Mercy is the spirit of Islam, the Islamic view of and care for animals specially and nature generally are unique and admirable:
1⇒ All living creatures, humans and non-humans, are partners on earth. They all share the benefits of God’s grace and blessings, and live within the limits of the purposes of their creation. Allah The Entirely Merciful says in Qur’an:
And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures.” [Quran/55/10].
2⇒ In Islam, all living creatures are nations and communities with their own natures, instincts, orders, laws, leaders and languages. In Qur’an you read:
And there is not a moving (living) creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its two wings except [that they are/form] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they (all) shall be gathered.” [Quran/6/38].
3⇒ Humans and other living creatures are from the same source, they all are God’s creation. Allah Almighty says: “Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.” [Quran/24/45].
4⇒ Humans are accountable for their deeds on the Day of Judgment before God. Nonhumans are to be judged also but in a minor form out of justice not accountability, as they are not choosing creatures, then they are turned into dust and cease to exist.
This is emphasized on in both Qur’an (the word of Allah) and Sunnah (the sayings and deeds of Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Allah says: “Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each [of them] has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do.” [Quran/24/41].
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying:
The claimants would get their claims on the Day of Resurrection so much so that the hornless sheep would get its claim from the horned sheep.” [Sahih Muslim].
Although they are not accountable as they are not choosing (except for man and jinn who are choosing), all of the creations of God submit to him.
5⇒ Merciful behavior towards animals is a rewardable deed in Islam. Muslims are commanded to show kindness and compassion towards animals, birds, and all other living creatures, and they are repeatedly forbidden from being cruel towards them. Cutting off a mane or a tail of an animal is prohibited, also torturing and neglecting animals, sport hunting and abusing animals are all forbidden.
It is narrated from Abu Huraira that the Prophet (PBUH) said,
Do not use the backs of your animals as chairs. Allah has made them subject to you, so that by them you can reach places that you would not otherwise be able to reach except with great fatigue.” [Sunan Abi Dawud].
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.” He also said:
Fear Allah in these beasts which cannot speak.” [Sunan Abi Dawud].
The Companions said:
O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.” [Sahih al-Bukhari] .
6⇒ Humans are created by Allah, the Almighty, to be the custodians and guardians of the Earth, and all other creatures are subjected to them. The rules of conduct in Islam are based on having mercy, enjoining good and forbidding evil towards every human and nonhuman. For example, in Islam, killing animals without need, such as killing for fun or sport, is not permissible.
In case of killing for food, Islamic slaughtering has special manners characterized by “Ihsan” (performing acts perfectly according to divine guidance).
On the authority of Abu Ya’la Shaddad bin Aws that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (proficiency, perfection) in all things. So if you kill then kill well; and if you slaughter, then slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters” [Sahih Muslim].
“Ihsan” during slaughtering is to minimize the animal’s suffering as one is taking a life only by the permission of Allah in order to meet the need for food.
These are the rules for Islamic slaughter
- Muslims are required to sharpen the blade (not in sight of the animal) before slaughtering to ensure minimizing the pain felt by animals.
- The knife blade must be free from blemishes that might tear the wound.
- The animal must be in a comfortable position for slaughtering.
- The slaughterer must say the name of God before starting.
- The animal must be killed by cutting the throat with a single continuous back and forth motion of a sharp knife.
- The slaughterer must sever at least three of the trachea, esophagus, and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat.
- The spinal cord must not be cut.
- Animals must not see other animals being slaughtered.
- The animal must be allowed to bleed out.
7⇒ It is interesting to know that there are several animals, birds and even insects mentioned in Qur’an. These are some of them:
Cow, Camel, Horse, Mule, Dog, Pig, Donkey, Monkey, ewe, Lion, Sheep, Goat, Wolf, Calf, Elephant, Whale, Birds, Crow, Hoopoe, Swallow, Quail, Frog, Snake, Worm, Ant, Honey bee, Butterfly, Spider, Lice, Mosquito and Locust.
They are all mentioned as being creatures of Allah that worship Him and do what they were created for instinctively.
It is also interesting to know that there are some chapters in Qur’an named after some animals and insects which contains some information about their nature, habits and incidents, e.g.:
AL-Baqarah (The Cow), AN-Naml (The Ant), AL-‘Ankabut (The Spider), AL-Fil (The Elephant), AN-Nahl (The Bee).
All creatures are of nations and communities as those of man, each has its own nature, instinct, order, laws and language.
They all have their own forms of worship of Allah Almighty (pray, prostrate, praise and exalt Him) but we as humans do not comprehend them.
Being subjected to man does not entitle him to be cruel towards them.
Harmony in the world is the divine will of Allah. It is only disrupted by ill behaviors of man straying away from the righteous path revealed to Prophet Muhammad in the last divine message of God to humanity “The Quran”.
Extra reading materials
These are two articles on verses mentioning animals in Quran.