Compassion and Ethical Treatment:  Islam’s Perspective on Animals

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Compassion and Ethical Treatment: Islam’s Perspective on Animals

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Islam has always regarded animals as a special part of Allah’s creation. The Holy Qur’an emphasizes that animals, like human beings, form communities: “There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end” (Qur’an 6:38). The Qur’an contains over 200 verses related to animals, and six Surahs are named after them: Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Al-Anaam (The Cattle), Al Nahl (The Bee), Al Ankabut (The Spider), Al-Naml (The Ants), and Al-Fil (The Elephant). In total, 31 animals are mentioned by name in the Qur’an, each serving as a metaphor to explain something, teach a lesson, or highlight their usefulness. Islam insists on ethical treatment for animals, emphasizing their purpose in creation.

What Do the Ahadees Say?
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) consistently urged his Companions to treat animals with kindness and compassion. He emphasized the need for humane treatment and stated, “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) had a favorite cat named Muezza, and he prohibited mistreatment of animals, such as using them as shooting targets, dragging, mutilating, branding, making them fight, or causing them any harm. His teachings stressed the importance of showing mercy and compassion to all living beings.

What Do the Experts Say?
Baiting animals for entertainment or gambling is strictly prohibited in Islam. Animals should only be killed for food or to prevent harm to people. Islam permits the consumption of meat from certain halal animals, emphasizing a humane and specific method of slaughter. The German Constitutional Court and other studies have confirmed that the halal cut is painless, causing swift unconsciousness. The emphasis is on a quick and merciful method to minimize suffering.

Guidelines for Zubah or Halal Cut
Halal standards dictate that the knife used for zubah should be very sharp, without blemishes, and at least double the width of the neck. The cut should be swift, aggressive, and across the throat to induce immediate and massive blood loss. Animals should not be stressed, and the slaughter should be carried out in a humane manner. Islam sets strict guidelines to prevent cruelty to animals during slaughter, ensuring that the process is as painless as possible.

Responsibility of Mankind
The Qur’an states, “It is He who has made you successors upon the earth” (35:39-part). As representatives of God on earth, humans must act responsibly, treating animals with mercy and sympathy. Islam, a religion of peace and compassion, extends its care not only to mankind but also to animals. Before Islam, animals faced cruelty and were mistreated. However, Islam’s teachings revolutionized attitudes toward animals, emphasizing their ethical treatment and welfare.

Famous Muslim Animal Welfare Activist
Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri (1914-1992) was a pioneer of animal welfare activism in Islam. He wrote extensively on Islamic obligations to animal welfare and criticized the unethical treatment of animals in factory farms. He advocated for semi-vegetarianism, asserting that if Muslims were aware of the suffering involved in factory farming, they would choose a more ethical diet.

Corrective Steps Needed
Many people are unaware of the routine cruelty inflicted on animals during transport, pre-slaughter, and slaughter. Islam emphasizes humane treatment, and Imams and khateebs should raise awareness of animal welfare in Friday sermons. Those involved in the livestock trade need to be educated on Islamic teachings regarding animal welfare. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated, “If you want to be loved by your Creator, love His creatures” (Al Tirmidhi). Islam’s teachings on compassion extend not only to fellow humans but also to the animal kingdom, emphasizing responsible and ethical treatment.