to live and convince people that they are Right, Which hurts me from within because that seed sown once by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, watered and looked after by the Nine Guru Sahiban's with their blood and hard work which started blossoming and showering its Mehak around the World, instead of protecting and spreading it we are just plucking its delicate petals by questioning on Guru's Word itself. I can't Justify myself here without Gurbani, But I am not knowledgeable enough to Take a Pankti from Guru Granth Sahib Ji's and try to Explain it in my way or favour as it satisfies me. May Waheguru Give you the Strength and Understanding to follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada rather that questioning on it.
    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

    • brooklynwala says:

      First of all, nowhere in the Rehat Maryada does it say Sikhs should not eat any meat at all. And there is ample evidence that many of our Gurus, including Guru Nanak ate meat, even served meat at their langars at times. Professor IJ Singh cites some examples here: http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-sikhi-sikhism/

      You say: "There a Millions out there who want to disscuss this kind of stuff just to make themselves look more knowledgeable and putting forth a view which fits their own way of life."

      You're making a lot of assumptions about my intentions and about my "way of life." I have been a vegetarian for over a decade for many of the reasons about factory farming that I mentioned in my post. This is irrelevant to my concerns about the ban on halal meat.

      • B Singh says:

        Hi, So I Just one question for you, brooklynwala? If we are allowed to eat in whatever way, Why is that there is no meat served during langar in Gurdwaras?
        Thanks.

        • brooklynwala says:

          I have heard many explanations for why langar is usually vegetarian (this hasn't always been this way at all periods of Sikh history), but the most compelling one is so it is as inclusive of a space as possible — i.e. for anyone with food restrictions, be they Hindu vegetarians or Muslims who only eat halal.

          • Harinder says:

            Why the Gurudwara could have also thought of cooking meat in both ways

            Halal and Jhatka to be inclusive

            still they did not do it !

            Any reason for that?

    • H.Singh says:

      Sounds like Sukhwinder Singh thinks he is better than the rest of the people because he is a "practicing Sikh." You fail to see that this is basically Hankaar (ego) which cannot be present when searching for that connection with the divine. Your goal is to kill your ego, not consider yourself better because you are in your own eyes more of a practicing Sikh than the next person. I hate to point out that you talk about coming from an Amritdhari family and being a proud Sikh since you were a kid but you are not knowledgeable enough to include a pankti from the Guru Granth Sahib to back your statement. Guru Nanak basically said to remember God, work honestly, and share with the less fortunate. He also mentioned that those that waste time arguing about things such as eating meat or not, are wasting energy and time that could be spent on worshipping God Almighty. Don't jump on bandwagons. Get educated about Sikh Philosphy.

  3. kds says:

    <The most common argument I usually hear to explain the halal ban is simply that the Rehat Maryada says so. No disrespect to the Rehat Maryada or the (attempted) consensus-based process through which it was created in the first half of the 20th Century, but this is not a sufficient reason in and of itself. If the lives our Gurus have taught me anything, it is to think critically, question everything I’m told, and to always keep the love of Waheguru in my heart. So an argument based solely on citation of the Rehat Maryada (which our Gurus were not involved in writing) is not convincing to me.>

    Here are some of the views regarding halal from puratan Rehats
    http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/sikh-rehat-maryada/s

    1 .Tanakhah-nama
    Bhai nand lal

    Avoid meat cooked by Turks.

    2
    Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama

    A Gursikh is strictly forbidden to eat meat killed according to Muslim rites

    3Desa Singh Rahit-nama:
    The flesh of a goat may be eaten provided the goat is killed with a single blow well away from a langar

    4 Daya Singh Rahit-nama

    Eating halal meat or concealing one 's knees with a kachh, are described as serious offences. [49—53, 55, 57—8, 61—2]

    ————————————————————————————————————————————

    Saying that halal meat was not forbidden by Guru gobind singh ji same like saying that cutting kes is not forbidden by Guru ji

    • Sukhwinder Singh says:

      This might be your personal opinion but the truth remains the same, and on which behalf are you saying that Guru's were not involved in the making of Rehat Maryada then how does our dasve Patshaah Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji say " Rehni Rahe Soi Sikh Mera, oh Sahib Main Uska Chehra."
      The one who follows the Rehat is the only Sikh to me, not anyone else and He is my Master and I shall be his Servant.
      You know there are two mentalities in this world, ones who focus on what Panth has approved and tries to follow it and be worthy of the Guru's Blessings. The others who just sit there, question and keep on wasting their lives. Rest the Guru is knowledgeable himself and knows what we think before we even say it. I don't want to enter this debate in which you won't agree to what I have to say and vice versa. So have a look at this video and think about it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUJLDFMNsNU
      Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
      Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  4. another singh says:

    This is an excellent and thought-provoking post. I hope that our initial reactions here are not to be defensive, but instead, to take seriously what Brooklynwala is suggesting. That is, how do we make sense of this ban on consuming halal meat? Once we better understand where it's coming from, then we can begin forming our opinions and arguments for it.

    Thanks for calling our attention to the issue and for inspiring us to think, Brooklynwala.

  5. Harjinder Singh says:

    Interesting post.

    However I have some concerns in relation to it;

    You state the German research in 1978 concluded that it was less painful to be killed slowly, I've not had a chance to view the study as yet BUT is this research backed up by any other studies? A one off study cannot be considered fact.

    You also mention that animals are now stunned before the halal slaughtering begins….a few questions in relation to this;
    1) Doesn't the fact that that they stun them with the captive bolt defeat the German study argument? Why the need to the stunning if there is study in place which claims halal slaughtering was less painful to start with?
    2) Also, this is a relative new technology and certainly not one that was available when the Sikh Rehat Maryada was drawn up so surely it stands to reason it was valid THEN, if debateable now.

    I do however share your concerns that some aspects of our community prefer to demonise the Islamic community I don't think the forbidding of eat halal meat actually contributes to that, I feel it is a tenuous argument to link the two and your call to look at the Sikh Rehat Maryada again is misguided…..it is our cultural habits that are failing us more than anything, more so than the "faults" in the Sikh Rehat Maryada.

    • Bostonvala says:

      I concur. Also, The German study and Guardian article may be fine, but just like we would want non-Sikhs to ask Sikhs as to a theological or Sikhi practice question, similarly it is best to ask Muslim scholars on what the definition of Halal is. My research has shown that the reading of the "kalma" is the most essential aspect of the process, not the slaughter methodology. Although there is an acceptable technique for butchering and slaughter, most Muslim scholars are in agreement that it is the "sacrificial" nature of the ritual that makes it halal meat. We need to study the Sikh Rahit Maryada, its history, its drafters, all the secondary texts and academic processes which were used to come up with the current document. More study of it will truly lead to more acceptance of it.

    • brooklynwala says:

      Good questions, and I certainly do not know the answers. What's clear to me though is that the intention of halal slaughtering is to be quick and cause as little pain as possible to the animal, and of course to remember God and the animal as God's creation.

      I'm making the connection between the halal prohibition and anti-Muslim sentiment amongst Sikhs because I've seen it playing out in my own life — I've heard the ways people describe halal as such a grotesque and torturous process in the same breath as other negative stereotypes about Muslims being put out there. I know it had an impact on my own perceptions of Muslims growing up, and I suspect it has shaped others too. Whether there was an inherently anti-Muslim intention in putting the halal ban in the Rehat Maryada (I certainly hope not) is another question, but I think the effect of it contributes to anti-Muslim bigotry in our community. But you're right that it's much much more than the halal issue.

      • Harjinder Singh says:

        I think most of us don't know the answer, we just like to pretend we do :)

        However IF it is a more humane way of killing animals, should not ALL animals be killed this way? Who is leading that campaign?

        Ultimately however I don't see this topic as a pressing concern for the Sikh community, if you wish to eat meat, there's plenty of it around, eat, enjoy, whatever (noting you have stated you are a vegetarian). How or whether it ends up on your plate is matter for your conscience but I see no benefit in arguing to the removal of this clause, if you like, from the Rehat. I certainly don't see the existence of this clause as being the reason behind which the Muslim religion and people isn't projected as well within our own community.

        Had the birth of Sikhism taken place during another period and people (Christian's, Hindu's, Atheists etc) against whose tyranny we rejected, those same people may have had that negative image that we inadvertently project on Muslims, projected on them. How you address is, is the real problem and I'm not sure there is an universal answer other than we taking responsibilty and ensuring we don't pass this down the generations as it may have been passed down to us, intended or otherwise.

        I think we have to respect the fact that those who shaped and wrote the Maryada were learnered and spiritual people with the best of intentions. The creation of the current Maryada was only finalised after years or debate and study and not something that was done on a whim.

  6. Bostonvala says:

    @Brooklynwala – you have covered two angles to the issue
    1) Causing pain/less pain to the animal – For me this argument is weak enough to not even worth commenting on. As @Sukhwinder Singh who is a proponent of no meat at all suggests, that argument does not stand on its own.

    2) Sacrificial meat – This one is a strong argument. And rather than take the word halal literally, the spirit of the law needs to be applied here. Any meat that is butchered or prepared as a sacrifice to God, with the intention that somehow we gift another life to please God – is antithetical to Sikhi. The only sacrifice acceptable to Vahiguru is the sacrifice of an individual's bad deeds and rather a life of useful, fruitful and meaningful deeds for self and the world. This injunction is to remind us that in our daily consumption – be thankful always, and be mindful to do good.

    (cont…as comment is too long)

  7. Bostonvala says:

    However, you have not covered other angles to the discussion and for that the key ingredients of Sikh history and Sikhi feeling of sovereignty are required. The Gursikhs of the past have passed down through oral tradition that it was a law of the land that "only halal meat" was allowed to be consumed by the public. So all Muslim butchers got the advantage and non-Muslims were forced to partake in that. There was nothing inherently negative about Muslim thought, instead as is usually the case, it was the result of an extreme interpretation by a power hungry Emperor and his minions. Anyway, as a challenge to this type of hegemony, the Guru ordained that his Sikhs (if they chose to consume meat) would refrain from consuming halal and would instead take matters into their own sovereign hands and hunt and consume independently. This is where the confusion or clarity (as the case may be) of jhatka meat comes. There are still some Sikh practitioners that refuse to eat any meat unless they have butchered the animal themselves – my late grandfather was one of them – and when they butcher the animal they do it in one blow.

    • brooklynwala says:

      this is an interesting analysis bostonvala. so you're arguing that not eating halal was another way for sikhs to declare their sovereignty under the rule of the worst of the mughal empire. it's a convincing argument for why the practice may have begun, but certainly the context was quite different in 1950 when the rehat maryada was officially adopted. why would this prohibition on halal have been relevant at that point when sikhs were clearly not living under a tyrannical empire where only halal meat was available? thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  8. Bostonvala says:

    (@admin – don't know why browser is requiring me to break up the comment…)

    So the whole topic can be clarified as follows – (my opinion but using the framework of scripture/history/discipline):
    1. Consumption of ritualized and sacrificial meat provides no inherent spiritual or physical value. Focusing on good meaningful deeds and avoidance of actions that are negative is the direction for a Sikhi lifestyle.
    2. In keeping the tradition of sovereignty and honoring the spirit of our ancestors we refrain from a practice that was a sign of slavery and hegemony
    3. For those that have made a public declaration of their allegiance to the Guru (Khandey ki Pahul) this injunction of not consuming halal (interpreted as sacrificial meat) is a serious enough promise that if broken requires them to present themselves to the Five Sovereign Ones again.

  9. Ranjit Matharu says:

    the fact it was written, one should not eat meat slaughterd the muslim way, maybe this means, that "muslims eat meat, we sikhs dont" so, therefore it was written dont eat meat slaughterd the muslim way means "dont eat meat period" get it. muslims were slaughterers and butchers, so the reference was written as such…Listen, YOU, guy who wrote this blog peice or whatever you call it…with the sacrifices made by hundreds and thousands of sikhs, our guru's everyone before you – this has enabled you to go on and become learned, to be educated, to expand your horizons and aspirations – to question every fucking thing, if one wants…i cant stand reading this sort of stuff..Find some faith, what ever it is, get some therapy to conquer the hatred and anger, play hard, love life and be cool. Islam has a lot to blame for…im afraid. It conquers and want to destroy, just like chrisianity…I dont want to eat halal simply because its part of the islamic religion – end off. Im not a muslim or a jew. so i dont want to eat either of these types of meat, kosher or halal.

    • S Singh says:

      dont read it if you cant read it bro. The Gurus became what they were by becoming educated and questioning the status quo. A questioning mind is always required. You are free to choose not to read, thence you will not have to "stand" it.
      cheerio

      S Singh

  10. Harinder says:

    Killing animals to feed one self is Barbaric to me.
    What ever any faith on this planet may say .
    No cruelty to any GODs creation should be the motto
    I am pro animal right activist

    • H. SINGH says:

      THEN WHY DO ANIMALS EAT OTHER ANIMALS IN NATURE!??? IS THAT NOT A PROCESS CREATED BY GOD TO NOURISH AND FUEL THE ECO-SYSTEMS OF THE WORLD?

      • Harinder says:

        Are we animals ?

        • Houstonwala says:

          Yes we are, in fact you share 99% of your DNA with chimpanzees. As for "cruelty to any God's creation," why do you murder plants? Plant life gifts us with life with the oxygen it produces. Why do you eat its fruits and throw away its seeds of life for future generations? You murder billions more life forms by eating fruits and vegetables than any meat eater could in his life time. You're more akin to a murderer as a vegetarian than any meat eater.

          This sort of "im pro-animal" stuff is hilariously anti-thetical to Sikhi spirit. Guru Nanak mocks this when he says:

          maas maas kar moorakh jhagarrae giaan dhhiaan nehee jaanai ||
          The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom.

          koun maas koun saag kehaavai kis mehi paap samaanae ||
          What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?

  11. Dal Singh says:

    Are you serious Brooklynwala?

    Why not ask Muslims to not be so 'divisive' and eat non halal meat like it was no big thing? See what response you get.

    That non halal thing has a solid precedent in our community and as mentioned before, most extant early rehatnamas give instructions to this effect.

    Let's not beat around the bush, what you are doing is actually remodeling the faith to fit your contemporary worldview. I pray you are not another brother/sister who is struggling to see the boundaries and differences between western liberalism and Sikhi.

    We are a community with our own traditions and practices and your our whatabouttery regarding halal is akin to a Muslim thinking Mohammad was wrong about Halal and refusing to adhere to their own dietary proscriptions. We are a distinct community with our own particular norms, practices etc., face up to it.

    Odds are you're just simply feeling hindered in your social life by this restriction and are trying to 'rationalise' a way to overcome this.

    That's weak.

    • kaur11 says:

      I highly doubt Brooklynvala is attempting to justify or rationalize his own beliefs. Throughout the post he raises questions and thought-provoking points… are we talking about halal meat or just consumption of meat in general? Then the larger question becomes, are we so conditioned to follow what is said by our "Panthic leaders" (….awkward pause)… that we cannot question and perhaps change what is in our Rehat Maryada in the future? Maharaj Guru Gobind Singh left us as "Guru Granth and Guru Panth" as our guides.. if we ourselves are too afraid to speak up and think for ourselves, our beloved Sikhi will wither away without a doubt. Questioning is never a bad thing and such is stated in Gurbani time and time again.

      • S Singh says:

        Excellent! I feel some people in the heat of the moment become threatened and burst out in sectarian fervor against Brooklynwala. Scarcely do they understand that Brooklynwala is just trying to comprehend the reasons behind the rules and start an intelligent discussion regarding the merits and demerits of blindly following certain edicts or directives within religious texts.

    • UK-wala says:

      Eloquently expressed, couldn't agree more.

  12. SHAKTI says:

    So you don't agree meat eating is wrong, you don't agree halal meat is wrong, what on earth do you think is the kurehit then? We only have three now? Or are you going to dismiss the other three as well?

  13. SHAKTI says:

    ???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ???? ??? ????? ?
    ???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ???? ??? ????? ?
    Kab?r jor? k??e julam hai kah?? n??o hal?l.
    Kabeer, to use force is tyranny, even if you call it legal.(halal)

  14. @rsbagga says:

    Really interesting post, and so glad that we are able to discuss these issues openly. I think that Guru Nanak's gift to us was to establish a legacy of questioning why we engage in certain religions practices, and ask if they truly bring us closer to God. I'm glad to see that spirit is alive and well – if there's one thing thats clear, the line between "religious tradition" and "unnecessary ritual" is not necessarily always clear.

    First, I am a vegetarian, just to make clear where i'm coming from. Second, I came from a mixed family – though I consider myself a devout Sikh, my mother's family is primarily Hindu Punjabi, while my father's is primarily Sikh (though each of their families are mixed, too). But even that doesn't fully explain everything – most of my father's Sikh family is vegetarian, and most of my mother's Hindu family is not.

    I think that, though this debate is worthwhile, we may never get an appropriate or satisfactory answer. The debate has always centered on whether we, as Sikhs "can" or "are allowed to" eat meat. We will, almost always, come up short on answering this question. It is without question that there is a long standing history of meat-eating in the Indian peninsula. Ancient and modern hindus alike ate meat, Muslims ate meat, Christians ate meat, and I think that much of the historical evidence around Sikhi also indicates that the first Sikhs probably ate meat too. I won't go into this in great detail because it has been done above.

    I think, perhaps, the more appropriate debate should be whether we "should" eat meat – what is the more appropriate practice going forward? There, I think the answer is clearer. On a societal level, there is almost no doubt that even those who ate meat in earlier generations ate significantly less amounts – frankly, it was far too expensive for everyone to eat frequently. Meat is now artificially cheap – this is because of the tremendous amounts of antibiotics used in raising livestock, the ease by which livestock is killed and processed, and also because of the low price of livestock feed (i.e., most livestock eats corn, even though their bodies aren't made for it). This is having major implications on the environment – more greenhouse gases due to high livestock populations, major public health issues, grain being used to raise livestock rather than feed the hungry. I think we should question whether eating meat truly allows us to ask for "sarbat da bhala" – are we actually asking for the greatest good for the greatest number of people by eating meat? I'd argue that maybe we aren't.

    On a more selfish note – our ethnicity is plagued with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high obesity rates, high liver function issues, and much more. Perhaps a grain, vegetable, and fruit based diet would be more appropriate for us, rather than one in which we are causing injury to the body that the Guru has given us.

    Yes, I have a bias here, I admit it. But I am glad to see that Brooklynvala, and others, are raising these societal questions – and I think as Sikhs, we should look to not only what we are allowed to do, but what we should do. By being vegetarian, or as close to it as possible, we are probably doing more to seek universal good for all than by eating it.

  15. Sukhi Singh says:

    Clearly you've hit on some raw nerves with this one, Brooklynwala. I enjoyed your post and agree with much of your sentiment. Questioning and challenging the status quo is exactly what Sikhi has always been about – even if it's challenging from within. There are always progressive factions in every religion and community who challenge the more ardent zealots of that community/religion. Sikhi is no exception. Hats off to you for opening up the dialogue and standing fast in the backlash. No easy task, that–and definitely not weak.

    The heart of your post seems to be more about questioning the idea of maintaining outdated divisions and enmities. As Sikhs, most of us were raised to mistrust Muslims, but does it make sense to keep on mistrusting an entire faith _now_? That's a good question – particularly for those of us in the west who are routinely mistaken for Muslims, Arabs, and Middle Easterners. Here, we're battling systemic racism, not Muslims.

    Keep on, Brooklynwala, and know that there are others out here who may be less vocal, but who support your spirit of challenge and critique, nonetheless.

    • Harjinder Singh says:

      Is the fact we are forbidden from eating halal meat according to our Rehat Maryada REALLY the reason for the demonising of Muslims? Really and truly?

      I agree the demonising exists and needs to stamped out……however I fail to see the link between the two matters. They are not exclusive to each other and I feel it's very wrong to try and suggest they are or might have been.

      The demonising is our cultural failing, using examples of Mughals tryanny and projecting that image onto all Muslims despite having sufficient examples in our history of Muslims who were true to God and the Gurus'.

      • Sukhi Singh says:

        Good point. But then we go back to the original poster's argument – if halal meat was banned in response to Aurangzeb's tyranny, then why is it _still_ banned? If it is because the practice is viewed as inhumane, then the points the OP makes are relevant – it is not any more or less humane than any other practice of slaughtering meat used in a profit-driven industry. And the arguments about conditions on meat farms are even more relevant if we're looking at the confinement of living things and their quality of life.

        Great discussion.

        • Harjinder Singh says:

          Well, let me first clarify my argument, I wasn't suggesting that halal meat was banned in response to Aurangzeb's tyranny…..I was merely stating that the demonising of Muslims might well be based on his tyranny and our history is steeped in resisting it.

          Had the birth of Sikhism taken place during another period and people (Christian's, Hindu's, Atheists etc) against whose tyranny we rejected, those same people may have had that image projected on them today by ourselves, intentionally or not.

          As to why it's banned, I revert to my original argument placed earlier, is the German study in 1978 backed up by any other studies? And IF it is, then WHY do they use a captive bolt now to stun the animal first if studies already prove it is more humane to kill them in the original manner?

          If we assume the German study is correct, then the 90% of halal meat that is stunned IS not a humane way of killing the animal since its already proven by the study otherwise. And equally IF the study is incorrect and stunning is the more humane method, then this certainly wasn't a technology that was available 50 years ago and further at the time of inception of halal meat. Adding onto this, IF it is more humane, then why isn't ALL meat slaughtered this way? Why isn't there a global campaign to slaughter the animal in the Muslim way (without the recital of prayer) to ensure animals suffer the least amount of pain when being killed?

          Putting all that aside, I've done some online reading as to why Muslim slaughter in such a way and you come back with two main answers;
          1) that draining the blood makes the meat more hygienic.
          2) that in their belief it is a more humane way of doing it.

          Ultimately however I don't see this topic as a pressing concern for the Sikh community, if you wish to eat meat, there's plenty of it around, eat, enjoy, whatever. How or whether it ends up on your plate is matter for your conscience but I see no benefit in arguing to the removal of this clause, if you like, from the Rehat. I certainly don't see the existence of this clause as being the reason behind which the Muslim religion and people isn't projected as well within our own community.

          I do however agree it is nice to see points argued and debated without resorting to base level tactics.

  16. Jodha says:

    Thought-provoking post Brooklynwala, but a separate identity need not mean exclusivity. As others have suggested by others a shift towards difference, need not be interpreted as exclusivity. Langar at the Gurdwaras traditionally do not serve meat for greatest inclusivity. The Hukamnamas give an explicit order by Guru Gobind Singh against halal, at the same time that Sikh authors were carving out a discourse of Sikhi as a 'theesra Panth'. I believe that the order against halal meat can be seen as part of this.

  17. Shakti says:

    The original word in the panthic rehat maryada is not to eat kutha, however the english version of the maryada translates it as meat slaughtered the muslim way, however it means all meat

    Read hear to understand why :http://www.sikhism101.com/node/77

    • Houstonwala says:

      Your link is so unashamedly biased that its futile to argue. I simply encourage you to read the context and history behind those singled-out Gurbani lines being quoted. Reading Guru Nanak Sahib's thoughts on this subject (http://sikhitothemax.com/page.asp?ShabadID=4678) makes it clear to us that all this "meat" "vegetarian" stuff is nonsense and the only thing applicable to the Sikh is the discipline of rising above obsession with and attachment to worldly tastes/pleasures whether its saag, sex, murgh, money, whatever..

      maas maas kar moorakh jhagarrae giaan dhhiaan nehee jaanai ||
      The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom.

      koun maas koun saag kehaavai kis mehi paap samaanae ||
      What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?

      ….

      eaethae ras shhodd hovai sa(n)niaasee naanak kehai vichaaraa ||2||
      Forsaking these delicacies, one becomes a true Sannyaasee, a detached hermit. Nanak reflects and speaks. ||2||

  18. brooklynwala says:

    Here's some more food for thought (pun intended) on the subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/20

    • Jodha says:

      Brooklynwala,

      Thanks for the article. In fact in some way it is reifying. Why should Sikhs fall under what is considered 'lawful' by another? Sikhs need not bow to a sense of Shari'a, the Laws of Manu, or other forms of personal law.

      • brooklynwala says:

        Of course we should not be confined to any other community's definition of "lawful," that's not what I'm arguing. I'm asking why are we putting up walls between other communities and asking if it's really necessary. Bostonvala made some good points about the origin of the halal ban in a context of the tyranny of Mughal emperors like Aurangzeb, but how relevant is that in 2011 (or even in 1950 when the Rehat Maryada was approved)?

        • Jodha says:

          Brooklynwala,

          I am hardly a Muslimophobic (I have written many blogs to the contrary, also contradicting dominant opinions in our community). Still I do not see how we are putting up a wall between us and other communities. It is not that we cannot eat together, in fact langar signifies this exact case.

          Many Muslims have their beliefs in what Shari'a entails. If they do not wish to eat meat their Sikh friend's house, I do not see a problem in it. Along the same line, I do not see a problem if a Sikh abstains from eating meat at his Muslim friend's house. I don't see either person putting up a 'wall' in this case. If I we were preparing pork in our household and a Muslim friend came over, I would not read their refusal as a 'barrier', but would make sure to give other options as well, just as a good host should.

          If your broader question is regarding parts of the Rehat Maryada that you do not agree with/understand/find problematic, etc. I believe there is a place for that discussion, but not necessarily along these lines. I do believe in the infallibility of the Gurus' message. I do not allow such a place for transcribers and non-Gurus. However the injunction against halal comes from the Guru.

          One may question it (and on a personal level, you may even disregard it), but as a community I do believe that the Rehat holds us together and is in fact a tremendously inspiring document created by the Panth during the early 1/2 of the 20th century. I, too, believe it has problems – including sexism in some of its language (especially that of the English translation, remarkably less so in the original Punjabi, but still existent there as well). These questions I believe should be much higher on the agenda than the questioning of halal.

          • brooklynwala says:

            jodha, of course i'm not accusing you of being anti-Muslim, and since i know your writing well, i take your comments especially seriously because i know they're not rooted in the narrow islamophobic sentiment that is so pervasive in our community. we can never truly know what our Gurus would think about eating or not eating halal meat in 2011, but as you can see, i am not convinced that the prohibition makes much sense in the contemporary context. i'm just not buying the sovereignty argument — we don't have our own ritual around the preparation of food or the slaughtering of animals for meat, so how does singling out and banning one community's way of preparing meat making us more sovereign or free?

            i agree that there are many more urgent internal issues we need to address as a panth, but this has been something that has irked me for a long time, so i'm happy we are having the discussion here.

          • Bostonvala says:

            @brooklynwala – if you compartmentalize our traditions (maryada) to time periods then we can find flaw even with the 5 articles of faith as well. Some say that it is a mere uniform which was applicable when the Khalsa had an army to fight tyranny. Now that there is no tyranny let's forgo the requirement for the 5 articles of faith. Applying "pure" logic, "complete" utilitarianism, "literal" interpretations to our bani as well as our rahit is what causes the fundamental problem of misunderstanding and rejection. As I summarized earlier, the ban on Halal should be taken not only as letter of the law but in spirit as well. Ie. opposition of sacrificial food (theological), remembrance of sovereignty and freedom (historical) and commitment and allegiance to the Guru as delivered via the Five Sovereign Ones (discipline from panj piare during Khande ki pahul). If you take it holistically there are no walls being drawn between Sikhs and any community. Its just our tradition.

          • Jodha says:

            but this has been something that has irked me for a long time, so i'm happy we are having the discussion here.

            Haha, fair enough, but my thing is that I doubt you convinced anyone. I doubt anyone convinced you. So when we go on to more important topics – racism, casteism, sexism, classism, we've already alienated many based on petty dietary choices.

          • Harinder says:

            All relgions have a hate group based on historical legacy . I think it is a pre -requisite to hate some body to establish a new relgion . It is a sort of defining property of all major religons of world today eg :

            1) Christians today also hate Jews 2000 years later for Lord Jesus was killed by Jewish rulers.The fact is kept alive today by the symbol crucifix.

            2)Muslims hate jews even 1379 years later after prophet Muhammad death in in 632 AD because a Jewish lady poisoned prophet Muhammad to death.

            3) Sikhs hate Muslims 405 and 336 years later because two of there Gurus were Martyred by Muslim rulers in 1581 and 1606. This is reinforced by symbols we all see in our Museums.

            4)The Shia Sunni conflict is still alive today 1331 years down the lane because Husayn ibn Ali was beheaded in Battle of Karbala in 680. The animosity has grown to national dimensions (Iran vs Iraq)

            5 ) India North south divide can be traced to Lord Ram and King Ravan war still enacted till today on Indian streets.

            The day mankind learn to forgive each othr over the sins of our ancestors we can expect a new dawn.

            Lot of baggages from history all of us still carry.

  19. Singh says:

    It is as simple as:

    Jau tau prem khelan ka chao. Sir dhar tali gali mori aao.
    “If you wish to play the game of love, come my way, with your head on the palm of your hand.” (Guru Granth Sahib (GGS) p.1412)

    The Guru gave an explicit Hukam to avoid halal at all costs. As Sikhs, it is not only our sacred duty to obey, but it is part of the game of giving our heads to the Guru. A rare few manage give their heads all at once. The rest of us do it only bit by bit, with the aid of Gurbani, Gurkirpa, and sadh sangat. Ignoring the Guru's Hukam, or changing it, is completely counter to the path of a Sikh.

    The only divisiveness I see is from people trying to justify their own marjee as being acceptable within Sikh dharm even when it runs counter to the Guru's explicit teachings. What's next?? Will you call our belief in reincarnation divisive b/c Christains, Jews, and Muslims don't believe in it?? Is keeping the hair divisive b/c most people choose to cut theirs?? This is along the same lines as changing the Guru's stance on halal.

  20. Sikh history says:

    I think you are missing a major point on why Sikhs do not eat Halal meat. A common practice at the time was to forcibly convert Sikhs and Hindus into Islam. One of the popular practices enforced at the time was the FORCING of non-Muslims to consume Halal meat. For many devout Hindus this was repulsive and was a way of breaking their spirit. As a result of this, the Sikhs openly refused to eat Halal meat as a statement against the oppression of Islam. Observing it today as a Sikh is a sign of respect to those who did not forcibly adopt Muslim customs being enforced on the general population of India at the time. Just as we remember those who gave their lives for our faith daily in our Ardas.

  21. BIk says:

    The guardian thread also contains a link to another opinion piece which states that research shows that halal slaughter is not painless as vested interests such as the Muslim council of Britain like to propagate.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/20

    I am used to reading islamophile posts on TLH. I am surprised that TLH hasn't been renamed the Mosque hall as the bleeding heart liberal 'sikhs' here seem to be more concerned about how a Muslim's feelings might be hurt they follow the Rehat Maryada. There will come a time when these liberal fools will even question whether they should be keeping the Kesh because a Muslim might feel 'excluded'. How about a Kirpan? I know Muslims would feel 'threatened' if they saw a Sikh with a Kirpan. Time to start questioning the rest of the 5 Ks in the interest of interfaith harmony, inclusiveness, dialogue, fairness and any other liberal buzzwords useful idiots like brooklynwala can come up with.

    • Tsingh says:

      I could not agree more with BLK…The whole argument of Brooklynwala is idiotic and seems to come from a liberal mindset of so called inclusiveness. I know hundreds of Muslims. rarely you will find them walking away from their fanatic believes no matter how educated or liberal he may appear outwardly. But Sikhs and perhaps Sikh women are the weakest in this regard. Simple question- why would not Muslims eat meat cut other than Halal like any one else to accommodate the rest of humanity? But they do not. I don't criticize them but appreciate their firm beliefs even if I do not agree. So why we Sikhs have to be bleeding hearts idiots to accommodate others and walk away from our well established core principles? No wonder we lack the values? No wonder today Sikh women shameless and "easy" and are marrying and going with all and sundry.

    • Rkaur says:

      Glad to see that you are following perhaps one of the strongest beliefs set forth in Sikhism and Guru Nanak himself- tolerance. Why don't you and Tsingh revisit the gurdwara and pray for a bit and re-educate yourself with one of the most basic and important tenets of Sikhism?Perhaps you should understand that instead of acting like a condescending fool to your fellow Sikh brothers and sisters, and disrespecting another faith, especially one that had many true followers of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, you should follow your faith a little closer before you lash out at others who are only doing what Sikhism itself was founded on- expressing their opinions openly and without hatred and continuously exploring ways to make themselves closer to the Lord.

  22. Harinder says:

    I guess there is a "GENE" of religion too.
    Scientist need to seriously find it .
    Some of the writngs here show that we still have lot of Islamic genes in our genome.
    Not surprising !
    Given our ancetors prolonged interaction with Islam.

  23. Singh says:

    Watch the video of the journalist who was beheaded using the halal method… After you hear his screams let me know if you still think that the halal method of slaughter is humane.

    It's time to wake up from the shackles of liberalism.

  24. Citizen Singh says:

    "… the intention of halal (and for Jews, kosher) slaughtering is to minimize pain and suffering to the animal"

    That is not the intention at all. The intention is to drain the meat of blood. Traditional thinking at the time taught that diseases/deficiencies of a animal (like humans) were carried in the blood – by draining the animal of blood it prevented or minimized the risk of diseases being transferred to whoever eats the meat. There is no concern for the welfare of the animal whatsoever.

    • Aryeh Leib says:

      Actually, nether one is the intention – at least, regarding kosher meat (I do not presume to speak for advocates of halal). The purpose according to Jewish tradition, is because this was God's command to the People of Israel at Mount Sinai.
      That the kosher slaughtering method also minimizes pain and suffering to the animal, and the prohibition against consuming blood (similarly articulated by God) minimizes risk of disease – these are side benefits, but have nothing to do with the commandments themselves.
      By the way, sacrificial meat and meat for personal consumption are two distinct categories today; during the period when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was overlap.
      Unless, of course, one doesn't accept that God spoke to the Jewish People at Sinai – in which case, I agree that none of it makes any sense!

    • andy says:

      When all the food supplies were consumed and nothing left to eat, did our 10 th guru ate meat or not? also what did they do to the goat that was slaughtered during Baisakhi for Khalsa panth?
      Yes, having 5 kakkas was the call of the day, now it is different time .
      Furthermore, how many of Sikhs are working or oqn gas stations in USA/ Canada and europe. Do they sell Tobacoo products or not? How many sikhs are drinking< did not guru Nanak said " post bhang afim mad utter jat parbhat, Nam khumari NaNaka chari rahe din rat."

  25. LogicVallah says:

    i'm sorry but your simply an idiot if you think the halal way of killing animals is humane. Please see the following video of cows being killed according to "halal maryada". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhbg-YXpr_E&fe
    You can clearly see the animals suffering as blood rushes out of its throat. Brooklyinwala get ur facts straight before questioning panthic protocal (maryada) which has actually been in place since guru gobind singh jis time.

    • johnny says:

      Well i think you should go to some buddhists and asks them which meat they prefer, halal or non-halal and see what response you get. This whole anti-halal logic is so flawed.

  26. Rajinder Singh says:

    Animal Sacrifice – ha ha – It seems like it is the animal that is making the Ultimate Sacrifice, while humans are trying to pin it down and slit its throat. As a sikh, a prayer needs to go out for the animal. Animals are seen as a source of food. Hey, I got a pet turtle – Danny, and get annoyed when people talk about turtle soup.
    Cannibalism is when a species eats its own. It was prevalent in primitive and medieval human societies, but is considered to be an abhorrent practice now. But if you look at the tree of life, we share common ancestors with animals. Mammals are our closer genetic cousins than reptiles. So I gave up meat eating because I think its one of my poor distant relatives on the plate- someone who could not cope. Being animals they are misfits in the modern multilingual, multiethnic world and cannot cope- even if they want…… They do not have a voice at all and need protection. No, I am not advocating voting rights for them as yet.

    It is inductive reasoning that starts with cannibalism and extends itself to other animals based on scientific principles. Cant we just get along and live off love and coconuts? Ha ha.

  27. van Singh says:

    I think some of us are scared to discuss; fearing that the truth will prevail! As much as we respect the Guru's teachings, there should be no one on earth telling us not to ask thought provoking questions. If we as a community cannot stand discussing it, how can we respond to questions from others?! Blind faith never works, and will not stand the test of time(for most)…Kudos brooklynwala for posting this and not be afraid of the Ghadafis!

  28. Amrit says:

    Great writing. I had pondered the same question for a while and I like the position you took on the matter.

  29. anti-Brooklynwalla says:

    Are you guys all idiots that support this article? please take a look at a video of halal and then talk…its the probably one of the most inhumane ways one can kill an animal…Check out this video of halal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhbg-YXpr_E&fe… please get your facts straight before questioning maryada that has been in place since guru gobind singh jis time and not just since the inception of the SGPC….

  30. laadli fauj says:

    If the rehitnaame aren't convincing enough, maharaj tells his gursikhs in Sri Dasam Granth Sahib ji in the Asfokat Svaiyye to avoid "hookah, *halaalo*, hajaamat, haraam". But you probably aren't very fond of Pita ji's bani either.
    You see the pattern here? I cannot say whether or not you are conscious of this, but you are most definitely are a victim of it if not a perpetuator. Those who have malice for gursikhi slowly try to delegitimize gurbani in our eyes, and we end up coming to conclusions such as they acceptability of halal meat all by ourselves
    the issue of halal meat is NOT a divisive tool. it is at its core an issue of our acceptance of the words of our Guru, of history, and of tradition. a martial tradition, not the gluttonous/indulgent one we seem to follow today, okaying anything and everything for consumption, rooted in practicality as well as humanity.
    ppl that promote loose rehit, feel as if sikhi needs to be modernized, as if our traditions and rehit and ultimately our Guru are somehow flawed and incomplete are the divisive tools

  31. Hari Singh says:

    I am surprised how everything else has been considered in detail in this article but as Sikhs, our spiritual guide which has to be Gurbani has been totally left out of this debate. How can we call ourselves Sikhs if we do not follow the primary instructions given in Gurbani.

    To a Sikh, the main underlying guide has to be the Guru Granth Sahib. You have looked at everything else – like our manmade Rehatnamay, which were not created by the Gurus, etc but have totally left out the clear instructions given by Bhagat Kabir on this topic.

    Can I suggest that we can only become better Sikhs if we get a better understanding of Gurbani; nothing else will assist you on the spiritual path. The Guru warns us clearly:

    ? ???? ???? ? ???? ???? ? ?????? ???? ???? ?????? ?

    Na saba? b?j?ai na j??ai ba??. Manmuk? an??e ?uk? vih???.

    The blind, self-willed manmukh does not understand the Shabad; he does not know the Word of the Guru's Bani, and so he passes his life in misery. (sggs:665)

    And what does Bhagat Kabir say about Halal:

    ???? ??? ?? ????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?? ????? ? ????? ?? ?? ???? ?? ????? ???? ????? ?????

    Kab?r j??a jo m?r?h jor kar kah?e h?h jo hal?l. ?af?ar ?a?? jab k?d? hai ho?ig? ka?un hav?l. ||199||

    Kabeer, they oppress living beings and kill them, and call it proper (halal),
    When the Lord calls for their account, what will their condition be? ||199|| (sggs:1375)

    These tuks are in simply Punjabi – please read these lines yourself to understand the meaning; literally it is: kabir, jee jo mareh jor kaar – those who kill beings with force – kaht hah jo halal – and call this halal

    Daftar (office) daee (Lord) jab kadh hai, When the Lord calls the account – hoega kuun hawal – what will be your condition!

  32. TheKidsBeIgnant says:

    YEAH!!! Let's all question the rehat maryada…why? well because those sikhs from "over sixty years ago" were the preeminent scholars of their time, they spent year deliberating and could provide countless lines of support in gurbani and history. But all we have is just lofty and porous metaphysical notions of sikhi's inclusiveness and "way of life"….keep it up!! I'm sure your feelings along with the feelings of your peers will surely lead us out of the darkness that we've fallen in, because all of us know that in the last sixty years theirs been TONS of brand new gurbani we need to incorporate.

  33. Manni says:

    What a ridiculous article (author) and an even more ridiculous argument.

    Go get a chicken/lamb live with it for a day and kill it yourself and consume. 90% haven’t got the consciousness to do it. You see I can go to my garden pull of an apple eat it.

    And if you want to eat halal meat why stop there, follow sharia law, abide by Muslim customs etc etc Our gurus freed india from oppression so other religions could live by their own customs.

    Stop creating stupid arguments

  34. BIk says:

    Manni,

    You can't write that! Don't you know we live in an age of Political Correctness, your post might hurt the feelings of a Muslim who might come on here! This blog is only for people who question Sikhism and who think their mat is greater than the Guru's mat. You are a hater and I want the moderators to delete your post before some Sikh youth might stumble across it and it might awaken some Panthic feelings in them!

  35. sanraj says:

    I agree with Manni,

    This is a silly article and for those of you who eat meat try killing the animal yourself rather than paying KFC to do it inhumanely for you.

    Bik or Blk thats ridiculous, it's true when non-muslims were forced to abide by halal cutoms and sharia laws as imposed by the mughal empire, along came our Gurus….

    Practice what you want but don't try to change Gurus teachings to fit your own.

    Author of post…well done in creating a heated debate, now go heat some halal kukkar.

    • brooklynwala says:

      Thanks!! But I'm a vegetarian. My raising these questions has nothing to do with my personal choices.

    • BIk says:

      I was being sarcastic! This blog is set up solely to provide people who think too much and do little an outlet to propagate their anti-Gurmat views. That brooklynwala guy is a case in point. He questions the rehat maryada because he feels Sikhs not eating halal meat and being divisive!

      • balmeet says:

        Actually, almost every contributor on this blog is involved with community projects.

        • BIk says:

          Then may Waheguru save the Sikh community from these people! If this is the standard of 'activists' we have in the community then why are we surprised that we are at our lowest ebb than at any time in out history.

  36. dalbir singh says:

    i agree with Hari Singh

    the author need to just read Gurbani and learn from the guide of the sikhs
    gurbani and dasam bani clearly say not to eat halal
    is that not enough for you
    if you are just trying to justify eating halal than go ahead we wont stop
    but plz don't insult our intelligence about Gurbani and Sikhi

  37. NKaur says:

    If the people constantly leaving unconstructive comments on these posts would actually read other posts such as the discovery of the Hondh Chillar and Pataudi sites in Panjab or on the International Women's Day posts and comment constructively there, then maybe our qaum wouldn't in the state it's in today.

    As a Sikh woman, i'm tired of the men of our community speaking LOUDLY and standing themselves on pedestals to represent our entire faith. Sikhi is NOT going to end if we dialogue about it!! Why are we so threatened by an opinion post on a blog? If you don't like it, don't read it. Go back to reading the stifling Sikh forums and blogs that lecture you and tell you what to do and think.

    As a Sikh, i like that i can THINK about my faith and participate in coversation.

  38. Watch one of the many videos showing halal slaughter. The animal is not killed instantly it hangs up side down kicking and struggling and suffering with its head nearly decapitated but the brain still functioning and aware.
    spicy deep-fried chicken strips and thinly sliced pieces of meat in Arby’s roast beef sandwich come from imposed cruelty and suffering and robbing the life of another being. That's anyone's choice but please make it consciously. Yes SRM is meant to divide the Sikh from such practices which originate in indulgence of ego and attachment to it's voices lust greed pride anger which are nourished by the cruelty of the meat industry.
    tTraditionally meat is never served in langar, because langar is meant to nourish both body and soul with humility.
    Please watch these videos so that you understand where meat is coming from and what other beings endure for the sake of the taste for flesh.
    The Pitiful Plight of Poultry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0_f0Htvh-Y

    Live Fast Die Young – the life of a meat chicken http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpbtBgLfl90&fe

    KFC: Kentucky Fried Cruelty http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5vPub2lDtc&fe

    how chickens are made http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tzoR7df3Gw&fe

    Chicken Slaughter Short Doco http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT4Ff0CzOYQ&fe

    Humane Slaughter? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vXxR0-Z_TI&fe

    Chicken Slaughter the indian way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0YpKEDwvKM

    Informative Halal video: http://clipmarks.com/clipmark/3CC868C0-18FA-4742-

  39. jkaur says:

    i noticed you consitently quote the english version of the panthic rehet maryada. have you read it in punjabi? it says: 'kuthha khana". what does kuthha mean? well, for thousands of years, the word has simply meant "meat", the literal translation of the word being "killed". it comes from persian, and was used to describe the flesh of any slain animal since long before the concept of "halal" existed. when or how we began to translate "meat" as "halal" i have no idea. but it's worth looking into. i'll bet there are some politics behind choosing this translation for the english version. perhaps it has something to do with our allergy to what we consider hindu philosophy. hmm, yet another divisive theory.

    if one is worried about the idea of ritual slaughter or sacrificial meat, one only has to look at the nihangs of hazoor sahib performing the jhatka ritual to see that sikh proponents of meat eating are no different than their muslim counterparts. prayers are said, an animal is killed, and an offering of that animal is given to god. there is no difference between halal and jhatka besides the instrument used and manner in which the animal dies. the ritual aspect is nearly identical.

    the idea of rehet is to keep us spiritually strong. it fosters an environment in which Naam can blossom. eating the flesh of animals brings negative karam which interferes with our spiritual practice. it's quite simple. we can make all sorts of excuses as to why meat is ok- i used to do the same. but then i realized something… while many who call themselves sikh eat meat, how many truly spiritually advanced gursikhs eat meat? i can't think of a single one. it's worth thinking about.

    • tru_singhs_r_nihangs says:

      jkaur, the way khalsa and khsartiya kills animal is by jhatka, one blow killing, its not the disgusting suffering way killing of halal. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT COMPARING THESE METHODS!!! You lakc respect for khalsa traditions!!!!!!

    • Rupi says:

      "if one is worried about the idea of ritual slaughter or sacrificial meat, one only has to look at the nihangs of hazoor sahib performing the jhatka ritual to see that sikh proponents of meat eating are no different than their muslim counterparts. prayers are said, an animal is killed, and an offering of that animal is given to god. there is no difference between halal and jhatka besides the instrument used and manner in which the animal dies. the ritual aspect is nearly identical."

      You are so colossally stupid that it baffles me. "Besides the instrument used and manner in which the animal dies."
      That is precisely what is at stake!! I am sorry that you dont see the difference between a quick and merciful killing, and the bleeding out and suffering of an animal, but most of the rest of the world does. Similarly, if you think that the Nihangs of Hazoor Sahib are the best exemplars of Sikhi, I hope to see you imbibing in sukka prasad with the rest of them. They also think that women do not have equal footing in Sikhi. Feel good about youtself? haha. Until you're willing to fight for Hazoori Nihang Rehat, stop being divisive for your own misguided beliefs.

    • Charanjit says:

      "how many truly spiritually advanced gursikhs eat meat"

      Thank Waheguru that you can identify the truly advanced gursikhs!!!!!!

  40. moorakh88 says:

    Actually Guru Gobind Singh ji made the injunction against halal for two reasons. 1) As inverse way of indoctrination 2) As a symbol to fight oppression when the tyrannical ruler Aurangzeb forced everyone to sell and heat halal meat only

    Now for those who hurled the words “idiots,” “manmukhs” or other disparaging words in the name of Sikhi, which I’m sure you consider very noble and superior, stop talabizing Sikhi! Discussion and thought are integral part of the inner journey.

  41. Anoop Singh says:

    if u were smart you would know that amrit dhari's are not allowed to eat meat at all
    your ignorance and those of others who think like you is what brings down the sikhs of the world

  42. A_Singh says:

    Are you SikhRI influenced? No need for "scholarly" articles. Do what is right. Follow the Panthic truth.

  43. Kaur says:

    thanx for deleting my post Brooklynwala…. i'll ask again.. how did the muslims pay to write this huh??

  44. moorakh88 says:

    The author is not questioning the taboo of halal meat, but its explanation. And I agree the explanation is inadequate and contradicts Sikh philosophy. It’s almost as ridiculous as some say we have long hair cause it’s healthier. That may or may not be so, but the sacred 5k’s are articles of faith, not of science. The Guru jis taught us and set us on a path of truthful living. The symbols and the injunctions posed are a catalyst for truthful living. I posted my explanation for the taboo of halal meat below, which was used a symbol to fight oppression. It has nothing to do with animal welfare, which is a different topic.

    Sikhs are against halal meat, Shaira laws, the caste system, etc, to help us live more truthfully. Symbols and rules help to guide us, and which should be observed.

    But some of the explanations (not the taboos) given are completely illogical. Congrats to the author for exposing them.

    • kds says:

      Look what the Author is saying

      " Yet it seems to me that prohibiting the eating of an “animal slaughtered the Muslim way” serves only to divide."

      It is clearly saying that prohibition on halal serve only divide,means of no use.People are free to interpret the post in the way they like because everything depends on interpretation but to me and others It is clear case of question Halal consumption full stop

      • moorakh88 says:

        Kds, you make a good point. It’s all about the interpretation. I have taken part in halal meat discussions long time about and I learned that Sikh scholars have intensively researched and concluded that the prohibition was a symbol to fight oppression. Let us not forget that during that time the Muslim mperor ordained that no Hindu can wear the Janeu thread, plus levied a special tax on those who were non Muslims, and ordered only halal meat can be sold and eaten, etc, etc. Guru Gobind Singh Ji used these injunctions to create his own to bravely defy the oppression openly. And in light of scientific studies of how Jews and Muslims sacrifice and prepare meat does not prolong, or rather minimizes pain to the animal, the author has correctly pointed the flaws of the recent explanation. It does make the Muslims seem barbaric, and creates us against them mentality. It contradicts this precept "One who recognizes that all spiritual paths lead to the One shall be emancipated." (SGGS 142-8). Now as a vegetarian, should one eat meat or not, that again is different discussion beyond the scope of this article.

        It’s interesting. I can only imagine how many Sikhs complained about Bhai Kanhaiya who gave succor to the fallen Muslims. They prob said, oh what’s next, he’s going to convert his children to Muslims? Who does he think he is? Is he going to serve halal meat in the langar now? Why don’t we all just surrender to the Muslims; let’s just make it easier on them?!

        No; the Guru ji rightly called him a true Sikh for seeing God in all and trying to bring unity.

        • brooklynwala says:

          @moorakh88 I appreciate your thoughtful and nuanced comments. Yes, in writing this piece I was questioning the taboo itself and asking readers to reflect on the why– this stemmed from me never having heard a convincing or justifiable explanation of the ban. I've learned a lot from the discussion that has ensued, especially from comments like yours that highlight Sikhs not eating halal under Aurangzeb as a form of resistance to his empire's religious intolerance and repression. I also have been disappointed to see much evidence of how narrow-minded and anti-Muslim so many in our community are these days. Thank you for trying to bring the conversation back to the Sikhi spirit of critical thinking, open-mindedness, and social justice.

          • moorakh88 says:

            @Brooklynwala I highly recommend that you edit and attach your new found conclusion and have your article published in the Sikh review or other publications. I’m sure many will benefit from your personal journey for seeking deeper answers. Your article is respectful and perfectly reasoned. I wish I had read it years ago to crystallize my own doubts and reconcile Sikh philosophy and its mandates. I have been published in the Sikh Review and I’ll be happy to submit and recommend your revised article to the editors. Let me know.

        • kds says:

          Moorakh88

          Sikh history is not as sweet as some of you people Think.What most people do is they just pick 1 saakhi,story or shabad from Sikhism and try to justify their point.I recommend you to read the old rehatnaama's available on Allaboutsikhs.com .There are 5 available and not even 1 has
          good words for muslims.These were written by Bhai nandlal ,Bhai Daya Singh,Bhai Desa singh Bhai chaupa Singh all very well known figures in Sikh history.If you will read them you will find very harsh Language for muslims.Even there are accounts that Banda Bahadur plundered the sirhind and some muslims out of fear accept Sikhism.

          Anyway if you interested in more about knowing real sikh history from puratan sources then I recommend you to come on Sikhawareness.com as their are many people their which have very good knowledge of Sikh history.These type of discussion and fights regarding muslims often break out on that forum but bigf difference is that people always use puratan sources to justify their points rather than just writing their personal thinking. and fantasies about Sikhism.

          • moorakh88 says:

            KDS, I’m sure there’s harsh language for Muslims. There’s also harsh language for Hindus, non-believers, and mankind in general. SGGS reminds us that we are all full of lust, ego, pride, attachments, etc. However, in the ocean of Gurbani and the divine teachings, these are only drops. Gurbani teaches us to constantly fight our inner demons, work out our own salvation, and see the light in everyone. SGGS is the only holy text in the world that has messages from different faiths, Hindus and Muslims like Baba Farid. Sikhi is all about equality. It dismantles any caste and gender bias, for SGGS teaches that God is beyond, color, race, religion, gender.
            (This will be my last post regarding this topic. )

  45. banta says:

    There's a vibe here of identifying with a persecuted Other at the expense of a sense of balance. Every interaction with someone of a supposed different community offers a way forward to understanding our common humanity. Try branching out. What's the relationship between Catholicism and Sikhi? I would actually like to know what that kind of post brings up.

  46. Manni says:

    All I have is one thing to say to everyone who eats meat in the name of religion and uses this interplistic yet depelon argument for their benefit of flesh consumption………..

    …….bigmac tonight?

  47. Aman says:

    I have to say, I'm still on the fence with this one. But as a Sikh youth that's been told to stay away from Halal meat his entire life, I'm leaning more so on the side of jhatka meat only (if any!).

    I wanted to mention that while researching this issue, I came across many Muslim forums where they were discussing the same issue and the amount of negative anti-Sikh comments were just astounding. At least when it happens here regarding Muslims, it's called out on. Over there, it was encouraged. I've very glad that as an educated community the vast majority of us do try to question these things in an appropriate manner without having to resort to name calling.

    Very thought-provoking post!

  48. J Singh says:

    Reading the article and some responses above has prompted me to reply to this topic in order to provide a contextual point of view from Gurbani.

    To my knowledge the Akal Takhat Rehat marayada neither mentions the word halal or kosher. It uses the word Kuttha (???? ). Now if we look at how this word is used in the context of Gurbani in Guru Granth Sahib ji:

    ??? ??????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ???? || (p. 321)

    eik nira(n)jan rav rehiaa bhaao dhuyaa kut(h)aa ||

    The One Immaculate Lord is pervading everywhere; He destroys the love of duality.

    ??? ?? ???? ???? ???? || (p.956)

    this dhaa kut(h)aa hovai saekh ||

    If the Shaykh is killed with that

    ???? ?????? ??? ??? ???? ????? ??? ?? ??? ||?|| ???? || (p.714)

    kaadt kut(h)aar pith baath ha(n)thaa aoukhadhh har ko naao ||1|| rehaao ||

    The Name of the Lord is the medicine; it is like an axe, which destroys the diseases caused by anger and egotism. ||1||Pause||

    It is clearly evident from these references the the word Kuttha (???? ) is used to describe killing or destroying. It doesnt make any reference to the method used. Therefore it should be taken that any form of meat is forbidden by sikhs as defined in the Sikh Rehat Marayda.

    It is up to us if we want to continue twisting the meaning for our own means to satisfy our taste buds and fill our stomachs.

  49. nihangs_r_tru_singhs says:

    sikhs not eating meat? The Khalsa army of the Akali Nihangs still does jhatka. They are the true amrit dharis and they eat meat mahaparshad. Some of you chat rubbish without and disrespect your khalsa traditions. Amrit dharis don;t eat meat, that's rubbish and against the kshatri dharm of Khalsa.

    And the way kuttha meat is killed is appaling, that is not the way of a sikh warrior!

  50. md s haider says:

    if you want to test a religion than you have go through the test of the time if it fails to deal with than it must have interpolation and inffected by the sick mind. science is so advanced to day and with the help of established science we can definately eradicate the misconception and blind faiths. as in Quran "when truth heard against falsehood, falsehood perishes bescouse falsehood by nature is bound to perish" thankyou

  51. JASVIR says:

    SIKHS PLEASE STOP EATING HALAL MEAT. HERE IN CANADA, I LIVE IN BRAMPTON WHERE LARGE POPULATION OF SIKHS LIVE. BUT UNFORTUNATELY, HALAL SIGNS ARE EVERYWHERE AND SIKHS ARE IN THEIR…SHAME ON YOU GUYS…STOP THIS NON SENSE..

  52. Balwant says:

    Guys truth is, no one actually sticks by what we have really been taught. Conversations always ends up talking about a khalistan, which technocally means land of the pure, with so many people out their with anti hinu or muslim views…and dividing people into religions and not just seeing their deeds as humane or inhumane…how will we ever acheive this

  53. pnkr says:

    keeping unshorn hair like the rishi muni's did – that's good to be in accordance with Divine Will to the point of not even harming one hair upon one's head or body – maintaining one's body at the expense of another creature's life, isn't that also against Divine Will a little? what about the cycle of 8400 000 species of animals – isn't it like asking to be put in a lesser than human form of life by eating animals – singing God's praises while eating animals, what evil and filth – i can't imagine a Rishi eating animals and i can't imagine a Sikh eating animals – mlechhas whom the 10th Master fought against eat animals not Sikhs – eating the remains of a violent bloody slaughter is EVIL!!!

  54. Vic Singh says:

    Interesting Blog and some excellent points. I would however point our that the SRM translation of "Kuttha" as “an animal slaughtered the Muslim way" is at fault. Kuttha is that which is sacrificed in the name of God. Sikhs would argue that Sikhs do not sacrifice animals, humans, plants in the name of God. Halal/Kosher also is a purufucation ritual. Sikhs argue, how can you purify that which is created by God? Are we human God's that we can purifiy God's handywork?

    The whole notion of Kuttha is tied up in the notion of sacrifice, and purification, something we Sikhs do not adhere to.

  55. UK-wala says:

    Unfortunately, Brooklynwala, I appreciate you're trying to be a better Sikh, by attempting to promote equality. But, you're forgetting to stand up for your religion.
    Overall, I think it was wrong of you to post an article, when you are clearly no expert and are ignorant to the truth. I implore you to back up your article, which some hard facts – even go and watch how the animals are killed. Also – wake up to the issues going on in our community, before rushing off to the aid of others. People like you weaken our religion.

  56. abhi says:

    shri guru granth sahib, shrimad bhagwad gita and many other religious texts convey not to kill animals for your tastes and pleasure and thats pretty obvious and correct from my point of view. but you people who are fond of non-veg. don’t you find it difficult to consume a dish made after such a violent and henious act. your demands for such things gets fulfilled after brutal killing of an animal. what you eat are the dead remains then why don’t you even drink the blood of the same. i know i am getting rude. but its nothing personal. apart from religious views, doesn’t your conscience makes you afraid of such an act. look on to your hands before you sit on the dinning next time….

  57. vibrant says:

    I find this article interesting. Firstly, let me say that i am a muslim convert. Family members are mostl Sikhs. My family members are not inclined to believe this rehat maryada. I never believed if it was for any benefit.

    And to all the others who keep spouting that the Dabihah (halal way of slaughter) is not intended to minimise the pain of the animal to be slaughtered. Please read 5:3.

    005.003

    YUSUFALI: Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

    This is the primary verse in the Quran, not the hadiths which talk about the slaughter of animals.

    • Sanehval says:

      "And to all the others who keep spouting that the Dabihah (halal way of slaughter) is not intended to minimise the pain of the animal to be slaughtered."

      I didn't glean that from the passage. It doesn't address the possibility that dabihah causes animals to suffer as they bleed out.

  58. vibrant says:

    The fact of the matter is, when an animal is killed, it will feel pain. The point of the passage is that, (i) when we slaughter animals, we are to do it in the most humane fashion whilst perserving the wholesomeness of the meat. That would mean, draining the blood out so as to allow the meat to be “fresh” longer. The bits about forbiding a “violent blow”, strangulation..all those point to the prohibition against purposefuly harming the animal. Also, when a muslim says “in the name of God” when slaughtering the animal, it’s not a sacrifice to God. It’s a prayer to apologise that you are taking a life for your survival and to be thankful that you have somethng to eat. I don’t get it. My grandfather who was a sikh used to say “Waheguru” when slaughtering chickens. Would that be kutha as well?

    I have heard arguments that we are living in the 21st century and all that. But how many people are still living without refrigeration? Answer: Millions. Quite a lo of them muslims.

    ANd i am sick to death of hearing, oh yea then don’t eat animals. Are you forgetting that vegetables are alive too? Or because you can’t see its pain or perceive the loss of its life, you are fine with it? Guru Nanak said, to argue the loss of lfe between an animal and a rooted vegetable is one and the same.

    As long as we are alive, we will cause the deaths of living things. Even in death, we cause the death of living things. To confine our understanding of what constitutes as living as being an object with blood is to confine or restrict God’s creation.

    • Sanehval says:

      I'm not theologian or expert in English, but i don't see anywhere in the passage that says that you should slaughter animals in the most humane way possible. In fact, I think according to this passage I could tie a cow up, make a slit in its neck, and let it bleed out over the course of a few hours and I still would be within the limits that this passage provides (no strangling, no violent blows, no headlong fall, not gored to death).

      I'm no expert butcher, but don't know how letting an animal bleed out preserves the wholesomeness of the of the meat and keeps it "fresh" longer. An animal has considerable blood in it after it has bled out. (Side note do Muslims only eat well-done meat? Because anything medium rare and below usually has blood in it. That would be sad because steak is delicious).

      I'm no expert on Sikhi, but maybe your Sikh grandfather who said "Waheguru" when slaughtering chickens was making his meat kutha. In fact, here you go: it was. Does that make you feel vibrantly better?

      I'm no expert on refrigeration, but I think you might be excluding yourself from fruitful discussion because you're assuming that people here know/cares about debates that you might be having in other venues.

      Re: the Nanak quote, I think you might have meant:
      "The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom. What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?"

      I don't think Nanak meant what you think he meant. I think Nanak loved sabji. In fact, I'll venture to guess he might have been a downright mass murderer…of carrots. What the above quote means to me is that one should be judicious in what one does to sustain their own life on the planet, whether that be in the consumption of animals, things, or the life-chances of others. So, when the authors of the Rehit Maryada looked around their world, they weren't down with halal meat because they perceived it to make animals suffer. A lot of people think that way too, and they choose not to eat it. Nobody is going to knock down your door and tell you to do otherwise, so live and let live. Which would actually be a great message to take to America (stop blowing Muslims up and spying on them unless they're trying to blow your citizens up, and let their economies grow) and to Islam (you can't stop capitalism or America by all this very elementary violence, you shouldn't be putting bullets into Christians and Jews just because they are so, and in today's day and age you can't restrict the rights of women without pissing most of the world off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embed….

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