Is­lam and An­i­mal Rights

The Is­lamic prin­ci­ples of kind­ness, mercy, com­pas­sion and jus­tice ap­ply equally to breed­ing and care of an­i­mals.

Southasia - - Animal Protection - By Maneka Gandhi

Dr. Kris­ten Stilt is an Is­lamic scholar in Egypt. While vis­it­ing In­dia she came to see me. She has writ­ten a book about Is­lam and an­i­mals, en­dorsed by Dr. Pro­fes­sor ‘ Abd Al­lah Mabrook Al-Na­j­jar, Pro­fes­sor of Shari’a and Law Mem­ber of the Coun­cil of Is­lamic Re­search at the Al Azhar Univer­sity. He says Dr. Stilt’s book is “ex­cel­lent in its sci­en­tific con­tent, ac­cu­rate from the per­spec­tive of Is­lamic law, and ben­e­fi­cial.”

She writes, “In my stud­ies of Is­lamic law, I have al­ways been im­pressed by the ex­ten­sive rules that re­quire hu­mans to treat an­i­mals kindly and with mercy. These rules are wide-rang­ing, and in­clude sig­nif­i­cant pro­tec­tions for work an­i­mals like horses and don­keys, re­quire­ments that slaugh­ter­ing be done in as mer­ci­ful a way as pos­si­ble, and com­mands to treat dogs and cats kindly. The po­si­tion on an­i­mal wel­fare within Is­lamic law is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of com­pas­sion and concern for those who de­pend on oth­ers for their care. Is­lamic legal pro­tec­tion of an­i­mal wel­fare is truly a model for ev­ery­one.”

This is an im­por­tant state­ment be­cause very few Mus­lims in In­dia treat an­i­mals well. Ev­ery bird-seller, poacher, dog breeder, tan­gawalla (horse­cart puller) and butcher of an­i­mals, from chicken to cows and buffaloes, turns out to be a Mus­lim. The point is not that they do it – the Hin­dus are no an­gels ei­ther – but that they be­lieve that their re­li­gion sanc­ti­fies cru­elty to an­i­mals. They ab­hor dogs and even ed­u­cated Mus­lims who visit me make a racket if one of my dogs goes near them. They beat horses and don­keys to death, run il­le­gal an­i­mal mar­kets from Craw­ford Mar­ket in Mum­bai to Jamia Masjid in Delhi, Hathi Ba­gan in Kolkata, Meerut Bird Mar­ket and Nakhas Mar­ket in Luc­know. When the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment tried to make pet shop rules, they re­ceived protest let­ters only from Mus­lim an­i­mal breed­ers and il­le­gal pet shop as­so­ci­a­tions.

Mus­lims should un­der­stand the amaz­ing range of an­i­mal wel­fare that is re­quired by Is­lamic law.

Is­lam is based on the prin­ci­ples of kind­ness, mercy, com­pas­sion, jus­tice, and do­ing good works. These prin­ci­ples are seen through­out the texts of the re­li­gion – the Qur’an and the Ha­dith or ex­am­ples of the Prophet – as well as in Is­lamic his­tory.

The Prophet was kind and com­pas­sion­ate to all crea­tures. Ibn Mas’ud re­ported: “We were trav­el­ing with the Prophet and he stepped off to the side when we saw a small bird with her two ba­bies, and we took them. The mother bird came over and be­gan flut­ter­ing in the direc­tion of the Prophet. He said, ‘Who made her mis­er­able by tak­ing her two ba­bies? Re­turn them to her.’ When the Prophet ex­plained the im­por­tance of kind­ness we re­turned the baby bird.”

Cru­elty to an­i­mals is strongly con­demned in the Qur’an and the Ha­dith of the Prophet and pun­ish­ments are pro­vided for it. Most of the Sahih Ha­dith col­lec­tions have Ab­dul­lah Ibn Umar’s re­port, “The Prophet cursed the one who treated an­i­mals harshly.” Al-‘Asqalani spec­i­fied that “The curs­ing in­di­cates that the ac­tion is pro­hib­ited. Who­ever treats harshly a liv­ing be­ing and then does not re­pent, God will treat him just as harshly on judg­ment day.” Ab­dul­lah Ibn Umar re­ported that the Prophet said: “A woman went to hell be­cause of a cat that she con­fined and did not feed or al­low to feed.”

Kind­ness to an­i­mals brings a re­ward to the kind per­son. Ac­cord­ing to Abu Hu­rayra: “The Prophet said that there was a man who was trav­el­ing and he be­came very thirsty. So he found a well and de­scended into it and drank, then ex­ited, when he saw a dog pant­ing and eat­ing the ground from his thirst. The man said: ‘This dog has reached a level of thirst that I al­most reached,’ and so he de­scended into the well and filled his shoe with wa­ter and pro­vided the wa­ter to the dog. God thanked the man and for­gave him of all his sins. The men lis­ten­ing to this story said: ‘O Prophet, will we be re­warded for as­sist­ing an­i­mals?’ The Prophet said ‘There is the pos­si­bil­ity for a re­ward for help­ing each liv­ing be­ing.’” In an­other Ha­dith, even a pros­ti­tute was for­given for her sins for her act of giv­ing wa­ter to a thirsty dog.

Com­pas­sion for an­i­mals is a ba­sic part of Is­lamic law, his­tory and cul­ture. The Mus­lims es­tab­lished the first an­i­mal wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tion and an­i­mal shel­ters and Is­lamic his­tory shows that an­i­mal wel­fare was an ex­alted Is­lamic value. A thou­sand years ago Cairo, a flour­ish­ing city, had shel­ters re­served for the needs of an­i­mals.

Mus­lims in Egypt es­tab­lished wa­ter­ing troughs for an­i­mals ad­ja­cent to schools and mosques, and en­dowed trusts to pro­vide care to an­i­mals — owned and stray alike. When peo­ple died they left money for troughs to be made in their mem­ory, such as the trough of the madrassa of Um Sul­tan al-Ashraf Sha’ban and the trough of the madrassa of Amir Ayt­mish al-Ba­jasi.

His­to­ri­ans doc­u­ment that Sul­tans, Amirs, and oth­ers es­tab­lished en­dow­ments to pro­vide food for stray an­i­mals, such as cats and dogs. The English ori­en­tal­ist Ed­ward Wil­liam Lane re­ports that the Chief Judge of Egypt in 1835 told him that the Mam­luk Sul­tan al-Zahir Bay­bars es­tab­lished an en­dow­ment to pro­vide food for stray cats. If the en­dow­ment was not pro­duc­ing enough rev­enue, the Judge would con­trib­ute his own funds. The Ot­toman Amir in Egypt, Kutkhuda, es­tab­lished a pi­ous en­dow­ment to dis­trib­ute food to stray dogs and cats each day.

Many Ha­diths state that hu­mans have a duty to treat don­keys, horses and camels prop­erly and to re­spect the work they per­form. Ac­cord­ing to Sahil Ibn al-Hand­hala: “The Prophet passed by a camel whose stom­ach was taut from hunger, and he said: ‘Fear God re­gard­ing your treat­ment of these an­i­mals, who can­not speak from them­selves. Ride them prop­erly, and feed them prop­erly.’”

Other Ha­dith ex­press how per­son­ally an­gered the Prophet was by ne­glect of an­i­mals. Ac­cord­ing to Ab­dul­lah Ibn Ja’fir Abi Talib: “The Prophet went into a gar­den of a man and there was a camel. When the Prophet saw the camel he felt com­pas­sion and his eyes shed tears. The Prophet went up to the camel and stroked him be­tween his ears, and the camel calmed down. The Prophet then said: ‘Who is the owner of this camel?’ A boy from the an­sār came and said, ‘He is mine, Prophet.’ The Prophet said: ‘Don’t you fear God with re­gard to this an­i­mal, whom God has given to you? For the camel com­plained to me that you starve him and work him end­lessly.”

The Prophet even chas­tised his wife Aisha for her treat­ment of a camel she was rid­ing: “Aisha rode a camel and she be­gan to strug­gle with him. The Prophet said: ‘You are ob­li­gated to be kind.’

Many Ha­dith ex­plain how to treat an­i­mals who are car­ry­ing you or your goods: “God is kind and loves and de­sires kind­ness. If you ride an an­i­mal, de­scend and al­low it to rest at an ap­pro­pri­ate site. You should pro­vide the an­i­mal rest at night, be­cause the an­i­mal is the one cov­er­ing the trail, and needs a rest­ing place for liv­ing be­ings.”

The muh­ta­sib in medieval texts was the of­fi­cial re­spon­si­ble for pub­lic laws and over­bur­den­ing or mis­treat­ing pack an­i­mals was treated as a vi­o­la­tion of Is­lamic law. The muh­ta­sib’s pow­ers were to pun­ish abusers such as the trans­porters who stop with goods in the mar­ket with­out un­load­ing the goods from the backs of the pack an­i­mals “be­cause if the an­i­mals stand with the goods on them it causes pain to them, and that is tor­ture to them.”

In the law man­ual of Ibn Bas­sam, “It is also nec­es­sary that the an­i­mals’ loads and bur­dens are pro­por­tional to their strength and abil­ity, and they should not have put upon them a load that will in­jure them, and they should not be driven quickly while car­ry­ing loads, nor prod­ded with strong prods. The peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for them should have the fear of God in them when it comes to pro­vid­ing food for their an­i­mals and they should be fed suf­fi­ciently ac­cord­ing to their work, and who­ever vi­o­lates these rules should be pun­ished.”

Good treat­ment of an­i­mals can re­sult in a re­ward from God. Ac­cord­ing to Abu Hu­rayra, the Prophet said: “Giv­ing a horse food or wa­ter is the source of a re­ward.” When the Prophet was asked about the re­ward that can re­sult from the kind treat­ment of don­keys, the Prophet re­ferred to the Qur’anic verse 99:7-8: “’Who­ever does good equiv­a­lent to the weight of an atom shall see it; who­ever does evil equiv­a­lent to the weight of an atom will see it.” The writer is a six-time Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and a for­mer Min­is­ter for En­vi­ron­ment, So­cial Jus­tice and Cul­ture and Chair­per­son of the largest an­i­mal wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tion in Asia, Peo­ple for An­i­mals. She is also the au­thor of en­to­mo­log­i­cal dic­tio­nar­ies in­clud­ing Hindu Names and Mus­lim Names, pub­lished by Pen­guin. To join the an­i­mal wel­fare move­ment, con­tact gand­him@nic.in Web: www.peo­ple­foran­i­malsin­dia.org

Photo by muez­za­th­e­cat.blogspot.com

“Who­ever is kind to the Crea­tures of God is kind to him­self.”

-Prophet Muham­mad (PBUH)

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