Quran and Hadiths on Animal Welfare

Allow Kosher & Halal Organic Meat Labels

Islam has extensive rules that require humans to treat animals kindly and with mercy. These rules are wide ranging, and include significant protections for the welfare of working animals and the humane slaughter of animals for consumption. The Quran and Hadith (narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) give examples of commands to treat animals kindly in all situations. The rules of Islamic law on animal welfare, established in the seventh century laid clear guidelines on animal welfare well before any country today.

The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) strongly emphasised the need for kindness and mercy to animals, and called mankind to provide animals with food and water and to treat them gently.

Animals are mentioned throughout the Qur’an and there are five chapters whose titles are based on the names of animals. In chapter Al-Anaam God says: {There is no animal walking on the earth nor a bird flying on its two wings, except that they are (part of) communities like you} (Al-Anaam, 6: 38).

God, in His infinite wisdom, has organised even the most humble of creatures, like birds, bees and ants into communities so that they can work, communicate and survive according to strict ethical and organisational rules, without any deviation.

All the creatures in the world, including the animals, glorify their Lord and {The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein proclaim His praise. And there is not a thing, but proclaims His praise; but you do not understand their glorification.} (Al-Isra’, 17: 44). The living sing with their tongues, while the non-living with the tacit acquiescence of their condition.

Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) was asked to build a large boat under divine instructions: {Construct a boat under Our supervision and by Our inspiration, and do not address Me about those who are evil. They are sure to be drowned} (Hud, 11: 38). The ones to be saved from the flood were the believers as well as a pair each of every species of animals: {… We said, ‘Load aboard (animals), of every pair two, and of your household, leaving out those for whom the final verdict has already been passed. And (load) those who have come to believe} (Hud, 11: 40). The fact that the command to save the animals came before the command to save the believers, points to the importance of the animals that were on the verge of becoming endangered species at that point in time.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said that if the smallest of birds is killed without its right and discarded, this act will be questioned as a crime. He explained that its right was that it should be slaughtered only in case of the need for food and not killed for entertainment and thrown away unnecessarily. The hunting of animals simply for the pleasure derived from a sharp-shooting spree is not considered lawful. The Prophet also instructed that the knife for slaughter should be sharp to minimise suffering during slaughter. Pain cannot be eliminated at slaughter – only minimised. Once the Prophet noticed during a camp that somebody had lighted a fire near an ant-hill. He at once asked for it to be put out. Another time somebody caught two little baby birds whose mother started to circle above them with cries of pain. When the Prophet saw this, he asked the person to set them free (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet once related the story of a person who purposely went down a well in order to quench the thirst of a dog. He said that treating any and every living creature with kindness is a case for reward (Al-Bukhari). The Prophet forbade the hitting of animals on their faces and branding them. He also forbade sports based on animal fights (Abu Dawud).
The Prophet instructed his followers to let the animals take advantage of any pasture on the way whilst travelling, and to make them move fast to shorten their trip in dry weather, to lessen their agony (Muslim). According to the teachings of the Prophet, animals should not be harmed but treated with kindness.
The slaughter of animals is allowed only for food, after the permission of God has been taken, by slaughtering the animal in the name of God, in the prescribed manner. The Quran mentions some of the great signs of nature: {Indeed, in the heavens and the earth are signs for the true believers. And in your creation and in the spreading of the animals are signs for those who possess firm faith}(Al-Jathiyah, 45: 4). The importance of the creation of human beings is equated with the importance of the creation of animals. Thus, belief in the importance of animals and treating them with kindness are signs of firm faith.

The late Muslim scholar Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri wrote ‘Animal Welfare in Islam’ after an extensive review of the subject. It was republished in 2007 by the Islamic Foundation, Leicester and gives far greater detail and insight on the relationship between Animal Welfare and Islam. A thorough read and reflection is highly recommended.

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