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How Muslims Honour Animals in Islam

by Musa Bukhari

There are some religions that hold animals sacred, and in order to protect that sanctity, they refuse to eat from those animals and might even worship them, e.g. the cow in Hinduism. Secular animal activists often try to encourage vegetarianism or veganism due to the prevalence of animal cruelty in meat-production factories. According to them, avoiding all (or most) animal products is the solution to the cruelty often inflicted upon animals. These approaches, while well-intentioned, are often ignorantly proposed and not sanctioned by the Shari’ah. Allah does not require us to forsake animals as food, and neither does He command us to over-consumption of them as has become the norm in the modern world. Islam provides the perfect balance towards animal treatment.

The Status of Animals in the Qur’an

Allah informs us in the Qur’an that He has created animals FOR us, for our use, and for us to eat. But nowhere in the Qur’an or the Sunnah is cruelty towards animals allowed or tolerated. Muslims are commanded to treat animals with care and compassion, and to slaughter them in the most efficient and painless ways possible.

Allah says in Surah Al-Hajj:

“We have appointed sacrificial camels among the symbols of (devotion to) Allah. There is much good in them for you. So make them stand (at the time of sacrifice) and pronounce the name of Allah over them, and when they fall down on their sides (after they are slaughtered), eat and also feed them who do not ask and those who ask. Thus have We subjected these animals that you may give thanks.” (22:36)

Abul-’Ala Maududi says in his explanation of the Qur’an:

“That is, you should sacrifice animals because you get many benefits from them to show your gratitude to Allah, the Giver, and also to acknowledge His Supremacy and Sovereignty.

Then, when they are down on their sides (after slaughter)” means till they die completely, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited to cut off a piece of flesh if there is still any sign of life in the slaughtered animal. If this is done, the piece of flesh would be unlawful.

This is another reason why animals should be sacrificed: “Thus have We made them (animals) subject to you, that you may give thanks.”

Tafsir ibn Kathir says: “Thus have We made them subject to you” means, `We have subjugated them to you, i.e., We have made them submissive towards you, so that if you wish you can ride them, or if you wish you can milk them, or if you wish you can slaughter them.”

Allah also says in Surah Yasin:

“Do they not see that We single-handedly created for them, among other things, cattle which are under their control? And We have subjected these (animals) to them, so they may ride some and eat others. And they derive from them other benefits and drinks. Will they not then give thanks?” (36:71-73)

It’s important to note that when Allah mentions His favors on us (of giving us animals to ride, eat, use, and domesticate, He connects it back to gratitude to Him. Animals are a huge blessing from Allah and the act of using them properly with due gratitude is an act of worship. A Muslim, therefore, does not reject the use of animals completely, and neither does he become excessive in his usage of them and cruel in his treatment of them, but rather he follows the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) when it comes to the treatment of animals, as he (SAW) was Rahmatul-lil-’Alameen (a Mercy to all the Worlds).

Treatment of Animals According to the Sunnah

Not Causing Them Distress

  1. Abdullah (ra) reported, ‘We were on a journey and we saw a red sparrow that had two chicks with her. We took her chicks, so the sparrow started to flap her wings. The Prophet (saw) came to us and he said, “Who has upset her by taking her children? Give her children back to her”’. [Abu Dawud]

  2. Abdullah ibn Jafar (ra) reported, ’The Prophet (saw) entered a garden among the Ansar. When a camel saw the Prophet (saw), it started weeping and making sounds as its tears flowed. The Prophet came to it and patted it on the head, so it became silent. The Prophet said, “Who is the master of this camel? To whom does it belong?” A young man from the Ansar came and said, “This is mine, O Messenger of Allah”.

The Prophet (SAW) said, “Do you not fear Allah regarding this animal that Allah has put into your possession? For indeed, she has complained to me that you keep her hungry and tired”’. (Abu Dawud)

  1. The Prophet (SAW) said, “If someone kills so much as a sparrow or anything larger without a just cause, then Allah the Exalted will ask him about it on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i, grade: Sahih)

  2. Sa’eed ibn Jubair reported: I was in the presence of Ibn Umar when we passed by a group who had tied down a chicken and they were using it as a target. When they saw Ibn Umar, they fled and left it behind. Ibn Umar said: “Whoever has done this, then the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has cursed whoever has done this.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Showing Them Kindness

  1. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “In every living being there is a reward for charity.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

  2. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Once a man suffered from thirst while he was walking on a journey. When he found a well, he climbed down into it and drank from it. Then he came out and saw a dog lolling its tongue from thirst and licking the ground. The man said, “This dog has suffered thirst just as I have suffered from it”. He climbed down into the well, filled his shoe with water, and caught it in his mouth as he climbed up. Then he gave the dog a drink. Allah appreciated this deed, so He forgave him’. (Al-Bukhari)

  3. If the Prophet (SAW) saw any animal starved or over-burdened, he would speak to the owner and say, “Fear God in your treatment of animals.”(Abu Dawood)

Slaughtering Them in The Best Manner

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, ‘Indeed, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. If you have to kill, then kill in the best manner. If you slaughter, then slaughter in the best manner. Let one of you sharpen his knife so his animal feels no pain’. (Muslim)

May Allah allow us to recognize and appreciate animals as living beings that glorify and worship Allah. May Allah give us the tawfiq (guidance and ability) to treat animals with the kindness that is enjoined upon us. May Allah forgive us for our shortcomings in our treatment of animals, and May He soften our hearts towards them the way that the Prophet (SAW)’s heart was soft towards them. May Allah help us sacrifice animals for His sake in the best way, efficiently and painlessly. Ameen.

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