Animal rights in Islam

By: Asjad Uqaabi

Lecturer: Darul Uloom Waqf Deoband, UP, India.

Allah has created this wonderful world, and there are countless species and kinds of animals on the earth apart from human being. But it is crystal clear that nothing has been created without any purpose, each and every creature of the earth has its own benefits. There are many insects and other wild animals who are considered dangerous and deadly but it has been proven by scientific research that they are not out of use, their existence are as necessary as the existence of human being on the earth. All kinds of creatures on the earth have their own rights and the religion that has been revealed by the Creator of this universe, has given due right to each one. Here in this article we will discuss the animal rights in Islam, and what is the teaching of Islam on this very subject.

Animal rights in Islam, animal welfare in Islam

Muslims from India showed their compassion towards animals, and many theologians have written articles and treaties on this very subject and most importantly they practiced the same behaviour with animals and other creatures of Allah. Darul Uloom Waqf Deoband a famous Islamic seminary of the country, here three bowls full of water are kept each and every day for birds especially for pigeons. former Rector of Darul Uloom Deoband Shah Rafiuddin had a cow which was so beloved to him that whenever he came to Madrasa, he came with his cow even the cow wandered in premises of Madrasa when he taught in class.   

recently a group of Islamic Scholars from Muzaffarnagar U.P organized a program. the program was held for the protection of animals especially for birds. in this summer season creatures like human being could not bear the heat of scorching sun then how a small bird would survive in this environment, they all agreed and even encouraged others to provide food and water for this small creature of Allah. they distributed pottery bowl among the residents of area so that they put them on their roofs and in the garden to quench the thirst of birds. it is well said: "have mercy on the creatures of earth, Allah will have mercy upon you”. 

Animal rights and Indian Scholars

A seminar was organized in Mumbai on 25-27 November in the year 2017 on the topic of animal rights by Islamic Fiqh Academy (juristic group of Indian Islamic Scholars), more than 70 scholars from different part of country wrote an article and share their opinion and the teachings of Islam on this very subject. all articles have been published on its official website, while they compiled 43 articles in the shape of lengthy book consisting of more than 800 pages.  in the beginning of the book it written: "people are trying to protect animals across the world, because some species are vanishing from our land and its negative impact on the environment is clear, that is why many laws have been enacted for the protection of animals and to save them from the cruelty of human being, there is a special department in our country for this purpose. As the Prophet of Islam has mentioned rights for human being, the same way he has described rights for animals, our Islamic scholars have also shared lights on this subject, now we have to highlight all these Islamic laws and opinions of scholars owing to situation and necessities”.  

Mufti Tanzeem Alam Qasmi (lecturer Darul Uloom Sabeel al Salam, Hyderabad India) writes in his article published on the same book: "all writers have sympathy towards animals, and according to their perspective, animals are created for the benefit of human being but there are some rules and limitations which must be kept in mind, as father does not want his son to be harmed, the same way, Allah the Creator of the all creatures does not want His creatures should be harmed or hurt anyway, Allah is more Merciful for His creatures than father for his sons, that is the reason Allah forgave a wrong doer woman because she quenched the thirst of hungry dog, while a pious and righteous woman was dragged to hell because she tied her cat and did not let it free to eat until the cat died. the Prophet (saws) has described rights of human beings as well as he has focused on the right of animals”.

Animals play a crucial role in human life, they provide them food and transport to carry goods from one place to another place, and there are many of them who provide clothing and warmth to human being as it has been mentioned in the Holy Quran: “He has created cattle in which there is warmth and other benefit for you; and from them you have food, and in them there is beautiful look for you when you drive them home in the evening and take them out to graze, and they carry your loads to a city where you were not able to reach without putting yourselves to arduous labour. Surely your Lord is Very-Kind, Very-Merciful, and He created horses, mules and donkeys, so that you may ride on them, and they may give you a good look. And He created what you do not know (as yet)(chapter 16, verse, 5-8).

In the aforementioned verses, many benefits of animals have been described such as leather products, milk, and others milky products as well as still there are many places where animals are used to carry goods and for farming.

Protection of animals has been highlighted in many places and the Prophet of Islam has encouraged its followers to be kind to animals. “Abdullah bin Jabir said: “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 (saws) came to us and he said, “who has upset her by taking her children? Give her children back to her”. (Abu Dawud). The Prophet (saws) showed his displeasure for companions who took away children of a red sparrow. Describing the quality of the Prophet (saws) Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “and We have not sent you but as mercy for all the worlds” (chapter,21, verse, 107). The Prophet (saws) showed this compassion not only for human being but also for animals and other creatures.

Once the Prophet (saws) mentioned one story about a person who quenched the thirst of dog who was suffering from thirst, seeing his goodness towards animal Allah forgave him. “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 from thirst just as I have suffered from it. He climbed down into the well again, took out his shoe and filled 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” (Bukhari Sharif). Doing good with animals and treating them with compassion is like a charity, the Prophet (saws) said: “no Muslim plants a tree or sows a seed and then a bird, or a human, or an animal eats from it but that it is charity for him” (Muslim Sharif).

What Islam says about a person who torches an animal and behaved with him badly? There is a hadith regarding it, the Prophet (saws) said: “ A woman was punished because she had kept a cat tied until it died, and (as punishment of this offence) she was thrown into the Hell. She had not provided it with food, or drink, and had not freed her so that she could eat the insects of the earth” (Muslim Sharif).

Abdullah ibn Jafar reported, the Prophet (saws) entered a garden among the Ansar, when a camel saw the Prophet (saws), 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 Ansar came and said: “this is mine, O messenger of Allah”. The Prophet said: “do you not fear Allah regarding this animal that Allah has put into your possession? For indeed, she has complained to that you keep her hungry and tired” (Abu Dawud).

When the Prophet (saws) ordered his followers to treat kindly with animals how his companions treated them! Once Umar bin Al-Khattab said: “if a lost sheep under my care were to die on the banks of the Euphrated, I would expect Allah the Exalted to question me about it on the Day of Judgment” (Hayat-al-Awliya).

Once the Prophet (saws) said: “never beat the animal on the face” (Majmau-al-zawaid)

“The Prophet (saws) prohibited three people together on an animal” (Muslim Sharif). If any one does so or he loads more burdens on his animal he will be questioned on the Day of Judgment due to his cruel action towards animal.    

Ant a small insect which often is not taken care and people crush them without paying attention and even they do not consider it as an act of sin. The Prophet (saws) said: “an ant had bitten a Prophet (one amongst the earlier Prophets) and he ordered that the colony of the ants should be burnt. And Allah revealed to him: “because of an ants bite you have burnt a community from amongst the communities which sings Allah glory”(Muslim Sharif). There are two points in it, first Allah showed His displeasure that His creature was burnt and the second is that even ant chants the glory of Allah. And it also has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: “Did you not realize that purity of Allah is proclaimed by all those in the heavens and the earth, and by the birds with their wings spread out? Everyone knows one’s own (way of) praying (to Allah) and one’s own (way of) proclaiming Allah’s purity, and Allah knows well what they do”(chapter, 24, verse, 41).

Hazrat Sulaiman (one of the prophets) has mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, and beautiful conversation of ant has been described. Once the Prophet Sulaiman was passing through a valley with his army where ants lived, “until when they reached the valley of the ants, one of the ants said, “O ants, enter your dwelling places, lest Sulaiman and his armies crushed you unknowingly” (chapter, 27, verse, 18). There are many animals and insects which have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, even many chapters are named after animals like Al-Baqra (the cow), Al-Feel (the elephant), Al-Naml (the ant), Al-Nahl (the bee), Al-Ankaboot (the spider) and so on.

There are many more verses and sayings of the Prophet which show how to treat animals and other creatures of the world. Basically, it is a teaching of Islam that if a person does wrong with others he will be questioned on the Day of Judgment. Islam encourages its followers to show mercy for those who are on earth, Allah will have mercy upon you.

Darul Uloom Deoband a famous Islamic seminary from India says: "with the condition of full care, one could keep cat in his house” it applies to all animals if anyone wants to keep one, he should be thoughtful about its care and welfare because it is not only in one’s possession rather it is responsibility of the person who owns it. Maulana Akhter Imam Adil from Samastipur Bihar writes in his book: "they (animals) have rights and there are limitation for getting benefits from them”. he further writes: "to make them (animals) upset is unlawful in Islam and downtrodden animals will be given control over persecutors on the Day of Judgment”.   


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