Animal Welfare in Islam
Nowadays, human beings seem to have forgotten about the trust that Allah SWT has given in helping His created beings, not only fellow humans, but also other creatures such as animals, plants and so on. This can be seen when stray animals such as cats and dogs are completely ignored by humans.
Of late in the social media, as well as those featured in the press, there have been cases of abuse and cruelty perpetrated by what can only be mindless individuals who have utterly lost their consideration and humanity.
Similarly, rampant illegal hunting activities also contribute to the occurrence of persecution of hunted animals. For instance, the use of noose or snares to catch animals may cause injury. Animals injured by snares will have limited capability to hunt. This is deemed as a form of abuse towards those animals.
The animal’s limited capabilities to hunt entail difficulties for the animals and reduce their ability to chase and hunt prey for food, for themselves and their offspring. As a consequence, injuries from snares set up by humans will cause the animals to starve to death. Whereas Islam strictly forbids human beings from torturing other creatures because they also share the same rights as humans.
Indeed, such situations clearly illustrate that compassion towards animals is eroding among some of us today. In the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, Allah has explicitly stated the position of animals in Islam. Although animals are not given an equal position with humans in terms of mind, their position as slaves to Allah SWT is the same as humans.
In Surah al-An’am, verse 38, Allah states which translates to a certain extent as follows: “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.”
Animals are created by Allah SWT to complete human life. In living, animals too have feelings. The only difference between humans and animals is that the latter do not have the mind like humans who are created to be the caliphs of Allah SWT on earth.
In the relationship between humans and animals, Islam strongly calls on humans to treat animals well. Moreover, every good deed comes with great rewards as promised by Allah SWT. It has been mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “They (Apostle’s companions) said, Messenger of Allah, do we have a reward for taking care of beasts? He said, there is a reward for service to every living creature.” (Hadith narrated by Imam Malik, Muwatta).
Many like to own pets such as cats, rabbits, and squirrels. Caring for animals is one of the practices encouraged in Islam, but the owners must ensure that the welfare and rights that are given to their pets are well taken care of.
The rights of pets should be given adequately so that the animals are always in good condition and can continue to survive. Therefore, if the pet is confined and the owner is not able to protect the rights of the animals such as eating and drinking, then they should be released at certain times so that they can find their own food.
In a hadith narrated by al-Bukhari,the companions once asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “O Messenger, will we be rewarded if we do good to animals?” He replied: “Doing good to every creature is rewarded.” Such is the great reward given by Allah SWT to people who do good to animals even though they are not pets or animals that are considered unclean in society such as dogs and other wilds animals.
Islam is highly concerned about manners and ethics in caring for the welfare of animals. Among the manners and ethics outlined by Islam are as follows: i) feeding and giving water when animals are hungry and thirsty; ii) loving and petting animals appropriately, iii) Being compassionate to animals when slaughtering or killing it; and iv) never torturing an animal in any way by abusing it, making it hungry, beating it, burdening it with something it cannot afford to carry, or setting it on fire.
The four manners and ethics outlined by Islam must always be maintained by every Muslim towards animals as a form of obedience to Allah SWT and the Messenger, coinciding with Islamic law that brings blessings to the whole world.
Besides the manners and ethics, Islam also outlines concepts are important in ensuring the welfare of animals, namely justice and kindness. For justice, many Quranic verses call on human beings to be fair, and to ensure that justice is implemented in every matter of human life. When human beings interact with other beings in the universe, then surely the question of justice will arise. The Quran has clearly and decisively determined fair treatment and also explained the attributes of justice to human beings.
Among them, as quoted in Surah al-Hadid, verse 25 which translates to the following extent: “We have already sent Our Messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain (their affairs) in justice…”Indeed, the Quranic verse gives an interpretation of the concept of justice that needs to be heeded. Two meanings are included within the verse: i) justice is a broad concept and covers all aspects of human life; and ii) justice also refers to balance, tolerance and harmony; in terms of law, justice is the granting of rights to those who are entitled to receive it. The verse also describes a balanced and true way of life referring to “obedience to justice”.
It is the continuation of the concept of justice that leads to the existence of justice for animals by enabling the construction of balance and harmony through organised and wise management. This is the concept that we want to use in ensuring the welfare of animals is taken care of as outlined by Islam. In other words, taking advantage of the animals that Allah SWT has bestowed on human beings, and at the same time the benefits are managed at a rate that allows the survival of the animals can be continued.
Therefore, justice will be felt by all parties, because creating justice requires balance. Thus, with balance, it will lead to the maintenance of justice in the interaction of human life and the animal itself. Meanwhile, the concept of kindness refers to good behaviour, honesty, sympathy, cooperation, humane and sincere approach, concern for the rights of individuals and other beings, giving something more than it should or being satisfied with something even if its value is less than it is supposed to be.
In short, the concept of kindness is more than the concept of justice. If justice is seen as the basis of harmony, then kindness is the adornment that makes it complete and perfect. Conversely, if justice can save society from unhealthy symptoms and evil, then kindness makes human life more friendly and pure, especially in interacting with other beings including animals.