Islam and Animals
By Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri
Providing for Animals Used to Carry Heavy Loads
Animals in the service of man should be used only when necessary and their comfort should not be neglected:
About taking care of animals while traveling, the Holy Prophet used to give the following advice:
Saying daily prayers (salat) is one of the five most important obligations of the Muslim religion. In the following Hadith, one of his companions tells us that the holy Prophet and his fellow travelers used to delay even saying their prayers until they had first given their riding and pack animals fodder and had attended to their needs: "When we stopped at a halt, we did not say our prayers until we had taken the burdens off our camels' backs and attended to their needs." (Narrated by Anas. Awn (Ref. No. 32); 7:223; Hadith No. 5234. Also "Guillaume" (Ref. No. 57); pp.106, 107).
Hazrat Imam Ali's general advice about pack animals is: "Be kind to pack animals; do not hurt them; and do not load them more than their ability to bear" (Maxims [Ref. No. 4]).
Cruelty to Animals
According to the spirit and overall teachings of Islam, causing unavoidable pain and suffering to the defenseless and innocent creatures of God is not justifiable under any circumstances. Islam wants us to think and act in the positive terms of accepting all species as communities like us in their own right and not to sit in judgment on them according to our human norms and values.
Prevention of physical cruelty is not enough; mental cruelty is equally important. In the following incident, a bird's emotional distress has been treated as seriously as a physical injury:
It is reported by the same authority that "A man once robbed some eggs from the nest of a bird. The Prophet had them restored to the nest" (id.).
The Holy Prophet has even tried the "Punishment and Reward" approach in the following Ahadith:
The Prophet told his companions of a woman who would be sent to Hell for having locked up a cat; not feeding it, nor even releasing it so that it could feed herself. (Narrated by Abdullah bin 'Omar. Bukhari, 4:337; recorded in Riyad [Ref. No. 28], Hadith No. 1605; p. 271. Also Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2242. English translation by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1976; Vol. 4, Hadith No. 5570; p. 1215. According to the English translation, this Hadith was also narrated by the Abu Huraira and by Naqi who had heard it from Abdullah; Hadith No. 5573; p. 1215. This Hadith has been recorded by almost all the authentic books of Hadith.)
Islam's concern for animals goes beyond the prevention of physical cruelty or even condescending kindness to them, which is a negative proposition. It enjoins on the human species, as the principal primates of animated world, to take over the responsibility of all creatures in the spirit of a positive philosophy of life and to be their active protectors.
The Prophet was asked if acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by God. He replied: "Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive." (Narrated by Abu Huraira, Bukhari, 3:322. Also Muslim, Vol. 4; Hadith No. 2244. Also Awn [Ref. No. 32], 7:222, Hadith No. 2533. Also Mishkat al-Masabih, Book 6; Chapter 6)
Mishkat Al-Masabih concluded from "Bukhari" and "Muslim" to the effect that: "A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to human beings," and that: "Kindness to animals was promised by rewards in Life Hereafter" (Mishkat al-Masabih; Book 6; Chapter 7, 8:178).
The Prophet told his companions of a serf who was blessed by Allah for saving the life of a dog by giving it water to drink and quenching its thirst. (Narrated by Abu Huraira. Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2244. Also Bukhari, 3:322. Also Awn [Ref. No. 32]; Hadith No. 2533, and others)
To catch birds and imprison them in cages without any special purpose is considered abominable.
No advantages and no urgency of human needs would justify the kind of calculated violence that is being done these days against animals, especially through international trade of livestock and meat. One of the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad tells us: "If you must kill, kill without torture." (La taqtolu bi'l-idha'i.) While pronouncing this dictum, he did not name any animal as an exception — not even any noxious or venomous creature, such as scorpions and snakes.
Luckily, on this theme we have quite a few of the Holy Prophet's sayings. During the pre-Islamic period, certain pagan superstitions and polytheistic practices involving acts of torture and general cruelties to animals used to be common in Arabia. All such practices were condemned and stopped by Islam. The following few sayings of the Holy Prophet will serve as an example:
This Hadith is concerned with causing pain to the animal on the sensitive parts of its body, as well as with the disfigurement of its appearance.
When the Holy Prophet migrated to Medina from Mecca in 622 A.C., people there used to cut off camels' humps and the fat tails of sheep. The Prophet ordered this barbaric practice to be stopped. The temptation for the people to perform this sort of vivisection on the animals was that the juicy humps and fatty tails could be eaten while the animal remained alive for future use. To remove this avidity, he declared: "Whatever is cut off an animal while it is still alive, is carrion and is unlawful (Haram) to eat." (Narrated by Abu Waqid al-Laithi. Tirmidhi; Hadith No. 1480, Chapt. on Al-At'imah. Also "Robson" [Ref. No. 15], p. 872.)
To make sure that no injury was inflicted on the animal while there was even a flicker of life in it, it was forbidden by the Holy Prophet to molest the carcass in any way, such as: by breaking its neck, skinning, or slicing off any of its parts, until the body is dead cold. One of his sayings on this theme is: "Do not deal hastily with a 'being' before it is stone dead." (Kitab al-Muqni, 3:542. Also Al-Muhalla, 7:457; Ibn Hazm) Hazrat 'Omar ibn al-Khattab used to instruct repeatedly: "Give time to the slaughtered being" till it is dead cold. (Al-Muhalla, 7:457; Ibn Hazm. Hazrat 'Omar ibn al-Khattab was the second Caliph (634-644 A.C. = 12-22A.H.)
Many other Muslim authorities have also given juristic opinions (fatawa) to the effect that, after slaughter, time should be given for the rigor mortis to set in before cutting up the carcass. (Kitab al-Nil wa Shifa'al-Alil, 4:460)
Another malpractice in Arabia in those days, which caused pain and discomfort to the animals, was stopped by the Holy Prophet in these words: "Do not store milk in the udders of animals...." (Muslim and Bukhari. Also Holy Traditions; 1st Edition; Vol. 1; Muhammad Manzur Ilahi; Ripon Press, Lahore, Pakistan; 1932; p. 149)
Not only physical but also emotional care of animals was so much emphasized by the Holy Prophet that he once reprimanded his wife, A'ishah, for treating a camel a bit offhandedly. Hazrat A'ishah herself narrates: "I was riding a restive camel and turned it rather roughly. The Prophet said to me: 'It behooves you to treat the animals gently.'" (Narrated by A'ishah. Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2593. Also Awn, 7:155, Hadith No. 2461; [Ref. No. 32]).
The Holy Prophet himself was once reprimanded by God for neglecting his horse, as the following Hadith tells us: "The Prophet was seen wiping the face of his horse with his gown (jullabiyah). When asked why he was doing that, he replied: 'Last night I had a reprimand from Allah regarding my horse for having neglected him.'" (Narrated by Yahya bin Said. "Malik bin Anas al-Asbhahi." Also Al-Muwatta, (in English); Divan Press, Norwich, England; 1982; p. 205.)
The following Hadith forbids the disfiguration of the body of an animal.
The incidents of the Holy Prophet Muhammad's personal grooming of his horse; his wife A'ishah's rough handling of her camel; the Holy Prophet's prohibition of cutting forelocks, the mane or tail; the condemnation of striking and branding on the face or ears — all these and many other such Ahadith show that this great man, Muhammad, had realized even fourteen centuries ago that animals have a sense of adornment and sensitivity.
The main purpose of allowing Muslims to continue with animal sacrifices was to turn this tradition into an institution of charity. All the verses of the Qur'an Majeed that deal with the subject wind up with the proviso that the meat be fed to the poor, the needy, those who are too modest to beg as well as the mendicants — those who beg openly (Qur'an, 2:196; 22:28; 35-37).
In some cases, the offerers of the sacrifice are allowed to consume a portion of the meat themselves, while in others the whole of the carcass is to be given in charity. Sacrifice is meant to be an act of worship and thanksgiving to solicit the approbation of God, neither in the sense of atonement nor in the sense of transposing one's sins onto a scapegoat; but it is meant to be an act of benevolence (Ihsan) to fulfill a social obligation. After reading the Qur'anic version of sacrifice, there remains no doubt in one's mind that any sacrifice that is allowed to go to waste is a sinful as well as a criminal violation of the Islamic law (Shari'ah). Verses 22:36 and 37 make this proviso abundantly clear.
The Qur'anic injunctions are so exacting on the point of not taking the life of an animal without a justifiable cause (Be-ghair-e-haqqin) that wasting meat, even by offering it to deities and gods, is called a devilish act.
During the early period of Islam the traditional offerings of animals made some sense. Meat was then an important ingredient of human diet and not even a scrap of it was wasted. Today we have made their killing an empty ritual and forgotten the intent.
A learned Muslim scholar, Sheikh Farid Wagdi, says in his Wagdi's Encyclopaedia Article on Sacrifice that there might come a day when Muslims shall have to substitute the rite of animal sacrifice with other methods of giving alms.