Animal rights in Islam

ANIMALS, like humans, are the creation of Allah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not only sent as a mercy to mankind but also to all living creatures.
“And We have sent you (O Muhammad, peace be upon him) not but as a mercy for the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” (Qur’an, 21:107)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity.” – (Al-Bukhari)

He (peace be upon him) also said that a thirsty man came across a well, got down into it, drank (its water) and then came out. When he came out, he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. The man thought: “This dog is suffering from the same state of thirst as I was.” So he went down the well (again) and filled his shoe (with water) and brought it back for the dog. Allah appreciated that deed and forgave him.

The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He said, “(Yes) There is a reward for serving any animate (living being).” – (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet cursed those who cut the limbs or other parts of an animal while it was still alive. – (Al-Bukhari)

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “A lady was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. She entered the (Hell) Fire because of it, for she neither gave it food nor water as she had imprisoned it, nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” – (Al-Bukhari)
Although over two hundred verses in the Qur'an deal with animals and six suras (chapters) of the Qur'an are named after the animals, animal life is not a predominant theme in the Qur'an.[8] The Arabic term for the "animal" (i.e. haywan) in its only one appearance in the Qur'an means "animal"haywan,plural->haywanat) r.[7][8] On the other hand, the Qur'an uses the term dābba which is not typically used in medieval Arabic works on zoology. However, animals are not a major theme of the Qur'an, nor are they described in detail. Animals are usually seen in relation to humans. This has created a tendency towards anthropocentrism.[8] Muslims believe the Quran to be a revelation to humans, not animals, and a book concerning humans. and some Sufis argue the Quran does not make any clear distinction between human flesh and animal flesh.

The Qur'an applies the word "Muslim" not only to humans but also to animals and the inanimate world. "The divine will manifests itself in the form of laws both in human society and in the world of nature." In Islamic terminology, for example, a bee is a Muslim precisely because it lives and dies obeying the sharia that God has prescribed for the community of bees, just as a person is a Muslim by virtue of the fact that he or she submits to the revealed sharia ordained for humans in the Qur'an and Sunnah.[9]

The Quran strongly enjoins Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. The Qur'an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language.[1][2] In verse 6:38, the Qur'an applies the term ummah, generally used to mean "a human religious community", for genera of animals. The Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an states that this verse has been "far reaching in its moral and ecological implications."[10]

There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.—Qur'an 6:38 


Animals and traditions in the Muslim World

Sunnah refer to the traditional biographies of Muhammad wherein the example of his conduct and sayings attributed to him have been recorded. Sunni and Shi'a hadith differ vastly, with Shi'a hadith generally contain more anthropomorphism and praise of animals.

Treatment of animals
It is forbidden to beat animals unnecessarily, to brand them on the face, or to allow them to fight each other for human entertainment. "They must not be mutilated while they are alive."[13]

Muhammad is also reported (Narrated by Ibn Omar and Abdallah bin Al-As) to have said: "There is no man who kills [even] a sparrow or anything smaller, without its deserving it, but Allah will question him about it [on the judgment day]," and "Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself."[2][14]

In both Sunni and Shi'a accounts, Muhammad is said to have conversed nonchalantly with camels, birds and other species. Shi'a accounts also extend this to include the Imams. In one account, a camel is said to have come to Muhammad and complained that despite service to his owner, the animal was about to be killed. Muhammad summoned the owner and ordered the man to spare the camel.[16] There are also accounts in Sura an-Naml in the Qur'an of Sulaiman talking to ants[17] and birds,[18] and the Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a Imams declared that they could communicate with anything that had a soul.

Hunting and slaughter

Muslims are required to sharpen the blade when slaughtering animals.[19] Muhammad is reported[to have said:"For [charity shown to] each creature which has a wet heart (i.e. is alive), there is a reward."[2] Muhammad opposed recreational hunting saying: "whoever shoots at a living creature for sport is cursed."[2]

Certain animals in Islamic traditions are mentioned or have a particular view attached to them:
Birds: Birds are commonly revered in Islamic literature, especially in Sufi tradition where they are a metaphor for the soul's divine journey to God, such as in The Conference of the Birds. In the Shi'a book of the sayings of Ali, Nahj al-Balagha, an entire sermon is dedicated to praising peacocks.[20]
Camels: Muhammad's camel, Qaswa, was very dear to him.[21] Muhammad is reported as having reprimanded some men who were sitting idly on their camels in a marketplace, saying "either ride them or leave them alone".[2][14]
 Cats:Muhammad is said to have loved his cat Muezza[22] so much that "he would do without his cloak rather than disturb one that was sleeping on it."[21]

Islam and dogs

The majority of Muslim jurists consider dogs to be ritually unclean, though jurists from the Sunni Maliki school disagree.[24] However, outside their ritual uncleanness, Islamic fatāwā, or rulings, enjoin that dogs be treated kindly or else be freed.[25]

Muslims generally cast dogs in a negative light because of their ritual impurity. The story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in the Qur'an (and also the role of the dog in early Christianity) is one of the striking exceptions.[26] It is said that angels do not enter a house which contains a dog. Though dogs are not allowed for pets, they are allowed to be kept if used for work, such as guarding the house or farm, or when used for hunting purposes.

However, according to one story, Muhammad is said to have informed a prostitute who had seen a thirsty dog hanging about a well and given it water to drink, that Allah forgave her because of that good deed.[13][28]

Dogs, outside the ritual legal discourse, were often portrayed in the literature as a symbol of highly esteemed virtues such as self-sacrifice and loyalty or on the other hand as an oppressive instrument in the hands of despotic and unjust rulers.[24]

The historian William Montgomery Watt states that Muhammad's kindness to animals was remarkable for the social context of his upbringing. He cites an instance of Muhammed posting sentries to ensure that a female dog with newborn puppies was not disturbed by his army traveling to Mecca in the year 630.[30]


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