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The Rights of Animals according to the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Narrations

As the most comprehensive religion, Islam provides humanity with powerful guidelines concerning the rights of animals.

The Holy Qur’an speaks of a kind of similarity between animals and human beings:

وَ ما مِنْ دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَ لا طائِرٍ يَطيرُ بِجَناحَيْهِ إِلاَّ أُمَمٌ أَمْثالُكُمْ ما فَرَّطْنا فِي الْكِتابِ مِنْ شَيْ‏ءٍ ثُمَّ إِلى‏ رَبِّهِمْ يُحْشَرُونَ

There is no animal on land, nor a bird that flies with its wings, but they are communities like yourselves. We have not omitted anything from the Book. Then they will be mustered toward their Lord. (The Holy Qur’an, 6:38)

The verse implies that all the moving creatures on the earth or the air are living in communities like human beings. They all live life and all have social and individual affairs. Their likeness to man might be either in their amazing creation, or in their needs and necessities, or even in their intelligence and apprehension. More or less they are bestowed with common sense, mind and wisdom, and some of them have developed civilization like ants and bees. Some of them are faithful like dogs, some can be trained like hounds for hunting, and some do the work of a page like a pigeon. While others like monkeys can imitate any behavior of man. All the creatures feel to have somehow a responsibility like that of a mother to feed her baby or the father who knows his job to provide, and every one of them is held in a pledge of his deeds. According to some other verses in the Holy Qur’an and also according to several Islamic traditions, all the moving creatures too will be raised in Dooms Day, and they will be judged according to their ability and merits, and will taste the consequences of what they have done; bad or good! See. Translation of Nimuna Commentary, vol. 2, p. 193

Also, the Qur’an states that it is upon God to provide all living creatures with the provision:

وَ كَأَيِّنْ مِنْ دَابَّةٍ لا تَحْمِلُ رِزْقَهَا اللَّهُ يَرْزُقُها وَ إِيَّاكُمْ وَ هُوَ السَّميعُ الْعَليمُ

How many an animal there is that does not carry its provision. Allah provides for it, and you, and He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. (The Holy Qur’an, 29:60)

The following verse refers to some rights of animals:

وَ لَأُضِلَّنَّهُمْ وَ لَأُمَنِّيَنَّهُمْ وَ لَآمُرَنَّهُمْ فَلَيُبَتِّكُنَّ آذانَ الْأَنْعامِ وَ لَآمُرَنَّهُمْ فَلَيُغَيِّرُنَّ خَلْقَ اللَّهِ

and I [the Satan] will lead them astray and give them false hopes, and prompt them to slit the ears of cattle, and I will prompt them to alter Allah’s creation.” (The Holy Qur’an, 4:119)

The Prophet of mercy, Muhammad (PBUH) has many pieces of advice regarding various kinds of animal rights such as:

General instructions:

لِلدَّابَّةِ عَلَى صَاحِبِهَا سِتُّ خِصَالٍ يَعْلِفُهَا إِذَا نَزَلَ وَ يَعْرِضُ عَلَيْهَا الْمَاءَ إِذَا مَرَّ بِهِ وَ لَا يَضْرِبْهَا إِلَّا عَلَى حَقٍّ وَ لَا يُحَمِّلْهَا مَا لَا تُطِيقُ وَ لَا يُكَلِّفْهَا مِنَ السَّيْرِ إِلَّا طَاقَتَهَا وَ لَا يَقِفْ عَلَيْهَا فُوَاقاً

The animal has six rights over its owner: once the owner has dismounted the animal he should allow it to graze, he should give it access to water if they pass by it, he should not hit the animal except when it truly deserves it, he should not burden it with a load that it cannot bear, he should not overtask it with a journey that it cannot endure and he should not sit on it for lengthy periods.‘ Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 8, p. 258

Prohibition of harming and bothering animals:

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ ص أَبْصَرَ نَاقَةً مَعْقُولَةً وَ عَلَيْهَا جَهَازُهَا فَقَالَ أَيْنَ صَاحِبُهَا مُرُوهُ فَلْيَسْتَعِدَّ غَداً لِلْخُصُومَةِ

When the Prophet (S) saw a she-camel, whose knees were tied up, carrying her load, he said, ‘Where is her owner? Tell him that he should prepare for the lawsuit tomorrow [the Day of Resurrection]. Man la Yahzuruh-u al-Faqih, vol. 2, p. 293

Taking care of animals’ food and water:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الرِّفْقَ وَ يُعِينُ عَلَيْهِ فَإِذَا رَكِبْتُمُ الدَّوَابَّ الْعُجْفَ فَأَنْزِلُوهَا مَنَازِلَهَا فَإِنْ كَانَتِ الْأَرْضُ مُجْدِبَةً فَانْجُوا عَنْهَا وَ إِنْ كَانَتْ مُخْصِبَةً فَأَنْزِلُوهَا مَنَازِلَهَا

Verily Allah loves gentleness and He aids in implementing it, so when you ride a lean animal, dismount it at the right place for if the land is barren and arid then get away from it and if the land is lush and fertile then dismount the animal [and allow it to rest]. Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 120

أَ لَا تَتَّقِي اللَّهَ فِي هَذِهِ الْبَهِيمَةِ الَّتِي مَلَّكَكَ اللَّهُ إِيَّاهَا فَإِنَّهُ يَشْكُو إِلَيَّ أَنَّكَ تُجِيعُهُ وَ تُذِيبُهُ

Addressing one of his compan