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Slaughtering Animals in Manu Shastr

By Editorial Staff

"Herbs, trees, cattles, birds, and (other) animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher existences." Manu Shastr.

“Herbs, trees, cattles, birds, and (other) animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher existences.” Manu Shastr.

Some Hindus challenge the validity of slaughtering any animal for meat, regarding it a major sin and heinous crime. This issue is raised strongly, in the days of `Eid Al-Adha in India and other countries, when Muslims slaughter their sacrificial animal all over the world.

In fact, the opponents did not know or avoided knowing the opinion of Hindu holy books and scriptures on this issue. We find in Hindu scriptures many clear texts and direct evidence that permit slaughtering animals and eating their meat. Perhaps, those texts agree with the Islamic attitude in this issue. I do not want here to present texts from the Glorious Qur’an and the blessed Sunnah, but I would like to draw the attention to the Laws of Manu (or Manu Shastr), that give you a clear religious ruling on this subject. The intention of these lines is to ease the anger of some Hindu brothers who oppose slaughtering animals and may allow slaughter human beings in order to stop the habit of eating meat.

Permissibility of Slaughtering Animals in Manu Shastr

It is better to let our respected reader with those texts without any intervention by the writer, because, those texts are clear in their meaning and intention.

The Laws of Manu says:

“30. The eater who daily even devours (kills) those destined to be his food, commits no sin; for the creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten (for those special purposes).”(1)

This text asserts plainly and clearly that slaughtering animals is permissible in Hinduism, emphasizing that these animals have been destined to be food for humans. It denies any kind of guilt or sin in this act. Not only that, but it goes further and declare that both the eater and the eaten are the creation of Allah the Almighty, Who uses His creation as He wills according to His wisdom. There is no right for any person to object the action of the Creator. It is noteworthy that this text is unconditional and absolute in its ruling that includes any meat, whether a sacrificial or what is slaughtered for meat only.

Let us see another text that addresses the issue of eating meat of a sacrificial animal particularly, the Law of Manu says in this regard:

“32. He who eats meat, when he honors the gods and manes (the souls of the ancestors), commits no sin, whether he has bought it, or himself has killed (the animal), or has received it as a present from others.”(2)

Perhaps, our respective reader will agree with me that this text is clear in its meaning and intention. This paragraph denotes clearly that killing an animal and eating its meat, and accepting it as a gift from others is permissible according to Manu Shastr.

Not only this, but, Manu makes eating meat an obligatory duty, warning those who refuse to eat meat of some severe punishment, rather, the opponent will be turned into an animal for his rejection of eating the meat during the coming births. Manu says in this regard:

“35. But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences.”(3)

This is unlike Islam which did not impose eating meat on its followers. Islam makes it only permissible for anyone who wants to eat, because, every person in Islam is free to choose his food. The only condition is that the food must be lawful and not forbidden.

The Laws of Manu declare that a Brahmana should not eat the meat of an animal that has not been validated by reciting the Mantras of Vedas. The Shastr says in this context:

“36. A Brahmana must never eat (the flesh of) animals unhallowed (unsanctified) by Mantras; but, an obedient to the primeval law may eat it, consecrated with Vedic texts.”(4)

This text mentions only one condition for the permissibility of a carcass that is to read the Mantras of Vedas on the animal. It is noteworthy that Islam also sets some conditions for the permissibility of the meat of an animal; the name of Allah must be recited before slaughtering the animal. If the name of any deity is recited during slaughtering, the meat becomes unlawful according to Islam. As Allah (Glory be to Him) says in the Glorious Qur’an:

And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for indeed, it is grave disobedience. (Al-An`am 6:121)

Manu Shastr has other texts that emphasize the importance of sacrificing an animal for God. It promises for the slaughtered animal a better and higher form of life according to the re-birth Hindu concept. You can read this opinion in the following quotes from the Laws of Manu:

“39. Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world), hence, the slaughtering (of beasts) for sacrifices is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word).”(5)

Another text of Manu says:

“40. Herbs, trees, cattles, birds, and (other) animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher existences.”(6)

Furthermore, the Manu Shastr adds:

“41. On offering the honey-mixture (to a guest), at a sacrifice and at the rites in honor of the manes, but on these occasions only, may an animal be slain; that (rule) Manu proclaimed.”(7)

It is noted in the previous text that Hindus intend by their sacrifice to honor the spirits of their ancestors as can be understood from the phrase “in honor of the manes”. This type of honoring can be taken in the sense of worship, because, the concept of worship in Hinduism is obscure and doubtful. In Hinduism, sometimes the worship is offered to some deities and phenomenon of the nature, like; the sun, water, fire and hill. However, Islamic doctrine is clear in the issue of worship that is prohibited to be directed towards anyone, except Allah (Glory be to Him).

The Laws of Manu support the permissibility of slaughtering animals, and eating meat very clearly, as you can read in the following two Mantras:

“42. A twice-born man who, knowing the true meaning of the Veda, slays an animal for these purposes, causes both himself and the animal to enter a most blessed state.”(8)

And the Mantra that says:

“44. Know that the injury to moving creatures and to those destitute of motion, which the Veda has prescribed for certain occasions, is no injury at all for the sacred law shone forth from the Veda.”(9)

Perhaps, you feel through these texts that eating meat is permissible in Hinduism in general. It requires only that it should be slaughtered by reading Mantra of the Vedas. Some of those texts show clearly that eating meat is an obligatory and religious ritual in Hinduism as was mentioned above.

Prohibition of Slaughtering Animals in Manu Shastr

 

After presenting these lucid texts from Manu Shastr that favor the permissibility of eating meat, the scientific honesty enjoins to bring some texts from Manu Shastr that discourage eating meat, and go against the above-mentioned opinion, as can be seen in the following texts, the Manu Shastr says:

“48. Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is harmful to (the attainment of) heavenly bliss, let him therefore shun (the use of) meat.”(10)

This text urges to avoid eating meat, because, it is harmful to the spiritual bliss and heavenly blessings. This text goes against the above-mentioned texts that have proved the permissibility of slaughtering animal and eating meat.

Furthermore, there is another text in Manu Shastr in the same sense that says that meat could not be taken without injuring an animal and injuring the animal is unacceptable. Therefore, the eater of meat would be deprived of happiness, as Manu Shastr says:

“45. He who injures in-noxious (harmless) beings from a wish to (give) himself pleasure, never finds happiness, neither living nor dead.”(11)

There is another text that regards slaughtering an animal as a cruel and disgusting act, as you can read in the following text in Manu Shastr:

“49. Having well considered the (disgusting) origin of flesh and the (cruelty of) fettering and slaying corporeal beings (animal), let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.”(12)

In addition to that, the Laws of Manu warns the eater of meat against some diseases, as Manu Shastr says:

“50. He who, disregarding the rule (given above), does not eat meat like a Pisaka, becomes dear to men, and will not be tormented by diseases.”(13)

The following text is fiercer than the previous one, as it regards the seller, the buyer and the cook as the butcher and slaughterer himself. The Laws of Manu say:

“51. He who permits (the slaughter of an animal), he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells (meat), he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, (must all be considered as) the slayers (of the animal).”(14)

“52. There is no greater sinner than that (man) who, though not worshipping the gods or the manes, seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings).(15)

Respected brother! Two types of texts from Manu Shastr have been presented to you, now you can judge about the issue of slaughtering animal in Hinduism. What do you say after reading the both sorts of texts? Is eating meat permissible or prohibited in Hinduism? How can you make reconciliation between the contradicting texts, specially, when some texts assert eating meat and some others deny it? Do those texts belong to the same person or two different persons? Are the texts from two different writers or from one? Were those texts written in the same period or different periods? How would be slaughtering a cruelty after you have regarded it as the legal and lawful act? In fact, it is a clear contradiction, because it proves same thing then comes and denies the same after two lines. On one occasion, it says that there is no sin in slaughtering an animal then comes and asserts that slaughtering an animal is a major sin. At time, it says that God has created animals to be food for humans, after that it says that the eater, the buyer and seller are similar to the butcher itself.

Conclusion:

 

After reading the two types of texts in Manu Shastr, we can note some observations in the following points:

First: It seems that the first category of the texts which favor the permissibility of slaughtering an animal are worthy of consideration as they may be regarded as the original one in this matter, while the second category of texts that warn against eating meat are later additions in Manu Shastr.

Second: Any fair person can judge that this text was composed by more than one person, and those compilers were completely different from each other, in doctrine, religion, opinion and evidence. The first kind of texts may be by the first Brahmins who used to slaughter horses for their gods and eat their meat. While the second category of texts was compiled by the followers of Jainism during their strength and power, but over time they both became a whole part of the heritage of the Hinduism.

Third: The apparent contradiction between the two kinds of texts in Manu Shastr indicates clearly that the great sources of the Hindu religion were open to additions, omissions and amendments over times. The current form of the Hindu scriptures can not be a source of guidance for the people, because they include many contradictions.

Fourth: Probably, the contradiction in the texts of Hindu scriptures was the reason that led some Hindus to change their vegetarian style of life, and began eating meat without hesitation. Eating meat by Hindus became more popular after the advent of Muslims and Christians to the Indian subcontinent. Nevertheless, Hinduism itself includes provisions that permit eating meat as was proved in the beginning of this article.

Fifth: Islam does not permit to impose eating meat on Hindus, as it is not obligatory in Islam on Muslims, put Hindus aside. Hindu brothers should be lenient in this subject to those who prefer eating meat, whether the eater is Hindu, Muslim or Christian. You can see a Muslim very lenient in this matter; no Muslim has a right to fight a non-Muslim because he eats pig or other prohibited animals in Islam. Human society now needs the atmosphere of brotherhood, reciprocal love and mutual respect, which can remove aversion and hatred from the hearts of the people. If Hindu brothers observe the provisions of Manu Shastr they can find excuses for their brothers who eat meat.

May Allah Guide us to the right path, and illuminate our hearts and minds with the light of truth.

 

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  • Laws of Manu, The sacred books of the east, translated by various oriental scholars, edited by F. Max Muller, Clarendon press, 1886, 31, p. 174.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Laws of Manu, V, 31, 174.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
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