Allah placed humanity on His earth to be the custodian of His creation. The ethical treatment of animals and animal rights are thus enshrined into this custodianship. Moreover, animals and humans find their common origins in water, as mentioned in Surah An-Nur. There are several Hadith regarding animals as well, with the topic being discussed in the sunnah.
Animal rights: The usefulness and desirability of animals
Allah SWT created humans and jinn to worship Him through submission and obedience. However, He also created animals to be subservient to humans. They provide us with food and drink by way of meat and milk. Man uses animals for transport and riding for work or pleasure. Some animals, in particular, become our pets and delight our souls. Having pets is permissible in Islam.
Biomedical research is carried out on animals that ultimately benefit humans. We have zoos and aquariums for our amusement. Some animals, such as dogs, can be professionally trained to be used to detect drugs and criminals by their scent. Others guide the blind and assist the disabled. Every second video found online is about cats and their adorable antics.
Animal rights and the prohibition of cruelty in Islam
Islam outlined animal rights almost 1500 years ago. Long before the Animal Rights Movement began in as recently as 1985.
#1. Cruelty to animals had grave consequences in the Quranic Story of the People of Thamud and the she-camel
In Surah Ash-Shams, we learn that the people denied her a drink of water, but the last straw was when they slaughtered her. Allah had sent her as a sign and miracle, and they had crossed the line. Allah destroyed them in a single mighty blast.
#2. A cruel woman tied and starved her cat to death
In Sahih Al-Bukhari, there is the story of a woman who was punished for mistreating a cat. She imprisoned it until it perished, therefore, she went to Hell. She didn’t give it food or drink while imprisoning it, or even set it free to let it eat insects. Hence, we can see the folly of mistreating creatures such as cats in Islam.
#3. The Prophet (PBUH) meted out a stern warning
As recorded in Musnad Ahmad, the Prophet (PBUH) warned those who kill even a sparrow without a valid reason that Allah will ask them about such actions on the Day of Reckoning.
#4. Humans must not kill any living creature for mere fun and games
There is a Hadith in Sahih Muslim in which the Prophet (PBUH) orders the believers to not use living things for target practice.
#5. Animal rights: They can only be used for the purpose they were created
In Sahih Al-Bukhari, we are informed about an incident in which a man was riding a cow, so it turned and said to him that its creation was for another purpose, which is plowing.
In Sunan Abu Dawud, a Hadith shows us that we must fear Allah concerning animals that can’t speak for themselves. If we ride them, they should be looked after to ensure they are physically fit for that purpose. If they are to be eaten, they should be well fed to ensure they are healthy and plump.
#6. A bird called Hammarah and her two young
As we read in Sahih Muslim, some of the blessed companions came across two young birds whose mother bird, Hummara, was away. So, they took them. Hammarah then flew above them, expressing her sorrow by beating her wings. When the Prophet (PBUH) found out, he asked who had hurt her feelings by touching her two young ones and ordered them to return the little birds.
#7. On branding animals
In Sahih Muslim, Jabir ibn Abdullah narrated that the Prophet (PBUH), upon seeing an ass which had been branded in its face pass him by, became so upset that he called on Allah to curse the culprit.
#8. Animals rights and gentle treatment
In Sahih Muslim, there was an account of Ayesha (RA) riding a restive camel and turning it in an ungentle manner. The Prophet (PBUH) told her that it befits her to be kind in her treatment of animals.
#9. On neglecting the animals under ones care
From the Muwatta, we learn that the Prophet (PBUH) was asked why he was wiping his horse’s face with his gown. His answer was that Allah had admonished him for neglecting his horse.
Animal rights and the emphasis on kind treatment
Undoubtedly certain animals such as the dogs and pigs have been declared impure in Islam. This does not justify cruelty towards them. Muslims can not eat pork, and should not keep dogs at home unless outside for guarding the house. We can not keep dogs in the house. However, we must realize that we must deal with all animals kindly to secure Allah’s pleasure.
A testimony to Islam’s unparalleled beauty, truth, and justice!
#1. The reward for quenching a dog’s thirst
In Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) narrated that a man was once walking, so he became thirsty and drank water from a well. After emerging from the well, he noticed a dog panting and consuming mud due to its terrible thirst. The man understood the dog’s struggle and went down the well again. He filled his shoe with water, held it using his teeth and quenched the suffering dog’s thirst by giving it the water. Allah thanked him for his noble action and showed His approval by forgiving the man’s sins. When the people asked Muhammad (PBUH) if there is a reward for serving animals, he responded by saying that there’s a reward for serving any creature.
#2. The mercy and compassion of the Prophet (PBUH)
A Hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari informs us that in the Prophet’s (PBUH) time, dogs would urinate and go in and out of mosques. These are just a few amongst many stories about the Prophet’s (PBUH) kindness.
#3. Etiquettes while slaughtering animals
The Prophet (PBUH) forbade the sharpening of knives in front of animals before slaughtering. Islam also forbade the slaughtering of an animal before another. In Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) told us to be merciful when slaughtering by sharpening our knives before slaughtering an animal.
Umar ibn Al Khattab, the second Righteous Caliph of the Muslims, saw a person dragging a goat by its leg to slaughter it. He thus ordered him to slaughter it correctly.
Such were the lofty morals of the early generations of Muslims. It is thus incumbent on believers of every day and age to uphold the God-given rights of Allah’s creatures as defined by Islam.