Animals in Islam - Part 2

Is Animal Suffering Fate (Allah's Will) or the Fault of Humans?

Many people misunderstand the real sense of the doctrine of "predestination," or "fate" (Qaza wa Qadr or Qismat). The literal meaning of "predestination," in the Islamic sense, is: "pre-fixing the fate of someone or something," in the sense of determining the capacity, capability, endowment, function and other faculties. The Qur'an Majeed uses the Arabic word "taqdir" meaning "destiny" even for the decreed orbits of the planetary motions; for inorganic substances; as well as for animated creatures, including human beings. Within those pre-fixed limitations, however, conditions could be changed for the better, suffering could be avoided or lessened by human effort and skill.

Experimentation on Animals

Scientific and pharmaceutical experiments on animals are being done to find cures for diseases, most of which are self-induced by our own disorderly lifestyle. All human problems — physical, mental, or spiritual — are of our own creation and our wounds self-inflicted. By no stretch of imagination can we blame animals for any of our troubles and make them suffer for it. All this (experiments), and much more, is being done to satisfy human needs, most of which are non-essential, fanciful, wasteful and for which alternative, humane products are easily available. To kill animals to satisfy the human thirst for inessentials is a contradiction in terms within the Islamic tradition. Let us hope a day will dawn when the great religious teachings may at last begin to bear fruit; when we shall see the start of a new era, when man accords to animals the respect and status they have long deserved and for so long have been denied.

Vivisection did not exist at the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and therefore, was not specifically cited in the law (Shari'ah). Guidance on such issues comes from analogy and inference (Ijtihad). One of the main excuses for all kinds of cruelties to animals is selfish interest or human needs. Let us see how the juristic Rules define "needs" and "interests" and judge these cases according to those definitions. The basic Juristic Rule (qaidatul-fiqhiyah) that would apply to pecuniary experiments is: "One's interest or need does not annul other's right" (al-idtiraru la yabtil haqqal-ghair).

Needs are classified in three categories: necessities (al-Masalih ad-darurfyah) without which life could not be sustained; needs required for comfort and easement from pain or any kind of distress or for improving the quality of life (al-Masalih-al-haiya); and luxuries (al-Masalih at tahsiniyah) desirable for enjoyment or self-indulgence.

Some rules that can be applied to these needs to determine whether experiments on animals would be allowed:

What allures to the forbidden, is itself forbidden. (Ma'ad'a ela al-harame, fahuwaharamun.") This rule implies that material gains, including food, obtained by wrongful acts, such as unnecessary experiments on animals, become unlawful (haram).

No damage can be put right by a similar or a greater damage." (Ad-dararu la yuzalu be mislehi au be dararin akbaro minho.) When we damage our health and other interests by our own follies, we have no right to make the animals pay for it by inflicting similar or greater damage on them, such as by doing unnecessary experiments to find remedies for our self-induced ailments.

Resort to alternatives, when the original becomes undesirable. (Iza ta'zuro al-aslu, yusaru ila-l-badle.) This rule places a great moral responsibility on experimenters and medical students to find alternatives.

The basic point to understand about using animals in science is that the same moral, ethical and legal codes should apply to the treatment of animals as are being applied to humans. According to Islam, all life is sacrosanct and has a right of protection and preservation.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad laid so much emphasis on this point that he declared: "There is no man who kills {even} a sparrow or anything smaller, without its deserving it, but God will question him about it." (Narrated by Ibn 'Omar and by Abdallah bin Al-As. An-Nasai, 7:206,239, Beirut. Also recorded by Musnad al-Jami - Ad-Darimi; Delhi, 1337. Also, Mishkat al-Masabih; English translation by James Robson, in four volumes; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1963 [hereafter referred to as "Robson"].)

He who takes pity {even} on a sparrow and spares its life, Allah will be merciful on him on the Day of Judgment. (Narrated by Abu Umama. Transmitted by Al-Tabarani)

Like all other laws of Islam, its laws on the treatment of animals have been left open to exceptions and are based on the criterion: "Actions shall be judged according to intention." (Al-A'amalo binniyah.)...If the life of an animal can be saved only by the amputation of a part of its body, it will be a meritorious act in the eyes of God to do so.

There is no doubt that the Islamic prohibition against the cutting or injuring of live animals, especially when it results in pain and suffering, does apply to modern vivisection in science. We are able to support this interpretation of the Islamic teachings by referring not only to the above-quoted representative Traditions (Ahadith), but also to the Qur'an Majeed. In the verses quoted below, the principle is expressed that any interference with the body of a live animal which causes pain or disfigurement is contrary to the Islamic precepts. These verses were revealed in condemnation of the pagan superstitious custom that she-camels, ewes, or nanny goats which had brought forth a certain number of young in a certain order should have their ears slit...and be dedicated to idols. Such customs were declared by the Qur'an Majeed as devilish acts, in these words:

It was not Allah who instituted the practice of a slit-ear-she-camel...(Qur'an 5:106). Allah cursed him {Satan} for having said: "I shall entice a number of your servants, and lead them astray, and I shall arouse in them vain desires; and I shall instruct them to slit the ears of cattle; and most certainly, I shall bid them — so that they will corrupt Allah's creation." Indeed! He who chooses the Devil rather than Allah as his patron, ruins himself manifestly. (Qur'an 4:118, 119)

Fur and Other Uses of Animals

There is a large-scale carnage of fur-bearing satisfy human needs, most of which are non-essential, fanciful, wasteful and for which alternative, humane products are easily available….The excuse that such things are essential for human needs is no longer valid. Modern technology has produced all these things in synthetic materials and they are easily available all over the world, in some cases at a cheaper price.

Some juristic rules that apply are: "That which was made permissible for a reason, becomes impermissible by the absence of that reason." (Ma jaza le uzrin, batala be zawalehi) and "All false excuses leading to damage should be repudiated." (Sadduz-zarae al-mua'ddiyate ela-l-fasad). These rules leave no excuse for the Muslims to remain complacent about the current killing of animals in their millions for their furs, tusks, oil, and various other commodities.

The Qur'an Majeed does mention animals as a source of warm clothing (Qur'an 16:5), but modern-day clothing made of synthetic fibers is just as warm as clothing made from animal skins and makes clothing from animal skins unnecessary. The Qur'an refers only to the skins and furs of domesticated cattle which either die their natural death or are slaughtered for food. Today, millions of wild animals are killed commercially just for their furs and skins, while their carcasses are left to rot. Fourteen centuries ago Islam realized the absurdity of this wasteful and cruel practice and passed laws to stop it in the following Ahadith:

The Holy Prophet Muhammad prohibited the use of skins of wild animals. (Narrated by Abu Malik on the authority of his father. Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi as recorded in Garden of the Righteous - Riyad as-Salihin of Imam Nawawi; translated by M.Z. Kahn; Curzon Press, London, 1975 [hereafter referred to as Riyad]; Hadith No. 815, p. 160.)

The Holy Prophet Muhammad forbade the skins of wild animals being used as floor-coverings. (id.)

The Holy Prophet said: "Do not ride on saddles made of silk or leopard skins." (Narrated by Mu'awiah. Abu Dawud [see Riyad, Ref. No. 28]; Hadith No. 814, p. 160.)

Animal Fights

All kinds of animal fights are strictly forbidden in Islam. Out of the numerous such injunctions, one would suffice here:

God's Messenger forbade inciting animals to fight each other. (Narrated by Abdullah bin Abbas. Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Abu al-Darda; recorded in Riyad [Ref. No. 28]; Hadith No. 1606; p. 271. Also "Robson" [Ref. No. 15), p. 876.])

Like camel-humps, fat-tails of sheep and target-animals (mujaththema), the meat of animals who die as a result of fights is also declared in Islam as unlawful to eat (haram). For example, the Spaniards hold fiestas on special occasions to eat the bull killed by a matador.


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