Islam and Animal Welfare
How should we treat animals as Muslims? What rights do animals have over us?
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said; “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself” (2)
Until I started to study Animal Management and having work experience within the Farming and Veterinary field, I haven’t come across any talks, sermons, books or topics of general conversation regarding Animal welfare and Animal rights within the Muslim world. Infact it has been a subject I have had to search hard for in my general surroundings even though it is so easy for this subject to affect your decisions in daily life, weather its owning a pet, helping some injured wildlife or even the meat you buy from the butchers. There is in fact plenty of research, books and articles available to us via the internet with very good translations.
What has surprised me even more is, even though there are very few books around for the public in the Islamic book shops Animal rights and Welfare has very strong specific advice from the Quran and Hadith, even the smallest change in your attitude towards an animal can be a fine line between a good deed and a sin.
As Muslims we will be questioned about the way we have treated an animal in our life as much as our good deeds towards human beings, If the Prophet Muhammad SAW witness’s mistreatment to an animal he was very assertive with his advice and discipline. I believe we should be talking about Animal Welfare more often.
The Prophet Muhammad SAW said, “There is no man who kills [even] a sparrow or anything smaller without its deserving it, but God will question him about it” (3)
The Prophet Muhammad SAW said, “ He who takes pity [even] on a sparrow and spares its life, Allah with be merciful with him on the day of judgement” (4)
A lot of the issues we have regarding Animal welfare did not exist in the prophets time 1400 years ago, man has become more and more detached from Animals, the level of cruelty and the extend of mistreatment has increased mainly to fore fill the pleasures of man, from the industrialisation of the meat industry to animal testing for the cosmetics market; and so most of the rulings for current day Islam are pieced together from Sharia Law, Quran, Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), Muslim Jurists (fuqaha), consensus (ijma), interference by analogy (qiyas) and judgement (ijihad). (1)
Animal Welfare in Islam is a huge subject, so I have tried to summarise the subject as a whole to include a few references of Quran and Hadith – However all references are listed below and I strongly recommend further reading into these.
Our actions towards Animals will inevitably be judged by our intention. If an animal suffers because of our deliberate actions such as laziness, greed or impatience then we will be accountable for the outcome.
The Prophet Muhammad SAW told his companions of a woman who was sent to hell for having locked up her cat, not feeding it, not even freeing it so it could feed itself. (5)
The Hadith specifically speak about neglect and taking good care of animals no matter their purpose weather, domestic pets, working animals (including Livestock for food) or for transport, as Muslims it is our duty to treat other creations of Allah well and with respect.
“The prophet SAW once saw a man sitting on the back of his camel in a market place, addressing people. He said to him; do not use the backs of your beasts as pulpits, for God has made the subject to you so that they may take you to places you could not otherwise reach without fatigue of body.” (6)
Animal Welfare in Islam focuses on necessity, if an alternative can be sought then it should be, an example of this is Animal testing and experiments. Animal testing is a contradiction of the Islamic faith as it is unnecessary suffering for human pleasures, however for medical purposes it has enabled man to make great benefits and discoveries of Allah’s creation, this is where ijihad comes into play. (1)
The same necessity should be considered when consuming meat and products, are we slaughtering animals more than necessary because we have been conditioned to think each meal needs some form of meat included? Do we need to eat meat everyday or with every meal? The meat industry is worth Billions of pounds, it is so large and in demand it has got to the point where poor countries are selling grain to feed livestock in rich countries rather than eating the grain themselves so as not to go hungry. (7) Developing countries which didn’t inflict animal cruelty unless due to lack of education or veterinary facilities being unavailable or didn’t eat meat unless due to a special event are now rearing, slaughtering, producing, transporting, exporting livestock at an alarming rate and these countries have very little Animal Welfare laws.
In the UK 4.8% of the population are Muslim, yet 44% of the chicken,24 % Lamb, 16% Mutton, 11% Beef and 5% Other meat consumed is by Halal consumers. (8) Which equates to a vast amount considering the number of population. Of course a large proportion of meat eaten as an alternative by Non-Muslims is Pork which will have an affect on these figures as 35%.
For this huge demand for meat to be met farmers, slaughter house and butcher workers (and those in between) must work tirelessly to processes one animal after another, do they even have a moment to think about how that animal was or is a life, a creation of Allah we must be thankful for, do we as consumers even think about this or do we just buy and consume?
It is said that the Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him) only ate meat on special occasions or in the act of charity, to sacrifice a life was a luxury. Even on a Friday if guests were to come around they would dine on squash, pumpkin, dates or such like vegetables during the prophet’s time. (9)
The act of Halal slaughter must of course be carried out in a specific way as per the teachings of Quran and Hadith. Due to advances in technology, science and our demands for meat things have somewhat changed, meetings of committees and scientific research is carried out to discuss the modern processes and are filtered down through Sharia Law, Quran, Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), Muslim Jurists (fuqaha), consensus (ijma), interference by analogy (qiyas) and judgement (ijihad). (1) – More indepth information and research on this will be covered in a future Article.
Examples of Hadith relating to Animal slaughter:
‘God’s messenger (s) was reported as saying: ‘Allah who is blessed and exalted, has prescribed benevolence towards everything [and has ordained that everything be done in a good way ]; so, when you must kill a living being, do it in the best manner and, when you slaughter an animal, you should [use the best method and] sharpen your knife so as to cause the animal as little pain as possible.” (10)
“The messenger of Allah was heard forbidding to keep waiting a quadruped or any other animal for slaughter” (11)
Imam Ali says: “Do not slaughter sheep in the presence of other sheep, or any animal in the presence of other animals.” (12)
‘Umar once saw a man denying a sheep, which was going to slaughter, a satiating measure of water to drink. He gave the man a beating with his lash and told him: ‘Go, water it properly at the time of its death, you knave!’. (13)
Animal Welfare in Islam doesn’t just stop there; Harming Animals or them harming each other for sport and man’s pleasures is forbidden in Islam as it causes animal suffering mentally and physically. (1) The most common examples being Bull fighting, Dog fighting, Cockerel fighting, Horse and Dog racing and Hunting – which is only permissible if it is something you need to eat.
Examples of Hadith advising us against ‘Animals as a blood sport’ :
“The Prophet (s) condemned those people who take up anything alive as a mere sport” (14)
The Prophet (s) said “ Do not setup living creatures as a target” (15)
As a further thought, if you are working animals, are considering a pet, notice a sick or ill-treated animal or work in the farming, veterinary or slaughter industry it may be worth researching into the necessities of these animals to have a good life or the Islamic rulings surrounding these procedures/ jobs.
1) Animal Welfare in Islam; Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri; The Islamic Foundation; Leicestershire, UK; 2007
2) Wisdom of Prophet Muhammad; Muhammad Amin; The Lion Press, Lahore, Pakistan; 1945
3) Narrated by Ibn Umar and by Abdullah ibn al-As. Al-Nasa I, 7:206,239, Beirut. Also recorded by Musnad al-Jami of al-Darimi; Delhi, 1337. Also Mishkat al-Masabih; English translation by James Robson, in four volumes; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1963 (hereafter referred to as ‘Robsom’).
4) Narrated by Abu Umamah. Transmitted by al-Tabarani.
5) Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar. Bukhari, 4:337; recorded in Riyad (Ref. No. 28), Hadith No. 1605; p271. Also Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2241. English translation by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1976; Vol.4, Hadith No. 5570; P.1215. (According to English translation this was also narrated by Abu Hurayrah; Hadith No. 5573; p.1215).
6) Narrated by Abu Hurayrah. ‘Awn (Ref. no. 32); 7:235; Hadith no. 2550. Also Traditions of Islam; Alfred Guillaume; Khayats Oriental Reprinters, Beirut, Lebanon; 1966; pp.106, 107. (Hereafter referred to a ‘Guillaume’).
7) Beyond Beef; Jeremy Rifkin. Penguine Books Ltd, London. Plume, USA. 1993.
8) AHDB 2016, http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/market-intelligence-news/halal-market-continues-grow-importance-uk-sheep-meat-sector/
9) Animal Welfare in Islam; Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri; The Islamic Foundation; Leicestershire, UK; 2007
10) Narrated by Shaddad ibn Aws. Muslim; Vol. 2; Chapt. 11; Section on ‘slaying’; 10:739, verse 151. Also ‘Robson’ English translation by James Robson, in four volumes; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1963 (Hereafter referred to as ‘Robson’); p.872. Also recorded in Riyad. (Ref. No. 28); Hadith No.643; p.131.
11) Bukhari. Also Muslim; Vol. 2; Chapt. 11; Section on ‘slaying’; 10:739; verse 152. Also ‘Robson’ (Ref. No. 15); p.872.
12) Maxims of Ali; translated by al-Halal from Nahj al- Balaghah (in Arabic); Sh.Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore Pakistan; p.436. (Hereafter referred to as Maxims.) Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib was the son in law of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s), and fourth Caliph (644-656 A.C.- 22- 34 A.H.).
13) Reported by Ibn Sirin about ‘Umar and recorded in Badai al-Sanai (in Arabic); 6:2811.
14) Narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn Umar. Muslim, Vol. 3, Hadith No. 1958.
15) Narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn Abbas. Muslim, Vol 3, Hadith No. 1957. Also ‘Robson’; p. 872; (Ref, No. 15)1