The 40th call: Prohibition of Killing Games in a State of Ihram
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, do not kill game while you are in the state of ihram. And whoever of you kills it intentionally - the penalty is an equivalent from sacrificial animals to what he killed, as judged by two just men among you as an offering [to Allah ] delivered to the Ka'bah, or an expiation: the feeding of needy people or the equivalent of that in fasting, that he may taste the consequence of his deed. Allah has pardoned what is past; but whoever returns [to violation], then Allah will take retribution from him. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Owner of Retribution. Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food as provision for you and the travelers, but forbidden to you is game from the land as long as you are in the state of ihram. And fear Allah to whom you will be gathered.” (Al-Ma’idah: 95-96)
Allah prohibits land-games when the Muslim is in a state of Ihram. He forbids the believer to hunt or kill games intentionally. Whoever kills a game intentionally in a state of Ihram has to give an equivalent for what he killed (if the animal he killed has an equivalent in the domestic animals). This should be judged by two just men (some of them ruled to slaughter a he-goat as a penalty for killing a deer). Whoever has to pay this penalty should bring the equivalent to slaughter at the Ka'bah and give the meat to the poor. If the one in a state of Ihram could not find an equivalent to the animal he killed, or if the killed animal did not have a match, then there are several choices:
A- To estimate the killed game and estimate the price of the equivalent in the place where the hunting took place or the nearest place, then the one in a state of Ihram should buy food with the estimated price and give it to the needy and poor in the al-Haram (Sacred Mosque).
B- To feed the poor, their number may differ according to the importance of the killed game. It was said that who killed a deer, should slaughter a sheep. If he cannot afford it, then he should fast for three days. If he kills an ostrich or a zebra, then he should slaughter a camel, and if he cannot find or afford then he should feed thirty people of the needy.
C- If he cannot find or afford feeding the needy, then he should fast days as a penalty.
Fasting varies from three days for killing the deer to thirty days for killing the ostrich or zebra. (The one in state of Ihram should fast a day for feeding each needy person).
Almighty Allah says that He obligates this expiation so that the violator who committed this sin may taste (the consequence of his deed).
The Prophetic tradition added killing the game by accident to the intentional killing as they both require expiation, yet the one who did the killing by accident carries no sin for what he did.
Almighty Allah pardoned them for what happened in the past when they killed games in a state of Ihram before the revelation of this prohibition in the Qur’an and before the people are notified by this prohibition. Whoever goes back to this violation, Almighty Allah will take retribution from him. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Capable of Retribution against the disobedient.
The prohibition applies to killing game deliberately when a person is in the state of consecration, or Ihram.
If a game animal is killed by accident, the person in a state of Ihram neither incurs a sin nor has to give any compensation (scholars have different religious opinions in that regard). For deliberate killing, the compensation is an offering of cattle or other animals’ equivalent to the game he has killed. Thus, if a person in a state of Ihram kills a deer, the compensation may be an offering of a sheep or a goat; for a camel, a cow or an ox is appropriate; for an ostrich or a giraffe or a similarly large animal, a camel may be offered; for a rabbit or a cat the offering may be a rabbit. What has no equivalent among animals however, an offering of its cash value is acceptable in compensation.
The compensation is adjudged by two Muslim men of probity. Should they rule that a particular type of animal be slaughtered, that animal is set loose until it reaches the Ka'bah where it is slaughtered and given to the poor to eat. If such an animal is not available, the arbiters may rule that the compensation be given in the form of food given to the poor, provided that its quantity is equivalent to the value of either the animal to be slaughtered or the game animal killed. If the offender who has to make this compensation cannot afford this, he should fast a number of days to be decided as fair compensation. To do so, the value of the animal is first estimated, and then the number of poor people that could be fed by this amount is determined. He fasts one day for every poor person. As for how much money is sufficient to feed one poor person, this is a matter on which scholars have differed. However, it cannot be a fixed sum, as it differs according to place, time and conditions. The verse states the purpose of this compensation: “…that he may taste the consequence of his deed.” (Verse: 95)
The requirement of compensation implies punishment. The offence is a breach of a strict prohibition. Hence, it cannot be left unpunished. However, Allah makes it clear that He has forgiven offences of the past, but He threatens those who do not desist from committing such violations with severe punishment: “Allah has pardoned what is past; but whoever returns [to violation], then Allah will take retribution from him. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Owner of Retribution.” (Verse 95) Thus, if the killer of game wants to boast of his hunting ability by killing game animals which Allah wants to enjoy security in the vicinity where all are secure, he should know that it is Allah who is almighty and who exacts retribution. All this applies to hunting on land. Fishing, on the other hand, is permissible in all situations: “Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food as provision for you and the travelers...” (Verse 96) This means that all types of water animals are permissible to catch and use for food whether a person is in the state of Ihram or not. With this mention of the permissibility of water-game and food from the sea, the verse restates the prohibition of killing game on land during the time of Ihram: “…but forbidden to you is game from the land as long as you are in the state of ihram.” (Verse 96)
All scholars are unanimous that killing animal game is forbidden for any person in Ihram. However, scholars have differing views as to the permissibility of eating game, should the animal be killed by another person who is not in Ihram. Moreover, scholars disagree as to the referent of the term “game” as used in this verse: does it apply only to animals that are normally pursued as game; or does the prohibition apply to all animals, including those which are not normally considered game and are not referred to as game. These rules of permissibility and prohibition are concluded with a statement that appeals to the believers’ sense of fearing Allah and reminds us of the Day of Judgment and the reckoning; we will then have to face: “And fear Allah to whom you will be gathered.” (Verse 96)
It is perhaps pertinent to ask about the purpose behind these prohibition rules. Well, Allah wishes to provide a security zone for mankind, where they seek refuge from life’s worries. This zone is represented by the Ka'bah, al-Masjid al-Haram (the Inviolable House of Worship), and the sacred months. They offer a haven of peace in the midst of the raging battle between those in combat through life, regardless of their race and ethnic origin. Their desires, ambitions and needs continue to fuel their struggle, but this security zone beckons to them so that it may substitute reassurance for their worries, love for conflict, brotherhood and security for hostility and fear. What is more is that such concepts are not confined to the realm of theories and ideals; people are given practical training in real life to grab such feelings and maintain them. Thus, they are seen as a reality, not mere words and visions that have no bearing on real life.