Islam`s Mercy to Animals
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An impartial study of Islamic teachings from authentic sources will undoubtedly lead one to conclude that Islam is more than a religion which simply governs the relationship between man and his Creator. Contrary to belief of many, Islam is much more than a mere compilation of rituals and assortment of hollow sentiments. Islam is a complete way of life which provides guidance in all spheres of man’s existence: religious, social, economic, personal, political etc.
Via the teachings of Islam, God and His final Messenger, Muhammad, have clarified for mankind all aspects of life in need of clarity so that man can live on this earth in peace and harmony with his fellow men and the environment surrounding him.
God says in the Holy Qur`an:
There is not moving (living) creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with his two wings, but are communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the Book, then unto their Lord they (all) shall be gathered (Al-An`am, 6:38)
The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving. (Al-Isra`, 17:44)
God says in the Quran:
“…We have not neglected a single matter in the book…” 6:38
Al-Qurtubi said:
“It refers to the Quran. It means that (God) has not left anything from the religious affairs except that He has provided us with guidance and direction regarding them in the Quran, either in great detail or in a general way (which can be further clarified by the Messenger), through the consensus of scholars or through analogical deduction which is explicitly supported by the Quran itself.”1
God also says in the Quran:
“…And We have sent down the book to you as a clarification of all matters and a mercy and glad tidings for the Muslims.” 16:89
“Indeed every science and every matter has been clarified to us in this Quran.”
Ibnu Katheer said:
“The Qur’an contains every beneficial form of knowledge; history, and “news” of the past, knowledge of what is to come, the rulings of what is legal and what is prohibited, and all that people are in need of knowing; whether of their life hereafter or their life herein.”2
From what has preceded, it should become evidently clear that God and His Messenger have left no stone unturned and have not “failed” to mention anything. All matters in need of clarity have been clarified in the Quran and the prophetic traditions. Therefore, when one seeks divine guidance in any matter, he needs to look no further than the teachings of Islam.


Animal Rights

Animal rights are no exception to this rule. God has deputed man and made him caretaker of the earth; responsible for implementing His law, calling to His Oneness and ruling over His creation and establishing justice amongst them.3 This includes being just to animals.
Although God has granted man the free use of plants and animals of the earth…
“It is He who created (for your benefit and use) all of that which is upon earth…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:29)
He has prohibited man from abusing this privilege and behaving with indiscretion and carelessness which results in corruption of the ecological system which God has put in place, spoils the environment and exposes animals to cruelty and harm.
“And cause not corruption on the earth after its reformation…” (Al-A`raf, 7:56)
Al-Qurtubi said:
“God has prohibited every type of corruption, minor or major, after reformation, minor or major. So, the verse is general and all-inclusive.” (7/226)
So this verse prohibits all forms of corruption including causing harm to the environment and mistreatment of animals.
Islam gave rights to animals and provided specific instructions regarding their proper care and treatment at a time when such rights were unheard of and long before the appearance of animal rights movements and the establishment of animal welfare and anti- cruelty organizations. The reader may be surprised to learn that:
1- Islam encourages the kind treatment of animals and showing mercy and compassion towards them and such behavior is praised and rewarded by God.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “While a man was walking along a path he felt very thirsty, when he came across a well he climbed into it and drank from its water until his thirst was quenched. When he came out of the well he saw a dog panting, licking the mud surrounding the well out of thirst. Whereupon the man said to himself: ‘This poor dog is feeling the same extreme thirst which I was feeling a short while ago.’ So he descended into the well once again, filled his leather sock with water and climbed out holding the sock with his teeth and gave the dog a drink. God appreciated the man’s act of kindness and forgave his sins because of it.”
Those present said: “O Messenger of God, does it mean that we will be rewarded for displaying kindness to animals?”
He said: “Kindness to every living creature will be rewarded.”
An-Nawawi said:
“It means that there lies a reward in every act of kindness toward a living animal; providing it with water etc… The hadeeth also contains an encouragement towards compassion for animals… because providing them with food and drink is rewarded whether the animal was the property of someone or a stray, whether it was owned by the one who fed it and gave it drink or by someone else.”4
2- Although Islam allows that animals be taken as pets it prohibits cruel and malicious treatment of them and threatens those who fail to comply with a grave punishment.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “A woman was severely punished and tormented because of a cat that she locked in her house until it died. Because of this she was sentenced to Hell. She didn’t feed or provide it with drink nor did she set it free enabling it to fend for itself eating insects and other vermin of the earth.”
An-Nawawi said:
“The hadeeth is a proof that killing cats is prohibited and that caging them without food and drink is also illegal… The hadeeth also teaches that the owner of an animal is required to provide it with sustenance.”5
3- Islam has also prohibited subjecting animals to cruel and unusual punishment and or torture or getting “kicks” out of causing them grief.
Ibn ‘Umar passed by some youth from the tribe of Quraish who had taken a live bird tied it to a post and were using it for target practice. When they saw Ibn ‘Umar they scattered and fled. Ibn ‘Umar said: “Who has done this? May God’s curse be upon the person who did this. The Prophet (PBUH) has cursed the man who makes a living animal a target for shooting.”
Ibn Mas’ood said: Once we accompanied the Prophet (PBUH) on a journey and he went off to relieve himself. While he was away we noticed a small red bird with two little chicks. We caught hold of the little ones, and the mother bird upon seeing this was beside herself with fret and started flapping her wings and crying out. By that time the Prophet had returned and seeing this said: “Who has troubled this bird by catching hold of her chicks? Return them to her!”
4- Although it may be necessary to discipline an animal in order to train it or brand it to prove ownership, Islam has set specific limits which must not be transgressed and rules which must be observed.
Jaabir said: “The Prophet prohibited the striking of an animal in the face or branding it in the face.”
In another version the Prophet said: “May God curse the one who brands an animal on the face.”
An-Nawawi said:
“As for striking the face then it is prohibited for every animal (except those which Islam has ordered exterminated because of the harm caused by them); human beings, donkeys, horses, camels, mules, sheep and other than these.”
Ibnul-‘Uthaymeen; the Saudi scholar, said:
“Branding in the face is absolutely forbidden and it is a major sin because the Prophet cursed the one who did so.”6
5- Mutilating animals is strictly prohibited in Islam.
Al-Bukhari has collected on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar who said: “The Prophet cursed the one who mutilated an animal (cutting off its limbs or some of them while it is still alive).”
6- When slaughtering animals for consumption Muslims must observe strict regulations that prevent physical or psychological harm to animals.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Indeed God has prescribed proficiency and excellence in all matters, so if you must kill, kill in the best manner, and if you slaughter, slaughter in the best way. Let each of you sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.
Al-Bassam; the Saudi scholar, said:
“From the different forms of proficiency and excellence: kindness to animals when slaughtering them. This is achieved by observing the following rules:
1- Avoid slaughtering the animal with a dull instrument tormenting the animal thereby. The knife must be very sharp or sharpened before using it for slaughtering.
2- Avoid slaughtering the animal in front of other animals for indeed the other animals are well aware of what is happening and are thus filled with fear and thereby psychologically tortured.
3- Avoid breaking the animals neck, skinning it or severing any of its limbs until it has breathed its last breath.”7
From what has preceded the following can be concluded:
1- Islam acknowledged and promoted animal rights long before animal rights movements and organizations appeared.
2- Islam encourages its followers to be kind to animals and all living things.
3- Islam strictly prohibits all forms of animal cruelty.
4- Islam permits and encourages the fostering of animals and taking them as “pets” provided that they are cared for and given appropriate food and shelter.
5- If animals are used for work, they must not be overworked in a way that leads to their injury or impairment.
6- If animals are in need of discipline, strict limits must be observed and great care must be taken to achieve the objective without harming the animal.
7- Man will be held accountable in front of God for his cruel treatment of animals therefore it is incumbent upon him to avoid animal cruelty in all its forms.
(1) Al-Jaami’ li-Ahkamil-Quran 6/420
(2) Tafseerul-Qur’anil-‘Adheem 4/63
(3) (Ibn Jawzee, Zadul-Maseer 1/60 on the authority of Ibn Mas’ood and Mujahid)
(4) Sharh Saheeh Muslim 14/492
(5) Sharh Saheeh Muslim 14/491-492
(6) Sharh Riyaadhus-Saaliheen 6/298
(7) Tawdheehul-Ahkaam 7/63

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