Allah the Almighty is the Creator of everything. Everything belongs to Him. He created animals for our benefit, and so we have duties towards them. We will be accountable to Allah on the Day of Judgement for their proper treatment.
Animals Have Rights
Animals have rights in Islam. Allah created human beings for a purpose and created animals for a purpose. Part of our duty towards animals is to treat them kindly, Allah allows us to use some of these animals for our benefit, but this does not mean that we can treat these animals cruelly or make them work beyond their capacity.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) forbade the killing of animals or birds except for food. He said, “Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” (A-Bukhaaree and Muslim) He also said, “Have mercy towards those on the earth, and the one over the Heavens will have mercy on you.” (At Timidhee)
Showing Mercy to Animals
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he [went down the well], filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and gave the dog to drink. So Allah appreciated this act of his and forgave him.” The Companions asked him, “O Allah’s Messenger, is there for us a reward even for [serving] such animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for service to every living animal.” (Al-Bukhaaree)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “A woman was punished because of a cat which she confined until it died, and so she entered Hell fire because of it. She had not given it anything to eat or to drink when she confined it, nor did she set it free so that it would eat the insects of the earth.” (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
Once, while the Prophet (pbuh) went away to answer nature’s call during a journey, some of his companions caught the young of a female bird: when it came back, it started beating the earth with its wings in distress. When the Prophet (pbuh) returned and saw what was happening, he asked, “Who has put this bird to distress by taking its young away from it? Return them to it.” He also noticed a mound of ants which they had burnt down, and so he asked, “Who set fire on this? None can punish with fire except the Lord of the fire.” (Abu Dawood)
A Muslim, therefore, should have mercy and compassion towards animals. He should not use them as targets. Once, Abdullah ibn Omar passed by some boys who had tied a bird and used it as a target for their arrows. When they saw him they dispersed. Ibn Omar said, “Who has done this? May Allah curse whoever has done this. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) cursed anyone who makes a living creature a target.” (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)
A Muslim must put the animal at ease when he is about to slaughter it. The Prophet said, “Indeed, Allah has prescribed excellence in all things. So if you kill, kill in a good manner; and if you slaughter, slaughter in a good manner. Each of you should sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he is slaughtering.” (Muslim)
He also said, “Whoever shows mercy, even while slaughtering a sparrow, Allah will have mercy on him on the Day of Judgement.” (Al-Bukhaaree)
A Muslim should never torture an animal. He should never beat it, nor inflict pain on it, nor make it carry more than it can bear, nor mutilate it. Once, a donkey with a brand on the face happened to pass before the Prophet (pbuh), so he said, “May Allah curse the one who has branded it.” (Muslim)
The killing of animals by using nails is forbidden. This causes the animal too much pain. Using stones or a catapult is also forbidden. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Throwing stones will neither hunt the game nor kill an enemy. It may, however, break a tooth or gouge out an eye.” (Al-Bukhaaree)