iii - Mercy for Animals
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was kind to every living creature and this kindness knew no limits. He was very kind to animals as well. Arabs, like all ignorant and illiterate people, were very unkind to their animals. It was very common in Arabia to put a collar round the neck of a camel, but this practice was stopped on the Prophet's orders. People used to cut pieces of flesh from living animals and cook and eat them. This common practice was forbidden.
It was also forbidden to shear their hair or tails. Prophet Muhammad said that the tail was the brush and fan (if these animals and hair was their quilt. He also forbade people to keep animals tied to their working equipment for a long time and said, "Don't make the backs of animals your chairs." Animal fights were also made unlawful. Another custom was to tie up an animal and practise arrow shooting on it. This was also prohibited.
Once Prophet Muhammad (peace be on Him) saw a donkey on the road with a brand on its face, and said, "Allah's curse is on him who branded it." As people had to brand their camels and sheep in order to identify them, they were told to brand them on parts which were not so tender. Anas reported that he went into a herd of sheep and saw Allah's Messenger branding them on the ears.
Once the Prophet was on a journey with his companions and they stopped for rest at a certain place. A bird had laid an egg there. A man took away the egg and the bird began beating her wings in a state of great distress. The Prophet enquired who had hurt her by taking her egg. When the man admitted that he had done that, the Prophet asked him to return the egg to the nest.
A companion who had some baby birds wrapped in a piece of cloth came to the Prophet. On enquiry, he told Prophet Muhammad, "I heard a noise from a bush, went there, saw these chicks, and took then out. When their mother saw what had happened, she began to hover over my head." The Prophet told him to go back and return the chicks.
Once he saw a camel on the road, whose belly had shrunk so much because of extreme hunger that it had become one with its back. He said, "Fear Allah in your treatment of these animals who cannot speak." Muhammad himself fed animals, tied carriers and milked goats.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) once told a story to his companions. There was a man who went on a journey and on his way felt very thirsty. He found a well and went down into it and drank water. When he came out of the well he saw a dog who was also very thirsty and was licking the salty ground with his tongue. Thinking that the animal was thirsty like him, he again went down into the well, filled his leather socks with water and gave it to the dog. Allah was so pleased with this action of the man that He granted him Paradise. There is another story about a woman going to Hell who starved her cat to death.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was so kind and gentle that he advised his companions to be nice and considerate even while slaughtering animals for food. He asked them to slaughter them with the sharpest weapon, thus causing the minimum pain and suffering to the animal. He also forbade them to sharpen the weapon in front of the animal or when the animal was ready for slaughter, but told them to do these preliminaries before the animal was brought for slaughter.
Prophet Muhammad taught people by word and deed to be kind and polite to everyone. Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet as saying, "A believer is friendly (and kind)." Ayeshah reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "Allah is gentle and likes gentleness. He gives for gentleness what he does not give for harshness and what He does not give for anything else."
Ayeshah also reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "He who is given his share of gentleness is given from his share of the good of this world and the next, but he who is deprived of his share of gentleness is deprived of his share of the good of this world and the next." Abdullah Ibn Masud reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "Shall I not tell you about the man who is kept away, from Hell and from whom Hell is kept away? From the person who is gentle and kind, accessible and of an easy disposition."
Prophet Muhammad, by his own example, had instilled this kind of behaviour in his companions, who, after him, set an example for other people. This is shown by the following incident. It is reported by Abdullah Ibn Jafar that he passed by a grazing field and saw an Abyssinian slave guarding a herd of goats. A dog came and sat in front of him. He took out a loaf of bread and gave it to the dog, who ate it. Then he gave the second and third loaves of bread to the dog who ate them all. He enquired of the slave how many loaves of bread he got daily from his master. He replied that he got as many as he saw.
At this, he asked why he gave all his bread to the dog. The slave replied that the dog did not belong to that place and must have come hoping for food from a long distance, hence he did not like his effort to be wasted. Abdullah said that he liked his action so much that he bought the slave along with the goats and the grazing field from his master, set him free and gave him all the goats and the grazing field. The slave thanked him and prayed for him and gave all the goats and the grazing field in charity and went away.