The Perverted Ethics of Nature Film Makers

So many times I have heard nature film makers smugly justify leaving animals to suffer and die quite needlessly. When challenged they come out with various nonsensical statements of utter hypocrisy. Human beings are moral agents upon the face of the earth. They have a type of duty to all feeling creatures that they come into contact with. Nature film makers think that this doesn’t apply to them.

Indeed they say things as ‘its wrong to interfere with nature’, they say this clothed and shod, living in a centrally heated house and as the users of cars, trains and planes, if it was wrong to interfere with nature then they should go and live in the bush, wear a leather thong and carry a spear. Of course the whole idea is nonsense, our whole lives are an example of interfering with nature.

I remember once watching a nature cameraman cum presenter on BBC Spring Watch film an orphaned seal pup in the Hebrides as it hopelessly called for its mother. Saving that pup’s life would simply have been a matter of walking down to the waters edge scooping it up and finding an adoptive or foster home for it with some island dwelling family or a charity – it’s cuteness meant that success in this task would have been guaranteed Godwilling, but no he left the poor little thing to die of cold, hunger and thirst.

The whole direction of nature film making has taken a very unhealthy turn in the last couple of decades as well. Older nature films tended to show the beauty of nature and its very real peace and tranquility. Modern nature films tend to almost exclusively focus upon drama, violence and constant tie-ins to highly speculative evolutionary ideas. The new breed of nature film maker has no interest in the several years Mr gazelle happily munches away, reproduces and goes about his life – they are only interested in the dramatic chase at the end of his days that ends with him being gored to death by a big cat.

Furthermore I have seen several modern nature documentaries where I have been pretty sure that the film crew deliberately manipulated wild animals into situations that would provide the crew with more dramatic footage, but at the cost of the suffering and death of some of these unwilling tele-circus participants (with greater chance of winning them acclaim and awards). As I have no proof of this other than strong and repeated signs and clues I will not go into specific instances, but if I am not mistaken some successful modern nature film makers are nothing short of psychopaths and little better than bear baiters (for known and proven examples of such things in older nature films see here)

In reality nature is far less dramatic than the impression given in nature documentaries. This is why dramatic emotion music and slow motion shots of natural hunting violence form such regular features in the films of the people who wish to replace reality with Hollywood.

I have spent much of my life very close to nature and its beauties and I have spent a long time observing the ever moving circle of life. Animals are born, animals go through their infancy and mature, animals live their lives, animals do their things, animals reproduce and sooner or later they die. All these things are as God made them. In reality there is no dramatic musical sound track to stir the feelings and even in life and death there is not usually a great deal of drama in nature, just animals living as they have for millions of years. There is suffering however and wherever we come face to face with it and we are able to help – then we should do so.

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

(Sahih Bukhari)

*

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures

from the shelter of compassion and pity,

you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

(Francis of Assisi)

*

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)

*

“I will not kill or hurt any living creature needlessly,

nor destroy any beautiful thing,

but will strive to save and comfort all gentle life,

and guard and perfect all natural beauty upon the earth.”

(John Ruskin, Artist & Social Thinker)

*

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 Hurayrah)

*

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)

*

Fear God in your treatment of the animals…

(Abu Da’ud, Sunan)

*

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress

can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

 

(Mahatma Gandhi, Father of India)

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Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard

by What is above him

when he shows no mercy to what is under him?

(Pierre Troubetzkoy)

*

God made all the creatures and gave them our love and our fear,

To give sign, we and they are His children, one family here.

(Robert Browning, Author & Poet)

*

It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence

to call an animal dumb

because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.

(Mark Twain, Great American Author)

*

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected

with goodness of character…

(Arthur Schopenhauer)

*

godlike sympathy grows and thrives

and spreads far beyond

the teachings of churches and schools,

where too often the mean, blinding,

loveless doctrine is taught

that animals have no rights

that we are bound to respect,

and were only made for man,

to be petted, spoiled, slaughtered or enslaved.

(John Muir, Naturalist)

 *

The assumption that animals are without rights

and the illusion that our treatment of them

has no moral significance

is a positively outrageous example

of Western crudity and barbarity.

Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.

(Arthur Schopenhauer)

 *

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar

is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.

(Bradley Millar)

 *
 

“If man is not to stifle his human feelings,

he must practice kindness towards animals…

(Immanuel Kant, Philosopher)

*

“If having a soul means being able to feel love

and loyalty and gratitude,

then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

(James Herriot, Vet and Author)

 *
 

Our treatment of animals is important

to our own internal state.

If we are to expand our horizons,

to grow to understand what the relatedness

of each and every thing means,

then our love and appreciation of all life is essential.

Our respect and reverence for all living things

will be reflected in our own living.”

(Bill Schul, Author)

 *

The question is not, “Can they reason?”

nor, “Can they talk?”

but rather, “Can they suffer?”

(Jeremy Bentham, Philosopher)

*

Every particle of factual evidence supports

the factual contention that the higher

mammalian vertebrates experience pain

sensations at least as acute as our own.

(Richard Serjeant, author,’The Spectrum of Pain‘)

 *
 

Pain is pain, whether it be inflicted on man or on beast;

and the creature who suffers it, whether man or beast,

being sensible to the misery of it, whilst it lasts, suffers evil…

(Dr. Humphrey Primatt, Priest)

 *

Very little of the great cruelty

shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct.

Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit.

The roots of cruelty, therefore,

are not so much strong as widespread.

But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom

and thoughtlessness will succumb

before humanity championed by thought.

Let us work that this time may come.

(Albert Schweitzer, Thinker)

 *

We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty

with which we treat the animals.

Animals suffer as much as we do.

True humanity does not allow us

to impose such sufferings on them.

It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it.

Until we extend our circle of compassion

to all living things, humanity will not find peace.

(Albert Schweitzer, Thinker)

 *

“Most people have forgotten

how to live with living creatures,

with living systems and that, in turn,

is the reason why man,

whenever he comes into contact with nature,

threatens to kill the natural system

in which and from which he lives.”

(Konrad Lorenz, Naturalist)

*

“I could not have slept tonight if I had left

that helpless little creature to perish on the ground.”

(His answer to some friends who were annoyed

that he had delayed them

by returning a fledgling to the safety of its nest.)

(Abraham Lincoln, US President)

*

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures

is not to hate them,

but to be indifferent to them.

That’s the essence of inhumanity.”

(George Bernard Shaw)

*

“Anyone who has accustomed himself

to regard the life of any living creature as worthless

is in danger of arriving also at the idea

of worthless human lives.”

(Albert Schweitzer)

Animals in Islam

The Sufis and the Animals

Qitmir and Dogs in Islam

Qitmir a Blessed Dog

The Kahf Surah of the Holy Qur’an mentions the story of some believers and their loyal dog (who is known as Qitmir in Islamic traditions). They probably lived in Ephesus, Turkey, in the years after the Prophet Jesus (may God bless him and give him peace) brought his Message of the Gospels to the Eastern Mediterranean world. Antonius, a young follower of the Gospels fled the persecution of a Pagan King to the safety of the mountains and there he became a shepherd, assisted by his loyal dog Qitmir.

In the mountains Antonius could pray to God in safety and he and his dog lived there simply, but happily. One day some more youths fled to those mountains, after facing the danger of the Pagan King’s tyranny and together with Antonius and Qitmir they hid from the King’s men in a cave. There God the Merciful caused a sleep to overcome them and they all fell into a state of suspended animation and God ordered the loyal dog Qitmir to wait in the mouth of the cave with his legs stretched out. Merciful God protected the youths and He ordained that anyone who came near the mouth of the cave would become afraid and flee.

And you wouldst have thought

 

that they were awake

 

although they were asleep,

 

and We caused them to turn over

 

to the right and the left,

 

and their dog

 

stretching out his paws

 

on the threshold.

(Surah al Kahf 18)

After many, many years He revived the blessed youths and their dog in a safer age in which Paganism had been abandoned and the people of the land now followed the teachings of the Prophet Jesus (may God bless him and give him peace). According to popular Muslim belief the blessed dog Qitmir was granted Paradise along with the good youths. Many have speculated on the exact number of the sleepers, but God is telling us to avoid getting distracted with the details, the meaning of the events is what is important.

Some will say they were three,

their dog the fourth,

and some say they were five ,

their dog the sixth,

guessing randomly,

and some say seven,

their dog the eighth,

My Lord is best aware of their number,

No one knows them save a few

(Surah Al Kahf 22)

The Holy Qur’an states that the story of the sleepers in the cave was narrated to remind the reader that God’s promise is true. Qitmir was a special dog and showed the dogs good qualities of loyalty.

The great Sufi Mevlana Rumi was once by the edge of the moat of Qonya city. A group of students from a nearby college saw him and decided to test him with the following question.. “What colour was the dog of the Seven Sleepers of the cave?” Without pause or though Rumi answered: “Yellow/sallow.” A lover is always yellow/sallow; as am I; and that dog was a lover.” The students bowed down to Rumi’s knowledge and became his followers.

Dogs in Islam

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The dog is one of the creatures of Allah , He created it for a purpose and it has served the human beings as a guard of flocks, a hunting companion and in other ways for many thousands of years. The Sufis have often used the qualities of the dog as a metaphor. They have encouraged their students to emulate the good qualities of the dog (especially loyalty), whilst avoiding the less desirable qualities that they sometimes manifest (aggression). Islamic teachers have taught that Children of Adam should avoid behaving like an angry dog and that they should not ‘bite people’.

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Islamic experts on spiritual purification have also taught their students to emulate the good qualities of the dog such as their loyalty and obedience to their masters (or in the case of the human being to God). Many well known and true stories from many lands of great canine fidelity (such as the story of Greyfriars Bobby) provide something which human beings can learn from. Just as the dog is naturally loyal to his master the human being should be loyal to their Divine Master, just as the dog tends to love their owner even if they sometimes receive harsh treatment from them the human being should love God even if He sends them tests and makes their earthly life challenging and just as the dog who receives benevolence and sustenance from his master will often give his life to protect his master so should the human being be ready to give his life for his Divine Master.

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God created all the animals in the creation for very good reasons that are known to Him and He has ordered that we should be kind to them. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) encouraged kindness, mercy and the decent treatment of all animals. Good hearted believers hold all animals in merciful affection, because they know they are of the different ‘Ummahs’ of God and that He had a good reason for everything He created, they don’t even hate the dirtiest animals such as pigs or rats, rather they are duty bound to be kind and merciful to them as with all other animals.

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Where believers have power over dogs they must give them humane, decent and appropriate treatment or they may face retribution on the Day of Judgement or punishment in the hereafter. The great benefit from having mercy and doing charity for even humble dogs was demonstrated when the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) once saw a non-Muslim prostitute help a thirsty dog by giving it a drink of water from a well.

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The blessed Prophet (saws) explained that by that one good deed that all of that woman’s sins had been forgiven! Yet dangerous dogs may be humanely euthanized and it is an obvious duty of modern humanity to provide veterinarians neuter feral dogs (and cats) to prevent them from breeding, just as it is to provide them with other aid.

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In Islam it is allowed to eat the meat of the small pray animals that are caught by the trained hunting dog so long as Bismillah (in the name of God) is recited when the dog is released to the chase. However, although hunting for food is allowed by God hunting for sport is strictly forbidden, and the type of hunting that is allowed is with the trained dog who catches small edible prey and then instinctively shakes it in a way that humanely kills the animal by quickly breaking its neck, before carrying it un-mauled to its master as a food source. In the Holy Qur’an God Almighty Himself tells us that it is acceptable to eat the meat that has been caught by by the mouth of the trained hunting dog (and a dog who catches an animal naturally salivated on it as it returns it to its master).Yet today we may find most of those who call themselves Muslims would never eat such meat, even if it was washed seven times, the last of which being with dust. Indeed through this we can see that the attitudes of many people who claim Islam, in relation to the dog, have been imbued with cultural ideas from non-Divine sources. In fact we must remind the one who tries to reject the meat caught by a dog as being unclean that they are making that which has been allowed by Allah prohibited and this in itself is a form of disbelief.

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Many Muslims have always kept dogs to help them look after their, sheep or cattle, as guard/watch dogs or as hunting dogs. The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) encouraged all of the beneficent uses of dogs and the early Muslims mostly used working dogs that were sent out with the sheep and which lived with them and guarded them from wolves and other predators. The dogs are servants of God, just as all the animals are, but there are two obvious reasons why the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) apparently discouraged his companions from having purely pet dogs, these being waste and hygiene. During the early era of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) the Muslims lived in an arid area of an age of limited material resources in which food often became scarce, often the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and his companions would have periods of time when they had to survive upon the most minimal amounts of food, even to the extent of tying rocks over their stomachs to suppress hunger pangs, those rich people who were keeping pet dogs would be feeding them rather than the poor who needed the food. The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) discouraged the Muslims from making any unnecessary expenditure, they were taught to own only those things that they needed for life and to give away surpluses to those who really needed them, because of this gold jewellery and silk were forbidden to men, families were discouraged from owning more bedding that they needed (and it was said that bedding beyond one spare set for visitors was ‘the devil’s’). In this light is can be seen that the Companions who acquired a pet dog for no reason were feeding and looking after them and using their money in that way when they could have used the money to better effect by feeding the hungry humans (or even stray dogs) as an act of charity with that same wealth, hence the Hadith that keeping a dog for no good reason undoes some part of ones good works each day. Yet Muslims in general should be aware that most people who keep dogs in the modern age do so for dual reasons as a companion and also crucially as a working guardian who will bark if intruders, robbers, rapists etc are about. Even the smallest dog may be useful in this way. Even those who don’t bark may deter burglars. New Muslims are well advised not to get any new dogs unless they can genuinely say to themselves that it is a dog with a working value, such as agricultural use, a guide dog, a guard dog or a small dog who may bark at intruders and alert the family etc etc.  In any case, Muslims with dogs should be sure to increase their deeds of charity and worship.

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In the highly authentic and original Maliki school of Islamic understanding the dog is considered to be ritually pure and even the saliva of the dog is ritually pure (that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t wash it off if it gets on you), however many Muslims consider the saliva or the wetness of a dog, or even the dog itself to be impure, that is up to them, but in the Maliki school the dog is seen (like all animals) as being essentially pure and the Madhab rejects several views that are held by the other three Sunni schools of Fiqh, as they contrast with both Qur’anic verses and the Amal of the blessed Salaf of Madinah.

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Many Islamic scholars forbidden Muslims from paying money for dogs, although others have permitted it. The reality is that when people buy dogs it encourages the cruel trade of dog breeding which has caused untold suffering. Why would someone who needs a dog buy one when the world is full of unwanted puppies and homeless dogs? 

Some Further Reading Links

Hamza Yusuf

Abdul Hakim Murad

Animals in Islam

Spiritual Teachers and the Animals

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.

Spiritual Teachers and the Animals

 Said Nursi and the Animals

From his Anatolian childhood onwards the great thinker Bediuzzaman Said Nursi had a close relationship with and a real love for the animals and the natural world, which he perceive as the handiwork of God and as a signpost pointing to him. He was fascinated by the living creatures, mountains and streams of the land, and for all the creatures he felt an inner sense of love and compassion.

In his biography Bediuzzaman recorded how, when engaged in study staying in retreat in the mausoleum in Tillo, he shared the food that was brought to him by the villagers, with the ants of that place, calling these little believers and praising them as examples hard work and cooperation.

Bediuzzaman would discourage people from harming or killing wild animals, such as stopping a gamekeeper from shooting nearby partridges, by reminding him it was the nesting season.

One time on of Bediuzzaman’s students killed a lizard and Bediuzzaman became angry with him, asking him whether it was he who had created it? Thus reminding him that it was a creature created by the Creator for a reason that he had killed, one that was merely living in Islam according to Divine designs.

Another time when Bediuzzaman was imprisoned by the tyrannical state apparatus he saw that flies were being killed by spraying for no great reason. He was most upset by this and responded by writing a short treatise on flies.

Bediuzzaman used to develop close ties and companionship with all sorts of creatures, although they may be often limited in intelligence and form compared to the human beings, he could see their essential selves for the pure hearted non-human believers that they are, servants of God who, unlike human beings, never deviate from Islam.

Although not a Sufi in the commonly understood meaning of the word, Bediuzzaman was infused with the inner spirit of Islam and through it he formed relations with the universe and everything around him, enabling him to establish a deep empathic and real relationship with all creatures founded on wisdom that we are all the creations and servants of God and compassion like that which was demonstrated to the creatures by the Holy Prophet.

Abu Yazid and the Animals

One day the great Sufi Abu Yazid Bistami (ra) was walking along a narrow way with his disciples, when a dog approached, coming the other way. Abu Yazid moved to the side to kindly allow the dog to pass, but one of his disciples inwardly disapproved of this act of mercy and secretly he thought to himself that;

‘God Almighty honoured humankind above the creatures and Abu Yazid is the King of the Sufis, with such a following of disciples, yet he makes way for a dog! How can this be?’

Intuiting the disapproval of the disciple Abu Yazid explained to him that upon seeing the dog in this predicament the intuition had come into his head that the dog had mutely communicated; What failings was I guilty of at the dawn of time that I was given the form of a dog and what exceptional merit did you acquire that you were robed in honour as the King of the Sufis?

Sofyan al Thauri and the Animals

And that this was why he had given it the right of way. One day the great Sufi Sofyan al Thauri (ra) was walking through the market when he saw a caged bird for sale that was fluttering and making a pitiful sound. Feeling mercy for it he bought it and set it free, but rather than fly away it lingered round Sofyan’s home and would accompany and watch him as he prayed, sometimes even perching upon him.

When Sofyan passed away the bird was bereaved and it followed the Sufi’s shrouded body as it was carried away by the funeral procession. When Sofyan’s body was buried the sorrowful bird dashed itself upon the ground trying to reach its beloved friend and patron, and as a result it too passed away.

It is said that the people then heard a heavenly voice declare that Almighty God had forgiven Sofyan as a result of the compassion that he had shown to the animals.

Sahl ibn Abdullah and the Animals

In Nawawi’s Bustan ul Arifeen it is recorded that many people of Tustar noticed how Sheikh Sahl ibn Abdullah (ra) used to receive visits from wild carnivorous beasts and he would entertain them as guests, feeding them meat before sending them home.

Rumi and the Animals

Jellaludeen Rumi’s life was an act of charity and from the gifts which the nobles and powerful people would give him he was able to assist many poor people in the city. He would even give things away until he had nothing left and on those days when he had even given his food away he would say that he was being blessed by having the smell of saintliness in his home.

Rumi was an exemplar of mercy and although he was normally mild he would become angry if he saw someone mistreating the weak or needy and remind them that all people were brothers and sisters to one another.

He was a paragon of mercy to all creatures and one day he saw a dog sleeping in an alley thus blocking the way, but rather than move it or step over it he merely waited for it to awaken, however, another pedestrian came along and moved the dog so that he could pass and Rumi chided him for causing needless trouble to the dog.

Another time Rumi was traveling in the country with one of his disciples. He explained to his companions that although asses are the vehicle of the humble many Prophets (may God bless him and give him peace) had ridden upon them, such as Seth, Ezra, Jesus and Muhammad (may the peace and blessings be upon them all).

Soon afterwards one of the asses upon which they were riding began to bray very loudly and the disciple upon it responded by beating the poor beast upon the head to try and quieten it. Rumi ordered him to desist from this and reminded him that the animal was only remonstrating because of his worldly needs and pointed out that as all animals were motivated by such then why would the student not beat all of them upon the head. Seeing the cruelty and foolishness of his ways the disciple dismounted and then kissed and stroked the poor animal.

It is recorded in the Acts of the Adepts that some butchers purchased a heifer to be slaughtered, she broke loose and ran away. A crowd ran after her, trying to return her to the butchers, but she would not return and became aggressive.

Rumi happened to be passing and on seeing him the heifer became calm and quiet. She gently came towards him and then stood as though talking to him with her heart and pleading for her life. Rumi patted and hugged her.

When the butchers arrived Rumi begged for the heifer’s life, explaining that she had placed herself under his protection. The butcher’s therefore let her go free and Rumi said to his disciples that if an animal being led to slaughter, breaks loose and takes refuge with me, God granting it immunity for my sake, how much greater so is the case when a human being seeks God with heart and soul, devoutly turning to Him?

God certainly saves such people from Hell and leads him to Heaven, an eternal abode. The disciples were made happy by these words and thus began a celebration of song and worship that lasted into the night.

The Real Winners of the Falklands War, Were the Penguins

I thought I knew the depths to which whales sank (unfortunately I mean they sank metaphorically not literally), but diabolically using penguins as charcoal briquettes, this sounds like something in a Black Adder show not something from reality. In this particular case ‘long live landmines!’

Perry Ponders

cute-penguin-34

The 19th Century was a popular time for the whaling industry, particularly on the Falklands Islands. Whalers needed fuel in order to render whale blubber into whale oil, which would then be sold. But a lack of trees in the area meant that using wood to keep a fire going would not be not a sustainable option. However, there was another plentiful resource that made a suitable fuel; penguins.

This is an unfortunate truth. Penguins have highly flammable fat under their skin and they are quite docile in nature, making them easy to catch. Whalers burned them by the thousands, and the population of penguins in the Falklands Islands plummeted until there was a devastating change to their environment in the 1980’s; the Falklands War.

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