Home Deliberation How animals fall prey to human greed: Can Islamic principles play a...

How animals fall prey to human greed: Can Islamic principles play a pivotal role in sustainable development in the future?

If Islamic principles are properly implemented and followed, the world will be a better place, and thus the suffering of the voiceless will be reduced. By following Islamic principles, a healthy ecosystem can be created, which will help all the biodiversity on this planet and form a sustainable development pattern not just for humans but for animals as well.


Since the earliest stages of human evolution, animals have been of assistance to people and have coexisted together to sustain an environment. Hunting animals for essential items such as food and clothing was unavoidable for humans, though this type of hunting was never done on a huge scale. But following the advent of the industrial revolution, there was a dramatic shift in the way animals were raised and the products derived from them. The ethical domestication of animals has changed into capital commodification. In order to gain more profit, these plutocrats opt for labor-saving and more efficient technologies to increase productivity, and thus industrial technologies such as animal factories, industrial animal agriculture, and factory farming come into existence. The animals that are used for factory farming experience daily pain and damage as they struggle to survive in overcrowded, poorly ventilated rooms or, in the case of certain cages, in total darkness and a complete lack of air circulation.

The horns of cattle, beaks of hens and ducks, and tails of sheep and cattle are commonly cut in order to accommodate animals in such a compact, traumatic, congested, and unsanitary room. Many such barbaric and inhumane activities are performed commonly. These activities are not just inhumane and unethical towards animals but also detrimental to human health, as keeping countless animals in impenetrable quarters serves as a breeding ground for many diseases and the transfer of infectious agents from animals to humans, such as novel viruses like swine flu [H1N1].

Animal rearing and the confinement of animals in compact spaces are prohibited under Islamic law. It is forbidden to alter the physical change of animals by amputating any part of their bodies. Meat from animals that have been exposed to cruelty while being transported or while being slaughtered is considered immoral (makrooh) in Islam. Even if slaughtering is done by abiding by the imperative laws, any kind of cruelty brought upon the animal before or during the process implies that the meat is forbidden (Haram) for consumption. Prophet Muhammad, an epitome of mercy, continuously advised people to show kindness toward animals. Since animals too are a part of Allah’s creation and humankind is set down on this earth to be the guardian of Allah’s creation, animals should be treated with respect and the utmost care by humans.

“While I was with Ibn `Umar, we passed by a group of young men who had tied a hen and started shooting at it. When they saw Ibn `Umar, they dispersed, leaving it. On that, Ibn `Umar said, “Who has done this?” The Prophet (ﷺ) cursed the one who did so.” Narrated Ibn `Umar: The Prophet (ﷺ) cursed the one who did Muthla to an animal (i e., cut its limbs or some other part of its body while it is still alive). [Sahih al-Bukhari 5515]

Fashion is one of the world’s major industries, and the creation of leather, wool, and silk garments involves cruel animal farming, trapping, and skinning. Cosmetics products, which are used for the beautification of the human body and skin, are initially tested on animals to ascertain the safety and usage of the product. Thousands of rats, guinea pigs, monkeys, and rabbits die in such unethical testing each year. The primary goal of livestock farming is no longer to produce food or clothing; rather, it is to grow wealth while teaching people to stop viewing animals as living beings and start viewing them as commodities.

According to Islamic law, an animal should only be slaughtered for the purpose of eating its meat and not for any other reason. Muslims are forbidden to kill an animal for joy. Islam expects humankind to treat all animals (all living creatures, including birds, sea creatures, and insects) with respect and dignity. “Fear God in these mute animals, and ride them when they are fit to be ridden, and let them go free when… they (need to) rest.” [Hadith: Abu Dawud Hadith 72]

Also, the demand for “pedigree” pets led to cruel ways of breeding animals, like making them have babies against their will or leaving them in the wild when they couldn’t have babies. Stray dogs and cats in India are often ignored because of the public preference for purebred pets. People with more disposable income tend to choose more expensive pet breeds, leaving street animals to fend for themselves in a harsh environment without food, water, or veterinary care. These defenseless creatures prefer to dwell in areas frequented by people, where they can forage for food in trash cans and find shelter in man-made structures. These buildings, to some extent, do provide them with a sense of comfort, but they are still destitute and lack one of the basic necessities of life: food. Here, animal feeders become indispensable. The feeder community is mostly self-sufficient and self-organized; people in these communities use their own money to feed these animals, despite causing no harm to anyone else. Harassment and physical attacks on feeders are common.

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.” (Bukhari 2466; Hadith 27).

Since there is no punishment for animal cruelty and the fine is merely Rs. 50, individuals are not frightened to injure animals and carry on with such vile actions as rape. In the past, people who engaged in unnatural sexual behavior may have faced life in jail or a sentence of up to ten years. Everyone, including animals, was subject to the law. Without the protection of the law, animals are now more likely to be victims of cruelty. Stray animals are looked down upon by the general public and are not afforded any legal protections. Having better and more stringent animal regulations in place could help reduce the number of violent incidents that break out between animal advocates and opponents.

Ibn Umar reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “A woman was punished for a cat she had imprisoned until it died, so she entered the Hellfire. She did not give it food or water while it was imprisoned, neither did she set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 3482; Sahih Muslim 2242]

The laws given to the Muslims in Shariah for the treatment of animals are better than the laws provided by any modern-day government. Without any strict laws and proper and ethical knowledge about animals, the younger generation, which is considerate towards animals, is inclined towards vegetarianism and veganism because, according to them, that is the only solution to the problem. But this isn’t the real solution to the problem. “It’s a tale of two worlds, really,” says Andrew Jarvis of Colombia’s International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. “In developed countries, vegetarianism would bring all sorts of environmental and health benefits.” But in developing countries, there would be negative effects in terms of poverty.

The increasing demand for fruits and plant-based products in the west has increased prices and exports, leaving the locals unable to buy homegrown products. Earlier this year, Kenya banned the export of avocados because of storage issues in the country. Mexico earns more foreign income from avocados than from petroleum, which has led to widespread illegal deforestation in order to plant more avocado trees. The carbon footprints of the food would increase due to a surge in exports. Therefore, it is essential to strike a healthy balance between eating meat and veggies.

The Holy Qur’an says, “And thus have We made you a moderate nation.” [ al-Baqarah 143].

The Quran has not advised extremity of any kind. Moderation is necessary for the consumption of food as well; moderation must be taken into consideration when consuming meat and plant-based foods. Consequently, the only thing that can lead us toward a more sustainable future and lifestyles that are better, healthier, and free of cruelty for animals is the purchase of products that are halal and Tayyib. If Islamic principles are properly implemented and followed, the world will be a better place, and thus the suffering of the voiceless will be reduced. The Holy Qur’an says, “Eat and drink, but do not be immoderate.” Excessive consumption of any one type of food is prohibited. By following Islamic principles, a healthy ecosystem can be created, which will help all the biodiversity on this planet and form a sustainable development pattern not just for humans but for animals as well.