Care for Animals
Allah has placed man at the top of His Creation, above all animals and creatures of the sea. “It is He who has made you successors upon the earth. And whoever disbelieves – upon him will be the consequence of his disbelief.” (35:39) As Allah’s heirs, men are entrusted with the care of the animals. Why are we obligated to treat animals with respect? Why are we obligated to maintain rules of etiquette towards them?
It is because Allah notes similarities between man and animals and says that in His eyes we all will receive similar judgement in the Last Day: “And there is no creature on or within the earth or bird that flies with its wings except that they are communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” (6:38) Therefore, our conduct towards animals shall be assessed and judged upon. Therefore it is important to bear in mind that etiquette applies to animals too. Although it is a special kind of etiquette. It is a great honour from Allah and a great responsibility. So here are the rules to follow:
1. Animals are inferior to man but they too have souls. They too praise Allah, albeit in their peculiar way, not in words. Therefore, any form of violence towards animals is prohibited. “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption done in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (5:32) The main principle of etiquette towards animals is to treat them fairly, not to be cruel to them, not to torture or mutilate them, not to beat them and not to make them carry more than they can take. The Lord will punish those who do that severely. “A woman entered the Hell-fire because of a cat that she tied down. She neither fed it nor let it free to eat the insects of the earth until it died.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3318)
2. Compassion towards animals is another principle for the treatment of animals. Metaphorically, we must ‘serve animals’ as we serve our neighbours and this service will be rewarded by Allah. “While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, ‘This dog is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he went down the well, filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his good deed and forgave him.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2363)
3. Allah allows man to kill certain animals that do him harm by way of protecting man from evil. “Five kinds of animals are mischief-doers and can be killed even in the Sanctuary: They are the rat the scorpion, the kite, the crow and the rabid dog.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3314)
4. Finally, Allah has ordained that certain animals may be slaughtered to be used as food by man. This is the manifestation of man’s superiority as decreed by Allah. However, that does not eliminate the requirement to be compassionate to them. This is exactly why it is so important for Muslims to use Halal food because Halal rituals allow animals to be slaughtered with compassion and in strict conformity with God’s wish, namely, sparing their souls of the unnecessary torture and pain. “Verily Allah has enjoined goodness to everything; so when you kill, kill in a good way and when you slaughter, slaughter in a good way. So every one of you should sharpen his knife, and let the slaughtered animal die comfortably.” (Sahih Muslim, 1955a)