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Monday, January 16, 2006

Animal Rights

The concept of animal rights in the west has evolved slowly over the
centuries, following much the same course as that of children's rights.
Both involve putting the welfare of a being who cannot explicitly
complain over the direct monetary and social needs of the person responsible
for them.

In 1825, the House of Refuge in America was founded, which was the
first institution in the US to help take care of severely abused and
abandoned children.

After the Industrial Revolution had started to help people meet their
basic needs with ease, they had the luxury to turn their minds to other
issues, such as caring for those less fortunate. It is just around this
time that animal welfare started to be discussed.

Long before "Animal Rights" was incorporated in our contemporary world;
Prophet Muhammad established extensive guidelines to treat animals.

The Quran says that Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to the
worlds. His kindness knew no limits, which included animals.

Before Islam Arabs, like all ignorant and illiterate people, were very
cruel to animals. It was very common in Arabia to put a ring round the
neck of a camel, but this practice was stopped on Prophet Muhammad

When people needed meat for eating they used to cut pieces of flesh
from living animals. This barbaric practice was forbidden by the Prophet.
He also forbade people to keep animals in their working equipment for a
long time and said, "Don't make the backs of animals your chairs."
Animal fights were also made unlawful. Another custom was to tie up an
animal and practice arrow shooting on it. This was also prohibited.

Once Muhammad saw a donkey that was branded on its face, and said,
"God's curse is on him who branded it." As people had to brand their
camels and sheep in order to know them, they were told to brand them on
parts which were not so tender. Anas reported that he went into a herd of
sheep and saw God's Messenger branding them on the ears.

Once the Prophet was on a journey with his companions and they stopped
for rest at a place. In a tree nearby, a bird had laid an egg. A man
took the egg and the bird began beating her wings in a state of great
distress. Muhammad enquired who had tormented the bird her by taking her
egg. The man said, "O God's Messenger, I have done this." The Prophet
told him to put it back immediately.

A companion who had some baby birds wrapped in a piece of cloth came to
Muhammad . On enquiry, he told Muhammad , "I heard a noise from a bush,
went there, saw these babies, and took them out. When their mother saw
what had happened, she began to fly round my head." Muhammad told him
to go back and return the birds.

Once the Prophet saw a camel on the road, whose belly and back, through
extreme hunger, had become one. He said, "Fear God in your treatment of
these animals who cannot speak."

The Prophet once told a story to his companions. There was a man who
went on a journey and on his way he felt very thirsty. He found a well
and went down into the well and drank water. When he came out of the well
he saw a dog that was very thirsty and was licking the salty ground. He
thought that the animal was thirsty like him, so he again went down
into the well and filled his leather socks with water and gave it to the
dog. God accepted this action of the man and sent him to Paradise.

Humane procedures to slaughter the animals for human food consumption
were instituted by Prophet Muhammad . Animals were given water to drink
before slaughtering and he told his companions to slaughter animals
with the sharpest knife, causing the minimum pain and suffering to the
animal. He also forbade them to sharpen the weapon in front of the animal
or when the animal was ready for slaughter, but told them to do these
preliminaries before the animal was brought for slaughter.

Muhammad showed people by word and deed to be kind and friendly to
everyone. Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet as saying, "A believer is
friendly (and kind)." Anas and Abdullah ibn Masud reported God's Messenger
as saying, "All creatures are God's children, those dearest to God are
the ones who treat His children, kindly." A'isha reported God's
Messenger as saying, "God is gentle and likes gentleness. He gives for
gentleness what He does not give for harshness and what He does not give for
anything else." Abdullah ibn Masud reported God's Messenger as saying,
"Shall I not tell you who is kept away from Hell and from whom Hell is
kept away? From everyone who is gentle and kind, approachable and of an
easy disposition.

Muhammad , by his own example, had ingrained this kind of behavior in
the hearts of his companions, who, after him set an example for other
people. This is shown by the following.

It is reported by Abdullah ibn Jaffer that he passed by a grazing field
and saw an Abyssinia slave guarding a herd of goats. After awhile a dog
came and sat in front of the Abyssinian. He took of a loaf of bread and
gave it to the dog that ate it. He then took out a second and third
loaf of bread and gave them also to the dog which proceeded to eat all of

After witnessing this, Abdullah enquired from the slave how many loaves
of bread he received every day from his master. The slave replied that
he got as many as he saw. At this, he asked why he gave all his bread
to the dog. The slave replied that was not the place the dog belonged
and he must have come looking for food from a great distance, and he did
not want his effort to be wasted.

Abdullah said that he was so impressed with his action that he paid the
slave owner to free him, and along with that bought all the goats and
the grazing field from his master, and gave it to the Abyssinian. The
slave thanked him and prayed for him and gave all the goats and the
grazing field to charity and went away from that place.

Adapted from 'Muhammad - Encyclopedia of Seerah' by Afzalur Rahman


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