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Claudette Vaughan, Editor of Abolitionist Online, interviews Fakhar-i-Abbas, May 2007
Abolitionist: It is very rare to find a book on Islam and animal rights. Why did you write “Animals Rights in Islam”?
Fakhar – i –Abbas: When I first started working for animals I learnt that there are a lot of ambiguities in the minds of my countrymen regarding Islamic thoughts about animals so I started my research with that in mind. It became a goal of mine to teach Muslims that Islam is very clear about animal rights and I feel, so far, that I am accomplishing this in a good way, day by day, little by little.
Abolitionist: Do animals have rights in Islam? In Islamic culture how is a right understood?
Fakhar: Yes, a very detailed and appropriate description of animal rights is present in Islam. Islam is basically a religion of rights, which first stood against the inequality in Arabian Society about 1400 years ago. More than 50% of the teachings of Islam are rights based, including human rights, women rights, plants and vegetation rights with a very prominent animals rights teaching that’s present as well.
Abolitionist: Is there anything in secular law in reference to animals’ rights?
Fakhar: Like all other laws, secular law covers animal’s rights though punishments given to people who offend. For any law to work it’s implementation plays a vital role in how effective laws are. Any law varies from place to place especially in Pakistan. Here it is a low priority as it still follows the rule designed back in British reign all those years ago. The punishments in case of a violation of animal rights laws is very mild unfortunately. However in Islamic laws punishment is considerably higher.
Abolitionist: You said (page 24) in your book, “Islam and Animal Rights” that the protection of animal rights found its realisation in Shari’ah [Law] as represented in legal textbooks. Tell us about that?
Fakhar: Islamic Law basically is formulated in light of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. This is religious law. Islam is unanimously believed to be a religion which provides the most comprehensive law and guide for everyday activities. I have not seen such a remarkable animals rights statement in or before that era.
Abolitionist: What did the Holy Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him, say on the subject of animals?
Fakhar: The theme I perceived from the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) is HE (PBUH) suggested to us to give a priority to Animals i.e., give them food before we take that them to a shelter even if we have to stay in the sun to do this and obviously protect them from any pain encountered in their daily lives. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said; “All creatures are [the] family of God: and he loves the most those who are the most beneficent to his family.” (Narrated by Anas. Mishkat Al-Masahib, 3: 1392; quoted from Bukhari)
Abolitionist: What is the Qur’anic point of view regarding animals?
Fakhar: In Islam it is believed that Prophet (PBUH) said whatever GOD wanted him to say. Half Islamic teachings can be seen as the sayings by the Prophet (PBUH) and the half appear in the Qur’an as sayings of GOD. But the mainframe work of both remains the same as clearly stated from the Holy book. The almighty Allah says; “And the earth, He has assigned it to living creatures.” (Qur’an, 55:10). And also “There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but they are communities like you”. Which appears the same as saying of the Prophet that the animals have the same rights as humans.
Abolitionist: What is the Hadith teachings on animals?
Fakhar: Hadiths are the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH). Just as I just discussed earlier the Prophet (PBUH) ordered that animals be treated justly. In reward ALLAH will give you Heaven, for example: Kind treatment to animals is considered as a good deed (to qualify for heaven). The following hadiths will clarify my point; “O Allah’s Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?” He replied, “Yes there is a reward for serving any animate (Living being).” (Narrated By Abu Huraira; Volume 3, Book 40, Number 551)
Abolitionist: What has been your experience of Muslims treatment of animals in Muslim lands generally?
Fakhar: In general, Muslims are very kind towards animals but I feel in certain cases Muslims are ignoring some of the actual teachings of Islam on this matter. This might be because Muslim clerics are not performing their balanced duties and are ignoring some important aspects to be conveyed to their followers which results from complaints about bearbaitings, Houbara indiscriminate killings etc.
Abolitionist: Slaughtering. It’s a subject filled with controversy. Laws that are implemented aren’t executed not only in Islamic countries (from footage gained by AR activists) but in the West as well. To call for humane slaughter, which animal rights people think is an oxymoron anyway, is a difficult matter to justify.
Fakhar: Muslims see true Islamic slaughtering is humane slaughtering but this is not being followed in most cases because an ordinary Muslim thinks that if the protocols suggested by Islam slaughtering are ignored, than it is a small-scale sin. However it is not a small-scale sin in Islam if proper slaughtering (humane slaughtering) methods are not followed. The flesh of the animal becomes HARAM which means it is sin to eat the meat of that inappropriate slaughtered animal.
Abolitionist: In the Holy Quran it is said that every animal must hear the word of God before going to slaughter. How do the scholars of Islam perceive that?
Fakhar: Saying ALLAH O AKBAR (God Is Great) in our religion before slaughtering an animal is a must. If this is not done then the slaughtered animals’ meat becomes HARAM (it’s a sin to eat). The main theme behind this practice is to remind the slaughterer of all the teachings of God about slaughtering. It also reminds him that God is Great. HE will punish him if he does not follow the appropriate orders for slaughtering. It is also believed in Islam that saying ALLAH O AKBAR reduces the pain to animals during slaughtering.
Abolitionist: Does Islam believe in the concept of companion animals?
Fakhar: Yes, Islam believes in companion animals in different forms such as horses, dogs, birds, ruminants etc.
Abolitionist: In Saudi Arabia designer dogs are all the rage even though imported foreign dogs do not suit the climate and have a short life span, as reported in a recent newspaper article. What are your thoughts?
Fakhar: You would not believe it but Islam clearly states, “Not to allow any change to corrupt what Allah has created “ (Qur’an . 30:30). This clearly means that every sort of alteration and modification is strictly forbidden. It also means that the alteration should not be done not only to their physiology but also no alterations should occur to the animal’s natural habitat. I think it is forbidden if an animal is forced out of their natural climate in Islam.
Abolitionist: Nowhere in the Holy Qur’an does it insist upon the eating of meat for physical or religious health. Are there many vegan or vegetarian Muslims that you know of?
Fakhar: The Holy Qur’an states it doesn’t like Muslims to avoid eating the things which are permissible to eat, so I believe that according to Islam it is best to eat whatever is permissible and whatever the teachings of Islam dictate on the matter.
Abolitionist: The Holy Prophet was fond of dates and yogurt. Is that correct?
Fakhar: Yes, and that’s why it is believed to be holier if Muslims eat more of that same kind of food in their diet.
Abolitionist: Can we go through some animal right topics? What about hunting and killing from both the Qur’anic and the Hadith point of view?
Fakhar: Islam clearly defines the rules and regulations regarding the hunting and killing of animals.
In the Holy Qur’an it is ordered, “O you who believe! Do not violate the signs appointed by Allah nor the sacred month, nor (interfere with) the offerings, nor the sacrificial animals with garlands, nor those going to the sacred house seeking the grace and pleasure of their lord; and when you are free from the obligations of the pilgrimage, then hunt, and let not hatred of a people because they hindered you from the sacred masjid—incite you to exceeds the limits, and help one another in goodness and piety and do not help one another in sin and aggression and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil)”
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said; “Whoever kills a sparrow or any thing bigger then that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.”
Hazrat Suleiman was one of the Prophet’s of God. It is believed that he was much acquainted with birds and animals in Islamic teachings. I was surprised to see a story about him in that in his era once a mother of a animal came to him and complained that some of his followers had hunted her kin. The Prophet Suleiman summoned him and asked him about the matter. The accused told the prophet that he hunted the animal in accordance with religious teachings. The mother of the animal said to the Prophet Suleiman that he killed her kin animal while he was camouflaged. This means he deceived the kin animal and deceiving is a sin in Islam. The Prophet was convinced [this was the case] and proposed a punishment for the accused. This provides us with a very clear picture about the hunting rules in Islam.
Abolitionist: What about blood sports and fighting competitions. This is your area of expertise Fakhar so please tell us about this.
Fakhar: Bear fighting and baiting is directly addressed in Islam in clear wording. It is because this subject, while preaching the teachings of Islam, does not receive importance by the clerics and Muslims in general, that many Muslims are not made aware of the subject. Bear baiting is strictly forbidden in Islam. We have recently started working on this and with the help of the government we are trying our best to reach every possible cleric, even in remote areas of Pakistan, to remind them of the teachings of Islam. I am optimistic about this and this will in turn definitely affect the reduction of such sins from out of Islamic societies.
Fakhar: Hunting for any other purpose than eating purposes is strictly restricted in Islam. Suffice to say, there is no concept of killing an animal for their fur, tusks, trophy, ivory or even for medicinal use. My thoughts are that Islam neither allows us to hunt for fur nor the use of wild animals skins for clothing purposes.
Abolitionist: What about Donkeys and riding Pack Animals. What is said about that?
Fakhar: It is the Islamic responsibility of the animal’s owner to ensure that his animal is safe and secure. Islam appears to be very strict regarding such sins. Even in the Hadith, the disfiguration of animals is forbidden. The Prophet (PBUH) said; “Do not clip the forelock of a horse, for decency is attached to their forelock, for it protects it; nor their tail, for it is fly-flap.” (Narrated by Utba bin Farqad abu abd)
Awat said on the subject of kindness and the treatment of animals from religious sources this:
Qur’an and Hadith give clear guidance on several matters concerning animals aside from their treatment and their roles.
In this respect as Ibn Umar said; “I heard the Messenger of Allah, May Allah Bless Him and grant him peace, say, whoever mutilates a living creature and then does not repent, Allah will mutilate him on the Day of Judgment”
Jabir told that God’s Messenger forbade the striking the face or branding on the face of any animal. He said when an ass, which had been branded on his face, had passed by: “God curse the one who branded it.” (Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah)
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