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November 21, 2013
Centuries before anyone ever marched in protest against animal cruelty and
before animal rights activist groups were even coined, Islam had prescribed
clear laws that protect the rights of animals.
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was sent as a mercy to all the worlds, to
all living, breathing creatures, and not just mankind. His mercy extended to the
birds in their nests, to the ant deep in its hole, and to the animals Allah
created for our sustenance.
Is not The All-Merciful one of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah? As believers, we
aspire to attain this quality and to treat others with love and gentleness.
Cruelty towards animals is considered a crime, as the Prophet informed us of a
woman who was punished for locking up a cat, refusing to feed it or release it
so that it could feed itself.
On the other hand, a man was granted Paradise for the simple but merciful act of
giving a drink of water to a thirsty dog. Kind treatment to animals is
recommended. Also a prostitute was granted Paradise. She had filled her shoe
with water and gave it to a thirsty dog.
In Islam, no animal is to be killed for the sake of killing it or for
superfluous luxuries and excessiveness. It is permissible to kill an animal only
when it is needed for human consumption or other valid uses. No animal is to be
tortured, frightened, mocked, or pitted against another animal to fight as the
Romans used to do for a gross form of entertainment and pleasure. Islam came to
liberate mankind from the shackles of ignorance, uncivilized behavior, and to
wipe out the terrorism, oppression, and harming of men and women and any living
Even when taking the life of an animal for food which is no doubt allowed in
Islam, there is a strict code to follow so as not inflict any unnecessary
suffering and additional pain on the animal.
The regulations on slaughtering dictate that the instrument used for the
slaughter must be sharp to make the ordeal as swift and least painful as
possible. Even the emotional state of the animal is taken into consideration.
For that reason, it is forbidden to sharpen the slaughtering instrument in front
of the animal and to slaughter an animal in front of another, as that would be
Islam prohibits branding an animal or overburdening animals with heavy loads or
providing them with insufficient food and drink. Our religion abolished the
inhuman tradition of using live animals or birds for targets when practicing
shooting or archery.
When one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad saw some people aiming their
arrows at a live hen as a target, he said, “The Prophet cursed anyone who made a
living thing into a target for practice.”
Never prior to Islam had the world witnessed such compassion towards animals
Even the rulings on zakat, when it comes to livestock, protect the rights of
animals. For every given number of cattle or other livestock a Muslim owns, he
must give a fixed percentage away in charity. Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him
cautioned his companions from separating a mother and new born baby when
selecting which animals to be donated, because of the anguish it would cause the
mother. The Prophet reprimanded a man who sent away a she-camel as zakat while
her baby was left on the man’s land, away from its mother.
When reading the life of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, dozens of
stories shine through on how he showed mercy and compassion to animals.
Once the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had walked out of the mosque after
prayer and he noticed a camel tied to a wall. Its body looked emaciated and it
let out a heavy sound of agony. The Prophet could see tears in the camel’s large
black eyes and he gently patted the camel behind its ears until it quieted down.
The Prophet demanded, “Who is this camel’s owner?” A young man from the Ansar
approached the Prophet and claimed ownership of the camel. “Fear Allah in this
creature that He has given to you. Your camel has complained to me that you make
it go hungry and overwork it more than it can bear,” said the Prophet.
What would the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) say today if he saw an
employer who overworks his or her employees and delays paying them their rightly
If a Muslim is obligated to show mercy, compassion, and kind treatment towards
animals, it is logical to conclude that such mercy, compassion, and kind
treatment should be multiplied ten-fold when dealing with his brethren,
children, women, workers, elderly, and any person he comes in contact with.