Ethics of treating animals in Islam


The concept of animal rights in the west has evolved slowly over the centuries, following much the same course as that of children's rights. Both involve putting the welfare of a being who cannot explicitly complain over the direct monetary and social needs of the person responsible for them.

In 1825, the House of Refuge in America was founded, which was the first institution in the US to help take care of severely abused and abandoned children.

After the Industrial Revolution had started to help people meet their basic needs with ease, they had the luxury to turn their minds to other issues, such as caring for those less fortunate. It is just around this time that animal welfare started to be discussed.

Long before "Animal Rights" was incorporated in our contemporary world; Prophet Muhammad established extensive guidelines to treat animals.

The Quran says that Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to the worlds. His kindness knew no limits, which included animals.

Before Islam Arabs, like all ignorant and illiterate people, were very cruel to animals. It was very common in Arabia to put a ring round the neck of a camel, but this practice was stopped on Prophet Muhammad orders.

When people needed meat for eating they used to cut pieces of flesh from living animals. This barbaric practice was forbidden by the Prophet. He also forbade people to keep animals in their working equipment for a long time and said, "Don't make the backs of animals your chairs." Animal fights were also made unlawful. Another custom was to tie up an animal and practice arrow shooting on it. This was also prohibited.

Once Muhammad saw a donkey that was branded on its face, and said, "God's curse is on him who branded it." As people had to brand their camels and sheep in order to know them, they were told to brand them on parts which were not so tender. Anas reported that he went into a herd of sheep and saw God's Messenger branding them on the ears.

Once the Prophet was on a journey with his companions and they stopped for rest at a place. In a tree nearby, a bird had laid an egg. A man took the egg and the bird began beating her wings in a state of great distress. Muhammad enquired who had tormented the bird her by taking her egg. The man said, "O God's Messenger, I have done this." The Prophet told him to put it back immediately.

A companion who had some baby birds wrapped in a piece of cloth came to Muhammad . On enquiry, he told Muhammad , "I heard a noise from a bush, went there, saw these babies, and took them out. When their mother saw what had happened, she began to fly round my head." Muhammad told him to go back and return the birds.

Once the Prophet saw a camel on the road, whose belly and back, through extreme hunger, had become one. He said, "Fear God in your treatment of these animals who cannot speak."

The Prophet once told a story to his companions. There was a man who went on a journey and on his way he felt very thirsty. He found a well and went down into the well and drank water. When he came out of the well he saw a dog that was very thirsty and was licking the salty ground. He thought that the animal was thirsty like him, so he again went down into the well and filled his leather socks with water and gave it to the dog. God accepted this action of the man and sent him to Paradise.

Humane procedures to slaughter the animals for human food consumption were instituted by Prophet Muhammad . Animals were given water to drink before slaughtering and he told his companions to slaughter animals with the sharpest knife, causing the minimum pain and suffering to the animal. He also forbade them to sharpen the weapon in front of the animal or when the animal was ready for slaughter, but told them to do these preliminaries before the animal was brought for slaughter.

Muhammad showed people by word and deed to be kind and friendly to everyone. Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet as saying, "A believer is friendly (and kind)." Anas and Abdullah ibn Masud reported God's Messenger as saying, "All creatures are God's children, those dearest to God are the ones who treat His children, kindly." A'isha reported God's Messenger as saying, "God is gentle and likes gentleness. He gives for gentleness what He does not give for harshness and what He does not give for anything else."  Abdullah ibn Masud reported God's Messenger as saying, "Shall I not tell you who is kept away from Hell and from whom Hell is kept away? From everyone who is gentle and kind, approachable and of an easy disposition.

Muhammad , by his own example, had ingrained this kind of behavior in the hearts of his companions, who, after him set an example for other people. This is shown by the following.

It is reported by Abdullah ibn Jaffer that he passed by a grazing field and saw an Abyssinia slave guarding a herd of goats. After awhile a dog came and sat in front of the Abyssinian. He took of a loaf of bread and gave it to the dog that ate it. He then took out a second and third loaf of bread and gave them also to the dog which proceeded to eat all of them.

After witnessing this, Abdullah enquired from the slave how many loaves of bread he received every day from his master. The slave replied that he got as many as he saw. At this, he asked why he gave all his bread to the dog. The slave replied that was not the place the dog belonged and he must have come looking for food from a great distance, and he did not want his effort to be wasted.

Abdullah said that he was so impressed with his action that he paid the slave owner to free him, and along with that bought all the goats and the grazing field from his master, and gave it to the Abyssinian. The slave thanked him and prayed for him and gave all the goats and the grazing field to charity and went away from that place.

 

Adapted from 'Muhammad - Encyclopedia of Seerah' by Afzalur Rahman


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  8 Comments   Comment

  1. Nadia from UK

    Asalaamu Calaykum.

    Here is my question: Do animals have a sould and would they go to heaven?

  2. Rajeev Jain from India

    It is good that Prophet Mohammad had compassion for animals. But if giving pain to another living being is bad and sinful then killing an animal for whatever reason is sinful. What difference does it make for the animal whether it is killed for fun or food or for sacrifice. He is losing his life... for his only that matters. Also I think Muslim community should relook at the custom of sacrifice of animals on Id-ul-Zuha. Can the murder of an animal bring peace and goodness to a person. Instead of slicing the neck of a goat one can cut a vegetable as a token gesture. Good deeds, compassion and kindness to all beings including not killing them or giving pain for any purpose is the essence of goodness and religion. As it is said Non-violence is the Highest Religion.

  3. Dr Edriss from US

    Human, you are one hilarious brother. masha Allah! do you witness that middleeast people reputed to regard their animals like dirt? do you know you gonna be accounted with this witness in the hereafter? The Prophet Salla Allah Alaihe Wa Sallam had somebody asking him, what advice you give me messenger of Allah? he said "quit on you that?" and pointed his finger to his mouth. the companion asked again "are we gonna be accounted with what we say?" the Prophet replied "is there anything that will put humans in hell more than that" and pointed one more time to his mouth.

    the middleeast is not US, there are very poor people in middleeast who constitue the general population and there are over wealthy people. I guarranty you that I saw wealty middleeasters who buy for their pet what you never ever heard of. but the poor people have also alots off love for animals! if you don't believe it? go to any poor street in middleeast, find a cat or a dog and try to beat them for no reason? I just wish for you to make it back home after that :). of course poor people can't feed themselves, then don't expect from them to buy humburger to their pets? I just don't know why some brothers find pleasure in speaking bad about other moslems that they never saw or lived with, inorder to raise their account of sins with Allah. May Allah guide us to what is better for us? Ameen

  4. Human from USA

    Why is there no author named to this article? Too bad most mid-east countries today are reputed to regard their animals worse than dirt in spite of the exceptional guidance and responsibility provided by Islam. Certainly this problem needs to be highlighted moreso than a childishly wanting conjecture that animal rights evolved "slowly" in the west. Better to evolve than to de-volve. Please wake ub, wake ub.

    Allah knows best.

  5. Nimco from USA

    AsalamuAlikum. my name is nimco. thank you for the information on the article. it really helped me because kids at my school think that muslims hate animals such as i which i don't. when kids bring dogs to school they let others pet it. but i don't pet it because i know it is forbidden that is why kids at my school think i hate animals. but allah knows that i care about animals just like i care about humans. asalamuAlaium. and may allah reward you for your good deeds.

  6. Dr Edriss from US

    thank you very much brother. it's very interesting article. that will help the people who doesn't have that much mercy to animals. May Allah Bless you? the articles who are informative like this are missed in this website. we see many articles who are as I call them "the New world order moslem articles" :). take care brother?

  7. Ibn Mohammed from USA

    Would you rather be killed by a bullet to the back of your head, or by somebody slitting your throat? The answer is the same for animals.

    Better yet, why not be a vegetarian and not kill any animals?

  8. Omar from USA

    Jazakum Allahu Khairan for the article on animal rights. It is indeed a wonderful feature of Islam that animals have specific rights and guidelines for their kind/proper treatment. I believe that one way to add to one's good deeds is to contribute to your local Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which takes care of abandoned animals, etc. Anyone know if these organizations have any objectionable practices that one might need to bear in mind?