“There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are peoples like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book (of Our decrees). Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” (Quran 6:38)
One of the forgotten practices or “Sunnahs” of the Prophet of Islam is that of compassion to all beings, including animals. Allah tells us in the Quran that the Prophet is rahmah li al-‘alamin (a mercy to all the worlds) (21:107). He does not say a mercy to only Muslims or only to humans; He says all worlds and this includes animals. This was manifest in the Prophet’s (behaviour, actions and words.
The Prophet was a mirror of the Quran and a reflection of divine wisdom. He approached everything in this world as Allah’s property and creation and as such treated it accordingly. In the modern age Muslims and people generally have forgotten to perceive the world in this way; the world is no longer holy but has become material. As a result we start to treat the environment and animals as material objects rather than the blessed creation of Allah.
The Prophet was one of the original animal rights activists. He had great respect for them, protected them and encouraged all his followers to be responsible in the way they treated them. A few of his sayings include:
“There is a reward for helping any living creature.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
“It is a great sin for man to imprison those animals which are in his power.” (Muslim)
“The worst of shepherds is the ungentle, who causes the beasts to crush or bruise one another.” (Muslim)
“You will not have secure faith until you love one another and have mercy on those who live upon the earth.” (Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud)
“There is no man who kills a sparrow or anything beyond that, without its deserving it, but God will ask him about it.” (Ahmad and al-Nasai)
“The grievous things are: shirk (polytheism); disobedience to parents; the killing of breathing beings …” (Bukhari and Muslim)
“May god curse anyone who maims animals.” (ibn al-Athir)
As we can see, abusing the rights of an animal was not taken lightly. It is important in this modern age where animals are seen as profitable commodities, as ‘dumb beasts’ with little rights that this Sunnah is rectified.
This means not only treating animals compassionately in our daily lives but making sure that any meat we eat has also come from an animal that has been treated well. Taking it a step further, it also means re-evaluating the methodology of the meat industry and intensive, profit-driven farming. It is not possible to call it ‘un-Islamic,’ but the Muslim community do need to consider whether this really if this is the best and most merciful way of going about it.