Dunking Chickens in Hot Water after Slaughtering them

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Daruliftaa.com

In many places, the chicken is slaughtered and then tipped in to the hot water and then the feathers are removed. In all the chicken shops this is the method. Is it permissible to eat this?

ANSWER

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

In order to hasten the process of production, most abattoirs and slaughterhouses dunk chickens and birds in hot water after slaughtering them, in order to remove and loosen its feathers, and so that plucking the remaining feathers becomes easier and quicker. In many of the major plants, this process of removing the feathers in hot water is carried out mechanically.

As far as the Islamic ruling is concerned, we have two scenarios here:

Firstly, if the chicken is dunked into hot water after removing the impurities from its body by cutting open its stomach and removing the filth of the intestines, etc, then there is nothing wrong in that. The animal would be considered pure and perfectly Halal to consume.

Secondly, if the chicken is dunked into hot water without first removing the impurities from its stomach, then we have two possibilities:

a) If the chicken is dunked into water that is extremely hot and boiling, and the chicken is left in such water to the extent that normally the impurities would penetrate into its flesh, then the animal would become impure (najis) and unlawful (haram) to consume. There would also be no method to purify it.

The classical Hanafi jurist (faqih), Imam al-Haskafi (may Allah have mercy on him) states:

“….And similar is the ruling (m: of impurity) for a chicken that is dunked into boiling water before cutting it open in order to remove its feathers.”

Allama Ibn Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him) adds:

“It is stated in al-Fath (m: fath al-qadir of Ibn al-Humam) that the chicken can never become pure, although according to Imam Abu Yusuf it can be purified. The reason being, and Allah knows best, is that its impurity gets penetrated (m: into the flesh) due to the boiling water…” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 1/334)

Therefore, if the chicken was placed into hot boiling water without first removing the impurities from its stomach, and the chicken remained in such water for a considerable length of time, then it would become impure and Haram, and one will not be able to purify it according to the more reliable opinion in the Hanafi School.

b) The second situation here is that the chicken is dunked into hot water but the water was not boiling, or the water was boiling but the chicken was not kept in such boiling water to the extent that the impurities would normally penetrate itself into the flesh, then in such a case, the chicken would be considered lawful (halal).

Allama Ibn Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him) further states whilst discussing a special type of fish found in Egypt:

“…It will not be considered impure unless the meat remains in boiling water for a duration in which penetration (of impurities) into the inside of the flesh can take place. Both these reasons are not found in the Samit fish in that the water does not reach boiling level and the fish is not kept in the water except for a period in which the warmth only reaches the external part of the skin….” (Radd al-Muhtar, no. 1/334)

In light of the above, there are two things that render a chicken impure and unlawful:

1) The water must be boiling,

2) The bird or chicken must remain in such boiling water for a considerable duration in which the filth of its stomach can penetrate itself into the flesh, because of which there is a change in the taste and smell of its meat.

Keeping the above in mind, it would be best to first remove the impurities from the chicken’s stomach and then dunk it into hot water, when reasonably possible. If the slaughtering is done by one’s self, then the above procedure should be implemented.

However, chickens slaughtered in the abattoirs and major plants do not have the impurities removed before being placed into hot water. Millions of birds are dunked into hot water after being slaughtered, and then its meat is supplied, sold and found in shops and restaurants.

In most of the cases, there should not be a problem with this procedure, for firstly the water is not at boiling point, and secondly the animal is dunked into the water only for a few minutes, not sufficient for the impurities to penetrate itself into the flesh.

I personally upon visiting certain slaughterhouses in the UK found the water not to be boiling. Some of my friends checked the temperature level of the water and found that it was far from being extremely hot. Shaykh Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) in one of his visits to a major plant in Canada placed his hands into the water and did not even find the water to burn one’s hands let alone be boiling.

So, normally it would be Halal to consume the meat of chickens and birds that are dunked into hot water after being slaughtered. However, if it is found that the water is boiling and that the chicken is left in such water for a considerable length of time, then it would not be permissible to eat from it. If one is able to remove the impurities from the stomach of the animal before placing it in the water, then that would be the ideal method.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

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