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Islamic Society ( 30 Jul 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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India's Liberal Muslims Have Always Opposed Cow Slaughter

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

30 July 2021

A Section of Muslims Have Always Favoured Ban on Cow Slaughter

Main Points:

1. A consensus is emerging among Muslim intelligentia in favour of a ban.

2. Mughal emperor Babur had advised Humayun against cow slaughter

4. During 1857 Revolt and Khilafat Movement Muslims voluntarily abandoned beef.

5. A small section of hardline Muslim clerics opposes beef ban.


Cow slaughter has been a cause of Hindu-Muslim disunity in India as Hindus revere the cow. It is not known when was the sacrifice of cows for Qurbani or for general consumption started in India which has been a Hindu majority country since ancient times. It was most probably started during the Muslim rule but it is also a truth that Muslim rulers had also started to realise that cow slaughter in India was not a right practice as it hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. According to eminent legal expert Mr Faizan Mustafa, Babur had advised Humayun not to allow cow slaughter as it would offend religious sensibilities of Hindus. The greatest Mughal emperor Akbar who had taken a number of administrative and cultural steps to promote communal harmony among the Hindus and the Muslims, had banned cow slaughter to honour his grandfather's will. However, his move was opposed by the Sufi Mujaddid Alf Sani Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi who was of the view that Muslims should not be prevented from cow slaughter under a Muslim government.

However, in certain periods of pre-Independence and post-independence India Muslims have not only advocated a ban on cow slaughter but have themselves taken initiative to abandon cow slaughter for the sake of forging Hindu-Muslim unity for a bigger political and national cause. Muslims had abandoned the practice of cow slaughter during the revolt of 1857 to bring greater unity between the Hindus and the Muslims to fight against the East India Company.

The most successful campaign against cow slaughter was started in 1919 by the Muslim leaders of Khilafat Movement like Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Hakeem Ajmal Khan, Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, Maulana Abdul Bari and others. The purpose was to bring Hindus closer to Muslims to form a powerful platform against the British government. Under this campaign, Muslims not only abandoned cow slaughter but also rescued cows meant for slaughter and returned them to Hindus.

The movement received another shot in the arm by an ideological campaign run by one of the greatest Urdu writers and a Sufi of Chishtiya order Khwaja Hasan Nizami who wrote a book titled Tark-e-Gaukushi (Abandoning the practice of Cow slaughter) in 1921. In his book, he presented arguments from Quran and hadiths against cow slaughter in a multicultural society. Therefore, these political and ideological campaigns had a great impact on the collective Muslim psyche and cow slaughter was discouraged, though not totally abandoned, among the Muslims of India.

Interestingly, before the partition of India, Muslims in the Sindh, Balochistan region had mostly sacrificed goats, sheep and camels. They did not sacrifice cows much. This may be because Rig Veda was composed in this region and the region was a centre of Vedic culture before the advent of Islam. Therefore, Muslims of this region respected the religious beliefs of Hindus and did not eat beef. After the partition, Muslims migrating from India brought their habit of beef consumption to Pakistan. And gradually, cow slaughter and beef became popular in Pakistan. Still, buffaloes, bulls and goats are widely sacrificed in Pakistan because of the traditional and cultural background.

In post-Independence India cow slaughter has remained a major cause of social conflict between the Hindus and Muslims. To prevent this conflict, more than 20 states have banned cow slaughter. Recently, the union territory of Muslim majority Lakshadweep banned cow slaughter.

Some prominent Muslim leaders and clerics have called for a central law on cow slaughter to stop communal incidents of Hindu Muslim riots or mob lynching. In 2015, an activist of Hyderabad Maulana Syed Hussain Madani had started a campaign against cow slaughter. Many clerics and Islamic scholars of Andhra Pradesh including Maulana Anwar Ahmad of Jamia Nizamia and Maulana Anisur Rahman Azmi of AIMPLB had joined the campaign and asked Muslims to adopt a pragmatic approach on animal sacrifice on Eid-al-Adha in the light of the Quran and hadith and in view of the communal conflict arising out of cow slaughter. Prominent cleric Maulana Mahmood Madani also demanded a central law banning cow slaughter to end the acrimony between the two communities. Darul Uloom Deoband also issued a fatwa advising Muslims to avoid the sacrifice of cows on Eid-al-Adha and instead sacrifice small animals to avoid communal conflagration.

On the other hand, some hardline Muslim clerics have opposed a ban on cow slaughter terming it a violation of religious rights of Muslims. Recently when activist Hussain Madani advised Muslims to avoid sacrifice of cows on festivals, a cleric of Bengal Maulana Sharafat Abrar opposed his advice. Similarly when the J&K High Court issued an order asking the state government to strictly implement the already existing law against cow slaughter in the state, some prominent Muslim clerics including Mir Waiz Umar Farooque opposed it saying that cow slaughter ban in a Muslim majority state was against the rights of the Muslims.

However, such imprudent voices are in minority. Majority of liberal Muslims have always asked Muslims to avoid cow slaughter both for ritual sacrifice on Eid-al-Adha and for general consumption. Therefore, thanks to the campaigns of Muslim intellectuals and liberal clerics against cow slaughter and the evolving social and political crisis due to cow slaughter in India, a consensus is gradually emerging among the Muslim intelligentsia in favour of the ban on cow slaughter in the country.


S. Arshad is a columnist with


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