An­i­mal Wel­fare in Is­lam

Is­lam has ad­vo­cated for an­i­mal rights since its in­cep­tion, some 1400 years ago. Un­for­tu­nately, few to­day re­mem­ber what it says.

Southasia - - Special feature - By Ai­man Reyaz

Eid al Fitr is over and Eid al Adha is right around the cor­ner. Mus­lims across the world will eat and drink and make merry, com­mem­o­rat­ing Prophet Ibrahim’s will­ing­ness to sac­ri­fice his son in the path of Al­lah. While we will slaugh­ter hun­dreds of thou­sands of an­i­mals to mark the oc­ca­sion, most of us will for­get an­other sig­nif­i­cant les­son of the story: when Al­lah asked Prophet Ibrahim to sac­ri­fice what was dear­est to him, the Prophet ini­tially thought that He meant his herd of an­i­mals.

While the fes­ti­val en­joins us to of­fer an­i­mal sac­ri­fice in the path of Al­lah, it also re­minds us that an­i­mals too are liv­ing crea­tures like us, who are loved by Al­lah and whom we must also love and care for. Af­ter all, it won’t be much of a sac­ri­fice if we didn’t love the an­i­mals in the first place. Is­lam means ‘ac­quir­ing peace by sub­mit­ting your will to God.’ If that is the case, an­i­mals must be the best Mus­lims as they fol­low the law of God bet­ter than most hu­man be­ings.

There are broadly two types of liv­ing crea­tures in Is­lam: hu­man be­ings and non-hu­man be­ings. The Qu­ran says that if any­one kills an in­no­cent hu­man be­ing, it is equiv­a­lent to killing the whole hu­man­ity. As far as non-hu­man be­ings are con­cerned, no hu­man be­ing should harm them un­nec­es­sar­ily or kill them for sports, tar­get prac­tice or for fun. They may be used for the ben­e­fit of hu­man be­ings, but never in ex­cess.

A Mus­lim can be a very good prac­tic­ing Mus­lim even by be­ing a pure veg­e­tar­ian. Is­lam nei­ther makes it com­pul­sory nor does it en­cour­age hu­man be­ings to con­sume non-veg­e­tar­ian food. “Eat of the good law­ful things where­with We have pro­vided you, and com­mit no trans­gres­sion or op­pres­sion therein, lest My anger should justly de­scend on you,” says the Qu­ran (20:81).

It re­peats in sev­eral in­stances that Al­lah loves not those who cre­ate mis­chief “by de­stroy­ing the crops and the cat­tle.” An­i­mals are sen­tient be­ings and Al­lah has cre­ated them to live in com­mu­ni­ties. Al­lah says that all crea­tures are like fam­ily to Him and they have their own ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other and wor­ship­ping the Almighty. “There is not an an­i­mal that lives on Earth nor a be­ing that flies on its wings, but forms part of com­mu­ni­ties like you” (Qu­ran 6:38). Prophet Muham­mad ( PBUH) once said, “All crea­tures are like a fam­ily (Ayal) of God and He loves the most, those who are the most benef­i­cent to His fam­ily.”

The Prophet also said there is no dis­tinc­tion be­tween hu­mans and an­i­mals as far as cause and ef­fect are con­cerned, “A good deed done to an an­i­mal is as mer­i­to­ri­ous as a good deed done to a hu­man be­ing, while an act of cru­elty to an an­i­mal is as bad as an act of cru­elty to a hu­man be­ing.” He also said, “who­ever is kind to the crea­tures of God is kind to him­self.”

Al­though killing cer­tain an­i­mals to eat them is al­lowed the Prophet said, “Do not al­low your stom­achs to be­come grave­yards.” What this means is that hu­mans should not com­mit ex­cess nor should we trans­gress and op­press any liv­ing crea­ture, es­pe­cially an­i­mals, be­cause they are also a part of God, just like we are part of Him.

Is­lam has placed the killing of an­i­mals with­out a jus­ti­fi­able rea­son as one of the ma­jor sins in Is­lam, “Avoid the seven ob­nox­ious things {deadly sins}: poly­the­ism; magic; the killing of breath­ing be­ings! Which God has for­bid­den ex­cept for right­ful rea­son.” (Sahih Mus­lim: Kitab-ul-Imam (Ref. No. 46); Chap­ter. XXXIX, Vol.I; p. 52. Bukhari, 4:23.) Ac­cord­ing to the spirit and over­all teachings of Is­lam, caus­ing un­avoid­able pain and suf­fer­ing to in­no­cent crea­tures of God is un­jus­ti­fi­able un­der any cir­cum­stance. Preven­tion of phys­i­cal cru­elty is not enough, men­tal cru­elty is equally im­por­tant, if not more im­por­tant.

“We were on a jour­ney with the Apos­tle of God, and he left us for a while. Dur­ing his ab­sence, we saw a bird called hum­mara with its two young and took the young ones. The mother bird was cir­cling above us in the air, beat­ing its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back and said: ‘who has hurt the feel­ings of this bird by tak­ing its young? Re­turn them to her.’ (Nar­rated by Ab­dul Rah­man bin Ab­dul­lah bin Mas’ud. Mus­lim. Also Awn (Ref. No. 32) Ha­dith No. 2658.)”

One of the say­ings of the Holy Prophet Muham­mad tells us: “If you must kill, kill with­out tor­ture.” He also said “Do not be hasty with a ‘be­ing’.”

Some 1400 years ago, dur­ing the age of ig­no­rance, peo­ple were treated like an­i­mals and the Prophet Mo­hammed ad­vo­cated for an­i­mal rights. Dur­ing the pre-Is­lamic era, cer­tain pa­gan su­per­sti­tions in­volved acts of tor­ture and cru­elty to an­i­mals. When the Holy Prophet mi­grated to Me­d­ina from Mecca, he no­ticed that peo­ple would cut off camels’ humps and the fat tails of sheep. The Prophet in­stantly halted this bar­baric prac­tice. All such acts were con­demned and stopped by the Rehmat ul Alameen (a mercy to all the worlds and to ev­ery crea­ture).

It was not only the phys­i­cal but also the emo­tional care of an­i­mals that was em­pha­sized by the Holy Prophet that he once rep­ri­manded his wife, Aisha, for treat­ing a camel a bit offhand­edly. 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.’

We must al­ways strive to­wards per­fec­tion. Be­ing per­fect is not an end in and of it­self but striv­ing to­wards achiev­ing it is should be the ul­ti­mate goal.

Photo cred­itAn­jum Naveed-AP

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