Animals in Islam

There is not an animal in the earth,

nor a flying creature flying on two wings,

but they are peoples like unto you…

(Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Anam, verse 38)

The animals were created by Merciful God and each species has its own independent existences and way of living. He laid the earth out for the creatures and filled it with good things to eat. The animals belong to God not to us and we must always remember this in our treatment of them. Every animal has its own relationship to God and their own way of worshiping Him and they were doing this long before the human beings were upon the Earth.

Those who are kind and affectionate

to God’s creatures,

He bestows His kindness and affection upon them.

Therefore show kindness

to the dwellers of the earth

so that God

may show mercy and kindness to you.

 

(Mishkaat).

Kindness to animals is something that all wise people of all traditions have always supported. The animals are the creatures of God and Islam teaches us to be kind and considerate towards them in every reasonable way. True Islam has always taught the humane treatment of animals and promoted the idea of animals rights, whilst the figures of true Islam have always demonstrated this in practice.

One time a cat came and fell asleep on the robe of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saws) whilst he was reading the Holy Qur’an to the people. When the Prophet (saws) had finished the cat still slept, so rather than disturb its sleep, he cut off that part of his robe the cat sat on. Many other great Muslim figures such as Bayazid Bistami (ra), Mevlana Rumi (ra), Bediuzzaman Nursi (ra) have also demonstrated this tradition of love for and kindness to the animals.

The Prophet (saws) was sensitive to the needs, feeling and well being of the animals and he forbade cruelty to animals generally and certain cruelties in particular. He (saws) forbade all blood sports, forbade overloading pack animals, forbade mutilation of animals, forbade branding on the face and various other cruelties that had been common before the Last Revelation (many of which are still common in some none-Muslim communities).

He ordered that all domestic animals must be given kind treatment and sufficient food and water and. He also warned of the severe punishments that someone may receive in the hereafter if they are cruel to animals in this world. Indeed if someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgement,

“Oh Lord! That person killed me in vain! He killed me for no useful purpose.”

(Nisai)

Indeed the animals would even come to the Prophet and mutely communicate with him. One time a camel came to him and he intuited that it was complaining of bad treatment by its owner and intervened on its behalf, another time a mother bird came and flew around him. He (saws) became angry and ordered that those who had disturbed the birds nestlings must return them to her, and it was duly done. Satisfied the mother went back to her nest.

God it is Who has appointed for you cattle,

that you may ride on some of them, and eat of some . 

(Many) benefits ye have from them

and that ye may satisfy by their means a need that is in your breasts,

and may be borne upon them as upon the ship.

(Holy Qur’an, Surah Ghafir, verse 79-80)

God explains in the Holy Qur’an that all parts of nature, animate and inanimate, worship and obey him absolutely. The living creatures of nature (apart from humans and jinn) all live in a pure state of Islam, be they birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects or even the tiny creatures, such as microbes. All these creatures should be treated with respect according to the Sunnah example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace).

If we look at Islamic sources of knowledge and observe the animals of the world we can clearly see that God gave the animals we are familiar with a form of awareness and consciousness that enables them to feel good and bad emotions, learn, remember, imagine and even love. In many ways the higher animals are similar to the Children of Adam but in certain crucial ways they are different. Merciful God (who gave the Children of Adam and jinn a form of free will and an exalted spiritual status that is even above the Angels) made the animals to always be in a state of complete submission to Himself (as is the cosmos itself). They worship Him and obey Him and live and die for Him.

Animals will do nothing that God does not wish them to (such as the elephant of the tyrant Abrahah who refused to enter Makkah and destroy the Holy Ka’bah even when prodded with spears) and thus we should never get angry at animals as they are only as God made them. Many animal species have forms of non-verbal communication that can be subtle and complex, whilst some (such as dolphins and whales) even speak verbally (in their own ways). The fact that the blessed Prophet Suleiman (may God bless him and give him peace) was able to speak to the animals in a special way (along with many Walis (friends of God ) shows that there is also a type of speech of the animals that occurs at a level beyond the ordinary within the sphere of the the unseen (al Ghaib).

Such may be the type of miraculous communication recorded in the Hadith narrated in Fatah-al-Bari in which Ahban bin Aus (raa) said, I was amongst my sheep when suddenly a wolf caught a sheep and I shouted at it. The wolf sat on its tail and addressed me asking: ‘who will look after this sheep when you will be busy and not able to look after it? do you forbid me the provision that God has provided for me? Abhan continued: ‘I clapped my hands and said ‘By God, I have never seen anything more curious and wonderful than this!’ to which the wolf replied ‘there is something more curious and wonderful than this; that is, Gods Apostle (may God bless him and give him peace) in those palm trees inviting the people to come to God.’ After this Ahban went to the trees and there he found the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace). There he told him what happened and at his hand he accepted Islam.

In Nawawi’s Bustan al Arifeen it is recorded that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (ra) narrated a Hadith about a great early Muslim called Abu Muslim al-Khawlani (ra). He was a special devout man whom it is clear that God had favoured in many ways. One time the false prophet Al-Aswad ibn Qays al-Anasi the liar of the Yemen had tried to burn him for refusing to recant his Islam yet he had emerged from the flames unscathed and because of this he earned the love of Umar and Abu Bakr (may God bless them). In Ahmed ibn Hanbal’s Hadith it is recorded that one time Abu Muslim was in Byzantine territory on a mission. He was concerned about the arrival of a party of warriors, making his Wudhu (the minor ritual wash) in a river he discussed this matter with himself when a crow landed near to him, informing him of the party and telling him of the date upon which they would arrive. When asked who it was the crow replied that he was one who gladdened the hearts of the believers.

Animals may not be endowed with all the same mental faculties as human beings, nor with free will, yet the view of some modernist Muslims that animals do not ‘think’ is totally misguided. If we look at the Qur’an and Hadith along with a great corpus of scientific evidence we can see that such an attitude is wrong and that animals do certainly think even if it may be in ways slightly different from our own. All creatures are the creation of God be they human, jinn, mammal, bird, reptile, lizard, fish, insect or other unknown creatures and Islam enjoins kindness and proper treatment for them according to their nature and requirements. The Seal of the Prophets Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) said;

The creatures are the family of God –

 

Thus He is most dear to God of all people

 

who treats them kindly.

(Bayhaqi in al-Sha’b Narrated by Abu Hurayrahh)

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) encouraged the Muslims to be kind to animals as well as humans and he prohibited the killing of animals for sport and ordered the Muslims to slaughter meat animals with kindness and compassion. Zabiha is the pure Islamic method of humanely slaughtering an animal by reciting the Bismillah and cutting the throat with a knife so sharp that no pain is felt. There are a number of further Islamic rules to ensure animal welfare prior to and during the slaughter

When one of the companions carried some chicks from the nest of a wild bird, causing the mother bird great anguish, the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) became very angry and he ordered that the chicks be placed back in the nest. The Holy Prophet was an exemplar of kindness to all creatures. He taught people that both humans and animals had the right to be treated mercifully, humanely and saved from oppression. One time the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) saw a camel that was emaciated with neglect. He warned the people to;

Fear God in your treatment of the animals

 

Ride them properly and feed them properly

(Abu Da’ud, Sunan).

It is recorded by al-Tirmidhi that another time the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) saw a man lay down a goat upon its side to slaughter it. As Islam enjoins that the knife has to be sharp enough to avoid causing the animal pain during slaughter the man was sharpening it. The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) disliked that by sharpening the knife in front of the goat and after having laid it down the man was causing it unnecessary worry. He strongly reminded the man that he should sharpen his knife in advance (so that he did not cause the animal worry and so that the slaughter may be quick and painless. What then will we say to him about our modern slaughter houses, where the animals can smell fear and blood even before they arrive and in which killing has become mechanized and inhumane, Halal only in the recitation of the Bismillah and the draining of the blood, but not in the spirit of how the animal must be treated considerately? Better the meat slaughtered in the field and in the humane way of the Prophet’s Sunnah. A true Muslim is a symbol of love and affection to all feeling beings and the Companion Abdullah ibn Omar (raa) reported that the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) once explained that;

Those who are kind and affectionate

 

to God’s creatures,

 

He bestows His kindness and affection upon them.

 

Therefore show kindness

 

to the dwellers of the earth

 

so that God

 

may show mercy and kindness to you.

(Mishkaat).

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) was the example, sent by God, for Muslims to emulate in matters related to spirituality, politics and morality. He taught us kindness to animals and informed us how it was possible to go to hell for cruelty to just one animal. He himself was greatly merciful to the creatures around him and if he saw anyone mistreating a domestic or wild animal he would cause them to desist.

Personally the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) showed dedication to the welfare of animals and he would rise to open the door for a cat that used to sleep in his home. One time he discovered a sick rooster and nursed it back to health, something of which those modern Muslims with a utilitarian attitude towards animals should take note. We need not be vegetarians though, either out of consideration for health or for animal welfare.

The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) only ate meat in moderation and some of the Companions started to live as vegetarians (abstaining completely from eating meat), but the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) explained that it was not necessary and people should understand that it is the happy and natural way for sheep and certain other types of animals to be eaten by Children of Adam – after having lived a happy life and having been kindly and well looked after. It would, however, be cruel to allow all of the food animals (sheep and cattle) to live into extended old age, during which most of them would suffer from various age related illnesses or to set them into the wilds where they would be eaten by wild beasts who would kill them far less humanely than is the way of Halal slaughter performed by good hearted humans.

Abstention from meat is permitted in Islam, but a superior way to this is the emulation of the way of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace).

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) showed respect and mercy to animals and they would come to him in love and he ordered kindness and mercy to them from the believers. Our Creator God Almighty gave the animals rights that we must respect of face His wrath, just as the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) warned that he saw a woman who was thrown into the hell fire for her cruelty to a cat or that a herdsman who selfishly failed to give his cattle or sheep enough water when they needed it is would be trampled by them on the Day of Judgement.

The Shafi’i scholar Sheikh ‘Izz al-Din Ibn Abdul Salam Sulami (ra) wrote in his Qawaa’id al-Akham fii Masaalih al-Anaam the following; that domestic animals (even aged ones) should be looked after appropriately even if past working age or if they are too ill to work, that domestic animals should not be overburdened and they should be protected from harm, that animals should only be killed humanely and with mercy and the young of an animal may bot be killed in its sight, and that animals should be given appropriate shelters that are cleaned appropriately etc.

An Indian Hanafi scholar of the 20th century CE Ashraf Ali Thanwi (ra) lists the basic rights of animals as follows (paraphrased);

  1. Do not keep captive any animal for no reason.
  2. Do not kill any animal merely for sport.
  3. Make proper arrangements for your domestic animals in regards their needs of food, drink, rest etc and take care of them, avoiding over-working them or mistreating them.
  4. Animals that are to be killed must be killed quickly and humanely.

Ashraf Ali Thanwi (ra) was known to be so merciful towards the animals that he would even take great care when disposing of his Wudhu (ablutions) water outside so as to not kill the harmless insects that live upon the ground.

Animal rights are an Islamic fact and we would do well to follow the example of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and his companions and Walis in regards giving animals their rights or we may find that we end up being punished for our failings in the hereafter.

God taught us kindness to animals but He did not forbid outright the humane use of animals for riding, wool, milk, eggs or anything else in which human beings may have a mutually beneficial and benevolent interaction with that animal. However, He taught us through His last Messenger to do these things only with kindness and compassion.Indeed All Wise God did not even forbid the moderate consumption of meat in the Holy Qur’an, but He ordered that those animals that human beings have been permitted to eat must be treated humanely and must only be slaughtered in a very particular gentle way that causes essentially no pain and in which distress is minimized.

God has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything.

 

If the killing (of animals) is to be done,

 

do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter,

 

do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife,

and putting the animal at ease.

(Muslim)

Some people argue strongly for vegetarianism on ethical grounds (including some Muslims) but they should remember that the relationship between the herdsman and the animal should be one through which both of them benefit. The animal’s benefits should include protection from wild predators, assistance with food, assistance with health, assistance in labour and assistance from the herder in various other positive.

If that same animal was in the wild it may likely experience levels of hunger, extreme cold or heat, constant danger from predators and other issues that well cared for domestic animals would usually be free deom. They may not have to face humane slaughter, but if they lived in the wild they would quite likely face either the painful diseases of old age or the distress of dying through injury and/or being killed and eaten (not always in that order) by a predatory animal.

That said who can justify the brutal modern industrial farming and slaughter methods, or the over breeding and genetic modifications that are now being used to promote ‘productivity’ at the expense of animal welfare and honestly say they are things that God and His Messenger (saws) would think well of?

Furthermore Prophet Muhammad (saws) explained that halal slaughter must be done in a specific way in which every care is taken to prevent the animal from feeling distress and for generations Muslims kept to this way. Sadly the modern capitalized world has little scope for empathy, compassion or humanity and the industrialized meat industry is very unlikely to meet any of the finer ethical and compassionate requirements for halal meat.

So maybe it is the case that Muslims should think very carefully not just about their direct relationship with animals, but with their more indirect one and they should consider whether they are supporting any inhumane farming methods with their purchases?

All the creatures on earth, and all the birds that fly with wings, are communities like you…

(Holy Qur’an 6:38)

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saws) was asked by his blessed companions if kindness to animals was rewarded in the life hereafter. He answered:

‘Yes there is a meritorious reward for kindness to every living creature’

(Bukhari)

*

The Holy Prophet (saws) said;

‘It is a great sin for man to imprison the animals which are in his power’

(Muslim)

*

Many modern Muslims are avid meat eaters, consumers of masses of factory produced meat products of extremely dubious Islamic permissibility.  They are addicted to meat eating. Generally they are completely unaware of the fact that by eating meat in such quantities they are harming their own health, causing the suffering of many animals (due to modern inhumane ways of farming) and also damaging the environment, thus neglecting the duty that God gave human beings when He made human beings care-takers of the Earth.

In the Muwatta of Imam Malik (raa) Hadhrat Umar (raa) warns us ‘Beware of meat, because it has an addiction like the addiction of wine.’ …and indeed the Holy Prophet (saws) said that if there would have been any Prophet after himself, it would have been Hadhrat Umar (raa), so this warning should not be taken lightly.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf in his talk has pointed out that eating meat is not a necessity in Islam and that in the old days Muslims used to eat very little meat at all. The wealthier Muslims ate it perhaps once a week and the poor, perhaps, only on the Eids. Indeed he describes the traditional Muslims as semi-vegetarians. This was also something he observed during his time as a student of the Islamic sciences in the deserts of Mauritania. In fact Sheikh Hamza Yusuf views the Holy Prophet (saws) as having been a semi-vegetarian.

Hadhrat Umar (raa) had long ago warned the Muslims that by eating meat every day one deprives others of their food and this is more true today than it ever has been before. The modern meat industry is distorting world food production, using much of the landmass to produce animal feed for the meat animals that are being produced for the greedy meat addicted rich of the world.

The incredibly huge areas of the world’s arable landmass that have been taken up to grow the grain that feeds the meat animals for the rich, could be better used to feed the hungry masses of the planet. What a situation it is when part of the world’s population is unhealthy due to its fat bellies and the rest is unhealthy due to starvation or malnourishment. It is also said that the Prophet (saws) warned against Beef eating as making the heart hard, interesting as this is something that has now been demonstrated to be physically, spiritually and even economically true.

God in His wisdom has not prohibited the consumption of meat, indeed when He shaped certain animals it was with the human beings in mind and without the support of an omnivorous diet it is unlikely that the human beings would still be spread across the face of the earth like they are. Muslims can never say that God has prohibited meat eating, because He has not, but he has certainly ordained kindness to animals along with fairness and charity. These things have all been harmed and distorted by the modern meat industry.

2 thoughts on “Animals in Islam

  1. Pingback: Qitmir and Dogs in Islam | patricknelson750

  2. Pingback: The Perverted Ethics of Nature Film Makers | patricknelson750

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