Animal rights in Islamic civilization
islam has a realistic perspective to animals that is based on their importance to us in life and their use for human beings and cooperation with us to build the universe in order for life to go. there is evidence to this in many surahs in the holy quran that allah has named after animals such as the cow, the cattle, the bee and others.
the holy quran has cited evidence to honouring animals, stating their standing and locating their positions beside man. almighty god says: “and cattle he has created for you (men): from them ye derive warmth, and numerous benefits, and of their (meat) ye eat. and ye have a sense of pride and beauty in them as ye drive them home in the evening, and as ye lead them forth to pasture in the morning. and they carry your heavy loads to lands that ye could not (otherwise) reach except with souls distressed: for your lord is indeed most kind, most merciful.”[the bee: 5-7]
some animal rights in islamic legislation
one of the rights that islam originated for animals in the islamic legislation is not harming them. jabir (may allah be pleased with him) narrated that once the prophet (pbuh) passed by an animal that was marked in his face,so he said: "may almighty god curse the person who marked this animal."abdullah ibn umar (may allah be pleased with him) also narrated that “the prophet peace be upon him (pbuh) cursed the one who did mutilation to an animal.”(i e., cut its limbs or some other part of its body while it is still alive), which means that hurting, tormenting animals or not being kind to them is considered a crime in the islamic sharia.
islam has also legislated the rights of animals and made it haram (prohibited) to imprison them or make them starve. the prophet (pbuh) says:"a lady was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. she entered the (hell) fire because of it, for she neither gave it food nor water as she had imprisoned it, nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth."sahl ibn al-hanzaliyya reported that the prophet (pbuh) passed by a camel that was very hungry, so he said:"fear allah when you deal with these beasts of burden; ride them well or eat them well."
the prophet (pbuh) also ordered that these animals are used for what they were created for. he set the main purpose of using animals when he said: “never use backs of animals as pulpits. allah has created them to carry you to lands that you could not (otherwise) reach except with souls distressed.” 
the islamic legislation also set as part of animal rights not to use them as targets. abdullah ibn umar (may allah be pleased with him) happened to pass by a party of men who had tied a bird and were shooting arrows at it. he said:“allah has invoked a curse upon one who does this kind of thing. the prophet (pbuh) condemned those people who take up anything alive as a mere sport."
one of the things the islamic legislation has set as part of animal rights is to be kind and merciful to them. this is clear in prophet (pbuh) saying:"while a man was walking on a road. he became very thirsty. then he came across a well, got down into it, drank (of its water) and then came out. meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. the man said to himself "this dog is suffering from the same state of thirst as i did." so he went down the well (again) and filled his shoe (with water) and held it in his mouth and watered the dog. allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him." the people asked, "o allah's apostle! is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" he said, "(yes) there is a reward for serving any animate (living being."
abdullah ibn umar once narrated:“we were with the prophet (pbuh) when he went out to do something. we saw a bird with its two checks so we took the little checks. the bird started hovering out of distress for the loss of its two checks. the prophet (pbuh) came and said: “who distressed this bird by taking its little checks? give it back its checks.”
the islamic legislation has also ordered as part of its care of animal rights to choose fertile pasture for them. if this fertile pasture is not available, these animals should be taken to another area. the prophet (pbuh) says in this regard:“almighty god is kind and loves kindness and gets satisfied with kindness. he also gives for kindness what he does not give to anything else. if you ride these beasts of burden, take them to good pasture. if the land is infertile, ride them while they are healthy to another area.”
however, there is another degree that is higher and more valuable than mercy in the islamic legislation on how to treat animals; ihsan to animals and respecting their feelings. the prophet (pbuh) put this in application when he ordered us not to torture animals during slaughtering them for meat whether it is torturing them physically when they are taken to be slaughtered or by the dullness of the knife or by letting them see the knife that will be used. otherwise, it will be as if giving the animal two deaths. shaddad ibn aws said: “i memorized two hadiths from the prophet (pbuh), he said:“verily, almighty allah has prescribed excellence in all things … if you slaughter, slaughter well. let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him comfort the animal he slaughters.”
abdullah ibn abbas (may allah be pleased with him) also narrated that a man had placed his foot on the side of a sheep and was sharpening his blade (knife) whilst the sheep was glancing towards him with its eyes. the prophet (pbuh) remarked,“why (did you) not (sharpen the blade) before this? do you wish to give the (poor) animal two deaths?”
this clearly shows animal rights in islam. animals enjoy safety, security and comfort as long as they are living in society that is living under the islamic civilization.
1: muslim chapter of clothes. (2117)
- al bukhary (5196), al nesaea (4442) and al darame (1973).
- al bukhary (2236) and muslim (2242).
- abu dawood (2548), ahmed (17626), ibn habban (546), al albani: al selsela al saheha (23)
abu dawood (2567) al bayhaqi (10115) al albani said correct: see al selsela al saheha (22)
- al bukhari (5196) and muslim (1958)
- al bukhari (5663) and muslim (2244)
- abu dawood (5268) and al hakem (7599) al albani said: correct. see: al selsela al saheha (25)
- al mowatee (1767) al albani said: correct. see al selsela al saheha (682)
- muslim (1955), abu dawood (2815) and al tiermedhe (1409)
- al hakem (7563) and al albani said: correct. see: al selsela al saheha (24)