Sep 3, 2014

Environmental Issues Series: Animal Rights in Islam - Part 2

By Tara Alomari

Why should Muslims care Part 1 | Why should Muslims care Part 2 | Water Conservation Part 1 | Water Conservation Part 2 | Animal Rights Part 1


In the previous part, we examined the rights of domestic animals upon us. In this part, we will focus on wild animals and the rights the possess over us.

Wild Animals:

Unlike domesticated animals, the rights of wild animals tend to focus more on the rights of populations, their habitats, and so on, rather than on individual animals. The two main issues that concern us today regarding wild animals are hunting and extinction.

Hunting: While there is beyond the scope of this article to explore all the intricacies of hunting, making hunted meat halal, and so on, it is generally agreed that hunting for food is allowed while hunting purely for sport is not. It is narrated from Ibn Umar that the Prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, cursed those who used any living thing as a target (Muslim).  For more information about hunting haram and halal, ask your local imam.

Extinction: While not necessarily every animal has the right not to be killed, every animal population has the right not to be pushed to extinction. For example, it would be permissible to kill a wolf that was directly threatening someone’s sheep, but it would not be permissible to go out and hunt down whole packs of wolves in the wild just to get rid of them. This is why it’s not haram to kill a fly in your house. It is disturbing you in your house and there are still plenty of flies out there in the world to take its place; the species is not threatened by your actions.

However, actions which threaten the existence of whole species, such as over-hunting, water pollution, deforestation and desertification (both forms of habitat loss) are definitely wrong because they threaten the species and removing a single species from the food chain can have disastrous consequences for the delicate balance of life in a given region (see Why should Muslims care Part 1). Returning to the wolf example, it was witnessed in parts of the American west that when wolves were extinct from certain places in the wild, that deer became too populous, destroying grasslands and the understory of forests with their grazing, even resulting in more life-threatening car crashes. While wolves are undoubtedly dangerous creatures, they are also what’s called a “keystone species”, one which, like the keystone of an arch, holds the whole structure together; without them, the balance of life will collapse. 

In order to uphold our duties to these wild animal populations and to the life systems they sustain, we need to address the multifarious causes of their extinction such as deforestation and desertification, land and water pollution, over-hunting, etc, which are all integrated and overlapping issues of concern for us as khalifas of creation.


Finally, it should be mentioned that good treatment of animals is a source of good deeds and is loved by Allah. Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said, Verily, a prostitute saw a dog lolling around a well on a hot day and hanging his tongue from thirst, so she drew some water for it in her shoe and Allah forgave her” (Muslim)

How we treat the animals in our lives, as well as the impact we have on animals outside our lives- the wild animals that are affected by our everyday environmental choices- has the potential to be an enormous source of hasanaat (good deeds) or sayi’aat (bad deeds) which will stand for or against us on the day of judgement. Just like in this hadith, one sincere good deed towards an animal could completely change your standing in the eyes of Allah. Therefore, let us not forget the importance of upholding the rights of our friends in the animal kingdoms as we strive to be better stewards of creation.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


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