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Treatment of Animals: An Islamic Perspective
Cruelty to Animals: Excerpt from the book Animals in Islam, written by Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri
According to the teachings of Islam, causing unavoidable pain and suffering to the defenseless and innocent creatures of Almighty Allah is not justifiable under any circumstances. Islam wants us to think and act in the positive terms of accepting all species as communities like us in their own right and not to sit in judgement on them according to our human norms and values.

Prevention of physical cruelty is not enough; mental cruelty is equally important. In the following incident, a bird's emotional distress has been treated as seriously as a physical injury:
"We were on a journey with the Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), and he left us for a while. During his absence, we saw a bird called hummara with its two young and took the young ones. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet((sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), came back and said: "Who has hurt the FEELINGS of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her." (Narrated by Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah bin Mas'ud- Muslim)

It is reported by the same authority that "A man once robbed some eggs from the nest of a bird. The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), had them restored to the nest" (id.).

The Islamic concern about cruelty to animals is so great that it has declared the infliction of any unnecessary and avoidable pain "even to a sparrow or any creature smaller than that" as a sin for which the culprit would be answerable to the Almighty on the Day of Judgement.

The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam),told his companions of a woman who would be sent to Jahannam(Hell) for having locked up a cat; not feeding it, nor even releasing it, so that it could feed itself. (Narrated by Abdullah bin 'Umar. Bukhari)

Islam's concern for animals goes beyond the prevention of physical cruelty or even condescending kindness to them, which is a negative proposition. It enjoins on the human species, to take over the responsibility of all creatures in the spirit of a positive philosophy of life and to be their active protectors.

The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam),was asked if acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by the Almighty. He replied: "Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive." (Narrated by Abu Huraira, Bukhari)

Mishkat Al-Masabih concluded from "Bukhari" and "Muslim" to the effect that: "A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to human beings," and that: "Kindness to animals was promised by rewards in Life Hereafter" (Mishkat al-Masabih; Book 6; Chapter 7, 8:178).

During the pre-Islamic period, certain pagan superstitions and polytheistic practices involving acts of torture and general cruelties to animals used to be common in Arabia. All such practices were condemned and stopped by Islam. The following few sayings of the Holy Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), will serve as an example:
Hazrat Jabir(R.A.) has reported that Allah's Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), forbade striking the face or branding on the face of animals.…The same companion of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam),reported him as saying, when an ass which had been branded in its face passed him by, He(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said : "Allah curse the one who branded it." (Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah- Muslim). This Hadith is concerned with causing pain to the animal on the sensitive parts of its body, as well as with the disfigurement of its appearance.
When the Holy Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam),migrated to Madinah from Makkah, people there used to cut off camels' humps and the fat tails of sheep. The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), ordered this barbaric practice to be stopped. The temptation for the people to perform this sort of vivisection on the animals was that the juicy humps and fatty tails could be eaten while the animal remained alive for future use. To remove this avidity, he declared: "Whatever is cut off an animal while it is still alive, is carrion and is unlawful (Haram) to eat." (Narrated by Abu Waqid al-Laithi. Tirmidhi; Hadith No. 1480, Chapt. On Al-At'imah)

To make sure that no injury was inflicted on the animal while there was even a flicker of life in it, it was forbidden by the Holy Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), to molest the carcass in any way, such as: by breaking its neck, skinning, or slicing off any of its parts, until the body is dead cold.

Many Muslim authorities have also given juristic opinions (fatawa) to the effect that, after slaughter, time should be given for the rigor mortis to set in before cutting up the carcass.

Not only physical but also emotional care of animals was so much emphasized by the Holy Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam),that he once reprimanded his wife, Hazrat A'ishah(R.A.), for treating a camel a bit offhandedly. Hazrat A'ishah(R.A.) herself narrates: "I was riding a restive camel and turned it rather roughly. The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam),said to me: 'It behooves you to treat the animals gently.' (Narrated by A'ishah(R.A.). Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2593).

The following Hadith forbids the disfiguration of the body of an animal: The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), said: "Do not clip the forelock of a horse, for a decency is attached to its forelock; nor its mane, for it protects it; nor its tail, for it is, its fly-flap." (Narrated by 'Utbah ibn Farqad Abu Abdillah al-Sulami. Abu Dawud)

The incidents of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam)'s personal grooming of his horse; his wife A'ishah(R.A.)'s rough handling of her camel; the Holy Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam)'s, prohibition of cutting forelocks, the mane or tail; the condemnation of striking and branding on the face or ears — all these and many other such Ahadith show that this Prophet of Allah, Muhammad(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) had realized even fourteen centuries ago that animals have a sense of adornment and sensitivity and should be treated well.

Allah Ta'ala gave us the free use of the plants and animals of this Earth. He said, "Eat and drink of the good things of the Earth." He also said, "It is Allah Who has provided you livestock of every kind. You can ride some kinds and others you eat..." (Qur'an 40:79) But we must balance our use of animals and plants with our primary role as a caretaker on the Earth.

For example, we are not allowed to harm animals or plants for no reason. The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) forbade people from capturing baby birds, burning ant hills and whipping animals cruelly. All the people he stopped from doing these things were doing them "for fun." Well, as the Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) pointed out, it wasn't fun for the animals.

If we use animals for our work, we must feed them and not over work them. If we eat animals we are supposed to slaughter the animals according to Dhabiha rules which prevent all cruelty to animals and if we have them as pets we are to feed them and care for them.

The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) not only preached to the people to show kindness to one another but also to all living creatures. He forbade the practice of cutting tails and manes of horses, of branding animals at any soft spot, and of keeping horses saddled unnecessarily. (Sahih Muslim)
If the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) saw any animal over-burdened or ill-fed he would pull up alongside the owner and say, "Fear Allah in your treatment of animals." (Abu Dawud, Kitab Jihad)
A companion to the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) came to him carrying baby chicks in his clothing and mentioned that the mother bird had hovered over them all along. He was directed to return the chicks back to the same bush. (Mishkat, Abu Dawud)
During a journey, someone travelling with the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam), gathered some birds eggs from a nest. The mother bird's painful cries and commotion attracted the attention of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) ,who asked the man to return the eggs to the nest. (Bukhari)
"Allah has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) 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)
" If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, "O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose." (Nisai)
"Any part cut off a living animal is dead flesh." (ie. Unlawful to eat. The implication is that it is not allowed to mutilate a living animal.) (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Hakim)
The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said, "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." The listeners asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He replied, "That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away." (Nisai, Hakim)
When you set your dog (for the chase), mention the name of Allah, if he catches the game, and you reach it while it is still alive, cut, its throat quickly (so it won't suffer)." (Bukhari, Muslim)
Narrated Sa'd bin Jubair(R.A.): While I was with Ibn Umar(R.A.), We passed by a group of youngmen who had tied a hen and started shooting at it. When they saw Ibn Umar(R.A.), they dispersed, leaving it. On that Ibn Umar(R.A.) said, "Who has done this ? " The Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) cursed the one who did so. " (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith No.423, Vol. 7)
Courtesy: www.everymuslim.com

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