In the Quran it is stated that every creature on the earth is created to serve human begins (2:29); this includes animals . Of many benefits of animals to humans are the meat that comes from fish and chickens, the milk from cows and sheep, utilizing horses, oxen, and camels for farming and transport, doing medical research on animals, using trained dogs to detect drugs and guide blinds. But, are we, as Muslims, allowed to treat animals in Islam and exploit them as we wish? Here is the answer.
Animals’ Rights in Islam
Allah, who has given every animal some specific abilities like the ability to fly, swim or gallop in respectively birds, fish, and horses, has considered their rights, too. Although humans are allowed to benefit from everything created by Allah , they have responsibilities towards every creature as the vicegerent of Allah on the earth . Being created with a higher intellect than animals, we must balance our use of animals with our primary role as a caretaker on the earth.
Animals have been domesticated and trained from a long time ago to perform some tasks and to provide some products for the human. Horses and elephants are still used on farms to provide the tractive force. Camels, donkeys, horses, and dogs are utilized for transport, either riding or pulling wagons. Lions, elephants, monkeys and many other animals are used in circuses to entertain audiences. Some others like dogs and monkeys assist disabled people, while others are kept as pets.
In all these cases, the very first thing that Islam requires Muslims to do is feeding the animal on sufficient and proper food, quenching its thirst, keeping it in a comfortable place, and maintaining its physical health . Of other rights of animals on his owner is that he/she should not hit the animal or harm it, but he might whip the animal to prevent escaping or stampede .
In a saying, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) forbids hitting the animals in the face, since the animals pray and praise God with that . Knowing these rights and considerations, imprisoning animals in cages, forcing them to perform something to amuse humans in circuses and causing extreme pain and suffering to them are all against the Islamic rules and forbidden (Haram) . Islam also prohibits insulting and cursing the animals; Imam Ali (AS) said: “Do not hit the animals on the face and do not curse them, otherwise Allah curses who has cursed them” .
Moreover, the animal should not be burdened with a load that it cannot bear and should not be overtasked either . Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) orders in a saying that: “Do not ride an animal beyond its power and ability” , . And, “When you stop riding the animal, do not keep on sitting on them and do not start (a lengthy) conversation with others (while seated on the animal); instead, descend and (let the animal rest, and) then talk” .
If the animal is weak, it is said that: “when riding a weak animal, let it rest when reaching pastures. If the land is arid and barren, pass it quickly; and, if it is fertile and green, let the animal rest there” (Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)) . Imam Ali (AS) said that “Do not ride three of you (at the same time) an animal; otherwise, one of you is cursed” .
Animals for Sport and Entertainment
Playing sports, especially swimming, archery and horseback riding, are encouraged by Hadith and perceived as important to have a healthy body and brain . Although archery is recommended in Islam and hunting -under certain conditions- is allowed, targeting animals and shooting at them for fun is not permitted .
About horseback riding also, the recommendations stated above should be considered. Again, keeping some animals as pets or for the farm work is strongly exhorted in some cases, but forcing them to fight like what happens in dogfightingand cockfighting which is nowadays common in some regions, is prohibited in Islam .
Animal Slaughter and Hunting
Humans usually slaughter, hunt and fish for sustenance, which is permitted in Islam under certain conditions. But killing animals for fun and using them for target practice is strongly disapproved. Some acts of animal's protection, as not "hunting the endangered animals to save them from going extinct" is also compatible with the Islamic teachings.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: "There is no man who kills a sparrow without its deserving it, but Allah will question him about it [on the Day of Judgment]" . Of other considerations stated in the narrations of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imams (AS) are: not killing the livestock that provide milk or the one that is pregnant; not killing animals for no reason; not killing the animals at night (since they rest like humans at that time), unless there is a necessity; and, not burning animals alive .
Avoiding unnecessary pain and not causing suffering to the innocent creatures are repeatedly reminded in Islamic teachings. Regarding the slaughtering, for example, the regulations laid down in Islam are the least painful, some of which are: the Halal-meated animal must be alive at the time of slaughter; the animal must be watered before the slaughter; a sharp knife must be used to minimize suffering; slaughtering an animal within the sight of another animal is abominable (Makruh); the animal must show some sign of movement after being slaughtered; and, skinning or cutting any part of the animal’s body is not allowed right after the slaughter (before the animal is entirely dead) , .
Knowing this, although the methods (stunning with a blow to the head or an electric shock) used in some slaughterhouses to reduce the animal movement before slaughter might be accepted in veterinary medicine since these methods reduce the animals’ pain, they are condemned in Islam as the examples of torture to animals .
Animal Fur and Leather
Hunting and killing animals for their fur, skin, and oil have been common practices since many years ago and happened more often these days. Wearing the fur obtained from certain animals is legally permitted in Islam when it is required for warmth (16:5). However, animals raised on fur farms are usually abused and killed in brutal ways  that is against the Islamic teachings of kindness to animals; some cruel methods used by trappers to catch animals from the wild are the same .
About leather productions, even though leather products produced by applying Islamic regulations are permissible to use if the leather is obtained from abused and mistreated animals and if the animals suffer in the leather production processes, it will conflict with every Islamic standard on the matter.
- H. A. Hosseini Shah Abdolazimi, “Tafsir asna-ashari”.
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “Tafsir al-mizan”, (45 :13).
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “ Tafsir al-mizan”, (2:30).
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 173.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 660.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.4, p.9.
- animals and Islam
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.2, p.287.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 8, p. 258, T. 9393.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 201.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 214.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 22, p. 459.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 216.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 652.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 665.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 306.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 663.
- M. H. Banihashemi, “Towzih al masael of Maraje”.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 662.
- treating animals
Islam has spread much more quickly than the other religions all over the world. The question is how this has happened? And it becomes more important when we consider the situation in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) emerged.
He (PBUH&HP) invited people to Islam while he did not have any wealth or position and even when his family opposed him; except his wife, Lady Khadija (AS), and his cousin, Imam Ali (AS). Several factors were involved which we will discuss in a series of articles. Here, the focus is on how pleasant characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) helped Islam to become well known throughout the world.
In the Quran it is emphasized that the morals and attitude of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was one of the factors which attracted people to Islam: “had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they (people) would have surely scattered from around you” (3:159). This pleasant behavior of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) which made people inclined to him and Islam is known to be due to the God’s mercy over him (PBUH&HP) (3:159).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was forgiving towards those who had bothered him or even insulted him. It is narrated that once, a Jew accused Prophet (PBUHHP) of owing him some money and insisted on paying him back immediately. Prophet (PBUH&HP) told him gently that he had made a mistake, but the man repeated his claim and suddenly assaulted the Prophet (PBUH&HP). The companions of Prophet (PBUH&HP) came to interfere, but he (PBUH&HP) said: “I know how to deal with my friend.” He (PBUH&HP) behaved very nicely such that the man acknowledged that this behavior is only expected from a prophet and he declared his belief and embraced Islam right there.
However, he (PBUH&HP) was very serious about applying Islamic regulations or others’ rights. It is narrated that a woman from Quraysh [i] had stolen something; she confessed and had to be punished. Many people, including her family, interfered to change the Prophet’s mind and to stop her punishment. Prophet (PBUH) told people that they had meddled because she was from a famous family, but there is no exception to Islamic rules.
To provide an exemplary leader for others, to train people to act alike, to valorize his companions and to convince people to follow his instructions, Prophet (PBUH) used to take advice. Of course, in the end, he (PBUH&HP) was the one who decided and made firm decisions: “consult them on the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah” (3:159).
“Invite (mankind) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better” (16:125). Unlike what is advertised against Islam, Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) never forced people or threatened them to accept Islam.
On the contrary, following the advice of the Quran, he promoted Islam with kindness, fairness, and wisdom. Instead of humiliating and discriminating non-Muslims, or being harsh and fierce, he used rational argument and discussion which also improved their rationality and thinking power . This followed the fact that embracing Islam should be according to the personal perception and understanding and it cannot be based on the imitation .
[i]A mercantile tribe that historically inhabited and controlled Mecca and Ka'aba.
Nowadays, being surrounded by different types of media products, one may be bewildered if all these movies and animations are lawful (Halal) or not. We might found many of them to have some contradictions with Islamic rules.
The fact is that many issues did not exist 1400 years ago, and therefore, there is no direct mention of them in the Quran or narrations of the Prophet (PBUH&HP).
However, Islam is not a contextual religion that was only suitable for people of its own time. Instead, it is a universal religion that can be a guideline for all human beings, anywhere and anytime. Thus, we should be able to find out the Islamic viewpoint about watching movies and animations; which, indeed, have a central role in most of our lives these days.
Although there is no direct mention of movies in the Quran, Islam has provided us with some fundamental frameworks that describe the freedoms and redlines of the religion. Those are the Islamic laws that are extracted from the Quran and narrations. Having those fundamental frameworks in mind, we can always have a criterion to distinguish the lawfulness or forbiddance of any new issue that may arise in our individual or social life.
Now, let’s revise some of these fundamental frameworks to find out if watching movies and animations are forbidden in Islam or not.
There is a verse in the Quran that says: “Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of [His] provision?’ Say, ‘These are for the faithful in the life of this world, and exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection.’ Thus do We elaborate the signs for a people who have knowledge.” (7: 32)
The verse shows that there have been people who prevented themselves from even lawful adornments of this world. Therefore, Allah, by using the imperative word “say,” tells his Prophet to ask people ‘based on what religion they are forbidding the blessings of Allah to themselves.’
Based on this verse, the blessings in this world have been created for faithful people, while the unbelievers can also use them. Byte they are merely for goof believers in heaven.
By reading rule number 1, some may think that Allah is not taking it too harshly, and therefore, everything is lawful for us. But since Allah knows better how we may misuse His words, He quickly continues with the following verse:
“Say, ‘My Lord has only forbidden indecencies, the outward among them and the inward ones, and sin and undue aggression, and that you should ascribe to Allah partners for which He has not sent down any authority, and that you should attribute to Allah what you do not know.’” (7: 33)
Therefore, any indecencies and wrongdoing that may in any way cause harm to an individual or the society are forbidden in Islam.
There are so many other verses that can help us find our answer in terms of watching movies. However, the two above verses can be the criteria to help us distinguish any Lawful (Halal) and unlawful in Islam.
Let’s choose a movie in mind and use the following questions as our criterion to distinguish if they are Lawful (Halal) or not.
1- It teaches me a lot.
2- It motivates me to be a better person and find better behavior and habits in life.
3- It gives me peace of mind.
4- It contains bad words that may remain in my mind.
5- It contains violence that is not motivating in the right way, but will wake my aggression.
6- It contains sexual scenes.
7- It gives me a nihilistic feeling.
Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are the manifestation of adornments and blessings of Allah, while numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 are indecencies and wrongdoing.
The above were only some examples, but if you have more criteria based on the Quranic teachings in mind, you may find it easier to distinguish between right and wrong.
Watching movies and animations are not forbidden (Haram) in Islam if they don’t contain any prohibited elements. Muslims are allowed to watch, enjoy, and learn from movies that contain no indecencies and has no harm for any individual or society.
However, being a Muslim means that one has the aim of improving to the highest levels of faith. Thus, one should keep in mind the verse of the Quran that says: “The life of the world is nothing but play and diversion, and the abode of the Hereafter is surely better for those who are Godwary. Do you not exercise your reason?” (6: 32)
Therefore, even if the movies and animation are lawful (halal) to watch, we should make sure not to waste our time watching too much of them and neglect our main tasks in life.
“… and eat and drink, but do not waste; indeed, He does not like the wasteful.” (7: 31)
- The Quran, Chapter 7, verses 32-33
- The Quran, Chapter 6, verses 32
- The Quran, Chapter 7, verses 31