Animal Resurrection and Rights in Islam
Many Muslims are unaware of the status that animals have in Islam. Animals are just as much of a creation of Allah as human beings are. In being a sign of Allah, there is no difference between the two. One of the most interesting verses of the Quran regarding animals is: “There is no animal on land, nor a bird that flies with its wings, but they are communities like yourselves. We have not omitted anything from the Book. Then they will be mustered toward their Lord.” (Quran, 6:38)
Allamah Tabataba’i in Tafsir al-Mizan provides an interesting insight into this verse. He states that it can be gathered from this verse that animals have communities similar to mankind. This does not mean population; rather it means they have commonalities in purpose. These communities are also not based on physical characteristics, just as human communities are not merely based on physical characteristics.
He also points out that when the Quran mentions a resurrection for animals it means that animals have an intellect, beliefs, and responsibility. Without these dimensions, resurrection would not make sense. Hence, animals have intellect and responsibility and their responsibility stems from the divine. Furthermore, responsibility denotes freewill. If an animal did not have a level of freewill how would they be judged when they are resurrected?
Finally, Allamah Tabataba’i alludes to the point that just as man needs to be taught responsibility, animals need to be taught as well. Maybe they had prophets. But, what their responsibility is and how they were taught has not been revealed to us.
The Prophet of Islam (s) and the Imams (a) have provided us with much guidance regarding animals. The following traditions will serve as a reminder for Muslims in how they should treat these signs of Allah:
The Noble Prophet (s) said: “Fear God with regard to animals.” This shows that they have rights which must be observed. He also said: “And [about the sheep] if you are merciful to it Allah will be merciful to you.” This shows that when one observes the rights of animals and is merciful to them, then he will be rewarded with divine mercy.
The Noble Prophet (s) said: “A corrupt and sinful woman sees a dog in a desert who is panting for water near a well. Since he cannot enter the well and drink water he was on the verge of dying from thirst. This woman pulls out some water from the well and gives the dog the water. Because of this action Allah forgives the woman of her sins.”
Finally, regarding killing animals, the Prophet (s) said: “There is nobody who kills a sparrow or that higher [than a sparrow; meaning either in size or status] without right that won’t be questioned by Allah about it.” The Prophet (s) was asked about its rights and he answered: “That it should be slaughtered and eaten, not beheaded and thrown [as a ball].” Hence, one must not kill animals without purpose, and the only purpose would be to eat them.
One of the most horrific treatment of animals can be seen in the shark finning business. The television show Shark Week estimates 73 million sharks a year are killed for finning and then thrown back in the water alive. The reason for this is that there is a demand for their fins. Shark Fin Soup is considered an Asian delicacy and is sold at 100 dollars a bowl. Take a look at the following video to see the reality of this practice:
Killing or slaughtering certain animals for food has been permitted in Islam. Many animal rights activists consider the methods of Islamic slaughter to be cruel and unusual punishment for cows, sheep, chickens, camels, and any other animal consumed by Muslims. This practice was even banned in Denmark, along with Kosher slaughter, under the slogan, “Animal rights come before religion.”
I ask you to be the judge. The following video shows how animals are treated in western slaughterhouses and then the next video shows the ideal Islamic perspective. The animals in the western slaughterhouses are tortured severely. WARNING: not all can stomach it, so watch with your own discretion. The video of the Islamic slaughter house is ideal and other Islamic slaughterhouses might be able to learn from it.
Video 1: Western Slaughterhouse
Video 2: Islamic Slaughterhouse
Therefore, animals have a huge right to existence and a right to be treated nicely. They are formed into communities like human beings and will be resurrected like human beings. Killing them unnecessarily or cruelly is prohibited in Islam. Hence, Muslims must be careful and mindful of how they treat their fellow inhabitants of the world.