The Treatment of Animals in Islam

In the Quran it is stated that every creature on the earth is created to serve human begins (2:29); this includes animals [1]. 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 and exploit them as we wish? Here is the answer.

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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 [2], they have responsibilities towards every creature as the vicegerent of Allah on the earth [3]. 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, farming and work

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 [4]. 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 [5]. In a saying, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) forbids hitting the animals in the face, since the animals pray and praise God with that [6]. 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) [7].  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” [8].

Moreover, the animal should not be burdened with a load that it cannot bear and should not be overtasked either [9]. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) orders in a saying that: “Do not ride an animal beyond its power and ability” [9], [10]. 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” [11]. 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)) [12]. Imam Ali (AS) said that “Do not ride three of you (at the same time) an animal; otherwise, one of you is cursed” [13].

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 [14]. Although archery is recommended in Islam and hunting -under certain conditions- is allowed, targeting animals and shooting at them for fun is not permitted [15]. 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 dogfighting and cockfighting which is nowadays common in some regions, is prohibited in Islam [15].

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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) 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]" [16]. Of other considerations stated in the narrations of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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 [17].

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 minimise 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) [18], [19]. 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 [18].

Animal fur and leather

Hunting and killing animals for their fur, skin, and oil have been common practices since many years ago and happen 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 [21] 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 [21].

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.


[1] H. A. Hosseini Shah Abdolazimi, “Tafsir asna-ashari”.

[2] M. H. Tabataba'I, “Tafsir al-mizan”, (45 :13).

[3] M. H. Tabataba'I, “ Tafsir al-mizan”, (2:30).

[4] M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 173.

[5] A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 660.

[6] Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.4, p.9.


[8] Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.2, p.287.

[9] H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 8, p. 258, T. 9393.

[10]  M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 201.

[11] M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 214.

[12] M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 22, p. 459.

[13] M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 216.

[14] A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 652.

[15] A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 665.

[16] M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 306.

[17] A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 663.

[18] M. H. Banihashemi, “Towzih al masael of Maraje”.

[19] A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 662.