Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguruji Ki Fateh!

I had posted the above video without performing an in-depth search on this topic. I have tried looking into this maryada in an unbiased way and would like to provide definition of Kutha maas and observations from Gurabani about Kutha maas for now. Sometime in near future, I will discuss about economic feastility of Jhatka Maas, public perception of Jhatka Maas and Maryada, humane way of killing meat using modern technologies (endorsed by PETA), health and public safety concerns about jhatka maas, extending the same in wars while killing humans.

Since the page has been created by Sikh brothers from UK, I would like to start with a video by Bhai Jagraj Singh who is well respected for his service to Sikhi by Sikh brothers from UK.

Should we eat meat by Bhai Jagraj Singh from Basics of Sikhi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHOFqW3SRMs

About Kutha Meat in Gurmat:One of the many misconceptions raised in the defense of eating meat is the misinterpretation of the word ਕੁਠਾ (KuTha) in Gurbani. Pro-meat advocates proclaim that KuTha refers to meat of an animal slaughtered according to Islamic rituals. To make the matters worse, the same misinterpretation appears in the Sikh Rehat Maryada as a footnote, which confuses many Sikhs in regards to eating meat. Thus, it becomes absolutely necessary to take up this subject in detail and discuss usage of KuTha in Gurbani from its contextual and literal sense as well as examine Islamic slaughter rituals to ascertain if KuTha really refers to Islamic ritual slaughter.

KuTha in Light of Gurbani

Before we start discussing all the Shabads in which the word KuTha appears, it is pertinent to start with its definition in light of Gurbani as understood by eminent Sikh scholars.

According to Bhai Randhir Singh, word KuTha is an abstract noun derived from the root verb ਕੁਹਣਾ i.e. Kohna.[1] The word Kohna is a verb meaning ‘to kill mercilessly’. The form derived from the root verb Kohna, that functions as a noun (its gerund) is ਕੁਹਣ (Kohn). The definition of Kohn, thus, is simply the killing of an animal irrespective of the slaughter method.

Bhai Veer Singh in Guru Granth Sahib Kosh confirms the same definition with the following meaning of KuTha.

ਕੁਠਾ ਕੁਹਣਾ ਤੋਂ ਬਣਦਾ ਹੈ। ਕੋਹਿਆ ਤੋਂ ਕੁਠਾ ਬਣਨਾ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਵਿਆਕਰਣ ਦਾ ਤਰੀਕਾ ਹੈ ਜਿਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਮੋਹਣਾ ਤੋਂ ਮੁਠਾ ਤੇ ਲੋਹਣਾ ਤੋਂ ਲੁਠਾ ਬਣਦਾ ਹੈ।

Translation: KuTha is derived from the word Kohna. Derivative of KuTha from Kohna is a rule in Punjabi grammar just as MuTha is derived from Mohna and LuTha from Lohna.[2]

Prof. Surindar Singh Kohli, in his Dictionary of Guru Granth Sahib, adds further credence to the definition of KuTha as follows:

KuTha — slaughtered (from Kohna)[3]

Pandit Tara Singh Narotam in his Shri Guru Girarath Kosh Vol 1 defines the words Kuhi (ਕੁਹਿ) and KuTha having the same meanings.

ਕੁਹਿ — ਗਲਾ ਕਾਟ ਕੇ ਯਥਾ “ਕੁਹਿ ਬਕਰਾ ਰਿੰਨਿ ਖਾਇਆ”[4]

ਕੁਠਾ — ਛੁਰੀ ਸੇ ਗਲਾ ਕਾਟ ਕੇ ਮਰਾ ਹੂਆ, ਯਥਾ ਅਭਾਖਿਆ ਕਾ ਕੁਠਾ ਬਕਰਾ ਖਾਣਾ[5]

Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in his monumental work, Mahan Kosh, also provides same meanings for both words.

ਕੁਹਿ — ਕੁਹਕੇ, ਜਿਬਹਿ ਕਰਕੇ, “ਕੁਹਿ ਬਕਰਾ ਰਿੰਨਿ ਖਾਇਆ”[6]

kuhi — after killing, after butchering[7]

ਕੁਠਾ — ਜਿਬਹਿ ਕੀਤਾ[8]

kutha — slaughtered, butchered. See Kohna[9]

It is interesting to note the presence of the word zibah (Arabic for slaughtered) in both definitions given by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha. Just as the word Kuhi refers to ‘merciless slaughter’ or animal that is zibah, KuTha also refers to zibah. Hence, the word KuTha is the same as the word Kuhi meaning merciless slaughter.

From the above evidence, it is clear that in the opinions of many Sikh scholars, KuTha refers to a slaughtered animal in general, and not to any particular religious ritualistic slaughtering of an animal. Given the above definitions of KuTha, we will now discuss Gurbani Shabads in which the word KuTha is used to provide a more accurate translation of verses commonly misinterpreted due to the propaganda by pro-meat advocates.

ਇਕੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨੁ ਰਵਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਭਾਉ ਦੁਯਾ ਕੁਠਾ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮੰਗੈ ਜੋੜਿ ਕਰ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਦੇਵੈ ਤੁਠਾ ॥੧੩॥ (੩੨੧)

The One Immaculate Lord is pervading everywhere; He destroys the love of duality. Nanak begs for the Lord’s Name, with his palms pressed together; by His Pleasure, God has granted it. ||13|| (Ang 321)

In the above given verses, the meanings are self-explanatory i.e. One God is Omnipresent and due to His presence, duality of mind has been destroyed. In this verse, KuTha refers to destruction. It does not refer to any specific method. This shows that the word KuTha is neither exclusively used for meat of an animal slaughtered according to Islamic rituals nor does it refer to any specific method for that matter. Let us consider the second Shabad.

ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਕੁਠਾ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੇਖੁ ॥ ਲੋਹੂ ਲਬੁ ਨਿਕਥਾ ਵੇਖੁ ॥ ਹੋਇ ਹਲਾਲੁ ਲਗੈ ਹਕਿ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਦਰਿ ਦੀਦਾਰਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੨॥ (੯੫੬)

If the Sheikh is killed with this knife (his lifestyle is filled with truth, spiritual beauty, practice of Guru’s Word and God-like attributes) his blood (of greed) will be spilt. This will make him halal (pure and acceptable). Nanak (Guru Sahib says that), such a Sheikh will surely reach the Court of God and he will become one with God.||2|| (Ang 956)

Although the above translation is very clear, some Sikhs remain adamant in twisting the meanings to suit their preconceived notions and claim that the translation “in this ritualistic way” refers to the word KuTha. However, as proven above, the word KuTha has been translated as “killed”. We have already quoted Bhai Veer Singh, Bhai Randhir Singh and Prof. Surinder Singh Kohli on this matter. Prof. Sahib Singh while interpreting this Shabad also provides the same definition. The translation “in this ritualistic way” in fact refers to the word “Halal” (lawful) which is the correct use of the word to describe the Islamic practice. Also, if the translation “in this ritualistic way” refers to KuTha in the first line then what does “Halal” mean in the third line and how does it apply to the context of the Shabad? To further elaborate, it is pertinent to look at the preceding four line of the Shabad:

ਸਚ ਕੀ ਕਾਤੀ ਸਚੁ ਸਭੁ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਘਾੜਤ ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰ ॥

ਸਬਦੇ ਸਾਣ ਰਖਾਈ ਲਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਣ ਕੀ ਥੇਕੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥ (੯੫੬)

Truth must be the knife and its make should be infinite beautiful and perfect. This knife should be sharpened on the whetstone of the Guru’s Divine Word and kept safe in the sheath of God’s divine attributes. (Ang 956)

In the above four lines, the “ritualistic way” is explained as Halal (lawful) that is redefined within Gurmat. Guru Sahib explains that in order to become accepted in Vaheguru’s (God) Court and have His vision, one must go through true ritual. In this ritual: Truth must be the knife and its make should be infinite beauty and perfection. This knife should be sharpened on the whetstone of the Guru’s Divine Word and kept safe in the sheath of (remembrance of) God’s divine attributes. If the Sheikh is killed with this knife (his lifestyle is filled with truth, spiritual beauty, practice of Guru’s Word and God-like attributes) his blood (of greed) will be spilt. This will make him halal (pure and acceptable). Nanak (Guru Sahib says that), such a Sheikh will surely reach the Court of God and he will become one with God.

From the interpretation above, we conclude that the word KuTha refers to slaughtered and not any particular ritual. The next shabad is yet more proof that according to Gurbani, KuTha does not translate to ritualistic slaughter:

ਪਾਪ ਕਰੇਦੜ ਸਰਪਰ ਮੁਠੇ ॥ ਅਜਰਾਈਲਿ ਫੜੇ ਫੜਿ ਕੁਠੇ ॥ ਦੋਜਕਿ ਪਾਏ ਸਿਰਜਣਹਾਰੈ ਲੇਖਾ ਮੰਗੈ ਬਾਣੀਆ ॥੨॥ (੧੦੧੯)

Those who committed sins are sure to be ruined. Azraa-eel, the Angel of Death, seizes and tortures them. They are consigned to hell by the Creator Lord, and the Accountant calls them to give their account. ||2|| (Ang 1019)

In the above verses, Guru Sahib explains that those who commit sinful acts are destined to be ruined and they will be seized and tortured (KuThay) by the Angel of Death. No way does this Shabad refer to any Islamic ritual slaughter otherwise it would have meant that the Angel of Death would literally slaughter the sinful people according to Islamic method, which consists of reciting the name of Allah, and cutting of the throat in a specific way.

Now we move on to the last Shabad in which word KuTha is used.

ਅਭਾਖਿਆ ਕਾ ਕੁਠਾ ਬਕਰਾ ਖਾਣਾ॥ ਚਉਕੇ ਉਪਰਿ ਕਿਸੈ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥ (੪੭੨)

They eat the meat of goat, slaughtered after the unholy language (Muslim prayers) is read over it, but they do not allow anyone else to enter their kitchen areas. (472)

The above couplet can be correctly understood only when the word ਅਭਾਖਿਆ (Abhakheya) is defined accurately. Bhai Veer Singh in his Guru Granth Sahib Kosh defines this word as follows:

ਅ+ਭਾਖਿਆ = ਅਭਖਸ਼ (ਨਾ ਖਾਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਵਸਤੂ), ਬੁਰੀ ਭਾਖਾ ਭਾਵ ਅਰਬੀ ਭਾਸ਼ਾ, ਕਲਮਾ ਪੜ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਜੋ ਜੀਵ ਕੋਹੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ[10]

Translation: Uneatable food, bad (impure) language i.e. Arabic, animals slaughtered while reading Kalima.[11]

Prof. Surindar Singh Kohli gives the following definition:

“Uneatable, bad language not to be uttered”[12]

During Mughal Empire, languages of the Muslims i.e. Arabic and Persian were considered bad, impure and unholy by the Hindus (especially Brahmins). Thus, uttering any word in such languages was considered an irreligious act by them. Any food prepared while reciting Arabic/Persian language (Quranic verses etc.) was also considered unholy and uneatable by the Hindus who used words like “Abhakkh” (uneatable) and “Malechh” (unholy or impure) for Muslims and their food.

In the Shabad under discussion, Guru Sahib is revealing the hypocrisy of Brahmins. Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in Mahan Kosh gives the following explanation of the word Abhakheya:

ਅਭਾਖਿਆ: ਨਾ ਬੋਲਣ ਯੋਗ ਭਾਸ਼ਾ, ਹਿੰਦੂ ਮਤ ਵਿਚ ਯੂਨਾਨੀ ਅਰਬੀ ਆਦਿ ਬੋਲੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਮਲੇਛ ਭਾਸ਼ਾ ਕਹਿ ਕੇ ਆਰਯਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਹਦਾਇਤ ਕੀਤੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਓਹ ਕਦੇ ਯਾਵਨੀ ਭਾਸ਼ਾ ਨਾ ਬੋਲਣ…”ਅਭਾਖਿਆ ਕਾ ਕੁਠਾ ਬਕਰਾ ਖਾਣਾ” ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕਿਸੇ ਬੋਲੀ ਨੂੰ ਮਲੇਛ ਭਾਸ਼ਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਮੰਨਦੇ, ਕੇਵਲ ਇਕ ਪਾਖੰਡੀ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣ ਨੂੰ ਉਸ਼ਟ੍ਰਲਗੁਡ ਨਯਾਯ ਕਰਕੇ ਸਿੱਖਿਯਾ ਦਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ ਕਿ ਆਪਣੇ ਧਰਮ ਵਿਰੁੱਧ ਤੁਸੀਂ “ਬਿਸਮਿੱਲਾ” ਆਦਿ ਮੰਤ੍ਰ ਕਹਿ ਕੇ ਜਿਬਹਿ ਕੀਤੇ ਜੀਵ ਦਾ ਕੁੱਠਾ ਮਾਸ ਖਾਂਦੇ ਹੋ, ਪਰ ਹੋਰਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਆਖਦੇ ਹੋ ਕਿ ਸਾਡੇ “ਚਉਕੇ ਉਪਰਿ ਕਿਸੈ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ” ਇਹ ਕੇਹਾ ਅਣੋਖਾ ਮੰਤਕ ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਸਮਝਾਉਂਦੇ ਹੋ[13]

Abhakheya — Language not worthy to be uttered. In Hinduism, Aryans are warned that they must not utter the Semitic languages such as Arabic which were considered unholy….“They eat the meat of goat, slaughtered after the unholy language (Muslim prayers) is read over it” Guru Sahib does not consider any language unholy, He is simply giving counsel to a hypocrite Brahmin by saying that against the injunction of your religion you eat slaughtered animal after the recitation of “Bismillah” etc. verses over it, and at the same time, tell others not to enter your kitchen area.

Giani Harbans Singh in his Guru Granth Sahib Darshan Nirnay provides the following meanings:

ਅਭਾਖਿਆ — ਦੂਜੀ ਬੋਲੀ ਦਾ, ਭਾਵ ਕਲਮਾ ਪੜ੍ਹ ਕੇ ।[14]

Abhakheya — Of foreign language i.e. by reading Kalima

ਕੁਠਾ — ਕੋਹਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ

KuTha — Tortured or Slaughtered

Bhai Veer Singh in his commentary of Guru Granth Sahib provides the following explanation:

ਅਭਾਖਿਆ ਕਾ ਕੁਠਾ — ਕਲਾਮ ਪੜ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਕੋਹਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ। ……ਅਭਾਖਿਆ ਤੋਂ ਮੁਰਾਦ ਅਰਬੀ ਦੀ ਹੈ, ਜਿਸਦੇ ਲਫਜ ‘ਬਿਸਮਿੱਲਾ’ ਵਗੈਰਾ ਕਹਿ ਕੇ ਕੁੱਠਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ।[15]

Translation: Slaughtered after reading verses. Abhakheya refers to Arabic in which after reciting words like “Bismillah” etc. the animal is slaughtered.

Dr. Ratan Singh Jaggi explains the verse as follows:

ਅਭਾਖਿਆ — ਵਿਪਰੀਤ (ਆਪਣੇ ਧਰਮ ਤੋਂ ਉਲਟੀ) ਭਾਸ਼ਾ ਦੇ ‘ਬਿਸਮਿਲਾ’ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਦੇ ਉਚਾਰਣ ਨਾਲ ਕੋਹਿਆ ਗਿਆ ਪਸ਼ੂ (ਬਕਰਾ)। ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ ਕਰਮਕਾਂਡੀ ਜਾਂ ਪਾਖੰਡੀ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣ ਨੂੰ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਆਚਾਰ ਦੇ ਵਾਸਤਵਿਕ ਸਰੂਪ ਨੂੰ ਸਮਝਾਉਂਦੇ ਹੋਇਆਂ ਦਸਦੇ ਹਨ ਕਿ ਉਹ ਆਪ ਤਾਂ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਕੋਹੇ ਬਕਰੇ ਦਾ ਮਾਸ ਖਾ ਲੈਂਦਾ ਹੈ, ਪਰ ਚੌਕੇ ਉਪਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਨੂੰ ਨਾ ਜਾਣ ਦੇਣ ਲਈ ਸਾਵਧਾਨ ਰਹਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਆਪਣੀ ਪਵਿੱਤਰਤਾ ਦਾ ਪਾਖੰਡ ਪੂਰਵਕ ਪ੍ਰਦਰਸ਼ਨ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ[16]

Abhakheya — Slaughtering of an animal (goat) while reciting ‘Bismillah’ in a language against one’s own religion. Guru Nanak Dev gives counsel to a hypocrite Brahmin by drawing his attention to his own character and double standard that while he unhesitatingly eats the meat of a goat slaughtered by a Muslim, he remains vigilant about preventing everyone else from entering his kitchen area.

It is apparent from the above that Guru Sahib used the same word that was used by Brahmins for Muslims, Abhakheya, to expose their hypocritical nature of eating “unholy food” of the Muslims, but at the same time not letting others to enter their kitchen areas as dictated by their holy law. The word Abhakheya refers to food that is uneatable because it is prepared according to Islamic way by reading Arabic verses of Quran, and therefore, unacceptable to a practicing Hindu. If the word KuTha referred to Islamic meat, then use of the word Abhakheya would have been useless and redundant. Brahmins despised the recitation of verses in Arabic which they considered unholy and impure. They considered slaughtered animal (KuTha) uneatable food because it was prepared according to Islamic way. Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the word KuTha refers to slaughtered animal.

One last question that is put forth by pro-meat advocates is if Guru Sahib wished to prohibit any type of meat, then why did he not use the word “maas” (common for meat in Punjabi) instead of using KuTha? The answer is very simple, “maas” refers to flesh or meat in general and its usage by Guru Sahib would have given the impression that “maas” itself is bad and must be despised. This is not the Gurmat principle as all humans are also made of “maas”. Usage of KuTha is specific to slaughtering of an animal for the sake of eating its meat. Sikhs must not shun “maas” but the act of slaughtering animals. To further elaborate, many microorganisms get killed while walking, sleeping, eating etc. but they cannot be considered KuTha or an act of bajjar kurehat (cardinal sin) because their death is natural and not a merciless slaughter for the sake of satisfying one’s taste buds. Sikhs have no intention of killing these beings or eating them. On similar lines, hunted ferocious animals cannot be considered KuTha because the intent is not to consume their meat by slaughtering them. This is why KuTha is specific to slaughter of an animal for the sake of eating its meat. Bhai Randhir Singh affirms:

Had Guru Gobind Singh Ji used the word “maas” in four cardinal sins, many Singhs (Sikhs) would have started to hate the mere sight of meat or sound of the word itself. Gurmat does not allow hate towards maas. If hate to maas is allowed, then all creatures (humans, animals etc.) are made of maas. Hating maas should not be the practice of Sikhs but an act of slaughtering animal to eat its flesh should be hated….This is why word KuTha instead of maas is used in four cardinal sins so that Sikhs do not indulge in the act of slaughtering animals and eating meat.[17]

The above discussion proves conclusively that the word KuTha is a reference to slaughtered meat and not to any religious ritual. Other Gurbani Shabads echo the same concept and condemn mercilessly slaughtering the animals forcefully. Here are just a few Shabads:

ਕਬੀਰ ਜੀਅ ਜੁ ਮਾਰਹਿ ਜੋਰੁ ਕਰਿ ਕਹਤੇ ਹਹਿ ਜੁ ਹਲਾਲੁ ॥

ਦਫਤਰੁ ਦਈ ਜਬ ਕਾਢਿ ਹੈ ਹੋਇਗਾ ਕਉਨੁ ਹਵਾਲੁ ॥੧੯੯॥ (੧੩੭੫)

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

In the above Shabad, forceful killing is condemned not any specific method because method itself is irrelevant. It also does not matter whether one calls the meat a jhatka, halal or anything else. The principle being advocated here is not to kill animals and those who do will not find any support when their deeds are evaluated in Vaheguru’s court. Same concept is elucidated in the following Shabad:

ਕਬੀਰ ਜੋਰੀ ਕੀਏ ਜੁਲਮੁ ਹੈ ਕਹਤਾ ਨਾਉ ਹਲਾਲੁ ॥

ਦਫਤਰਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਮਾਂਗੀਐ ਤਬ ਹੋਇਗੋ ਕਉਨੁ ਹਵਾਲੁ ॥੧੮੭॥ (੧੩੭੪)

Kabeer, to use force is tyranny, even if you call it legal. When your account is called for in the Court of the Lord, what will your condition be then? ||187|| (1374)

Again, forceful killing of animals is condemned. The following Shabad leaves no doubt about Gurbani’s stance on killing animals. In particular this Shabad pertains to Hindus slaughtering animals. Therefore, if KuTha meant ‘animal slaughtered in accordance to Muslim rites’ then why not extend the prohibition to animal slaughtered in accordance to Hindu rites as this following Shabad condemns the Hindu Pandit (religious scholar) for killing animals and claiming to be a religious person at the same time.

ਜੀਅ ਬਧਹੁ ਸੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਅਧਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਤ ਭਾਈ ॥

ਆਪਸ ਕਉ ਮੁਨਿਵਰ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਕਾ ਕਉ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਸਾਈ ॥੨॥ (੧੧੦੨)

You kill living beings, and call it a righteous action. Tell me, brother, what would you call an unrighteous action? You call yourself the most excellent sage; then who would you call a butcher? ||2|| (1102)

It is unambiguously clear that killing animals is not a religious act irrespective of the slaughter method and religious tradition. In fact, those who kill animals are called butchers, and a butcher is not considered a true religious person in Gurbani. Hence, a God-oriented person does not engage in killing animals.

The above arguments prove that KuTha has the same meaning as Kohna and Kuhi in Gurbani. It does not at all refer to Islamic ritual slaughter. Instead, it refers to merciless slaughtering of an animal. A God fearing person as envisaged in Gurbani cannot be a religious person and a butcher at the same time and therefore, does not engage in sinful acts of slaughtering animals.

KuTha in Light of Bajjar Kurehats

Interpreting KuTha as ‘Islamic ritual slaughter’ poses some serious problems vis-à-vis consistency of bajjar kurehats (cardinal sins). Leaving eating meat aside, let us take a cursory look at the other three bajjar kurehats:

Having illicit relations with another person — This refers to having any intimate relationship with anyone other than the spouse. The method of relationship, its mode or with any particular person is irrelevant.

Taking Intoxicants — This refers to consumption of tobacco, alcohol and other intoxicants. It does not matter how one indulges in this practice i.e. whether one chews or smokes tobacco is irrelevant.

Removing Hair — This refers to removing hair from any part of the body. Method of removal is irrelevant be it plucking, threading or simply cutting.

It is obvious from the above that the three bajjar kurehats invariably refer to acts and not the methods. Hence, the acts are unlawful. For example, no one can claim that having illicit relations only with a Muslim woman is unlawful (while no prohibition with other women), removing hair only in a certain fashion is impermissible or smoking a hukkah is unacceptable as opposed to smoking a cigar. The methods are not given any consideration but only the acts committed by human beings are considered relevant. Consequently, it becomes evident that the fourth kurehat would also be consistently in line with the other three kurehats. In other words, the kurehat would refer to eating meat not how the animal is slaughtered. Therefore, KuTha is correctly interpreted as slaughtered meat and the bajjar kurehat refers to its consumption. How the animal is slaughtered is irrelevant because it is the act that is unlawful not just the method itself. All four bajjar kurehats make acts unlawful thereby declaring eating meat as unlawful. Making a particular method unlawful is simply ridiculous and not in line with Gurmat. Guru Sahib would not have made any reservations against other slaughtering methods if His intent had been to declare slaughtering a bajjar kurehat. In such a case, any Sikh who slaughtered animals Islamically would have become patit (apostate) but this is not so. Specifically outlawing the Islamic method does not make any sense because whereas the first three bajjar kurehats are predicated upon the acts, the last one is predicated upon the method alone leaving it inconsistent with the other three. Therefore, one can see that interpreting KuTha in any other way breaks the consistency in the bajjar kurehats.

Further, Gurbani principles are so well defined, explained and explicated that there is no room for doubt to cloud one’s judgment concerning any moral principle. Since KuTha is related to a bajjar kurehat and results in apostasy, Guru Sahib would not have left it ambiguous in Gurbani. Thus, if KuTha really meant Islamic ritual slaughter then it would have been very explicitly stated in Gurbani. However, KuTha is defined as ‘slaughtered’ and not as method in which the animal is slaughtered. Alternatively, Guru Sahib would have clearly mentioned acceptable slaughter methods for Sikhs to use. Besides, we must ask what could have been a valid reason behind prohibiting just the Islamic slaughter method. We are generally given two answers by meat-eaters in response:

It results in animal cruelty

In this case, Jewish method Shechita is equally cruel but there is no mention of its prohibition in any Sikh source. Other methods such as stunning and jhatka (single blow) are also cruel and not free from pain. There is no such thing as humane or happy method of slaughtering an animal. If one was to change the argument that any method that results in animal suffering is wrong then they must explain why KuTha specifically refers to Islamic slaughter method (according to their own interpretation) and does not encompass a comprehensive meaning? Hence, this argument does not hold. Why did Guru Sahib not prohibit animal cruelty altogether rather than just outlawing a specific method? If a non-Muslim community in the future was to invent a new method more cruel than the Islamic method, it would not be outlawed under the current definition of KuTha because KuTha misinterpretation pertains to a method whereas the other three bajjar kurehats are grounded in moral principles.

It is sacrificial meat

It is only sacrificial if the name of God is recited upon the slaughtered animal. Otherwise it is not. Nonetheless, if meat is sacrificial because the animal was killed in a certain ritual then Hindus and Jews also kill animals in a set ritual. Pro-meat Sikhs, too, slaughter meat in the supposed ‘Sikh method’ termed Jhatka, in which God is invoked by uttering ‘Sat Siree Akaal’ and reciting Chandi Di Vaar scriptural composition. Meat prepared by Hindus, Jews and pro-meat Sikhs is also no different and is ritualistic as well. If meat is rejected solely because of the ritual then what if a Hindu, Buddhist or an atheist uses the same method without reciting anything? Would the meat be acceptable to our Sikh brothers? The obvious answer would be a no.

Due to absence of prescribed slaughter methods in Gurbani and dearth of injunctions prohibiting Sikhs from eating animals slaughtered in a specific method leave no doubt that KuTha does not at all refer to Islamic ritual slaughter.

Slaughter Methods and Halal in Islam

Some meat eating Sikhs take shelter behind the Sikh Rehat Maryada in a vain attempt to misinterpret the word KuTha. They are keen on interpreting KuTha as meat of an animal slaughtered in Islamic way. But little do they realize that such a misinterpretation based argument adds little to their case and only makes matters worse. Our discussion so far has been confined to the parameters of Gurmat but since misinterpretation of KuTha refers to Islamic ritual slaughter, it becomes pertinent to discuss this topic from Islamic viewpoint to understand Islamic laws concerning slaughter methods and concept of halal (permissible or lawful) in Islam. Therefore, in this section, for the sake of argument, we will assume the definition of KuTha given in the footnote of the Sikh Rehat Maryada to be correct. This will help us determine if interpreting KuTha as Islamic ritual slaughter adds any weight to the pro-meat argument.

Sikh Rehat Maryada’s definition of KuTha is the result of not properly understanding Islamic ritual slaughter and Islamic laws governing halal (lawful) and haram (unlawful). Incorrect interpretation of KuTha stems from the assumption that slaughter method alone makes the meat lawful for Muslims to eat. However, in Islam there is a clear distinction between the two as we shall reveal in this section.

First, let us discuss the slaughter method alone. An important point to keep in mind is that not a single Islamic dictionary defines KuTha as an Islamic slaughter method. The appropriate Arabic word for Islamic ritual slaughter is Zabihah or Zibah. Since Qur’an does not outline the slaughter method, different Muslim scholars have formed their own opinions often conflicting with each other concerning the proper method.

According to Imam Al-Shafi‘I, the ritual slaughter involves cutting of the windpipe and the gullet. He recommends cutting these two along with two major blood vessels. If one is cut without the other, the slaughter is not considered valid.[18] In contrast, according to Malik ibn Anas, “the two blood vessels are like the throat and cutting of the two of them is the only requirement of the ritual slaughter”.[19] Abu Hanifa requires cutting of windpipe, gullet and most of the vessels. Otherwise, it is not a proper ritual slaughter. Abd al-Rahman al-Awza’I states that cutting of blood vessels alone is sufficient.[20]

Lack of clear cut explanation leaves one astounded as to the proper slaughter method in Islam. In light of this, what slaughter method do Sikh meat eaters refer to as KuTha? Generally referring to KuTha as meat prepared by Islamic slaughter method is not enough especially when Islamic jurists are not even unanimous on the proper slaughter method then what hope do Sikh meat eaters have in selecting which Islamic method is defined as KuTha and thereby prohibited in Gurmat?

Even if an animal is slaughtered by acceptable Islamic standards, it still does not become halal or lawful for consumption. In other words, slaughter method alone does not make it lawful for Muslims to eat the meat. Two more conditions must be met:

Name of Allah or Bismillah must be invoked

Slaughter method must be performed by either a Muslim or someone from the ‘People of the Book’ (Jews and Christians)

If either of the criteria is not met, the meat becomes unlawful or impermissible for consumption. We provide few references from authentic Islamic sources as a proof.

Quran states:

Eat not (of meats) on which Allah’s name has not been pronounced. (Quran, 6:121)

Explaining the meaning of the verse above, Ibn Kathir states:

This Ayah is used to prove that slaughtered animals are not lawful when Allah’s Name is not mentioned over them — even if slaughtered by a Muslim.[21]

Maulana Shafi affirms:

It has been made necessary (‘Wajib’) that the name of Allah be invoked while slaughtering them — and if, anyone were to leave out the name of Allah at the time of the slaughter, the animal was declared to be carrion, and unlawful.[22]

Regarding food of the ‘People of the Book’, Qur’an states:

The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals, etc.) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (5:5)

Ibn Kathir explains the above verse as follows:

Allah then mentioned the ruling concerning the slaughtered animals of the People of the Book, the Jews and Christians, (The food of the People of the Scripture is lawful to you..) meaning, their slaughtered animals, as Ibn `Abbas, Abu Umamah, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ikrimah, `Ata’, Al-Hasan, Makhul, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i, As-Suddi and Muqatil bin Hayyan stated. This ruling, that the slaughtered animals of the People of the Book are permissible for Muslims, is agreed on by the scholars, because the People of the Book believe that slaughtering for other than Allah is prohibited. They mention Allah’s Name upon slaughtering their animals, even though they have deviant beliefs about Allah that do not befit His majesty.[23]

While there are myriads of other conditions, we have limited our discussion to three major conditions only. From the brief discussion above, we learn that the following three conditions are required for meat to be lawful for Muslims:

Animal must be zibah (slaughtered) according to the prescribed method

Name of Allah or Bismillah must be invoked

Either a Muslim or someone from the ‘People of the Book’ must perform the slaughter

At this point we must iterate that the slaughter method itself is futile and does not make the food lawful for Muslims. Islamic ritual slaughter must have all three conditions satisfied. Otherwise, the meat is not considered Islamic. Thus, the definition of KuTha given in the Sikh Rehat Maryada is not restricted to the slaughter method alone but must be conclusive of all three conditions given above. Otherwise, the slaughter method alone (condition 1) is not sufficient for the meat to be considered Islamically lawful. Therefore, definition of KuTha must pertain to all types of meat considered halal or lawful for Muslims. But this is where it gets much more complicated; in Islam, the above conditions are not applicable to all life forms and have exceptions depending on the circumstance. We shall elaborate on this later in this article but it is suffice to say that as definition of halal changes in Islam, so does the definition of KuTha in the Rehat Maryada, which has a bearing over what Sikhs can and cannot eat. In order to understand how definition of KuTha varies from Islamic context, it is necessary to have detailed discussion on each condition to understand the specifics of the Islamic laws.

First Condition: The Slaughter Method

Let us take the first condition for example; it is only applicable to certain terrestrial domestic animals such as a cow, camel, sheep etc. All terrestrial predatory wild animals[24] such as a lion, cheetah, tiger, leopard, wolf etc. and all birds that hunt with their claws/talons are considered unlawful.[25] Also, swine[26] (pig) and donkey[27] are considered unlawful. There is no method prescribed in Islam to make these creatures lawful. They remain unlawful indefinitely.[28] For meat eater Sikhs, few questions are worth pondering over vis-à-vis meat of these creatures in light of the definition of KuTha given in the Rehat Maryada:

Can Sikhs eat flesh of animals/birds that are declared unlawful in Islam? The obvious answer seems to be a positive one. Now let us add a caveat to the same question: What if these same animals/birds were slaughtered following the Islamic conditions? We must remind our readers that in this case these creatures still remain unlawful in Islam. Both yes and no answers pose serious paradoxes. Let us consider both answers and their respective consequences:

No — If Sikhs answer no due to the fact that all the Islamic injunctions were followed in the slaughter despite the meat being unlawful in Islam, then it goes against the very definition of KuTha advocated by them as given in the Rehat Maryada. Thus, their definition of KuTha is wrong because in this case what is unlawful for Muslims is also unlawful for Sikhs. This requires a whole new definition of KuTha to be fabricated to accurately define what meat is lawful or unlawful for Sikhs in light of Islam and in general. If the argument is advanced that as long as all Islamic injunctions are followed, the meat is KuTha then we must ask why the need to specifically define KuTha as meat prepared by slaughtering an animal in Islamic way? Islamic way refers to what is considered lawful in Islam. Hence, meat of forbidden animals/birds cannot be considered prepared according to the Islamic ritual slaughter for the very reason that Islam categorically declares them unlawful. This results in meat eater Sikhs acting against the Rehat Maryada which they so dearly hide behind to justify non-vegetarianism. A negative answer makes the definition of KuTha even more obscure. Hence, this is not the correct position.

Yes — If the answer is affirmative then while definition of KuTha remains consistent we face other problems. Now KuTha becomes a relative term which varies as the definition of halal changes in Islam. KuTha no longer pertains to the slaughter method or invoking Allah’s name etc. but any meat that is unlawful to Muslims. One can follow all the Islamic injunctions of ritual slaughter but if the animal is a cow then it is KuTha but not so if it the animal is a lion. This makes a Gurmat principle (or definition of a bajjar kurehat) entirely dependent upon another religion. What type of meat a Sikh can or cannot eat becomes regulated by Islamic laws rather than Gurbani. Islamic sources and Muslim jurists become the guiding standard for Sikhs to decide what is lawful for them (or unlawful for Muslims) and what would make them apostates in Gurmat. So what good is a life of a Sikh when it is not according to Gurbani but according to Islam? Since Guru Sahibans gave clear cut instructions to ensure that Gurmat principles and laws do not remain ambiguous and dependent upon another religious scripture, this position is unacceptable, illogical, and irrational.

In light of the above, both positions have shortcomings and raise serious questions on Gurmat way of life. Since first three bajjar kurehats are absolute i.e. without any exceptions, the remaining one about meat must also be absolute prohibiting all types of meat regardless of the slaughter method.

Continuing our discussion, we find that exceptions in Islam do not just end here. There are different methods and injunctions to be followed during hunting. Muslims can hunt using weapons, trained dogs or falcons. It is written in the Qur’an:

They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye teach them that which Allah taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allah’s name upon it. (5:4)

For animals not within the range, inflicting a wound with a sharp weapon after saying Bismillah is sufficient enough to make the animal lawful. Maulana Shafi explains:

An animal not within range for the hunter to slaughter can become halal without having been slaughtered if the hunter, after saying Bismillah, inflicts a wound on it by means of a sharp-edged weapon such as an arrow. Merely being wounded is not enough; it is necessary as a condition that it be wounded with some sharp-edged weapon.[29]

If using trained animals, it must be ensured that the trained animals are groomed in such a manner that they hunt not for themselves but for their Muslim masters. Before releasing a dog or a falcon, name of Allah must be recited. If the animal dies before it is brought back by the dog or a falcon then it is lawful. Otherwise, it must be slaughtered in the prescribed manner. Maulana Shafi elucidates:

If [the game is] dead before it reaches you — will still be lawful with no need to slaughter. If otherwise, it will not be lawful for you unless slaughtered.[30]

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:

If one shoots an arrow at the animal or if his hunting dog has brought it down, as long as he reaches the animal while there is still abundant life remaining in it, its throat must be cut.[31]

We observe that there are at least two different ways of making an animal lawful while hunting. First one requires using a sharp edged weapon and saying Bismillah and the second one necessitates proper slaughter method.

The bottom line is that the slaughter method in Islam is neither consistent nor always required for the animal to be halal for consumption. So how would our Sikh brothers define KuTha in light of this? It will be changing in every different situation. Any animal that is wounded by a Sikh during hunting from which it subsequently dies must be KuTha and unlawful because it is the same method that makes the creature halal in Islam. Hence, KuTha does not remain a clearly defined term. It can vary from regular slaughter of cutting throat to wounding an animal with a weapon, dog or a falcon.

We have observed so far that out of the three pertinent conditions, the first one is not always required and varies depending on circumstance and types of animals. As a consequence, KuTha in the Rehat Maryada acquires new definitions variously.

Second Condition: Invoking Allah

In our discussion on the first condition we have learned that invoking Allah’s name is necessary in order to render an animal halal. Qur’an states:

He has only forbidden you what dies of itself, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that over which any other (name) than (that of) Allah has been invoked. (2:173)

It is also confirmed in the hadith.

Narrated Adi ibn-e-Hatim: I said: Apostle of Allah, tell me when one of us catches game and has no knife; may he slaughter with a flint and a splinter of stick. He said: Cause the blood to flow with whatever you like and mention Allah’s name.[32]

Al-Qaradawi explains the reasoning behind such an injunction:

Pronouncing the Name of Allah while slaughtering an animal is a declaration that one is taking the life of this creature by the permission of its Creator, while if one invokes any other name, he has forfeited this permission and must be denied the use of its flesh.[33]

Al-Qaradawi further explains:

These animals, like human beings, are creatures of Allah, and like them they have life. How then can a man take control of them and deprive them of life unless he first obtains permission from his, and their, common Creator, to Whom everything belongs? Mentioning the name of Allah while slaughtering the animal is a declaration of this divine permission, as if the one who is killing the animal were saying, “….in the name of Allah I slaughter….”[34]

What we understand from the evidence presented above is that invoking the name of Allah means asking His (Allah’s) permission to slaughter the animal. Hence, a logical assumption thus follows that if Allah’s name is not invoked, the permission is not obtained rendering the animal unlawful. However, such is not the case in every instance. If a person just so happens to conveniently forget the name of Allah while hunting, there is no objection. He can make it up afterwards before eating. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi says:

If one forgets to mention Allah’s name while dispatching his weapon or the hunting animal, he can make up for it by mentioning it at the time of eating, for Allah has forgiven the Muslim Ummah the errors it commits due to oblivion or error.[35]

Therefore, the second condition of asking Allah’s permission is not necessary in every instance and has exceptions. This renders the principle of invoking the name of Allah as futile and useless. If invoking Allah’s name is of utmost importance and partly required to render the game halal then why introduce an exception to it? Nonetheless, this is how almost all rules are in Islam which are so contrived to provide maximum benefit to Muslims to satisfy their base desires. In contrast, this is not the case in Gurmat. Exception are rarely stated if at all because exceptions provide leeway to humans to choose their desires over truth. This is a testament of having highest moral standards in Gurmat providing no room for humans to fall astray by making excuses.

In light of the discussion above, KuTha can be a hunted animal over which name of Allah is either invoked or not invoked. This is not only vague but contradictory. In Gurmat, only one case can be accepted not both because Gurmat has no room for contradictions. What this means is that if a Sikh hunts an animal and ends up killing it, it is KuTha for him. Whether he says Allah or Vaheguru does not matter because for a Sikh reciting Allah is no different than any other attributive name of God. So saying Ram, Gopal, Rahim etc. are all equivalent and serve the same purpose. Whether it is said before releasing the weapon, dog or a falcon or at the time of eating the game, the method is same as Islamic.

So far from this discussion, we can conclude that KuTha is variously defined depending on the circumstance, environment in which the animal is captured (or roaming free), and human error. KuTha can be referred to something that is hunted, slaughtered, not slaughtered, captured with Allah’s name invoked over it before or after the slaughter or not at all. All we can say is that while such a ridiculous definition is acceptable in Islam, it cannot be accepted in Gurmat at all. Therefore, the definition of KuTha given in the Rehat Maryada is not correct.

Third Condition: People of the Book

So far what we have observed is that definition of halal has gone from very specific to something so obscure that it is not easy for an ordinary Muslim to eat meat without consulting the Islamic manual. This consequently affects the definition of KuTha to the same extent. What we have learned is that two of the important conditions are required yet not required all the time. What we are left with is the last condition which stipulates that the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim, Christian or a Jew. According to Qur’an:

The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. (5:5)

If anyone else (Sikh, Hindu, Jain etc.) performs the slaughter despite following all the Islamic injunctions, the animal will not be considered lawful. Maulana Shafi states:

Out of all groups of non-Muslims in this period of time, the Jews and the Christians are the only two religious communities which can be counted as ‘The People of the Book.’ None of the rest belonging to present religions are included within ‘The People of the Book.’ This general rule applies to fire worshipping Magians, idol worshipping Hindus, or Sikhs or Aryans or Buddhists and to others similar to them.[36]

While it is not our intent to examine Islamic beliefs, the matter becomes a complicated one for meat eating Sikhs in terms of KuTha? If they go by Islamic standard then the definition of KuTha in the Rehat Maryada becomes faulty and contradictory because it would then also refer to any meat prepared by Jews and Christians because it is halal for Muslims. If they (meat eating Sikhs) go with Gurmat standard of keeping everything consistent and non-contradictory then meat prepared by Jews and Christians has to be considered unlawful and therefore not KuTha for Sikhs. In this case, KuTha would no longer match the Islamic definition of halal and the definition given in the Rehat Maryada would have to be revised.

Another major problem for meat eating Sikhs is that Christian and Jewish slaughter methods do not match Islamic methods. While it is not in our scope to discuss all the differences, it is sufficient to highlight few facts. Judaism strictly prohibits stunning prior to slaughtering while Muslims do not have a consensus. Also, list of animals considered Kosher is more restrictive i.e. mammals must chew cud and must have cloven hooves. In contrast, halal only requires that an animal survive on grass and leaves. This means that a camel is permissible under halal but not kosher. Further, neither Jews nor Christians invoke the name ‘Allah’ during their slaughter. As a result, both requirements of the slaughter method and invocation of God’s name do not match Islamic method. Regardless, as long as the meat is lawful for Christians and Jews, it is lawful for Muslims. Al-Qaradawi affirms:

As long as they [Christians and Jews] consider it lawful in their religion, it is halal for us.[37]

What we intend to emphasize here is that more the obscurity and contradictions in Islam regarding halal, more the confusion for Sikhs to accurately define KuTha. Initially, three conditions were required two of which had exceptions but in the third condition, previous two conditions stand nullified. Thus, KuTha is now any meat that is slaughtered by Christians or Jews. Method of slaughter and invoking Allah’s name do not matter anymore.

This is where the problem becomes more acute. How do we know if any Christian or a Jew is committed to his faith and practices it wholeheartedly? This is important for meat eating Sikhs to know if they do not want to become patit (apostates) by consuming KuTha (meat of Christians and Jews). We must reiterate that in our discussion we assume that KuTha refers to any meat that is considered halal in Islam. Therefore, definition of KuTha now gets expanded to include meat prepared by Christians and Jews since it is considered halal in Islam. Islam provides no method of determining who a true Jew or a Christian is. Instead, it very conveniently forgoes this problem by considering every person to be a Jew or a Christian as long they do not renounce the faith completely. Maulana Shafi states:

Unless the Jews and Christians were to abandon Judaism and Christianity totally — they shall continue to be the people of the Book, no matter how involved in false beliefs of their religion and dark doings they may be.[38]

As long as a person remains a Christian or a Jew in the name only, his food is halal for Muslims. In other words, a person who does not follow Christianity or Judaism is considered a Christian or a Jew nonetheless. This is not an acceptable answer in Gurmat because if one does not live according to the principles of their faith, they are not considered its true follower.

There is also another problem in this condition. If a Muslim converts to Judaism or Christianity then he is not considered ‘People of the Book’ and his food is not halal in Islam. However, if any non-Muslim was to become a Christian or a Jew, they are readily given the status of ‘People of the Book’. Maulana Shafi affirms:

A Muslim who, God forbid, becomes a Jew or Christian. He will not be included under the definition of the people of the Book….An animal slaughtered by him is unlawful…However, if someone from another religion or community were to abandon his religion or community and become a Jew or Christian, he or she would be included under the category of the People of the Book — and an animal slaughtered by him or her would be considered lawful.[39]

Mawlana Madani echoes:

The animal slaughtered by a murtad (one who left the fold of Islam) will be Unlawful (Haram) even though he may have become a Jew or a Christian.[40]

This creates further problems for Sikhs in regards to KuTha. In light of this case, meat of Christians and Jews is halal for Muslims and thereby KuTha for Sikhs. However, at the same time, meat by Christians and Jews could also be unlawful or non-KuTha if they converted from Islam.

This unnecessarily complicates definition of KuTha because in this case, parameters of bajjar kurehat (apostasy) not only depend upon Islamic rules but also on past belief system of Christians and Jews. This takes us far away from Gurmat and Gurbani. If we follow the definition of KuTha as given in the Sikh Rehat Maryada, Sikhs will have to accept and reject meat from Christians and Jews after enquiring about their previous faiths first. Every Sikh will have to ask a Christian or a Jew if they converted from Islam before accepting their meat. If they did then it is unlawful otherwise it is not. This is not the end of problems. Any person could easily lie about themselves which could result in Sikhs consuming unlawful meat. We must ask: does the definition of bajjar kurehat depend upon a person’s statement about his previous faith? The obvious answer is no, thus, the definition of KuTha in the Rehat Maryada is wrong and unacceptable. Sikhs will also have to decide on a number of questions. Suppose a Christian or a Jew converts to a different faith but reverts back, should meat prepared by him be accepted? Islamic answer would be affirmative. So Sikhs will have to follow along and consider their meat KuTha. Now suppose the same person converts to Islam and reverts back to either Christianity or Judaism. Is meat prepared by him lawful now? Although Islam provides no answer to this question but we can assume that it will most likely be negative. But what would Sikhs decide? For Sikhs, at the end of the day, that person remains ‘People of the Book’ but not so for Muslims. Again, what this means is that as definitions of halal and haram change in Islam, so does the definition of KuTha and under certain circumstances where it does not match, it becomes self-contradictory. We summarize different cases and scenarios in the table below which includes few scenarios where Sikhs would have to differ from Muslims and Islamic halal cannot be considered KuTha:

Our answers provided in the KuTha column are based on our understanding of Gurmat that there is no room for contradictions, variability, and paradoxes in defining bajjar kurehats and rehat principles. If we follow along with Islam, Gurmat becomes entirely dependent upon Islamic injunctions and definition of KuTha depends on people’s faiths and not on Gurbani principles. KuTha definition changes in every circumstance and situation. We can summarize from our discussion so far that halal is not standardly defined in Islam, and does not require a specific slaughter method and invoking of Allah’s name in every situation. Hence, all three conditions are required yet not required every time. Inconsistencies and contradictions in the definition of halal directly affect the definition of KuTha and Sikh way of living.

What is revealed from the table above is very simple to understand. Either we align KuTha with Islamic concept of halal making it inconsistent and contradictory, which goes against the principles of Gurmat or have a standard and a consistent definition of KuTha which would require not only distancing it from Islam but also invalidating the definition given in the Rehat Maryada. The latter case is clearly the wise and sound option. In light of this, we can safely conclude that the current definition of KuTha given in the Rehat Maryada is not correct and KuTha does not refer to meat considered halal in Islam. While the Rehat Maryada correctly states that eating KuTha is a bajjar kurehat, the definition of KuTha as given in the footnote is proven to be incorrect. According to Gurmat’s standard of having consistency in principles, KuTha can only refer to something that is slaughtered irrespective of the method, invocation of God’s name and who performs the slaughter. Therefore, KuTha cannot be defined as halal meat in Islam.

Beyond the Conditions

Up to this point, we have analyzed all of the three conditions and shown that all carry exceptions and provide a great amount of latitude to make it easier for Muslims to satisfy their taste buds. However, each condition is applied to some extent in a certain situation. In this section we go beyond these three conditions and discuss cases where none of the three conditions are applicable or required.

Marine Animals

In case of marine animals, no injunction is prescribed. All marine life is completely exempt from all conditions. Quran states:

Allowed to you is the game of the sea and its eating. (5:96)

And it is He Who has subjected the sea (to you) in order that you may eat fresh meat from it. (16:14)

Quran clearly allows the consumption of sea creatures without requiring any slaughter method. Maulana Shafi expounds:

Slaughtering sea-life is not necessary as a condition; it is permissible even without it. It is on this basis that, in authentic hadith, fish and locust have been determined as exceptions to the category of maitah (unslaughtered) and thus made halal.[41]

Al-Qaradawi affirms:

Marine animals, that is, those which live in water and cannot survive outside it, are all halal. It does not matter in what way they are obtained: whether they are taken out of the water dead or alive, whole or in pieces, whether they are fish or marine animals, whether they are called sea dogs or sea hogs, or whether they are caught by a Muslim or a non-Muslim.[42]

Since marine animals cannot survive outside of water, the slaughter method cannot be applied to them. This is simply a cunning way of hiding Islam’s shortcoming of providing a consistent method of making meat halal. If the food becomes halal in a certain way then no food can be an exception to this. Nonetheless, Islam declares all marine animals as lawful unconditionally. Even invoking the name of Allah to ask for divine permission or requiring either a Muslim or someone of ‘People of the Book’ to hunt the sea creatures are not considered necessary conditions. What this means for Sikhs is that all the marine life becomes KuTha because it is halal in Islam. In light of this, Sikhs will either have to abstain from all sea creatures or write a new definition of KuTha specific to marine animals.

Hunger Games

The second case in which all three conditions are completely abandoned is the necessity to eat. Qur’an states:

Whosoever is constrained, neither being inequitable nor aggressive, then no sin is on him (2:173)

But whoever is compelled by severe hunger with no way out, having no inclination, then Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (5:3)

Explicating the verse 5:3, Maulana Shafi states:

The statement: (But, whoever is compelled by severe hunger with no way out) relates to animals the unlawfulness of which has been mentioned in the earlier part of the Verse. The purpose of the sentence is to exclude a particular condition from the general rule. If a person is subjected to severe hunger to a point where death becomes likely, then under this condition, were he to eat a little from unlawful animals mentioned in the Verse, there will be no sin on him.[43]

Maulana Shafi further explains:

For a person whose hunger has driven him to a point beyond which he must either eat or die, there is an option; he can eat things made unlawful on two conditions. Firstly, the aim should be to save life and not to enjoy eating. Secondly, he must eat only as much as would serve to save his life; eating to fill up one’s stomach or eating much more than one needs remain prohibited even at that time.[44]

Al-Qaradawi approves:

The jurists unanimously agree that necessity in this case signifies the need for food to alleviate hunger when no food is available. Some jurists hold the opinion that at least one day and one night should pass without food. In such a situation a person may eat as much will satisfy his hunger and thus save himself from death.[45]

The problem with such an exception is that its definition and parameters become subjective and open to personal opinions. There is no method of determining how long a particular person may survive without food and just about how much food is necessary to keep him alive. Amount of food and length of time varies depending on the person and their health. A person driven by hunger needs would naturally want to consume as much as he can to his heart’s content. Since even prohibited foods become permissible in Islam, pretty much everything for Sikhs becomes KuTha. The three conditions discussed earlier hold no importance at all.

We must consider the importance of restrictions on eating and drinking a religious system places on its adherents. The intent it to prohibit the consumption of foods and drinks that are physically and spiritually harmful and unsuitable to the way of living prescribed by the particular religious system. In Gurmat, for example, tobacco is unlawful and under no circumstance is its usage allowed. Death is preferred over its usage. Cutting hair is not allowed in Gurmat even if prices are put on Sikhs’ heads. Having illicit relation with another person is not allowed no matter how strongly the sensual desires overpower the individual. Gurmat rather provides a working solution in dire circumstances and instructs Sikhs to seek the sanctuary of Naam Simran that builds a direct connection with God and empowers the individual to control their mind. Contemplative meditation enables a Sikh to be content, steadfast, committed, and dedicated to Gurmat principles. A Sikh prefers death over compromising religious principles.

In contrast, Islam terribly fails to provide a viable solution to Muslims to keep them dedicated to the religion and conveniently allows them to consume the food that is otherwise considered unlawful. In other words, if a Muslim is suffering from hunger in extreme measures, he/she is allowed to eat food that is considered unlawful under normal circumstances. A Muslim does not have to consider the slaughter method, invocation of Allah or even who prepared the food. Being extremely hungry means out go the religious principles and in goes the food. Life is considered more important and religion is compromised.

In light of the facts presented above, it becomes evident that the definition of halal is situation bound and ever-changing in different circumstance. It is also contradictory and inconsistent. Hence, we conclude this section stating that KuTha as defined in the Rehat Maryada is not as clear as one assumes it to be. Current definition of KuTha given in the footnote of the Rehat Maryada makes Gurmat dependent on Islamic laws, and introduces contradictions and variability in defining Gurmat principles and bajjar kurehats, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the Rehat Maryada definition as held by meat-eating Sikhs is irrational, illogical, and anti-Gurmat thereby making it false and unacceptable.


In conclusion, we have categorically proven beyond the shadow of any doubt that the word KuTha can only refer to merciless slaughter of an animal as is defined in Gurbani. This definition is also accepted and vouchsafed by many Sikh scholars. While word ‘maas’ generally refers to flesh or meat, it does not refer to the act of slaughter. This is why KuTha word was used by Guru Sahib to reject the practice of slaughtering animals for the sake of eating their meat. This is not only accurate in light of Gurbani but also consistently in line with the definition of other three bajjar kurehats. While the list of bajjar kurehats given in the Rehat Maryada is absolutely correct, the definition of KuTha in the footnote needs to be corrected to ‘slaughtered meat’ which is advocated in Gurbani and by eminent Sikh scholars.

Gurbani always rejects a sinful act not just a particular method alone. We have shown with ample amount of evidence that misinterpreting KuTha as Islamic ritual slaughter is not only illogical and absurd, but it also leads to numerous problems such as contradictions in interpretations, making Gurmat dependent on Islamic laws, and obscurity in defining Gurmat principles concerning lawful foods. The foregoing discussion leads us to conclude that relating KuTha to any specific slaughter method or defining it in any other way is against the tenets of Gurbani.


[1] Randhir Singh, Bhai. Jhatka Maas Parthaye Tatt Gurmat Nirnay. Amritsar: Khalsa Brothers. Print, p. 163

[2] Veer Singh, Bhai. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Kosh (6th ed.). Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1995. Print, p. 161

[3] Kohli, Surinder Singh. Dictionary of Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1996. Print, p. 205

[4] Narotam, Pandit Tara Singh. Gur Girarath Kosh Vol 1. Ed. Dr. Harbhajan Singh. Patiala: Punjabi University, 2010. Print, p. 152

[5] Ibid. p. 153

[6] Nabha, Kahan Singh. Gur Shabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh. PDF file, p. 1211

[7] Singh, Bhai Kahan. Gur Shabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh. Vol 2. Ed. Tejwant Singh Gill. Trans. Amarjit SIngh Dhawan. Patiala: Punjabi University, 2008. Print, p. 851

[8] Nabha, Kahan Singh. op. cit., p. 1219

[9] Ibid. p. 856

[10] Veer Singh, Bhai. op. cit., p. 35

[11] Veer Singh, Bhai. op. cit., p. 35

[12] Kohli, Surinder Singh. op. cit., p. 1

[13] Nabha, Kahan Singh. op. cit., p. 301

[14] Singh, Harbans Giani. Guru Granth Sahib Darshan Nirnay Vol 6. Patiala: Punjabi University, 2011. Print, p. 279

[15] Veer Singh, Bhai. Santhiya Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Vol. 6 (Dr. Balbir Singh, Ed.). New Delhi: Bhai Veer Singh Sahit Sadan, 1998. Print, p. 2911

[16] Jaggi, Ratan Singh. Guru Granth Vishavkosh Vol 1. Patiala: Punjabi University, 2002. Print, p. 43

[17] Randhir Singh, Bhai. op. cit., p. 165–66

[18] Rippin, Andrew and Jan Knappert. Textual Sources for the Study of Islam. University Of Chicago Press, 1990. Print, p. 107

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibn Kathir, Ismail. “The Prohibition of what was Slaughtered in other than Allah’s Name”. M Q u r a n.org. 10 November 2006. Web. 02 Nov 2015

[22] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 3. Trans. Prof. Muhammad Hasan Askari and Prof. Muhammad Shamim. PDF file, p. 60

[23] Ibn Kathir, Ismail. “Permitting the Slaughtered Animals of the People of the Book”. op. cit.

[24] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 76, Hadith 92

[25] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 72, Hadith 56. See also Sahih Muslim 4748

[26] Surah Al Baqarah Verse 173.

[27] Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 72, Hadith 48

[28] Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf. The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam. PDF file, p. 52

[29] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 1. Trans. Prof. Muhammad Hasan Askari and Prof. Muhammad Shamim. PDF file, p. 426

[30] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 3. p. 55

[31] Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf. p. 63

[32] Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 15, Number 2818

[33] Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf. p. 42

[34] Ibid. pp. 55–6

[35] Ibid. pp. 65–6

[36] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 3. p. 78

[37] Ibid. p. 59

[38] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 3. p. 63

[39] Ibid. p. 77

[40] Madani, Mufti Muhammad Aashiq Elahi Muhajir. Tafsir Anwarul Bayan Vol 2. Karachi: Darul Ishaat, 2005. Print, p. 44

[41] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 1. Trans. Prof. Muhammad Hasan Askari and Prof. Muhammad Shamim. PDF file, p. 426

[42] Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf. p. 50

[43] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 3. p. 53

[44] Shafi, Maulana Mufti Muhammad. Ma‘ariful-Qur’an Vol 1. pp. 435–6

Kurukshetra Sakhi and Meat

Nirmalbir Singh

If there is any sakhi that is hotly debated on the issue of meat, it is the sakhi of Kurukshetra. During one of His odysseys, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji reached the town of Kurukshetra, Haryana at the time of a solar eclipse. A large fair was being held by the Hindus there, in which various religious rituals are performed in order to “save” the sun. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that two demons named Rahu and Ketu make devious attempts to swallow the sun during eclipses, thereby eliminating the sun’s nourishing rays and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable. In an attempt to counteract this, the Hindus keep fasts, and become engaged in taking religious baths in their Brahm Sarovar (God’s pool) and performing charitable deeds. In order to dispel ignorance and show the true and correct path to people, Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji decided to attend the fair.

Guru Ji and Bhai Mardana Ji arrived at the fair of Kurukshetra and sat beneath a tree just a little to the side of the Brahm Sarovar where the fair was going on. Soon after, Bhai Mardana Ji began playing the rebeck and singing Kirtan; Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji was seated, listening intently, immersed in the divine love of the Lord. As Shabad Kirtan was going on, the fleeing King Jagat Rai of Hansi, his mother, and royal servants approached the gathering on horseback. Some enemies of the kingdom had performed a coup, overthrown the young king and forcibly occupied his kingdom. The king’s intention was to meet a holy saint at the fair who could give blessings and allow him to regain his kingdom. Along their journey in exile, the king, had hunted and killed a deer and brought the dead corpse with him to the fair. He was oblivious to the rituals of the fair that considered it a sin to even light a fire, let alone cook and eat anything due to the rigid fasts during this time, moreover to the vegetarian Vaishnav Pandits at the fair of Kurukshetra, the notion of meat was utterly abhorrent.

As the king and his mother approached close to the fair, they saw and were drawn to Sri Guru Ji. They were so affected by the glowing radiance from Guru Sahib’s face that they immediately dismounted, bowed down in reverence, and paid their respects to Guru Sahib’s feet. Jagat Rai narrated his sorrowful tale of being dethroned to Guru Sahib, and prayed that may he regain his kingdom and be restored to power. Guru Sahib replied that if one considers a kingdom to be for one’s own selfish pleasure and comforts then it is nothing but a house of pain and cannot be considered a work of honest means. However, if a king considers a kingdom as an opportunity to do good and fair service to, and in, the interest of the people, and remembers the Lord’s Name then it can become a genuine and just occupation. Addressing the young king, Guru Sahib said, “O young king, if you do this; remember the Lord, and earnestly serve your subjects, then you shall regain your kingdom.” The king bowed to Guru Sahib’s advice and presented the hunted deer as an offering. The king’s royal servants were instructed to put the deer carcass in a large cauldron and to cook it on a large fire. The servants did as such.

The pilgrims taking baths in the Brahm Sarovar noticed the fire and smoke and soon an enraged crowd of people carrying sticks and stones came to confront Guru Sahib. The Pandits were furious as they believed it was a sin to cook anything whilst fasting during the solar eclipse. When they discovered that it was a deer being cooked inside the cauldron, the strict vegetarian Vaishnav Pandits became even more disgusted and someone in the angry mob shouted at Guru Sahib, “Who do you think you are to be cooking during a solar eclipse? How dare you kill and cook a deer during the period of fasting for solar eclipse!” Another person in the crowd exclaimed that there must be a human sacrifice to please the gods and prevent the demons Ketu & Rahu from devouring the sun. Sri Guru Ji calmly replied that if it is considered a sin to kill an animal during the solar eclipse then how is it considered virtuous to kill a human being?

The angry crowd became slightly calmer and thoughtful upon hearing Guru Ji’s cool and logical reply. However, this was not enough for the haughty and arrogant Pandits. They were too engrossed in their empty rituals and overly proud of their merit. They challenged Guru Sahib to debate with them on this issue. Many Pandits and scholars led by Vaishnav Pandit Nanoo gathered around Guru Sahib. Nanoo was quite shrewd and well versed in Hindu books. He had learned from his study of ancient scriptures and prophecies (Bhavishya Puran) that in this time of Kaljug a prophet named Nanak was going to come and redeem the world, so in order to attain fame and glory for himself he had changed his name to Nanak and began referring to himself as such. Nanoo had achieved a moderate following doing so and the respect and fame that came with it. Nanoo was surprised to meet someone else calling himself Nanak, it entered his mind that perhaps this could be the same Nanak that the scriptures had prophesised. Nonetheless, Nanoo initiated a debate with Guru Sahib.

To begin with, Nanoo claimed that if we (Pandits) do not offer our charitable deeds and ablutions then there is no chance the sun will survive the attack of the demons Rahu & Ketu during the solar eclipse. Sri Guru Ji replied that whatever rituals, practices, fasts, baths, and worship you have adopted are all bodily rituals. You do these simply for the ritualistic sake of doing them. They do not stop the mind from wondering or clean the dirt of vices on the mind. In fact, the only purpose that all that these rituals serve is to increase ego in a man. Guru Sahib explained that the solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon during which the elliptical orbits of the Earth, Moon and the Sun cross paths in such a way that the Sun and its rays become obscured by the Moon. The Sun is so far from here, how can any demons possibly attack it? Where are the demons? It is all your mistaken belief of fear of the demons. There are no such demons.

After this, Nanoo then raised the topic of eating or not eating meat. Nanoo argued that in Hindu scriptures, eating and serving meat is forbidden, and all of the Hindu ancestry were strict vegetarians. Sri Guru Ji fearlessly replied and exposed this as totally false. Quoting the relevant verses from the Vedas and Puran, Guru Sahib proved that Hindus had been killing, cooking, and sacrificing animal flesh in fire during the ritual of yajna (yagnas) for millennia. Guru Ji further explained that nowhere in any of the Hindu scriptures is meat forbidden. All the ancient Hindu kings, princes, and warriors (Aryans) ate meat. During marriages Khatris kill, cook, serve, and eat meat. These were and are the same Khatris that Pandits are happy to take charity from. Guru Ji asked how they could remain pure by taking the charity that is tainted by blood and killing. Guru Sahib said, “O Pandit, you have just become good at talking and arguing. Your mind and deeds are not pure. Your character is not good. One pandit argues in favour of eating meat, another argues against it. Who is the winner and who is the loser? Both lose, as they are both full of pride and ego. Neither is immersed in the love of the Lord, nor has the motive to do good for the people.”

At this time of debate with Nanoo at Kurukshetra, Guru Ji composed two Shabads, which were revealed to Him addressing the Pandit’s arguments and questions on the topic of meat. Proponents of meat use these very Shabads in an attempt to prove that eating meat is advocated in Gurbani. However, such is not the case. The Shabads expose hypocrisy of Pandits who hated the mere sight of meat and believed that just by avoiding meat they could attain salvation. The Shabads in general apply to all those who believe that just by avoiding meat and being strict vegetarians they can achieve the divine state of mind. Sikhs also avoid meat but they do not believe just by doing so that they will attain salvation, which is only possible through loving devotion to the Lord God. Being vegetarian, just like having a daily bath, is a part of being a Sikh, but the difference lies in the fact that Sikhs do not believe just by doing so they will be liberated. Both Shabads along with line by line translation are presented below with comments (in red) to show that both Shabads do not advocate consumption of meat. The discussion below is based on Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh Ji’s Jhatka Maas Tat Gurmat Nirney.

ਸਲੋਕ ਮ: ੧ ॥

Shalok, First Mehl:

ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਮਾਸਹੁ ਨਿੰਮਿਆ ਮਾਸੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਵਾਸੁ ॥

First, the mortal is conceived (through semen) in the flesh (of the womb), and then he dwells in the flesh (the womb).

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਜੀਉ ਪਾਇ ਮਾਸੁ ਮੁਹਿ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਹਡੁ ਚੰਮੁ ਤਨੁ ਮਾਸੁ ॥

When he comes alive, his mouth also takes to flesh (the tongue); his bones, skin and body are flesh.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਮਾਸਹੁ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਕਢਿਆ ਮੰਮਾ ਮਾਸੁ ਗਿਰਾਸੁ ॥

He comes out of the womb of flesh, and takes a mouthful of flesh at the breast.

: There is no mention or permission of eating meat. The line is explaining that a child is born out of the flesh of its mother’s womb, and when it drinks breast milk from the mother, that too is done through flesh. If it was in a child’s nature to eat meat then it would surely try to bite the mother’s breast, but that is not the case, the baby simply drinks milk from it.

ਮੁਹੁ ਮਾਸੈ ਕਾ ਜੀਭ ਮਾਸੈ ਕੀ ਮਾਸੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਾਸੁ ॥

His mouth is flesh, his tongue is flesh; his breath is in the flesh.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Guru Sahib explains that the dietary and respiratory needs of a baby are fulfilled through flesh: the mouth is flesh, the tongue is flesh, and breaths are taken through flesh.

ਵਡਾ ਹੋਆ ਵੀਆਹਿਆ ਘਰਿ ਲੈ ਆਇਆ ਮਾਸੁ ॥

He grows up and is married, and brings his wife of flesh into his home.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. When the child grows older he marries and brings a wife (who is made of flesh) into his home. He brings the wife home, not to eat her flesh, but to start a family with.

ਮਾਸਹੁ ਹੀ ਮਾਸੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਮਾਸਹੁ ਸਭੋ ਸਾਕੁ ॥

Flesh is produced from flesh; all relatives are made of flesh.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Flesh (i.e. human beings) are produced from flesh (the mother’s womb). All the people of the world are made of and come into existence from flesh.

ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਤਾਂ ਕੋ ਆਵੈ ਰਾਸਿ ॥

When the mortal meets the True Guru, and realizes the Hukam of the Lord’s Command, then his journey of coming into the world is complete and worthwhile.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਆਪਿ ਛੁਟੇ ਨਹ ਛੂਟੀਐ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਚਨਿ ਬਿਣਾਸੁ ॥੧॥

Through his own power the mortal does not find release; O Nanak, merely through empty words and debates, one is ruined. ||1||

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

There is no permission given to eat meat anywhere in the above lines. In the first six lines, Guru Sahib explains that a human cannot escape its relationship to flesh because he comes from flesh, grows up from flesh and is related to flesh. This is how the creation continues to exist. If one argues that eating flesh is advocated in the Shabad then by the argument eating mother, wife and human body parts such as tongue and breasts are also permissible. First six lines explain the worldly affairs which offer no salvation. In the last two lines, it is explained that by meeting the Satguru one recognises the truth and achieves emancipation. The gist of the last couplet is that the only way to escape and become free from maas (flesh) is to attain union with God which frees the human from cycle of reincarnation. It is crystal clear that the Shabad itself is not at all about eating or not eating meat but about dispelling the prevalent ignorance of the Hindus who hated flesh. Sikhs being vegetarians is not the result of hating flesh but a part of the Satguru’s injunctions which require plain simple diet that is healthy to mind, body, and soul and helps in spiritual progression.

The second Shabad is as follows:


First Mehl:

ਮਾਸੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਰਿ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਝਗੜੇ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਣੈ ॥

The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Guru Sahib states that those (in this case, to whom the Shabad was addressed — Vaishnav Pandits) who continually say “meat meat” whilst arguing yet being devoid of true wisdom and knowledge are fools.

ਕਉਣੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਉਣੁ ਸਾਗੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ਕਿਸੁ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਪ ਸਮਾਣੇ ॥

What is called meat, and what is called spinach? What leads to sin?

There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Guru Sahib asks what is sinful; spinach or flesh. The gist of the verse is that flesh or spinach itself is not sinful. In other words, sin is not inherent in flesh but in the act of eating it. Hindu Pandits hated flesh because they considered it inherently bad and full of sin but Guru Sahib clarified that no creation of God is inherently sinful and therefore, flesh has no inherent sin otherwise we (humans made out of flesh) would not be able to escape sin at all. On the other hand, sin lies in the act of eating meat. We must clarify here that Guru Sahib is not equating meat with spinach nor is he calling them equal but simply stating that be it flesh or vegetable, neither contains the sin. It is one’s good and bad deed alone that determines the sin i.e. consumption of meat (an act) leads to sin.

Neither of these first two lines contains permission to eat meat. It is anybody’s guess how people have somehow concocted that meat eating is permissible in Sikhi from these two lines. Guru Sahib preaches that one does not become a sinful person by merely seeing meat nor does one become a religious person just by being a vegetarian. It is not a good deed to hate meat. The meaning behind the two verses is that to have continuous arguments with people who are mistaken about the religious stance on meat, is a foolish act. There is not even a hint that meat is acceptable to eat. It is just beyond comprehension how some people can fabricate support for their evil acts. The Shabad explains that just by uttering the word “meat”, or looking at meat, one does not automatically become a sinner.

Let us continue with the analysis of the second Shabad:

ਗੈਂਡਾ ਮਾਰਿ ਹੋਮ ਜਗ ਕੀਏ ਦੇਵਤਿਆ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੇ ॥

In order to please gods, people used to sacrifice rhinoceros, and make a feast of the burnt offering which were considered acceptable practices to gods.

: This line makes clear that the holy books of the Hindus; the Vedas and the Shastras, mention that the animal sacrifice of the rhinoceros was done to please the Hindu deities. Therefore the killing and ritualistic sacrifice of animals is indeed a component of the Hindu religion which the Pandit Nanoo denied.

ਮਾਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਬੈਸਿ ਨਕੁ ਪਕੜਹਿ ਰਾਤੀ ਮਾਣਸ ਖਾਣੇ ॥

Those who renounce meat, and hold their noses when sitting near it, devour meat at night.

: It is hypocritical of those who, in public, for the sake of impressing people, claim to renounce meat and be vegetarian, hold their noses so that they do not even have to smell meat, yet at night secretly devour meat. In other words, they do not feel shameful while having illicit relations with another woman and make schemes to exploit people. The gist of the verse is that just by giving up meat while committing other immoral sins does not make one a religious person. The permission for eating meat is still not given anywhere in the last two lines. Only hypocritical behavior is criticized here.

ਫੜੁ ਕਰਿ ਲੋਕਾਂ ਨੋ ਦਿਖਲਾਵਹਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਸੂਝੈ ॥

They practice hypocrisy, and make a show before other people, but they do not understand anything about meditation or spiritual wisdom.

: The condition of the people described in the preceding line is elaborated on. They are hypocrites and pretenders; they have no knowledge of spiritual matters. There is no permission given for eating meat.

ਨਾਨਕ ਅੰਧੇ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕਹਿਆ ਬੂਝੈ ॥

O Nanak, what can be said to the spiritually blind people? They cannot answer, or even understand what is said.

: Guru Nanak Dev Ji is stating that it is not even worth trying to explain to these blinded people, even if one tries to explain they will still not understand. Still, there is no teaching given to eat meat.

ਅੰਧਾ ਸੋਇ ਜਿ ਅੰਧੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਸਿ ਲੋਚਨ ਨਾਹੀ ॥

They alone are blind, who act blindly. They have no eyes in their hearts.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Those who do the deeds of blind people (without wisdom) are blind. They do not have the divine wisdom illuminating their hearts.

ਮਾਤ ਪਿਤਾ ਕੀ ਰਕਤੁ ਨਿਪੰਨੇ ਮਛੀ ਮਾਸੁ ਨ ਖਾਂਹੀ ॥

They are produced from the blood of their mothers and fathers, but they do not eat fish or meat.

: The arguments of the meat eating people are discredited here. The support of meat eating cannot be obtained under any means from this line. The incorrect meaning that some people derive from this line is that for those who are born from the blood of their mothers and fathers, eating fish is not forbidden. This interpretation is false; as if this were the case then they may as well eat and drink the flesh and blood of their parents as well. Even if this interpretation is accepted, then the exception is only eating for fish and not for all types of meat, compared to other animals a fish has no or very little blood and could therefore be deemed acceptable, however this has already been expressly forbidden in Gurbani (ਕਬੀਰ ਭਾਂਗ ਮਾਛੁਲੀ ਸੁਰਾ ਪਾਨਿ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਖਾਂਹਿ ॥ ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਨੇਮ ਕੀਏ ਤੇ ਸਭੈ ਰਸਾਤਲਿ ਜਾਂਹਿ ॥੨੩੩॥). The line is addressing the Vaishnav Pandits who detest the smell and sight of fish and meat however they forget that they were also made from the blood of their mother and father. The practice of hating flesh is not a Gurmat principle.

ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀ ਪੁਰਖੈ ਜਾਂ ਨਿਸਿ ਮੇਲਾ ਓਥੈ ਮੰਧੁ ਕਮਾਹੀ ॥

But when men and women meet in the night, they come together in the flesh.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Here the sexual relations of a man and woman that lead to the birth of a child are discussed. These relations also occur in flesh. The man and woman may kiss and lick each other but they certainly do not eat each other’s flesh. The implication of this line is that one cannot escape from flesh and one should not hate the mere sight, name, or touch of flesh, as doing that equates to hating the process that leads to one’s conception.

ਮਾਸਹੁ ਨਿੰਮੇ ਮਾਸਹੁ ਜੰਮੇ ਹਮ ਮਾਸੈ ਕੇ ਭਾਂਡੇ ॥

In the flesh we are conceived, and in the flesh we are born; we are vessels of flesh.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh. Once again the hypocrisy of merely hating flesh is exposed as the whole process through which one is conceived and born is through flesh and our entire bodies are made of flesh.

ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਕਛੁ ਸੂਝੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਚਤੁਰੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ਪਾਂਡੇ ॥

You know nothing of spiritual wisdom and meditation, even though you call yourself clever, O religious scholar.

: The Pandits are devoid of Gurmat knowledge and wisdom, they claim to be clever by debating the issue of meat but in actuality are not. Once again no permission to eat meat can be obtained from this line.

ਬਾਹਰ ਕਾ ਮਾਸੁ ਮੰਦਾ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਘਰ ਕਾ ਮਾਸੁ ਚੰਗੇਰਾ ॥

O master, you believe that flesh on the outside is bad, but the flesh of those in your own home is good.

: There is no permission given to eat flesh. Guru Sahib is addressing the Pandits and questioning their hypocritical belief that eating meat at home is permissible but eating meat outside the home is not allowed. The fact of the matter is that the Pandits secretly eat meat at home but when in public maintain a vegetarian pretense to impress and teach others that eating meat is bad. It is not possible that the meat of the house is acceptable yet the meat from outside is not. They are both meat. If they are going to eat meat at home then why should they bother abstaining from meat outside the home? If they do not hate the meat that is prepared at home then why, do they, whilst in public, make a great show of despising meat?

ਜੀਅ ਜੰਤ ਸਭਿ ਮਾਸਹੁ ਹੋਏ ਜੀਇ ਲਇਆ ਵਾਸੇਰਾ ॥

All beings and creatures are flesh; the soul has taken up its home in the flesh.

: All beings and creatures are made of meat. The soul resides inside the body made of flesh but soul itself is not made of flesh. There is no permission or mention of eating flesh.

ਅਭਖੁ ਭਖਹਿ ਭਖੁ ਤਜਿ ਛੋਡਹਿ ਅੰਧੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਜਿਨ ਕੇਰਾ ॥

They eat the uneatable; they reject and abandon what they could eat. They have a teacher who is blind.

: This line describes the condition of those who have not adopted the True Guru’s wisdom. Their Guru is not the True Guru and therefore is blind. These people under the influence of their blind teachers continue to eat all kinds of things. They eat what they should not eat and they refuse to eat what they should eat. This also refers to food which is obtained through honest living which is acceptable, yet is not eaten, and food that is obtained through dishonest income which is unacceptable, but is eaten.

ਮਾਸਹੁ ਨਿੰਮੇ ਮਾਸਹੁ ਜੰਮੇ ਹਮ ਮਾਸੈ ਕੇ ਭਾਂਡੇ ॥

In the flesh we are conceived, and in the flesh we are born; we are vessels of flesh.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਕਛੁ ਸੂਝੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਚਤੁਰੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ਪਾਂਡੇ ॥

You know nothing of spiritual wisdom and meditation, even though you call yourself clever, O religious scholar.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਮਾਸੁ ਪੁਰਾਣੀ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਤੇਂਬੀ ਚਹੁ ਜੁਗਿ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਮਾਣਾ ॥

Meat is allowed in the Puraanas, meat is allowed in the Bible and the Koran. Throughout the four ages, meat has been used.

: This line explains that the consumption and distribution of meat has been going on throughout human history. It is mentioned in the Puraanas, Bible, and Koran and is therefore a part of, and permitted within the Hindu, Christian, and Muslim religions. It does not state anywhere that the practice of meat-eating itself is acceptable or that it is permissible in the Sikh faith and therefore cannot be taken as such.

ਜਜਿ ਕਾਜਿ ਵੀਆਹਿ ਸੁਹਾਵੈ ਓਥੈ ਮਾਸੁ ਸਮਾਣਾ ॥

It is featured in sacred feasts and marriage festivities; meat is used in them.

In the world, meat is served at feasts and wedding celebrations. This is not an instruction to do so, but a description of the fact that this practice occurs in the world.

ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀ ਪੁਰਖ ਨਿਪਜਹਿ ਮਾਸਹੁ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹ ਸੁਲਤਾਨਾਂ ॥

Women, men, kings and emperors originate from meat.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਜੇ ਓਇ ਦਿਸਹਿ ਨਰਕਿ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਤਾਂ ਉਨ੍ ਕਾ ਦਾਨੁ ਨ ਲੈਣਾ ॥

If you see them going to hell, then do not accept charitable gifts from them.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਦੇਂਦਾ ਨਰਕਿ ਸੁਰਗਿ ਲੈਦੇ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਏਹੁ ਧਿਙਾਣਾ ॥

The giver goes to hell, while the receiver goes to heaven — look at this injustice.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਆਪਿ ਨ ਬੂਝੈ ਲੋਕ ਬੁਝਾਏ ਪਾਂਡੇ ਖਰਾ ਸਿਆਣਾ ॥

You do not understand your own self, but you preach to other people. O Pandit, you are very wise indeed.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਪਾਂਡੇ ਤੂ ਜਾਣੈ ਹੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਿਥਹੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਉਪੰਨਾ ॥

O Pandit, you do not know where meat originated.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਤੋਇਅਹੁ ਅੰਨੁ ਕਮਾਦੁ ਕਪਾਹਾਂ ਤੋਇਅਹੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣੁ ਗੰਨਾ ॥

Corn, sugar cane and cotton are produced from water. The three worlds came from water.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਤੋਆ ਆਖੈ ਹਉ ਬਹੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਹਛਾ ਤੋਐ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਬਿਕਾਰਾ ॥

Water says, “”I am good in many ways.”” But water takes many forms.

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

ਏਤੇ ਰਸ ਛੋਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਕਹੈ ਵਿਚਾਰਾ ॥੨॥

Forsaking these delicacies, one becomes a true Sannyaasee, a detached hermit. Nanak reflects and speaks. ||2||

: There is no mention or permission of eating flesh.

The remainder of the Salok is translated and presented above. It can also be concluded from these extracts that the killing of animals is an evil act and is a great sin. Under no circumstances can any instruction to eat meat be gained from these two extracts.

Nowhere in either of Shabads that Guru Sahib revealed at the fair of Kurukshetra is the permission for eating meat given. Rather it was a discourse exposing the pretences of the Vaishnav Pandits. Firstly the proponents of Jhatka cannot cite this as an example in favour of it, because by their own definition Jhatka must be executed by a Sikh and cutting the head off in one deft blow. The deer that King Jagat Rai offered to Guru Sahib was hunted and killed by a non-Sikh and would thus not qualify as Jhatka on two accounts. Furthermore, Guru Sahib never cooked or distributed the meat Himself. In fact it is written in the historical accounts that after the discussion, Guru Sahib did bhog to (consecrate) the cauldron which contained the deer and when the time came for distribution it was in fact kheer (rice pudding) inside that was served to the entire congregation. If Guru Sahib either did not mind whether meat was eaten or not, or was in favour of eating meat, surely then He would have just allowed the distribution of the deer flesh to congregation. However this was not the case, as Guru Sahib mystically changed the contents of the cauldron to kheer and only then allowed the distribution of it.

Some supporters of meat-eating make a superfluous claim that Guru Sahib must have distributed meat to all the pandits and made them eat it to ensure that they had certainly changed their viewpoint about meat. However, this is nothing more than a fabrication and not supported by any evidence. All historical records that mention this sakhi are unanimous that meat was not distributed. Further, the claim itself fails when evaluated against other sakhis of Guru Sahib. For example, at Hardwar, Guru Sahib did not make anyone throw water in the opposite direction, or force any Muslim to lay with his feet towards the Kaa’ba to ensure that they had properly understood God’s omnipresence. Guru Sahib’s intent and purpose was to preach the truth and enlighten the minds of all who were on the path of falsehood. It was not a test by any means. Therefore, the meat was not distributed. Gurbani is clear that simple food is most suitable for a spiritual person rather than food obtained by method of killing.

Pandit Nanoo was won over by Sri Guru Ji’s flawless arguments and discussion. Nanoo fell at Guru Sahib’s feet and said, “My beliefs and views were incorrect and false. Hearing your words, a deep sense of longing has welled up in my mind and body. I was falsely claiming myself to be the Nanak that the scriptures spoke of, I know now that you are the only Nanak. I will revert back to old name of Nanoo only from now on.”


Bhai Sahib Veer Singh Ji, Sri Guru Nanak Chamatkar Volume I, Chapter 13, New Delhi: Bhai Veer Singh Sahit Sadan.

Bhai Sahib Veer Singh Ji, Guru Balam Sakhiyan. 2007, New Delhi: Bhai Veer Singh Sahit Sadan.

Principal Satbir Singh, Balio Chiraag, 10th Edition, 2011, Jalandhar: New Book Company.

Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh Ji, Jhatka Maas Tat Gurmat Nirney. Amritsar: Khalsa Brothers.