Mercy towards animals and euthanasia when needed

Written by Naim al-Gharib on 03.02.2015

(In the Name of Allah The Merciful The Compassionate) بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His Help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our souls and from our wrong doings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide, and he whom He misguides, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah alone without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad (saaws) is His servant and Messenger.

My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, what a wonderful blessing Islam is! Truly Allah (swt) speaks the truth when He (swt) says to the Prophet (saaws): "And We have not sent you, except as a mercy to all that exists." (21:107).

In Islam all animals are viewed as a special part of Allahs creation and we, the humankind in general and Muslims in particular, are responsible for the treatment of animals, whose rights must be respected. The Holy Quran, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals. According to Islamic principles, animals have their own position in the creation hierarchy and humans are responsible for their well being.

All animals worship Allah (swt). Allah (swt) says: "Do you not see that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds with wings outspread? Each one knows its own prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do." (24:41).

And Allah (swt) says: "The seven heavens and the earth and everyone in them glorify Him. There is nothing which does not glorify Him with praise but you do not understand their glorification. He is All-Forbearing, Ever-Forgiving." (17:44).

What then is it that is happening all around the world in many Muslim countries and communities? Have the Muslims reached such a low condition that Allah (swt) has completely removed any traces of mercy from their hearts? Or are we dealing with people that has reached the deepest darkness of ignorance such that they have gone completely beyond hope?

What kind of illness is a person suffering from when the maltreatment of an animal doesn't break his heart? Does he expect Allah (swt) to show him mercy when he himself does not show mercy towards Allahs (swt) living creatures? May Allah (swt) guide such a person and rectify his situation and condition before The Hour when all rectification becomes too late.

Mercy is a divine treasure that has been dispersed throughout the universe. And the source of that love and mercy is Almighty Allah. Those who are deprived of mercy are like those who have lost the key to the greatest of treasures.

Prophet Muhammad (saaws) exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards all animals, and he (saaws) repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals. It is narrated that he (saaws) said, "Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak." (Abu Dawud), meaning they cannot complain now, but they will, without fail, complain to Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgment.

In Islam it is such a big sin to cause harm to animals that even psychological harm is strictly prohibited.

A group of Sahaba (raa) were once on a journey with the Prophet (saaws) and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating her wings in grief, when the Prophet (saaws) came back. He said, "Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her!" (Sahih Muslim).

By qiyas (analogy) it is clear that any kind of distress, whether caused by taking the young ones, or caused by transportation, or by any kind of misuse, even scolding is also strictly prohibited.

Scolding animals when they do something their owners doesn't like truly demonstrates the ignorance of such people as the animals are incapable of misbehaving, they are simply acting the way Allah (swt) has "programmed" them to act. Scolding animals, as many people do, has no other effect than causing stress, trauma and sadness to the animal - which is haram (forbidden). What must be done instead is to train the animals with kindness, mercy, praise and rewards (like treats).

The Messenger of Allah (saaws) once went to the garden of a man from the Ansar and saw a camel there. When the camel saw the Prophet (saaws) it began to wail, and tears fell from its eyes. The Prophet approached the camel and began to pat it gently behind its ears. The camel calmed down. The Prophet then asked: "Who does this camel belong to?" A young man from Madina approached him and said: "This camel is mine, O Messenger of Allah" The Prophet (saaws) then said: "Have you no fear of Allah? Allah bestowed this animal upon you. But it has just now complained to me that you leave it hungry and very tired!" (Abu Dawud).

One time Aisha (raa) had mounted an ill-tempered camel so she tried to calm it down by moving it back and forth in a harsh manner. Allahs Messenger (saaws) said to her: "Be gentle with the animal. Because, wherever it is found, gentleness will render everything beautiful. Every act that is not gentle is ugly." (Sahih Muslim).

The Prophet (saaws) also warned people of unnecessary conversation and causing harm, while mounted on their animals. It is narrated that he (saaws) said: "Beware of using the backs of animals as your pulpits. Allah has given them at your service to take you to places where it would be very difficult for you to go alone. And he made the earth for you to live in. In that case, see to your needs on the earth (that is get down from the backs of your animals and meet your needs on the ground)." (Abu Dawud).

One day the Messenger of Allah (saaws) went outside in the early hours of the morning to relieve himself. He saw a camel kneeling down at the door of the mosque. When the Prophet passed by the same place later that afternoon he saw the camel in the same position. He asked: "Where is the owner of this camel?" They looked for the owner of the camel, but could not find him. The Prophet (saaws) was very upset at the camel being left hungry and without water and he said: "Fear Allah and do not oppress this poor animal who cannot voice his concerns. Only mount these animals when they are strong, powerful and well fed." (Imam Ahmad).

Sahl ibn Amr (raa) narrated: "One time when the Messenger of Allah (saaws) passed by a camel whose sides were so skinny that its bones could be seen, he said: 'Fear Allah when it comes to these animals which cannot speak for themselves. Mount them when they are well fed, and eat them when they are well fed.'" (Abu Dawud).

One time the Prophet (saaws) saw a man about to slaughter a sheep. After laying the sheep down in order to slaughter it, the man began to sharpen his knife in sight of the sheep. The Prophet became angry and warned the man of this harsh and emotionless act: "Do you wish to kill this animal over and over again? Could you not have sharpened your knife before you laid him down?" (Hakim).

Another time the Prophet (saaws) passed by an animal who had been branded on its face and he (saaws) said: "May Allah curse the one who branded this animal on its face." (Sahih Muslim).

One time when the Messenger of Allah (saaws) was going to Mecca, he left Madina in the state of ihram. He arrived at the location of Usaya, which is a place between Ruwaysa and Arc. Here he saw a gazelle curled up sleeping in the shade. The Prophet ordered his Companions not to pause too long before the gazelle and make it uncomfortable or anxious (Al-Muwatta and Sunan al-Nasai).

As the Prophet (saaws) and his Companions (raa) were heading out to conquer Mecca, they demonstrated another amazing example of how to treat animals. While traveling from Arc to Talub with his army of ten thousand men, he saw a dog which had stretched itself out over its puppies who were suckling her. He immediately called Juayl ibn Suraka from His Companions and placed him as a guard over this dog and its pups. He cautioned that this army of Muslims should not scare the mother or her pups (Wakidi).

Another example of the care shown towards animals is narrated by Anas ibn Malik (raa) who grew up in the care of the Prophet (saaws). He narrated: "Whenever we would stop at a place to rest, we would first undo the camels and let them rest and calm down before we began to glorify Allah and worship." (Abu Dawud). Muslim scholars have ruled that whenever a traveler takes a rest, he should first feed his animals before he eats himself and they have ruled this to be mustahab (a deed that is rewarded).

One day Ibn Umar (raa) came across some youth from Quraysh who were shooting arrows at a bird. When the youth saw Ibn Umar they fled. Ibn Umar (raa) shouted after them: "Who did this? May Allah curse them! The Messenger of Allah (saaws) also cursed the one who took as their target a living animal and shot at it!" (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).

It was also narrated, and this is a very well known narration, that The Prophet (saaws) said: "A woman entered the Hell-fire because of a cat that she tied down. She neither fed it nor let it free to eat the insects of the earth until it died." (Sahih al-Bukhari).

In pre-Islamic times, pagan superstitions and polytheistic practices included acts of torture and cruelty to animals. Islam condemned this and put a stop to all such practices. When The Prophet (saaws) and his Companions (raa) migrated to Madina, they noticed that people cut off camels humps and the fat tails of sheep for food. The Prophet (saaws) forbade them from doing this and said, "Whatever is cut off an animal while it is still alive, is carrion and is unlawful to eat." (Tirmidhi).

In Islam, the rules pertaining to slaughtering animals are very strict and fixed and protecting animals from pain and undue suffering is paramount. It was narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said: "Allah has ordained kindness in everything. If the killing is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease." (Sahih Muslim).

And it was narrated that he (saaws) said: "When you set your dog (for the chase), mention the name of Allah if he catches the game, and if you reach it while it is still alive, cut its throat quickly (so it wont suffer)." (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).

Abu Hurairah (raa) was a close Companion of The Prophet (saaws) and he has narrated more ahadith, or sayings of Prophet Muhammad (saaws), than any other Companion. He was known for being very sympathetic and loving towards animals so much so that although his name was Abdur-Rahman, he was known as Abu Hurairah, meaning "father of the kitten." He was called so because of a small cat that he used to feed and care for and carry with him everywhere he went.

There are many reports of The Prophets (saaws) love for cats resulting in their historical acceptance among Muslims. Cats were very common among the people during the time of the Prophet, and it was narrated that he (saaws) said, "They (cats) are not impure and they intermingle with you." (Abu Dawud). The cat is such a clean animal that according to authentic narrations one may make ablution for Prayer with the same water that a cat drank from. Yet, it is known that some people nowadays have opposed the traditions of The Prophet (saaws) by taking up the evil practices of torturing and poisoning cats. In Islam, punishment for such acts is severe.

A Muslim should have compassion and mercy towards animals. It was narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said: "Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy." (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim).

And it was narrated that he (saaws) said: "Have mercy toward those on the Earth and The One above the Heavens will have mercy on you." (Tabarani).

It is related from Ibn Abbas (raa) that the Messenger of Allah (saaws) forbade inciting animals to fight one another (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).

It is also related from Abu ad-Darda (raa) that the Messenger of Allah (saaws) forbade eating mujaththama animals, that is, animals which have been tied up and shut. (Tirmidhi).

As we have seen, all animals are to be treated with respect and kindness. Unfortunately, in many Muslim communities these guidelines are not followed. Some people mistakenly believe that since humans needs take priority, animal rights are not an urgent issue. Others find excuses to mistreat certain animals, such as dogs. These actions fly in the face of Islamic teachings, and the best way to combat such ignorance is through education and good example. Individuals and governments have an important role to play in educating the public about the care of animals, and establishing institutions to support animal welfare.

In Denmark it is very unfortunate, because there is no public animal wellfare and everything is left to individials and private institutions. Like such a neglect isn't enough, every day animals are brutally toturet because the danish politicians wont forbid animal brothels! What horrible low and discusting politicians!

It was narrated that the Prophet (saaws) said: "Whoever is kind to the creatures of Allah, is kind to himself." Because the one who is not kind to the creatures of Allah (swt) will, on the Day of Judgment, find a very harsh and stern punishment for his crimes, and as such, he harms himself.

It was narrated by Abdullah ibn al-As that the Prophet (saaws) said: "Show mercy and you will be shown mercy. Forgive and Allah will forgive you. Woe to the vessels that catch words (ie. the ears). Woe to those who persist and consciously continue in what they are doing!" (Adab al-Mufrad).

As-Salaf As-Salih (The Earlier Pious Generations) regarding Animals

It was narrated that Umar bin al-Khattab (raa) once saw a man pulling a sheep in its leg in order to slaughter it. Umar became angry and said to him: "Woe to you. Take it to its place of slaughtering in a good manner.”

And it was narrated that Adi bin Haatim (raa) used to collect whatever bread was left and give it to the ants that were walking on the wall outside of his house. When he was asked about his action he would say: "They are my neighbors! They have a right upon me!”

One day Umar bin al-Khattab (raa) gathered the people and said to them: "O people, by Allah, I fear that if a mule stumbled on the shores of Iraq, I will be held accountable by Allah concerning it on the Day of Judgment! Animals and birds have rights upon us. So, we have to treat them with gentleness and kindness."

What about dogs?

Many Muslims have misunderstood Islams teachings regarding dogs, and this misunderstanding has led to the mistreatment of these beloved animals. It was narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said, "Purifying a container that a dog has licked is done by washing it seven times, the first washing being with dirt." However, according to some scholars, a dogs fur is considered pure. And according to Imam Malik (rha) even the entire dog, in itself, is pure! And this is the correct oppinion regarding the subject.

The oppinion of Imam Malik is the correct one because, as seen before, Allah (swt) has in the Quran allowed us to eat animals that a dog has cought.

Just because one does not drink from the same vessel as a dog, does not give one the right to neglect it, mistreat it, or even kill it! The usefulness of this creature of Allah (swt) is indisputable. No other animal can compete with it in its loyalty to its caregiver, its abilities as a guard, and its talent for hunting.

In Sahih al-Bukhari we find several different ahadith that allows the killing of dogs even in a state of ihram, but these ahadith are limited in application to angry dogs with rabies and dogs that attact people! What is the matter with certain muslims and muslim scholars that they neglect to look at the actions of the Prophet (saaws) in order to investigate how he (saaws) and his Sahaba (raa) acted according to these sayings?

It was narrated from Hafsa (raa) that Allahs Apostle (saaws) said: "It is not sinful to kill five kinds of animals, namely: the crow, the kite, the mouse, the scorpion and the rabid dog." (Sahih al-Bukhari).

It was narrated from Aisha (raa) that Allahs Apostle (saaws) said: "Five kinds of animals are harmful and could be killed in the Haram (Sanctuary). These are: the crow, the kite, the scorpion, the mouse and the rabid dog." (Sahih al-Bukhari).

It was narrated from Abdullah bin Umar (raa) that Allahs Apostle (saaws) said: "It is not sinful of a person in the state of Ihram to kill any of these five animals: The scorpion, the rat, the rabid dog, the crow and the kite." (Sahih al-Bukhari).

A rabid dog is a dangerous and aggresive dog, a dog with rabies or a dog that has gone mad. Hence Aisha (raa) narrates that the Prophet (saaws) said: "Five kinds of animals are harmful.."

Why is it that no one has noticed that these ahadith speaks about ihram?

The reason why these ahadith speaks about ihram is because normally in ihram it is strictly forbidden to slaugther and hunt animals, hence the people was affraid to even kill dangerous animals during ihram. An exception for killing is then given when danger by aggresive or poisoness animals exists, hence out of nessecity.

That is also why this particular kind of dog, a rabid dog, has been mentioned together with the other animals that either are dangerous or prone to spreading disease. Both crows and kites are in some countries known to sometimes attack people.

These ahadith provides no excuse to kill or mistreat dogs in any way and the one who does so has acted against Sharia.

The Quran narrates in Surat Al-Kahf the story of the pious youths who took refuge in a cave from the persecution and violence of the unbelievers. These righteous people had a dog with them, and the fact that Allah (swt) mentions the dog and counts the dog among them, clearly shows that dogs are permitted to live among people! Allah (swt) says: "And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep. And We turned them on their right and on their left sides, and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance." (18:18).

And Allah (swt) says: "They ask you as to what is allowed to them. Say: The good things are allowed to you, and what you have taught the beasts and birds of prey, training them to hunt, you teach them of what Allah has taught you, so eat of that which they catch for you and mention the name of Allah over it, and be careful of Allah, surely Allah is swift in reckoning." (5:4).

And in two separate ahadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (the cat-loving Companion) (raa), The Prophet (saaws) told his Companions of the virtue of saving the life of a dog by giving it water and quenching its thirst.

Abu Huraira (raa) reported that The Prophet (saaws) said, "A prostitute saw a dog lolling around a well on a hot day and hanging his tongue from thirst. She drew some water for it in her shoe, so Allah forgave her."

(Sahih Muslim).

"Once a man was walking along the road when he was overcome by extreme thirst. He found a well, so he climbed down into the well and drank. When he came up he found a dog that was painting with thirst. The dog was so thirsty that it was eating mud from the ground. The man thought that this dog was feeling the same type of thirst that he had. Thus, he went down into the well again and filled his leather sock with water. Then he held it in his mouth so that he could climb back up the well. Then he gave it to the dog to drink. Allah appreciated his act and He forgave him (of his sins)." The Companions (raa) of the Messenger of Allah (saaws) asked: "O Messenger of Allah, is there reward for us in animals? Are we rewarded for treating animals well?" The Prophet (saaws) said: "In every tender heart there is a reward. (Sahih al-Bukhari and Imam Maliks Muwatta).

Hunting is haram (forbidden) unless for severe need for food

It is narrated that The Messenger of Allah (saaws) said: "If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, 'O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose.'" (Sunan al-Nasai).

And it is narrated that he (saaws) said: "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." The listeners asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He (saaws) replied, "That he will kill it to eat it, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away." (Sunan al-Nasai and Mustadrak al-Hakim).

This means that simply killing an animal for sport, even when it is eaten, is strictly haram (forbidden) because the purpose for the killing in this case must be because eating it is necessary. And Allah (swt) knows the intention.

It was narrated by Umar bin al-Khattab (raa) that The Messender of Allah (saaws) said: "Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for." (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).

When The Prophet (saaws) one day saw a group of people using a live animal for target practice, he (saaws) said: "May Allah curse the one who uses any creature with a soul as a target." (Sahih Muslim).

Hence, those people who are hunting for sport, yet they try to validate their action by eating the animal afterwards, are committing a serious transgression in Islam.

Keeping animals as pets

Keeping animals as pets is not only permitted it is seen as a great act of compassion and as a great way to earn the Pleasure and Mercy of Allah (swt), if done in a proper manner.

A Muslim feeds or gives water to an animal if he finds it hungry or thirsty, and keeping an animal as a pet in order to care for it is greatly rewarded as it has been narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said: "There is a reward (for serving) everything with a moist liver (that is, every living creature)." (Imam Ahmad).

It is not without reason that The Prophet (saaws) mentions "everything with a moist liver", because because not every living creature has a heart.

It was narrated that The Companions (raa) asked, "O Allahs Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He (saaws) replied: "There is a reward for serving any living being." (Sahih al-Bukhari).

It was narrated that Abu Umama (raa) said that the Messenger of Allah (saaws), "Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising." (Al Adab Al Mufrad).

A Muslim who chooses to keep a pet takes on the responsibility of the animals care and well-being. They must be provided with appropriate food, water, and shelter.

What about euthanasia (mercy killing animals)?

If your pet is sick and it can be treated you must do so if it is within your means and ability to do so. Simply allowing an animal to be "put down" because it is sick is not allowed in Islam, it is haram (forbidden). Should you do so, you will be responsible before Allah for causing undue suffering to an animal.

If you do not have the means and resources to get adequate treatment for it you must try to get help from other people, whether friends or family or animal care organizations.

It was narrated from Abdullah ibn Amr (raa) from the Messenger of Allah (saaws) that he said, "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything above it without a just cause, Allah Most High will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." It was said, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He (saaws) replied, "That you slaughter it to eat it, and not to simply chop off its head and then throw it away." (Sunan al-Sunan al-Nasai and Mustadrak al-Hakim).

This prohibition is to be extended to all animals - both whose meat is halal and whose meat is haram to eat. As such, if there is no useful purpose in killing the animal, such as eating the meat of a halal animal or benefiting from the body parts of a haram one, it will remain unlawful to kill it.

Likewise, it is sinful to stop feeding an animal and leaving it to starve to death. Or simply letting it go off by itself when it clearly cannot survive on its own. For example because it originally is from another country and therefore cannot survive where one lives, or because it has become domesticated and as such no longer are able to handle itself in nature, or because it is too ill to manage itself.

However, if there is a "genuine need" to kill an animal, then it becomes permitted, such as killing animals and insects which cause harm to one self or ones belongings. However, care must be taken to not make the animal suffer and minimize its pain as much as possible.

The question is, does killing a sick animal in order to end its suffering come under the categories of "genuine need" and/or "benefit"?

There is a difference of opinion between classical jurists (fuqaha) on whether it can be killed. Some schools of law do not allow its killing, for it is a living soul and thus should be allowed to die its natural death, but this is not the right Islamic verdict because - as mentioned earlier - it was narrated that The Prophet (saaws) said: "Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising." (Al Adab Al Mufrad).

And in the hadith "Allah has ordained kindness in everything. If the killing is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease." (Sahih Muslim), killing and slaughtering has been mentioned as two separate actions.

According to the Hanafi and Maliki Schools of Islamic law, which in this issue holds the correct and strongest Islamic opinion, if the animal is in pain and there is no hope of its recovery, then there is no sin in having it killed, on the contrary it is mustahab (recommended).

Imam Haskafi (rha) from the Hanafi School states: "It is permitted to slaughter a cat or dog for a benefit. And it is better to slaughter a dog if it is close to death." Imam Ibn Abidin comments this by saying: "For in slaughtering the dog, one is relieving it from pain. Tahtawi said that this ruling is not restricted to a dog." (Radd al-Muhtar ala ’l-Durr al-Mukhtar 6/474, Kitab al-Sayd).

And it is stated in Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya: "If a donkey becomes ill such that one is unable to benefit from it, then there is nothing wrong with slaughtering it to end its suffering." (5/361).

In the Maliki School, Imam al-Dardir (rha) states in his commentary of Mukhtasar al-Khalil: "It is permitted to slaughter a donkey or mule if one loses hope in its recovery (due to its illness), rather it is mustahab (recommended) to end its suffering." (Sharh Mukhtasar al-Khalil with Hashiyat Dasuqi 2/108).

In conclusion, killing an animal without a reason is haram (prohibited) and sinful, but permitted due to genuine need or to gain benefit. This "genuine need" includes an animal becoming severely sick such that there remains no hope in its recovering, and as such, it would be permitted to have it killed to end its suffering and pain, inshAllah. However, as long as it is possible to care for the animal when it is sick and as long as it is not suffering, then it is absolutely haram (forbidden) to kill the animal.

And Allah knows best.