Never Mistreat Animals, For They Too Are Allah’s Creatures
Assalamualaikum w.b.t, Peace be upon you,
The word Islam has always been related to peace. Islam is a way of life that promotes peace, dignity, respect, tolerance, justice and mercy and all of these qualities are tempered with serenity that comes from submission to Allah s.w.t. However, these should not be restricted only between humankind. The beauty of Islam lies in its compassion, love and respect towards other creatures. Islam expects humankind to treat all animals with respect and dignity. In Quran, mistreating an animal is considered a sin. As mentioned in the Quran, animals form communities just as humans do:
“There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” (Al-An’am:38)
I still remembered the recent trip I had on my last vacation. I happened to pass by a pet shop where small puppies crammed in a small cage outside the entrance broke my heart. I gathered up the guts to enter the shop, only to leave in tears deeply saddened by what I had seen. Poor, helpless animals imprisoned in tiny cages with limited space to turn around. Beautiful birds incarcerated within small bars of prison. Weren’t birds meant to fly? Allah s.w.t has created a pair of beautiful wings for them to fly freely. Being unable to fly is similar to being paralysed. Maybe only a fellow animal lover would really understand what I felt that day, yet the importance of kindness to animals is something every Muslim should understand. It is such a serious matter in Islam, surprisingly to those who don’t know, that one could gain Heaven or Hell due to one’s treatment of animals.
Here are several number of hadith which instruct Muslims about how to treat animals,
- Reward for mercy: It is related from Abu Umama that the Messenger of Allah s.w.t, Rasulullah s.a.w said, “Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah s.w.t will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.”
- Animals cannot speak up for themselves: It is related from Sahl ibn Al-Handhaliyya that the Messenger of Allah s.w.t, Rasulullah s.a.w, once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, “Fear Allah s.w.t in these beasts who cannot speak.” (Abu Daud)
- Mental cruelty also forbidden: It is related from Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah that a group of Companions were once on a journey with the Prophet Rasulullah s.a.w and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet Rasulullah s.a.w came back. He said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her.” (Muslim)
- Forgiveness of sins: A prostitute once saw a dog on a very hot day going round and round a well, lolling its tongue because of its thirst. She drew some water for it using her shoe, and for this action all her sins were forgiven her. (Muslim)
- Mistreatment is a sin: A woman was once punished after death because of a cat which she had kept confined until it died, and because of this she entered the Fire. She had neither given it food or drink while confining it, nor had she let it free to eat the creatures of the earth. (Muslim)
However, being compassionate towards animals should not be restricted only during their lifetime. One should show compassion during slaughtering of these animals as well. When slaughtering, several guidelines must be followed to minimize the their suffering.
“The Messenger of Allah s.w.t, Rasulullah s.a.w said: “Allah s.w.t has decreed proficiency in all things, so when you kill, kill well, and when you slaughter, slaughter well. Let one of you sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” (Muslim)
Cats In Islam
Rasulullah s.a.w said “They (cats) are not impure and they intermingle with you”. Rasulullah s.a.w himself had a cat named Mueeza which he was very fond of. Once, Rasulullah s.a.w was about to take his robe (jubah) when he saw Mueeza sleeping on it. Rasulullah s.a.w then cut the arm portion which Mueeza was sleeping on in order not to wake his favourite cat. Whenever Rasulullah s.a.w returns home, Mueeza would run to him as a gesture of being playful. In return, the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w would cuddle Mueeza. Rasulullah s.a.w stressed that cats are not filthy. Plus, he even allowed taking the ablution from water of which a cat has drank from it.
Dogs In Islam
Many Muslims have misunderstood Islam’s teachings regarding dogs, and this misunderstanding has led to the mistreatment of these animals. Eventhough dogs are considered haram in Islam, that does not give one the right to neglect it, mistreat it, or kill it In fact, the Quran narrates in Surat Al-Kahf, or “The Cave,” the story of some pious youths who took refuge in a cave from the persecution and violence of the unbelievers. That these righteous people had a dog with them, and the fact that Allah s.w.t mentions the dog and counts the dog among them, indicates that dogs are permitted to live among people.
“And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep. And We turned them on their right and on their left sides, and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance (of the cave as a guard)” (Al-Kahf:18)
As we have seen, all animals are to be treated with respect and kindness. Unfortunately, in some Muslim communities these guidelines are not followed. Some people mistakenly believe that since ‘humans needs’ take priority, animal rights are not an urgent issue. Some only treat their pets with kindness while others find excuses to mistreat certain animals, such as dogs and pigs. These animals are not an exception to the Islamic demands of love and compassion towards animals. They are Allah’s creature hence they deserve to be treated well.
Islam asks people to reflect upon this and be aware of each person’s duty toward Allah’s creatures, which He has put on earth for our use, not for our abuse. When the Prophet Rasulullah s.a.w was asked if Allah s.w.t rewarded acts of charity to the animals, he replied, “Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.”
“Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself.” -The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w
Dr. Nadiah Nadzirah Rostam
Intern, Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Mangalore
Activist of ISMA India