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Animals and Islam by A.R. Spiritual Vegan, Vegan Views 91 (Winter 2001/02)

ISLAMIC TEACHING With Specific Reference to Animals

In view of the events of September 11th 2001, it is perhaps a good time to be reminded of the teachings of Islam. The Koran teaches tolerance: "There shall be no compulsion in religion" (The Koran 2.256): "He has kept strict count of all his creatures". (The Koran 19.88)

Islam speaks of human relationships with animals: "Doing good to beasts is like the doing of good to human beings, a deed of charity, whilst cruelty to animals is forbidden, just like cruelty to human beings" (Mishkat Al Masabih Vol 2)

Muhammad spoke against those who captured young birds and upset the mother bird. He also left his coat on the ground rather than disturb his cat Muezza, who was sleeping on it. Muhammad showed concern for saving animal life.

Every kind of cruelty to animals is forbidden in Islam, as the following Hadiths show. There are scores of laws in Islam where vivisection is outlawed; "Omer reported to the Holy Prophet (SAWS) having condemned those who mutilate any part of an animal's body while he is alive". The Holy Prophet (SAWS) forbade the beating or the branding of animals. Once he saw a donkey branded on his face and said: "May Allah condemn the one who branded it".

Islam, unlike Christianity is strict over cruelty to animals. Islam will not allow animal baiting. The Holy Prophet (SAWS) forbade the setting up of animals to fight each other. Nor would Islam allow blood sports. "The Holy Prophet (SAWS) condemn those who pinion or restrain animals in a way for the purpose of target shooting". So much so that even an animal being caged is forbidden. The Holy Prophet (SAWS) was asked by His companions is kindness to animals rewarded in the life hereafter. He replied, "Yes, there is a meritorious reward for kindness shown to every living creature".

Every Muslim is supposed to mould his life according to Quran and Sunnah and, judging by these teachings in Islam, there is no reason that a good Muslim can be anything other than vegan/vegetarian. It should come as no surprise therefore, that the local Mosque has served free food and it was all vegetarian.

Muhammad is quoted as saying, "He who takes pity on a sparrow and spares his life, Allah (God) will be merciful to him on the day of judgement" The Koran (24.36): "Do you not see how Allah is praised by those in heaven and earth? The very birds praise Him as they wing their flight" (also note 24.44)

Muhammad, (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) told his companions many stories about kindness to animals, and spoke of them as God's creatures, and that they must be treated with kindness and care. He stated: "Even looking after plants and trees is an act of virtue". Muhammad gave the story of the crying camel. The prophet, finding a camel tied to a post, overworked and underfed, asked of its owner, "Do you not fear Allah because of this camel?". Allah had given the camel into the man's care and he had a duty to treat the camel well. The owner of the camel accepted the teaching and declared, "I have done wrong". He accepted that in future he must look after his camels properly and ensure that they had enough food and water. In another story Muhammad declared: "Who has caused trouble to this sparrow by taking away her young ones?" The stories are there to be read, giving a deeper meaning to life and the world around.

The compassion continues with the story of the ants. During a journey, Muhammad found a man who started a fire and had endangered some ants. Muhammad was very disturbed to see this. Who made this fire?" He asked. "I made the fire, O Messenger of Allah!", came a reply. "Put out the fire! Put out the fire!" was Muhammad's teaching.

The thirsty man who climbed down a well to drink found a thirsty dog on his return. This man went back for more water, so the dog could drink. For his kindness, this type of man was shown to go to paradise.

Yet another story is the one about the cruel woman and her cat, which the Prophet told. The cat was not given anything to eat or drink, and was shut out of the house. The poor cat was taken in by a neighbour who would not allow the cat back. However, after promising to look after the cat, the owner was finally allowed to have the cat back again. The owner however, had lied. The story continued until one of Muhammad's companions cried, "What a terrible thing to do" and "What a very cruel and wicked woman!" Muhammad told his companions that a great sin had been committed because one of Allah's creatures had been ill-treated. The woman who had treated her cat so cruelly was not forgiven her sins: she was sent to Hell for her wrongdoing.

These are the brief outlines of the Islamic teaching. There is nothing to say that a Muslim may not be a vegetarian or vegan. The message is clear: God rewards kindness to animals but punishes those who are cruel.

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Cross-reference: Religion