Treatment of Animals in Islam ― Whoever has animals must treat them well or let them go!

Treatment Of Animals In Islam

Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “A woman was punished on account of a cat which she kept captive till it died. So she entered the Hellfire due to her cruelty. She did not feed it or give it water whilst she kept it captive, nor did she let it out so it could eat the small creatures of the earth.” (Bukhāri 2365, Muslim 2242)

Explanation

This hadeeth discusses the good treatment of animals, so whoever has animals must treat them well, or let them go. If one keeps an animal (or a pet) confined, then it is obligatory to care for it and feed it. It is forbidden to leave it to die. So whatever it may be: a lion, a wolf, birds of prey, etc, if they are kept in confinement (in a zoo or personal gardens), then one must provide for them food and drink. If one is unable, then they must be released to fend for themselves in their natural habitats. Even with cattle that one owns, if he is not able to provide for them sustenance, then he must sell them on to one who can provide sustenance (see the Sharh of Aksar al-Mukhtasarāt). This woman was cast into Hell because she kept a cat confined without food or drink, and would not release it so that it could fend for itself. This hadeeth points to two matters:

  1. The permissibility of keeping pets such as birds and cats, even if they are somewhat confined, but they must be given food and drink and the ability to move around without being harmed. If one is not able to provide that, then the creature must be released to fend for itself from the earth (by returning it to its natural environment). If a person does not provide that, and the animal dies whilst in their care due to neglect then he is threatened with the Hellfire as a just punishment.
  2. This hadeeth shows the excellence of Islam, its mercy and compassion towards other creatures, even small animals that do not serve humans in any way, such as a cat. A cat is simply a pet and a comfort to the eyes serving no further purpose in most cases. So if one keeps a cat, he must feed it and look after it, and the same goes for dogs, tigers, birds of prey, wolves and lions that people sometimes keep and confine.

Taken from Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān’s explanation of Buloogh al-Marām min Adillatil-Ahkām of Al-Hāfidh Ahmad Ibn ‘Alee Ibn Hajr al-Asqalānee from volume 5, and adapted slightly.

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