The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

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  • The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

  • Mercy Towards Allah's Creatures

    Mercy towards Allah's creatures regardless of them being near or at a distance, Muslim or non-Muslim; human or animal, is another characteristic of civilized manners. Allah, the Exalted, ordained that mercy is to be the crux and the end of Mohammed's message for He says: "And We did not send you but as a mercy to all beings."  (21:107) The Prophet described himself quite eloquently and concisely, when he said, "I am a mercy bestowed by Allah " [Note: Reported by Ibn Sa'd, Al-Hakim Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Hakim on the authority of Abu Hurairah, also by Al-Darimi and Al-Baihaqi in Alshu'ab, Sahih Al- Jami' Al-Saghir (No.2345)]

    In Allah's Eternal Book, He begins it and all of its Surahs, except one by saying: "In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate".  

    And, Allah described His Prophet as a blessing bestowed on us saying: "Certainly there has come to you a Messenger from amongst yourselves, grievous to him is your suffering, ardently anxious is he over you, to the believers he is compassionate and merciful." (9:129)  

    His mercy is reflected in his Surah and in his interaction with his Nation. Islam urges Muslims to be merciful to the extent that they yearn for mercy and warn them harshness and cruelty to the extent that they feel awe against it.

    Jurair Ibn `Abdullah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever is not merciful towards people, will not be treated mercifully by Allah." [Note: Reported by Ahmed on a good authority, Al-Muntaqa (No.69), and Al-Haisami, vol.1, p.27]

    Abu Musa reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "You will not be true believers until you are merciful with one another." They said: "O, Messenger of Allah, we are all merciful!" He said: "It is not that you should be merciful to each other, but you should also merciful in general." [Note: Agreed upon, Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab and Muslim in Al-Fada`l]

    `Abdullah Ibn `Amr reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "The merciful are treated mercifully by the Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth so that Allah will be Merciful to you in the heavens." [Note: Reported by Al-Tabarani, Al-Muntaqa, No. 1322, and Al-Haisami. vol.8, p.78]

    Whoever has not been merciful to Allah's creatures, does not deserve His Mercy. `Ubada Ibn Assamit reported that Allah's Prophet said:"He who does not respect our elder, or is not merciful to the young, or does not feel indebted to the scholars, is not of my Nation." [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud, No.4921, and Al-Tirmidhi, No.1925]

    Whoever is void of mercy is not worthy to be part of the nation of mercy. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: "I heard the truthful Prophet, the owner of this room, Abul Qasim (Peace be upon him) says "Mercy is only plucked out from a wretched person." [Note: Reported by Abu Sawud (No.2942, A1-Tirmidhi, No.1924, Ibn Ribban in his Sahih, Al-Ihsam, (No.466). Al-Tirmidhi said: It a good hadith and in other narration, Good Sound hadith.]

    Abu Rurairah narrated that Allah's Prophet (Peace be upon him) kissed Al-Hasan of Al-Husain Ibn `Ali whilst Al-Aqra' Ibn Habis Al-Tamimi was sitting beside him Al-Aqra said: "I have ten children and I have never kissed one of them." The Messenger of Allah looked at him and said: "`Whoever is not merciful to others, will not be treated mercifully," [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidh, Al Muntaqa Min Al-Tar'ghib, No. 1326, also Al-Lu'Iu' Wal Marjan, No. 1997]

    `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported that a Bedouin came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said: "You people kiss the boys! We don't kiss them. The Prophet said "I can not put mercy in your hearts after Allah has taken it away from you." [Note: Agreed upon, Al-Lu' Lu' Wal Marjan, No.1496]

    All kinds of Mercy are good, but the greatest mercy is the one directed to the weak and the helpless such as the orphans, the widows, the needy, the homeless and the slaves. Many hadiths dealt with this issue by commanding, warning, instructing and guiding Muslims to desire this. Such as, "I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this". And the Prophet put his index and middle fingers making a space between them". [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud, and Al-Tirmidhi, on the authority of Sahl Ibn Sa'd]

            "Whoever takes care of an orphan from a Muslim background, providing him with food and drink, until he grows up and no longer needs him will undoubtedly enter Paradise." [Note: Reported by Abu Ya'la and Ahmad in brief. Also reported by Al Tabarani with good transmission.]

          "The one who looks after a widow or a poor person is like a Mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah's Cause." Anas said:"I think he said: "He is like the one who performs Prayers the night and fasts the day." [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Anas.]

    "They are your brothers (he means the servants whom Allah has ordained that they be at your service). So whoever Allah or dained that his brother would be at his service, he must feed him of what he eats, clothe him as he is clothed and assign him to do only what he is capable of and when charges him with a heavy task, he should help him." [Note: Agreed upon, on the authority of Abu Hurairah.]

    A man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said: "O, Messenger of Allah, how many times should we excuse and forgive the servant?" Re kept silent then the man repeated the question and the Prophet kept silent, then he asked for the third time and the Prophet answered, "Excuse and forgive him seventy times every day". [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud on the authority of lbn`umar (No.5164), and also by Al-Tirmidhi]

    When servants were slaves, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) rebuked the ones who abused or beat them and made the freeing of slaves as an expiation for beating them even if they were actually slaves. By analogy, they should be treated in a kinder manner and as if they were free servants. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) saw Abu Mas'ud Al-Badri beating his servant and he exclaimed: "You must know that Allah has more power over you than you have over this servant!" He said: "O, Messenger of Allah! I set him free for Allah's Sake." Re (the Prophet) said: "If you had not behaved so, the blazing Fire would have scorched or touched you". [Note: Reported by Muslim (No.6659), Abu Dawud (No.5159), and Al Tirmidhi (No.1949) on the authority of Abi Mus'ud]

    The Prophet said: "Whoever hits or beats a servant must expiate for his sin by freeing him". [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud (No.5168) and Muslim (No.1657)]

      Furthermore, Islam urges everyone to be merciful to animals whether they are used for ridding, carrying loads, or eating their meat, along with other animals such as dogs, cats and the like. The directives in Islam in this respect, have been and until now steps a head of other civilizations in the advocation of animal welfare. In Islamic Fiqh there are jurisdictions and various branches which deal with this. And in the Islamic Civilization itself one witnesses the peak of our history, when it raised above all other nations on earth. [Note: See my book, "Madkhal li-Drast Al-shari `ah Al-islamiah, (Introduction to the Study of Islamic Law), the chapter on Morals.] 

    Mu'awiyah Ibn Qura reported on his father's authority that a man said:"O Messenger of Allah, I have mercy on the sheep before I slaughter it". The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "If you have mercy on it, Allah will have mercy on you." [Note: Reported by Al-Hakim] 

    Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) passed by a man who lay an ewe on the ground while he was sharpening his blade, and exclaimed: "Do you want it to experience death twice? You should sharpen your blade before you lay it on the ground"[Note: Reported by Al-Tabarani in Al-Kabir and Al-Awsat.]

    `Abdullah Ibn `Amr reported that the Prophet (Peace he upon him) said: "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything that is greater than this without its due reason, then Allah will ask him about it on the Day of Judgment." He said:"What is its due reason, O, Messenger of Allah?" He said: "To slaughter it for the sake of eating, and avoid cutting its throat off to be thrown." [Note: Reported by Al-Nasa'i and Al-Hakim]

    Ibn Sirin reported that `Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) saw a man dragging an ewe by its leg in order to slaughter it so he exclaimed:"Woe to you! Lead it to death in a merciful way." [Note: Reported by `Abd Al-Raziq]

    Ibn `Umar narrated that he passed by a group of Quraishi youths who used a bird (or a chicken) as a target for their arrows and they settled in favor with the owner of the bird for every missed shot. But as soon as they saw Ibn `Umar they dispersed and he exclaimed: "Who did this? May Allah curse who did this! The Prophet (Peace be upon him) cursed those who used a soul as a target for their arrows." [Note: Agreed upon. Al-Lu'Iu' Wal Marjan (No 1279)]

    Ibn Mas'ud narrated that:"Once we were traveling with the Prophet (Peace he upon him) and he went to do something, meanwhile (we found a bird-Hamra- with its young ones) so we took them. The bird came and flapped its wings continuously. Then the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked: "Who has distressed this bird by taking its young? Return them to it at once."

    When he saw that some dwellings of ants had been burnt he asked: "Who burnt this?" We answered, "We did." He said: "No one should torture with fire but its Creator. [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud in the book of Jihad (No.2675).]

    Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "A woman entered Hell because she had tied up a cat, without giving it food or setting it free to eat the vermin of the earth." In another version, "A women is punished because she had tied up a cat till it died, she neither feed it, nor give it water in its confinement. Yet she further set it not free it to eat the vermin of the earth." [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari and others on the authority of Ibn `Umar.]

    (Vermin meaning insects, sparrows and similar creatures.) Thus the one who imprisones a cat is severely punished. What then will be the punishment of those who, unjustly imprison thousands of innocent believers who have committed no crime but saying: Allah is our Lord?!!

    Sahl Ibn Al-Hanzaliya reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) saw a camel which was carrying a huge load to the extent that one could neither see its back nor its belly, so he said:"Fear Allah when you deal with these beasts of burden. They must be healthy for riding and eating". [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud (no. 2548), Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban.]

    Ibn Hibban' s version of this hadith reports:"Ride them when they are healthy and slaughter the fat thereof."

    Imam Ibn Hibban commented that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Ride them when they are healthy." as a proof that one should avoid riding the weak and boney camel until it becomes healthy enough. And he said: "Slaughter the fat thereof," to clarify that it is preferred to avoid slaughtering the boney camel until it becomes healthy enough.

    Ibn `Abbas [Note: It is reported of Ibn `Abbas by Abu Dawud in the book of Jihad and Al-Tirmidhi] reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) prohibited inciting animals against each other as people do with rams and cocks.

    Ibn Jabir reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) prohibited slapping and branding the face. [Note: Reported by Muslim (No. 2117), Abu Dawud (No.2564), and Al Tirmidhi (No.1710)] Thus the Caliphs and leaders used to rebuke anyone who was cruel to animals.

    Malik narrated that once `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab passed by a donkey which was carrying unburned bricks, and he removed two bricks to relieve him from his weight. The owner of the donkey rushed towards `Umar and exclaimed, "O `Umar! Why did you do that? Do you have the authority to do so?"`Umar answered:"For what reason am I the Caliph of Muslims then?"

    Ibn Rushd commented on `Umar's words here, saying that the meaning was clear to the Chosen Prophet - Al Mustafa, (Peace be upon him) who said:"All of you are guardians and responsible for your charges. The ruler (i.e., Imam) is a guardian and responsible for his subjects...etc". [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Ibn `Umar.]

    On another occasion, `Umar said:"If a camel died at the coast of the Euphrates out of negligence, I would be afraid that Allah would ask me for it. [Note: Al-Kittani, Al- Taratib Al-Idariah (vol.2, p.152)]

    Abdu Al-Razaq reported on the authority of Ibn Sirin, that once `Umar saw a man dragging an ewe by its leg for slaughter so he exclaimed: "Woe to you! Lead her to death in a merciful way. [Note: Al-Mundhiri, Al-Targhib]

    In Tabaqat by Ibn Sa'ad, Al-Masaib Ibn Darirn reported that he saw `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab beating a porter who had over-burdened his camel saying: "O! Why do you burden your camel beyond its capacity ?'' [Note: Al-Taratib Al-Idariah]

    `Umar Ibn "Abdul `Aziz followed in the footsteps of `Umar, the first.

    With regards to the excellent characters of `Urnar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz, Ibn `Abdul Hakam narrated that `Umar wrote to the one in charge of transportation ordering him to prohibit over-loading the animals and guiding them with a whip which has an iron end. He also wrote to Hayyan in Egypt saying:"I was told that there are animals used for carrying loads which weigh more than one thousand "Ratl'. On receiving my letter I will not accept that any animal in Egypt carries more than six hundred "Ratl" [Note: Ibn `Abdul Hakam, Sirat `Umar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz (the Bioyraphy of `Umar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz), p.13. Also Al-Taratib Al- Idariah, vol.2, p.152]

    Scholars have determined the necessary criteria with regards to taking care of animals which is incumbent upon the owner. This is explained in the books of jurisprudence under the title "The Book of Maintainance". They also determined how man should treat dogs, birds and other similar creatures in full unprecedented detail. These details were not only motivated by financial or social benefits, as in conventional laws. Rather, the impetus was of a higher nature, i.e., by sheer moral motivation. In other words, it aimed at putting an end to injustice and harm towards every living entity which feels pain irrespective of the fact that it is unable to speak or complain.

    With such expositions, they were able to deduce when one is allowed to whip an animal? Where to hit it and in what manner? Thus, they said that the animal should be whipped only if it rebels and it should not be whipped when stumbling as it is accidental unlike rebellion. They further declared that no one should hit it on its face nor hit with a piece of iron or with a whip which has an iron end or any metal as `Umar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz warned against.

    I will here quote extracts from a book of Fiqh that highly esteemed by the Hanbali school of thought entitled "Sharh Ghait-ul-Muntaha." "The Explanation of the Carved End".

    "The owner of an animal is obliged to feed and give water to it even if it became useless, until it is satisfied from both as Ibn `Umar narrated that a woman entered Hell because she had tied up a cat, neither giving it food, nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth."

      "If one is unable to withstand its expenses, he will be forced to sell, rent or slaughter it, for doing so he will put an end to its suffering but leaving it without food and water, will cause it to die and wasting money is prohibited."

      "If one refused these options, then the ruler should order that one of these options is implemented or he may lend him money if he was in difficulty."  

    "It is forbidden to curse animals as Ahmad and Muslim narrated on the authority of `Umar that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was traveling and heard a woman curse a camel, so he said: "Take what is on its back and let it free for it is cursed." It seems to me that I can imagine it walking before people and no one attempts to hold its rein.  

    Ahmad and Muslim narrated on the authority of Abi Bazra that the Prophet said:"We will not have an accursed camel in our company."

    Also, Muslim narrated on the authority of Abu Adarda' that the Prophet said: "Those who are in the habit of cursing will not bear intercession nor witness on the Day of Judgment." "It is forbidden to overburden the animal for it is a kind of torture. It is also forbidden to milk it in a way that might endanger the health of its young one as its milk is created for its young just as the case with the son of the woman. The Sunnah prescribes that the one who is in charge of milking should cut his/her nails so that its udder is not scratched."

    "It is forbidden to slap or brand the face for the Prophet (Peace be upon him) cursed whoever slaps or brands a face. It is disliked to clip the forelock or the tail. It is also disliked to put a bell around it or to over feed it as people do in the habit of doing so it gains weight."

    "The owner of the dog must feed, and give water to it. If not, he should set it free for not doing so will expose it to starvation and hence, torture. It is forbidden to tie the animal until it dies of thirst or hunger as the hadith says, "If you are to slaughter an animal, you should be merciful in doing so." [Note: Matalib`Uli Al-Nuha, vol. 5 p. 262-264. The hadith. "If you are to slaughter an animal,..." reported by Muslim on the authority of Shadad Ibn Aws.]

    Some people have understood the hadith: "O Abu `Umayr! What did the Nughair (a kind of bird) do? [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari and others on the authority of Anas.] To prove that it is acceptable for children to play with birds or to keep them in cages so they enjoy looking at them."

    The scholar Al-Maghrabi Al-Malki, sheikh Abu `Ali Ibn Rahal dealt with this issue saying: "The claim that it is acceptable to put a bird in a cage is true providing that it will not be exposed to any kind of of torture ,starvation or thirst even if one may neglect it through forgetfulness or by putting another bird that might stick its bill into its head as cocks in cages do to one another until they kill one another. By consensus, torturing animals is forbidden. It is to one's advantage to put the bird in a cage alone to prevent harm that may touch it, or if need be, by putting a partition between them. Moreover one should care about the bird by feeding it just as one feeds one's children! place perch (like a wooden perch) in the cage so it is not exposed to the cold ground. These instructions do not need verses from the Qur'an or hadiths to uphold as they are obvious. We have seen people that torture chickens in cages in different ways. We have also seen the ramor the mule tied up until it starved to death. The merciless only care about keeping the animal alive or if it loses weight. The merciless have no consideration for its spiritual torture. All this is forbidden and one wilt be punished for it in this life and in the Hereafter unless Allah forgives him,"

    He continues,

    "Many people believe that it is acceptable to keep a bird in a cage and to play with small birds like sparrows. They draw their conclusions from the hadith, "O, Abu Umayr! what did the Nughair do?" However, they seem to have overlooked the condition that the bird should not undergo any tormenting or torture. This is a serious matter of recompense and punishment. It is just like the overloading of beasts of burden with weights beyond their capacity under the pretext of its being customary. All of this reflects the fact that mercy has been plucked from their hearts even though, "Allah bestows His Mercy on His merciful slaves." [Note: See: Al-Taratib Al-idariah, vol. 2, pp.151, 152]

    Adhering to the regulations concerning taking care of animals does not only stem from the conscientiousness of individuals but also from the jurisdictions of governments which do not allow negligence or disobedience.

    In fact, we saw that both `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and `Umar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz were committed to animal welfare and obliged it upon others. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not do so, because during his epoch, an exhortation from him was enough to modify people's manners having no need to issue judicial commands nor governmental interference. Moreover, the ruler, the judge and the Muhtasib (a Muhtasib was an expectant who checked and supervised the markets and streets for fair trading standards, hygiene and moral dealings in public. This was based on the principal "to enjoin the good and forbid the wrong". He has the right to intervene in eliminating injustice against these oppressed creatures. It is also the duty upon any Muslim who witnesses this injustice and cruelty to warn the oppressor against it and at the same time he has the right to refer the matter to those in power so they put an end to it.

    The Scholar Al-Mawardi said in Al-Ahkam Al-Sultania: "If the owner of cattle abuse and overburden them, then the Muhtasib should prevent and condemn him." [Note: Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam Al-Sultania]

    When Ibn Rushd stated:"The master is obliged to feed and clothe his slave/servant as much as he can afford".

    In contrast he is ordered to fear Allah and not to expose his animals to starvation yet he is not obliged to feed them."

    Sheikh Abu `Ali Ibn Rahal objected to his grave mistake in the "Book of Maintainance" in the interpretation of the summary in the words of Ibn `Abd Al-Barr in Al-Kafi saying:"The Sunnah obliges one to be merciful to animals whether one is using them for riding or carrying goods for they can not speak or complain. In this respect, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: "There is a reward for serving any animate being".

    Since serving and taking care of it is rewarded, then abusing it is definitely a sin to the extent that one is to be charged and punished for it. One should not overburden animals, slap them, sit on them for long hours as if they were chairs, nor put bells around their necks. One should allow them time to rest. For instance, if they were overworked in the morning, they should rest at night and vice versa. It is forbidden to tie up an animal without feeding it."

    Ibn Rahal added, "Ibn Rushd's opinion concerning the owner not obliged to feed the animal means that even if the owner of the animal over burdens it and tortures it severely without a good excuse whatsoever he is not obliged to refrain from so doing but ordered merely to fear Allah. This is definitely forbidden. Moreover, it is against common sense and contradicts the hadith:"There is a reward for serving any animal."

    Abu `Umar said:"Abuse in any way is sinful. Sin is evil and evil must he reverted."

    Ibn `Arafa also pointed out,"If it was sufficient to say "Fair Allah" to prevent people of doing evil things, Allah would not have prescribed laws, restrictions, capital punishments, and castigation." [Note: Al-Taratib Al-Idariah, vol. 2, pp. 154]

    These extracts which shed light on the jurisdictions concerned with the prevention of cruelty to animals are extraordinary and are certainly centuries a head of their time.


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