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November 21, 2013
Amal Al-Sibai
Saudi Gazette

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 creature.

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 emotional torture.

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 earned salaries?

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.

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