The Qurʾān was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him over 1400 years ago. It was revealed in the context of Arabia, a time when few people cared for animals or understood the modern notion of animal rights. Within the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, Muslims find detailed values and guidelines about the treatment of animals. The rights of animals are a recurring topic of discussion throughout these texts. Even though animal rights are commonly discussed in the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet, the idea of animal rights is a newer phenomenon. Although the scripture of Islam was revealed over 1400 years ago, they are very explicit about the rights of animals and prohibition of abuse; a feature that makes Islam unique from other religions.
Islamic scripture is one of the only ancient texts that gives very clear and explicit instructions about the protection of animals and the human responsibility to care for them. This article will highlight several of these scriptures and present the Islamic view on animal rights to the reader.
Animals Are Made Up of Communities
“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” (Qurʾān 6:38).
“Do you not see that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.” (Qurʾān 24:41)
“And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures” (Qurʾān 55:10).
Prohibition of Animal Abuse
The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him once passed by a camel that was so thin that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, “Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak.” (Abu Dawud)
The Prophet peace be upon him said: Any person who kills a sparrow or anything smaller than it without a just cause, Allah will ask them about it (on the Day of Judgment). He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah! What is the just cause for it?” He replied, “To slaughter in order to eat, and not to chop its head off and then throw it away.” (Nasai)
A donkey, branded on its face, passed before the Prophet peace be upon him. He peace be upon him said, ‘May Allah curse the one who branded it’ (Muslim)
The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him once passed by a man who placed his foot on the side of a sheep’s neck and was sharpening his blade while the sheep was looking towards it. So, he peace be upon him said, “Why have you not done it before this (laying it down)? Do you want to make it die two deaths? (Tabarani)
Abdullah reported: We were traveling with the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him; he went to relieve himself when it happened that we saw a little bird with two chicks, so we took its two chicks. The little bird came and began to flap its wings. The Prophet peace be upon him came and asked, ‘Who terrified this mother over its young ones? Return its young ones to it. (Abū Dawud)
The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him forbade that any beast should be tied alive and made a target, until it is killed (Bukhari).
Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) passed by a group of men who had tied a hen up and were firing arrows at it. When they saw Ibn ‘Umar, they dispersed away from it. Ibn ‘Umar said, “Who did this? The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him cursed those who do this (Bukhari).
The Reward for Caring for Animals
The Prophet peace be upon him said, “A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, where he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile, he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, “This dog is suffering from thirst as I did.” So, he went down the well again and filled his shoe with water and watered it. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him. The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being)” (Bukhari).
The Prophet peace be upon him said: God has ordained kindness over all things. If killing is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by (first) sharpening the knife and putting the animal at ease (Muslim).
Ibn ‘Umar who said, The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him ordered the blades to be sharpened and be hidden from the animals (Ibn Maja).
A woman was punished (in the Hereafter) because of a cat which she had imprisoned until it died; thus, she entered the Fire because of it. She neither fed it nor watered it when she locked it up; nor did she leave it to eat from the vermin of the earth (Muslim).
All living beings and creatures deserve respect and are worthy of proper treatment. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was a pioneer concerning the rights of animals. Despite living over 1400 years ago, he cared for all creatures and educated mankind about the rights of animals in a very explicit manner. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world (including the Muslim world), these guidelines are not followed. As noted from the many statements of the Prophet peace be upon him, God also cares for animals to the extent that caring for animals can lead one to paradise and mistreatment of them can end one in hell. Have more questions on Islam? Call 877-WhyIslam.