Animal Rights & Welfare in Islam & Eid ul Adha

TLDR

  • Eating less and only eating when hungry is strongly prescribed in Sunnah. Most of the Muslims today ignore these very basic principles of Islam. One of the major reasons of animals suffering today is the humungous meat demand the World faces today. If all humans just followed these basic principle of Islam, the animal suffering would massively reduce and obesity in humans would also vanish too!
  • Muslims are not allowed to slaughter one animal in front of other. It is surprising how few Muslims are aware of this basic principle of Islamic slaughtering. This principle is also applicable at the time of Eid ul Adha.
  • Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A woman went to Hell because of a cat which she detained. She did not feed it when she detained it, and she did not let it free to eat of the vermin of the earth.” Lesson: If you have pet animals, take care of them and if you can’t, then let them free in a habitat where they can survive on their own.
  • “If you kill, kill well, and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters” – Prophet Muhammad (saw) Lesson: Make the suffering as little as possible for the animal being slaughtered.
  • Using ANY animal or living thing for target practice whether for fun or military reasons is strictly prohibited. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) cursed those who do that.
  • Eid ul Adha is a time for festivity yet what a lot of people forget is that it is a time for re-living the ultimate sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim (ah) & his son Ismael (ah) were willing to make for Allah (swt). It is certainly not a time to show off which animal you would be slaughtering. Comparing the sizes of the animals, boasting about the money you spent and even worse having ‘fashion shows’ of animals are all signs of ignorance which should be avoided.
  • A general point that is worth reminding to some ‘voracious’ meat eaters is that although meat is definitely part of a healthy diet….but it is part of it just like veggies, fruits, dairy and grains are. Like everything else, moderation is the key!

I remember a colleague of mine asked me very condescendingly at a work lunch whether I thought halal was a inhumane way of slaughter. The irony being the gentleman then had a pork meal right after that…If you are a Muslim in West, you would be no stranger to these type of questions. Everything related to Islam & Muslims is held to a harsh unjust scrutiny that is absent when the other religion or non religious groups are in question. With that being said, I personally as a child growing up had always struggled with the idea of Eid ul adha. However a few years ago, I started reading about what the animal rights meant in the eyes of Islam and I was fascinated by how much kindness there is prescribed for animals in Islam which as Muslims, most of us unfortunately don’t practise.

Muslims: Make sure your halal meat comes from ethical and humane sources

Why did i struggle with the idea of Eid ul Adha when I was a kid was that we were taking the life of an animal for our food. As I have grown older, i have learnt how the cycle of life and food chain works. Basically each group of organisms depends on series of another as source of food. Although humans can get by without eating meat but we would really struggle to get adequate amounts of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc if we didn’t consume any meat. Eating meat raised in specific circumstances is ethical in my opinion. For me, they are most succinctly summed up in Aldo Leopold’s land ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” So yes we all have a responsibility to make sure that the meat we get from the market comes from farms that treat their animals with mercy and kindness. This is our Islamic duty!

Unfortunately most animal farms in most countries around the World have inhumane conditions for the unfortunate animals there. These farms’ only and only purpose is to maximise their profits. In most of these farms these animals are kept in such crowded and dirty conditions that they are literally shitting on top of each other and there is no place for the poor animal to even move. Most of these animals are forced fed way more they can eat just before they are about to be sold to fetch few extra pennies per animal to the owner which inevitably makes the animal sick and get severe digestive issues. Even for humans there is one practise that has caused a huge concern among the medical researchers that most of these farm owners inject their animals with extremely powerful antibiotics which aren’t necessary at all. Again this horrible practice is for the owners to make sure that they can rinse every last dollars out of these animals. These powerful antibiotics then get into our system once we eat the meat of these animals which according to some researchers is fuelling antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans leading to new “superbugs”. What would have our prophet Muhammad (saw) said had he seen a farm like this! I will quote an incident that happened at the time of our kind prophet (saw) and we can infer from this incident what we Muslims should be doing today to counter such cruel and inhumane practices.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) once entered a garden and saw a camel which came crying to him. The prophet (saw) approached the camel and rubbed off its tears and asked “Who is the owner of this camel?” The owner replied “It is mine”. Muhammad (saw) then said “Don’t you fear Allah with regards to the animals that Allah made you owner of? Indeed your animal complained to me that you starve and overwork it”.

Halal Way of Slaughter

Most Muslims are aware that we are not allowed to eat anything that is not slaughtered without saying Bismillah. Most Muslims would also know that any Pig related products are prohibited in Islam. But how many Muslims are aware that the halal way of slaughtering prohibits sacrificing one animal in front of the other. The fuqaha’ are unanimously agreed that part of the etiquette of slaughtering is not to slaughter one animal in front of another. Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: It is makrooh to slaughter (an animal) when another is looking on. So let us try educate other Muslims around us this Eid ul Adha to not slaughter any animal in the sight of the other animal inshaAllah. 

Another very important thing for a halal slaughter is to make sure the instruments are sharp and cause as little pain to animal as possible. Our Prophet (saw) said “If you kill, kill well, and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters”. Similarly the animal should not be handled violently, or be dragged to slaughter.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad said: “He should not slaughter it with a tool or cause pain to it as he is slaughtering it. Also he should not slaughter it in front of another, because this is torture”. This is part of the beauty of Islam with its mercy and kindness and good manners.

Eat Less & Only Eat When Hungry

The Golden principle of health in Islam is the prophet’s (saw) advice to all mankind to stop eating when there is little hunger left and only eat when one is hungry. Modern science has today shown that it can take up to around 20 minutes for our guts to signal to our brain that they are now full. What usually ends up happening however with most people today is by that time we have already over eaten by a lot. Also it is no secret that after Islam spread through Madina and surrounding regions, historical evidence proves that hardly any doctors (aka known as Hakeems back then) were required especially in Madina where people were most religious in the entire Islamic empire. Early Muslim Caliphs made statements like that we don’t need Hakeems as we are a nation that only eats when hungry and we don’t eat to the fill. So we as Muslims should be looking at this concept of 3 meals a day, do we really need to eat at certain times even when we aren’t hungry. We will be covering this topic in extensive detail inshaAllah in a future video & blog post.

Now you must be asking how is this exactly related to animal rights. Answer is simple: Demand & Supply. When the demand is less, meat suppliers won’t be overstretched, governments won’t be under pressure to approve dodgy conditions for farms and will be able to impose much stringent conditions on anyone looking to get into animal farming business. Also when people eat less and won’t eat meat as much, it is natural that they would have more money to spend on higher quality meat coming from ethical farms as they would be eating less!

Be Kind & Merciful to Animals

Everyday we read in the news the kind of abuse animals face daily whether as pets or just animals in their natural habitats. This ranges from something cultural like cruel Bullfighting ‘sports’ in Spain, illegal lion hunting for trophies in Africa, getting dogs or roosters to fight against each other in other countries to something more on an individual level like neglect of pet animals in all countries including here in UK. Hence Islam laid major emphasis on taking care of animals since its inception.

Cruel ‘sports’ like tying up animals for target practice or simply fun was outlawed by Islam. Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade the tying up of animals or other creatures in order to kill them. The version narrated by Muslim says, “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) cursed those who do that.”) Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not use anything in which there is a soul as a target.” Also Islam addressed the issue of taking good care of pet animals. Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A women went to Hell because of a cat which she detained. She did not feed it when she detained it, and she did not let it free to eat of the vermin of the earth.”

On the other hand, we were also informed of how people were forgiven by Allah because of their merciful behaviour to wild stray animals. Abu Huraira radi allahu `anhu (may God have mercy on him) reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (peace be upon him) as saying: “‘Whilst a dog was walking around a well, almost dying of thirst, one of the prostitutes of Bani Israa’eel [Children of Israel] saw him, took off her shoe and gave him water. She was forgiven because of that.” There is another hadith in Sahih Muslim that shows the importance of kindness to animals “A group of Companions were once on a journey with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, 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 its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back. He said, ‘Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her.’”

What is Eid ul Adha

With regards to animal rights, some of animal rights abuses occur during time of Eid ul Adha sadly and the major reason for this is the most Muslims of today have forgotten the real reason for celeberating the 2nd Eid of the Hijri. Eid ul Adha is not just about sacrificing an animal, having parties and meeting and greeting each other but the first and foremost reason for this Eid is to re-live the spirit of the unbelievable sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim (as) was about to give. Prophet Ibrahim (as) was about to sacrifice his son Ismail (as) for Allah. The sacrifice that this father and son were willing to carry out is the ultimate sacrifice any loving father and son can ever give in the path of devotion and dedication to their faith. So Eid’s foremost lesson is to assess our spiritual level and see if our connection to Allah is strong enough to make even basic sacrifices, instead what most of us end up doing is actually engage in show-offs of our wealth and status in the society. This unfortunately also results in many cases of animals being mistreated by people who have no interest in the true loving teachings of Islam but instead make this utmost spiritual occasion into a ridiculous parade of wealth.

The second most important reason for celeberating Eid ul Adha is to make sure the meat of the animals being slaughtered in a halal humane method (see above) then reaches the poor and destitute amongst the society. It is not supposed to be just used for cooking by us but the reason is to help those poor & helpless people among the society who struggle to put two meals on their table daily to have some decent food during these days.

Let us all this year try to relive the true spirit of Eid ul Adha’s amazing sacrifice that was given by Ibrahim & Ismail (as) and in the process not forget that Islam commands us to treat animals with love and kindness.