The Prophet and the Lower Animals

by Maulana Ghulam Muhammad

The Light (Pakistan), 8th March 1939 Issue (Vol. 18, No. 10, p. 2)

Whereas the Prophet of Islam [Muhammad (pbuh)] has taught his followers not to cause pain to a fellow man even by word of mouth he has not ignored the claims of the lower animals to merciful treatment at the hands of man. The Arabs of the days of the Prophet were a hard-hearted people utterly devoid of pity. They used to practise archery using living animals as targets. They cut off the flesh of living animals for food. The Prophet put a stop to these cruel practices.

In certain diseases it was necessary to brand beasts of burden. The Arabs used to brand their animals on their faces. But the face being the most sensitive part of the body the Prophet strictly forbade this practice.

The Prophet was deeply touched whenever he saw any bird or beasts in pain.

Abu Masud relates the following incident. He says,

“Once we accompanied the Prophet on a journey. At a certain place we halted to take rest. The Prophet went to the jungle to answer the call of nature. In his absence we came upon a bird having a beautiful red plumage which had two young ones. At our approach the bird flew away, and we caught the young ones. After a short time, the mother bird came back, and not finding its young ones began to hover over our heads showing its restlessness in various ways.

“In the meantime, the Prophet came back. Seeing the distress of the bird he was touched with pity, and said,

‘Who has caused this bird pain by taking away its young ones? Let him set the bird free at once.’”

“Once we burnt a nest of ants. When the Prophet saw that he asked,

‘Who has burnt this nest of ants?’

“We said,

‘Prophet of God, we have done this.’

“When the Prophet heard this, he said:

‘It is not right for anyone to burn God’s creatures.’”

The Prophet’s consideration for dumb animals is shown by the following authentic traditions. He said,

“When you are travelling in the days of plenty, let your camels have their due from the ground, which means make them go slowly so that they may graze as they go along, and when you travel in days of scarcity, make the camels go fast so that they may reach their destination soon and get their food.”

Salih bin Rabbi bin Omar Ansar says,

“Once the Prophet passed by a camel whose belly was sticking to its back. When the Prophet saw it he said to its owner,

‘Brother, fear God in the case of these dumb creatures. Ride them in a befitting manner and feed them in a befitting manner.’”

Abu Jaffar Abdullah bin Jaffar says,

“Once the Prophet went into a garden belonging to an Ansari. There he saw a camel. When he came near the camel the animal uttered a wailing sound, which indicated pain; and tears flowed from its eyes. The Prophet was touched and asked:

‘To whom does this camel belong?’

“An Ansari youth said,

‘It is mine.’

“Upon this the Prophet said,

‘You don’t fear God in the case of this camel. It has complained to me that you ill-treat it and cause it pain.’”

Anas says,

“When after a long journey we reached a halting place we used to remove the saddles from the backs of our camels without delay and said our prayers afterwards. Although our devotion to our prayers was a passion with us but giving rest to our animals was so near our hearts that we put off our prayers for a short time for this purpose. The following tradition shows how high the Prophet placed pity, so much so that he declared it to be the means of salvation in the next world.”

The Prophet said,

“A man was once going along in the desert. It being very hot he felt very thirsty. Looking about for water he saw a well. He descended into it, slaked his raging thirst and came out. As he was going along he caught sight of a dog which was lolling out its tongue on account of thirst. The  traveller was about to pass on when suddenly he remembered his own thirst and his heart was filled with pity. He went into the well, filled his cap with water, and holding it between his teeth scrambled out of the well, and made the thirsty dog drink the water. This man used to lead a life of sin, but God pardoned all his sins, and gave him an abode in heaven only for this one act of mercy.”

When the people heard this, they asked,

“O Prophet of God, should we be good to the beasts too!”

The Prophet replied,

“We have to be good to every living creature.”