« on: August 30, 2007, 09:47:23 PM »
The Islamic Protection of the Environment
By Professor Mustafa Abu-Sway
Department of Philosophy, Al-Quds University , Jerusalem
Islam has enjoined upon Muslims right relationship with animals. They are asked to treat animals well, and they are not allowed to kill animals except for food. The latter permission has to be carried out in accordance with the Shari `ah. Only in limited cases some animals are allowed to be killed when they endanger the life of the human.
To slaughter an animal, one has to use sharp object that will save the animal the pain associated with the use of a blunted object. Shaddad Ibn Aws reported that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, said:
“…and excel in slaughtering; sharpen your blade [so you may] relief your slaughtered [animal].”10
In fact, Islam went beyond any expectations when the Shari `ah demanded that the psyche of the animal should be taken into consideration. Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrated from the report of `Umar radhiallaahu` anhu that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, made it imperative to sharpen the blades and to hide them from [the sight of] animals. This ethos is reiterated in another context. Ibn`Abbas reported that a man [kept] a sheep laid down while he was [still] sharpening his blade; the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, said [to him]:
“Would you like it to die twice? Why didn’t you sharpen your blade before laying it down?”11
The protection of animals in Islam includes the notion of hunting. While hunting is permitted in principle, it might become prohibited depending on the conditions that surround it. Ibn Taymiyyah, the Hanbalite medieval scholar, said that “hunting out of necessity is permitted; if it is for fun and playing, it is detested; and if it causes injustice to people, by destroying their fields and property, it is prohibited.”12
People should behave with great responsibility regarding hunting. Hunting should be out of necessity; where necessity is defined in terms of need for food, where other means are not possible. One should also take into consideration the authorities determination of hunting seasons and the kind and number of animals and birds allowed to be hunted. Also, hunting tools that cause great pain should be prohibited. The latter include traps that lock on the leg of the animal causing pain and bleeding until the hunter returns which could be for days!
The following story shows that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, did not tolerate any “hunting” which was not out of necessity. Ibn Mas`ood said: “We were traveling with the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, when he left [us for a while]; we saw a bird with its two chicks and we took the chicks. [Their mother] started spreading its wings [in protest]. When the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, came [and saw what happened] he said:
‘Who caused her to become bereaved [by taking away] her two children? Return her two children to her!’”13
One can appreciate the position of the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, much more when one realizes the choice of words used in the hadeeth. Instead of chicks [farkhiyha], he used children [waladayha] which, reflect the a very humane perspective.
Moreover, one should not take lightly the issue of killing, without any justification, even if the victim is a very small animal or bird. `Abdullah Ibn`Amr reported that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, said:
“No human being kills a sparrow or [something] larger, without right, except that Allaah will ask him about it (hold him responsible! ) on the Day of Judgment” It was said: ‘O Prophet of Allaah! What is its right?’ He said: ‘Its right is that you slaughter it and eat it, not that you decapitate it and throw it!’”14
Another hadeeth to the same effect was narrated by Ahmad, Al-Nisa’i and Ibn Hibban from the report of Al-Sharid, radhiallaahu` anhu, he said: I heard the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam saying:
“If you kill a sparrow senselessly, it will hasten to Allaah on the Day of Judgment saying: ‘O Lord! So and So killed me for play and not for use!’”
Commenting on the previous two narrations and what could be deduced from them, Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi said:
“The Jurist [faqih] deduces from them the prohibition of the killing of an animal except for food. That is why Imaam Al-Mundhiri included both of them in his book at-Targhib wa at-Tarhib, in order to warn people against mutilating animals, and killing them except for food.
Animal rights groups deduce that it is imperative to respect these living beings, to protect their life, and not to touch them except for a need.
The ecologists see in these two narrations the necessity to preserve the components of the environment, and not to allow [destructive] playing which will lead to the annihilation and extinction of these components without any reason.
As for the economist, he understands that the hadeeth clearly brings the attention to the imperative need to protect all resources. They should not be wasted in vain without any economic return. Killing an edible animal without eating it means the loss of a part of the national resources, albeit small.
The scholar of ethics realizes the comprehensive nature of Islamic ethics. He also sees how broad is the domain of responsibility which includes, in addition to human beings, all living beings including animals and birds. Indeed, in other narrations, it includes inanimate objects.
The same applies to the scholar of education, for Islamic education has a broad horizon, and goes beyond religious education, which in the minds of many people is restricted to imbuing the creed, and teaching the rituals. It is education that encompasses every activity of the human which practiced in life: spiritual and material, religious and worldly, individual and social, theoretical and practical.”15
Another area of prohibition covers the hunting of wild animals for reasons other than food (e.g. for fur). Mu`awiya, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, said: “Do not ‘ride’ on silk and tiger fur”16
The prohibition of the use of silk and tiger fur, for seating, whether on saddles or in homes, is to prevent pompous life styles. One can deduce, by analogy, that the fur of all wild cats can not be used. This might come in handy to help in the protection of the endangered Asian tigers that face the extinction though for a different reason. Many people in South East Asia and the Far East believe in the existence of aphrodisiac foods that are associated with “strong” animals including parts of tigers…etc.
In addition, Islam prohibits the use of animals as targets for shooting. Ibn`Umar radhiallaahu` anhu passed by a group of youth, from the tribe of Quraysh, who were shooting their arrows at a bird, and whenever they miss the aim, the owner of the bird takes the arrow for himself. But when they saw Ibn`Umar radhiallaahu` anhu they dispersed. He exclaimed: who did this? May he be cursed!17 The Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, cursed those who create a target out of a being with a soul.
Any unjustified killing of an animal, direct or indirect is prohibited. There is a great punishment awaiting those who do so. Ibn`Umar radhiallaahu` anhu reported that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, said:
“A woman who tied a cat will go to Hellfire; she neither fed it, nor allowed it to find food on its own.”18
The prohibition to kill animals for no public or private good has been already mentioned in the speech of Aboo Bakr radhiallaahu` anhu to the Muslim army.
Furthermore, hitting the animals and marking them in the face is prohibited. Jabeer radhiallaahu` anhu reported a hadeeth to this effect: one should look for alternative ways to mark animals such as non poisonous paint…etc.19
It is also prohibited to set animals against one another. This practice is associated nowadays with gambling. Ibn`Abbas radhiallaahu` anhu reported a hadeeth in which the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, prohibits this practice.20
The Shari `ah aims to protect animals from abuse in the name of having fun or sport. It is clear that “wrestling” bulls cannot be accepted from an Islamic perspective as a sport. I find it obnoxious that sport programs air these “sports”! One should reconsider whether harming oneself or others, be it humans [e.g. boxing] or animals, could be included in sports.
To protect the animals, Islam has also looked into the load an animal can carry without harm. The Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, prohibited riding on weak animals.21
The Companions and later on generations acted according to this hadeeth: Malik reported that`Umar Ibn Al-Khattab radhiallaahu` anhu, when he was a Caliph, passed by a donkey with mud blocks on it. He [assessed that the load was excessive and] unloaded two blocks. The lady who owned the donkey asked`Umar radhiallaahu` anhu: Do you have an authority over my donkey? He answered: What do you think I am doing in this position?22
It is clear that the institution of the Caliphate, the highest executive office in the Islamic state, is responsible for the welfare of all the living beings within its jurisdiction. This is clear in the answer of `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab radhiallaahu` anhu. It is also vivid in the decrees of Caliphs who came later. According to Ibn`Abd Al-Hakam,`Umar Ibn`Abd Al-`Aziz sent a letter to the governor of Egypt asking him to reduce the load of a camel from one thousand to six hundred pounds.23
Not only physical harm to animals is prohibited, but also insulting or cursing. Imaam An-Nawawi, in his famous compendium of hadeeth Riyad us-Saliheen which has a topical arrangement, established a chapter under the title “The Prohibition of Cursing a Specific Human being or an Animal”. He narrated a hadeeth based on the report of `Imraan Ibn Al-Hasin who said:
“The Messenger of Allaah, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, was traveling once [with a group of companions which included] a woman from amongst the Ansar on a camel. [It seems that at one point driving her camel became difficult] she was annoyed, and cursed the camel! The Messenger of Allaah heard her and said: ‘Now that it is cursed, unload it and allow it [to roam free].’”
`Imraan said: I can almost see it now going around amongst people and no one pays attention to it.24
One of the most unique features of the Shari `ah is the way voluntary almsgiving [sadaqah] is distributed. It is stated that it could be given “to rescue those in need amongst the servants of Allaah and the creatures that Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala has enjoined upon us to take care of them.”25
This position is also stated by Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullaah who said that “being good to animals is one way of worshipping Allaah [`Ibadah]”.26 All this is in line with the hadeeth of the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam: “There is reward in [caring for] every living being.”27
The books of jurisprudence are full with discourses regarding the care of animals. This should not come as a surprise if we know that one of the prophets of Islam, Sulayman [Solomon],`alayhiss alaam, has changed the path of his army to avoid hurting ants:
“At length, when they came to a (lowly) valley of ants, one of the ants said: ‘O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his soldiers crush you (under foot) without knowing it.’ So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: ‘O my Lord! So order me that I may be grateful for thy favors, which Thou hast bestowed on me and my parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee: and admit me, by Thy Grace, to the ranks of Thy righteous Servants.’” (27:18-19)
So the greatness of the kingdom that was granted to prophet Sulayman, along with all the might associated with it, did not prevent him from heeding to the ants. This position towards the ants is further confirmed in a hadeeth narrated by Aboo Dawood, with a sound chain of narrators, that Ibn`Abbas reported that the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, prohibited the killing of four creatures: “The ant, the bee, the hoopoe and the sparrow-hawk.”
The story of Nuh`alayhissalaam and the Flood also confirms the utmost care to prevent the extinction of any species. Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala commanded him to carry a pair of every species in the ark:
“…We said: “Embark therein, of each kind two, male and female…” (11:40 )
Yet, when an animal is proven to be a source of danger or harm, it is permitted to kill it. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim narrated from the report of `A’ishah radhiallahu` anha that the Messenger, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, said:
“Five creatures, all harmful, can be killed in the Haram [Sanctuary of Makkah]: the crow, the kite, the scorpion, the mouse and the dog that bites [people without being provoked]”.
If it were not for the harm, actual or anticipated, there would be no permission to kill these animals, rodents, insects and birds. This message is further confirmed in another hadeeth of the Prophet, sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, he said:
“Weren’t the dogs a community like all communities, I would have ordered the killing of [all] of them. So kill the wild and black amongst them.”28
The reference to animals living in communities is clearly stated in the Qur`aan:
“There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you…” (6:38 )
The hadeeth that allows killing the said five animals in the Haram, shows that the original position towards the Haram, the Noble Sanctuary in Makkah, is to prohibit any act of killing, including hunting, by pilgrims. Also cutting the trees of the Haram is prohibited. The Haram might be considered the first protected “natural reservation” in the history of humanity. To emphasize the sanctity of the Haram, which is created by Divine order, the transgressors are punished:
“ye who believe! Kill not game while in the Sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb. If any of you doth so intentionally, the compensation is an offering, brought to the Ka`bah, of a domestic animal equivalent to the one killed, as adjudged by two just men among you; or by way of atonement, the feeding of the indigent; or its equivalent in fasts: that he may taste the penalty of his deed. Allaah forgives what is past: for repetition Allaah will exact from him the penalty. For Allaah is Exalted, and the Lord of Retribution.” (5:98)
____________ _________ _________
10. Narrated by Muslim.
11. Narrated by Al-Hakim; he stated that it is a sound hadith according to the methodology of Al-Bukhaari.
12. Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Fatawa; vol. 4, p. 619
13. Narrated by Aboo Dawood in the chapter on Jihaad # 2675
14. Narrated by Al-Nasa’i, 7/ 207; and by Al-Hakim who stated that it has a sound chain of narrators. His statement was approved
by Al-Mundhiri and Al-Dhahabi.
15. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, al-Sunnah Masdaran Lil-Ma`rifah wal-Hadarah; pp. 145-6.
16. Narrated by Aboo Dawood, # 4129.
17. Narrated by Al-Bukhaari and Muslim; Al-Lu’lu’ wal-Marjan, # 1279.
18. Narrated By Al-Bukhaari.
19. Narrated by Muslim, # 2117.
20. Narrated by Aboo Dawood, # 2556.
21. Narrated by Aboo Dawood, # 2548; Ahmad, 4: 180, 181; and Ibn Hibban, 545.
22. Al-Qaradwai, op. cit., p. 295
23. Ibid, p. 296.
24. Narrated by Muslim, # 2595.
25. Isma`il al-Hasani, Nazariyyat Al-Maqasid ` Ind Al-Imaam Muhammad Ibn `Ashur (IIIT: Herndon, 1995) p. 142.
26. Ahmad Nawfal et al, al-Thaqafah al-Islamiyyah, p. 85.
27. Narrated by Muslim, 7:44
28. Aboo Dawood, # 2839; Al-Tirmidhi, # 1489,: Al-Nassa’i, # 4285; and Ibn Majah, # 3204.