All creation has been created for the service of the human being. Everything is there for him to take lesson from and has been entrusted to him in this worldly life. This is why it is a duty of the conscience for the human being to treat all creatures with love.
The bee lives in order to offer its honey to mankind. The sheep spends its entire life giving us meat, milk, wool and baby lambs. Cats and dogs are also at the service of man. As a manifestation of almighty Allah’s majesty and awesomeness, snakes, centipedes, scorpions and other similar creatures are reminders of divine punishment and also have various duties in nature. They are therefore amongst the bounties bestowed upon man. Stones, soil, trees, clouds, mountains and meadows were all made for the human being…
The Holy Qur’an states:
‘And He has made everything in the heavens and everything on the earth subservient to you. It is all from Him. There are certainly Signs in that for people who reflect (Al-Jathiyya, 45:13)
To oppress the creatures that have been created subservient to us is a stupidity that will come back to cause us harm. To be cruel to animals is a weighty sin for which we will have to face the consequences on the Day of Judgement. The Holy Qur’an states:
‘There is no creature crawling on the earth or flying creature, flying on its wings, who are not communities just like yourselves – We have not omitted anything from the Book – then they will be gathered to their Lord’(Al-Anam, 6:38)
On the other hand, love for all creatures on account of their being products of the Creator, is a duty incumbent on the slave.
Other creatures have a right to this world and its bounties. To violate their rights will result in a grave account-taking on the Day of Judgement.
The poet, Firdawsi says in his poem entitled Shahname:
‘Do not injure even the ant which is carrying a piece of wheat. Because even it has life. And life is sweet and pleasurable’.
The Prophet Muhammad forbade the unnecessary, and baseless killing of animals for pleasure. He stated in a hadith:
‘Whoever kills a sparrow just for the sake of fun will hear that sparrow cry out to Allah on the Day of Judgement as follows:
‘O my Lord! So and so killed me for no reason, nor for any benefit nor purpose’. (Nasai, Dahaya, 42).
Scenes of Virtue
Abdulllah ibn Mas’ud (r.a) relates:
‘We were once on a journey with the Messenger of Allah, when he parted from us in order to attend to his needs. At that point we saw a bird with two of its chicks. We took its chicks and then the bird began to flutter up and down cheeping. When the Prophet came back and saw this, he said:
“Whoever took this poor bird’s chicks and tortured it let him return them immediately”(Abu Dawud, Jihad, 112/2675, Adab 163-4).
One day when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was sitting together with his Companions, a man approached the Prophet with something wrapped in his hands, and said to him:
“O Messenger of Allah. When I was coming to you. On the way I passed by a cluster of trees and heard some chicks cheeping. I immediately took them and wrapped them in my dress. Then their mother came and started fluttering around me. I had opened up the chicks and the mum came and sat upon them. Then I covered them up again and here they are”.
“Take them back right away”, the Prophet ordered him. The man then let them go. Instead of running away the mother bird stayed by her chicks and did not abandon them. Seeing this, the Messenger of Allah asked his Companions:
“You are amazed at the compassion of this mother towards her chicks, are you not?”
“Indeed o Messenger of Allah”, they answered. The Prophet then said:
“I swear by the Glorious Being who has sent me with the truth, that the mercy of Allah towards his servants is greater than the mercy of this bird towards her chicks. Take them and put them back where you found them and let them be together with their mother”.
The Companion immediately returned them (Abu Dawud, Janaiz,).
One time Aisha (r.ha) had mounted an ill-tempered camel. She tried to calm it down by moving it back and forth in a harsh manner. Allah’s Messenger said to her:
“Be gentle with the animal. Because, wherever it is found, gentleness will render everything beautiful. Every act that is not gentle is ugly” (Muslim, Birr, 78,79).
The Messenger of Allah explains in the following nice example how the pleasure of Allah can be gained in even the smallest of deeds:
“One time a man was walking down a path when he became very thirsty. He found a well, went down it, drank some water and then came out. As he came out he saw a dog with its tongue drooping and licking the moist earth out of thirst. The man thought to himself:
“This dog is thirsty just like I was”. Then his conscience began to bother him. He went straight back down the well, filled his shoe with water, put it into his mouth and came back up and gave the water to the dog. Allah Most High was most pleased with this act of the man and forgave him all of his sins”.
The Companions asked:
“O Messenger of Allah. Do we get reward for our actions with animals as well?”The Prophet replied:
“There is reward on account of all living beings” (Bukhari, Shurb, 9; Muslim, Salam, 153).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once went to the garden of a man from the Ansar and saw a camel there. When the camel saw the Prophet he began to wail, and tears fell from his eyes. The Prophet approached the camel and began to pat him gently behind his ears. The camel calmed down. The Prophet then asked:
“Who does this camel belong to?” A young man from Madina approached him and said:
“This camel is mine o Messenger of Allah”. The Prophet then said:
“Have you no fear of Allah? Allah bestowed this animal upon you. But it has just now complained to me that you leave it hungry and very tired”(Abu Dawud, Jihad, 44/2549).
The Prophet also warned people of unnecessary conversation and causing harm, while mounted on their animals.
“Beware of using the backs of animals as your pulpits. Allah has given them at your service to take you places where it would be very difficult for you to go alone. And he made the earth for you to live in. In that case, see to your needs on the earth (that is get down from the backs of your animals and meet your needs on the ground)” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 55/2567)
One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) went outside in the early hours of the morning to relieve himself. He saw a camel kneeling down at the door of the mosque. When the Prophet passed by the same place later that afternoon he saw the camel in the same position. He asked:
“Where is the owner of this camel?”
They looked for the owner of the camel, but could not find him. The Prophet was very upset at the camel being left hungry and without water and he said:
“Fear Allah and do not oppress this poor animal who cannot voice his concerns. Only mount these animals when they are strong, powerful and well-fed”. (Ahmad, IV, 181).
Sahl ibn Amr (r.a) narrates:
“One time when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) passed by a camel whose sides were so skinny that his bones could be seen, he said:
“Fear Allah when it comes to these animals which cannot speak for themselves. Mount them when they are well-fed, and eat them when they are well-fed” (Abu Dawud, Jihad 44/2548).
One time the Prophet saw a man slaughtering a sheep. After laying the sheep down in order to slaughter it, the man began to sharpen his knife (in sight of the sheep). The Prophet warned the man of this harsh and emotionless act:
“Do you wish to kill this animal over and over again? Couldn’t you have sharpened your knife before you laid him down?”(Hakim, IV, 257, 260/7570).
Another time the Prophet passed by an animal who had been branded on its face, and said:
“May Allah curse the one who branded this animal on his face” (Muslim, Libas, 107).
One time when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was going to Mecca, he left Madina in the state of ihram. He arrived at the location of Usaya, which is a place between Ruwaysa and Arc. Here he saw a gazelle curled up sleeping in the shade. The Prophet ordered his Companions not to pause too long before the gazelle and make it uncomfortable or anxious (Muwatta, Hajj, 79; Nasai, Hajj, 78).
As the Prophet and his Companions were heading out to conquer Mecca, they demonstrated another amazing example of how to treat animals. This act is also an expression of looking upon animals through the perspective of the Creator. While travelling from Arc to Talub with his army of ten thousand men, he saw a dog which had stretched itself out over its puppies who were suckling him. He immediately called Juayl ibn Suraka from His Companions and placed him as a guard over this dog and its pups. He cautioned that this army of Muslims should not scare the mother or her pups (Wakidi, II, 804).
Another example of the care shown towards animals is narrated by Anas ibn Malik (r.a) who grew up in the care of the Prophet.
“Whenever we would stop at a place to rest, we would first undo the camels and let them rest and calm down before we began to glorify Allah (by performing our supererogatory prayers) and worship” (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 44/2551).
Muslim scholars have ruled that whenever a traveller takes a rest, he should first feed his animals before he eats himself and have even ruled this to be mustahab (a deed that is rewarded) (Abu Dawud, Sunan, III, 51).
One day ibn Umar (r.a) came across some youth from Quraysh who were shooting arrows at a bird. When they missed their target they paid money to the owner of the bird. When the youth saw ibn Umar they dispersed. Ibn Umar shouted after them:
“Who did this? May Allah curse them. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) also cursed the one who took as their target a living animal and shot at it” (Bukhari, Zabaih, 25; Muslim, Sayd, 59).
Bayazid Bistami would become so spiritually sensitive and delicate through the intensity of his love for Allah, that he would feel the pain of all creatures in his heart.
One day this Friend of Allah saw a donkey bleeding from behind after being beaten. At that moment, blood started to seep from the legs of Bayazid Bistami.
Another time while on a journey, this great friend of Allah took a rest under a tree and then continued on his journey. On his way he saw a few ants from his resting place moving around on his bags. In order to not separate them from their new home and so that they would not miss it, he took them back all that way. He went back to the place where he had rested and put the ants back in their old spot, where they had been.
The great friend of Allah, Shah-i Nakshibend, tells of his peerless example in his behaviour towards animals:
During my first days when I was searching, I came across one of Allah’s most beloved of servants, Emir Kulal. At that time I was in a highly ecstatic state of love for Allah. He said to me:
“Look to winning the hearts of people. Serve the weak and powerless. Protect the helpless and broken-hearted. They are such people that they have no income from other people. At the same time they remain in a state of contentment of the heart, modesty and humility. Search them out.”
I obeyed this command of this valuable man. I strove for a long time in the path that he spoke of. After that, that friend of Allah ordered me to look after some animals. He told me to treat their illnesses. He advised me to wrap their wounds and to clean them. And he advised me to do all of this with pure intention and with sincerity.
I carried out this duty as well. I did whatever he said in the way he said it. After a while I had reached such a state that if I happened to see a dog in the road I would stop, wait for him to pass and never put a step forward before it”.
Then he commanded me to treat dogs with love and respect and try to attain to divine favour using this service of mine as a means. He said to me:
“You will feel great happiness while you are serving those dogs”.
I considered his commands to be a godsend. I put all of my effort into following them. I understood the meaning in his commands and awaiting the good tidings that would arrive, I went to one of the dogs. A great state came over me. As I stood before it, something made me cry. It was as if that dog was Qitmir of the Sleepers of the Cave…
Whilst I was weeping, it lay down, its legs raised up, pointing towards the sky. Then it began to make sorrowful sounds, and it began to cry and moan. Then I raised my hands in prayer and with a humbled and broken heart I said:
“Amen”. As if understanding me the dog became silent and turned around and departed.
It was another one of those days. I left home to go somewhere. On the way I saw an animal whose colour changed according to the colour of the sun. It was virtually in a state of spiritual ecstasy. As a result a state of great ecstasy came over me. I stood before it with perfect manners and respect. I raised my hands. Whilst I did so that blessed animal was going through state after state, having delved into another realm. It then laid down, its face facing the sky. Whilst in this state I said:
One day Sulayman the Magnificent asked for a fatwa (a legal ruling) from the Shaykh al-Islam, Abu as-Suud in order to kill the ants that were drying up the pear trees in the garden of the palace. His request was in the form of the following lines:
Will it be of much harm to kill the ant that harms the tree?
Abu as-Suud responded to the request for a fatwa with the following verse:
“Tomorrow when it stands before the court of Allah
The ant will ask for justice from Sulayman”
Sulayman the Magnificent was a most skilful and capable commander, a very intelligent and organised statesman, a scholar and an erudite personage. Yet did he hesitate before a mere ant, having been trained in perfect spiritual manners.
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan had the Valide Mosque in Aksaray Istanbul built. After her death, a righteous person saw her in his dream having reached a beautiful state and asked her:
“Is it because of the mosque that you had built that Allah raised your position?”
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan answered:
That righteous person asked in amazement:
“In that case, which is it of your deeds that enabled you to reach this state?”
Valide Sultan gave the following reply:
“It was a very rainy day. We were going to visit the Mosque of Ayyub Sultan. I saw a tiny, skinny little kitten struggling in a small puddle of water by the side of the road. I stopped the carriage and said to the servant girl next to me.
“Go get that kitten, otherwise it is going to drown”…
Not wanting to get it, she said:
“O my Sultan! Both your and my clothes will be sullied.”
I did not want to offend her, so I got down from the carriage, walked into the muddy water and saved the little kitten. It was trembling and shivering. I felt sorry for it and took it into my lap to warm it up. Before long, the poor little thing came back to life, perked up and recovered.
Allah Most High bestowed upon me this exalted state because of that tiny little act and mercy I showed towards that little kitten.”
Sometimes, an apparently simple and unimportant act of goodness can attract the mercy of almighty Allah to such a degree that it can become a means of great favour and grace. This is why the human being should not see himself having no need of doing something good and which he deems insignificant. Man is ever in need, both in this world and the next, of the spiritual grace that comes from good acts, be they big or small.
My father, Musa Topbas Efendi (may his spirit be sanctified) relates the following event which concerns befriending all creatures:
“About 40 years ago we had rented an apartment in Madina with my spiritual guide, Sami Ramazanoglu (may his spirit be sanctified). At that time the houses were made out of sun-dried brick. We had prepared my guide’s room in order for him to take a rest. When he entered it, we saw a snake curled up in the corner. Against our own will we panicked and felt a slight trepidation. However, he was quite cool and calm.
“Leave this creature of Allah to itself and do not touch it” he said.
A little while later we saw that the snake had disappeared.
Musa Efendi (may his spirit be sanctified)relates:
“It was the season of the Pilgrimage. We were together with my spiritual guide Sami Efendi and his family in Mecca, near the Baytullah Mosque, in the house of Abdussettar from Turkestan, in the suburb of Ajyad. The Sheikh’s room overlooked the street, whereas our rooms were inside and did not. One time at noon he came to the door of our room and said:
“It looks like someone outside needs something to eat”.
I immediately prepared some food and took it outside to give it to the poor person but when I went out the door I could not see anybody. I assumed that he did not wait and left, so I turned back to go inside. Eight or ten minutes later Sami Efendi (may his spirit be sanctified) appeared at our door again and said:
“That needy one has come back and is looking inside”.
When I got the food ready again and went to the door what did I see but a hungry dog, with its tongue hanging out, peering inside. Right away I put the food down before him. He must have been very hungry because he finished it all”.
This is the graciousness and modesty of such great people. Sami Efendi did not use the word ‘dog’ but ‘someone’ for that hungry dog. In fact most of the time, he would not use the word ‘creature’ when talking about animals, but he would use the term ‘Allah’s servant’. Because the beautiful character that is shown towards creatures on account of their Creator is in reality, the beauty of a sound heart, a heart that is completely devoted and dedicated to its Creator.
Our great religion of Islam inspires us to behave nicely towards all creatures, both living and non-living, at every opportunity and by all means. Accordingly various fines have been determined for certain acts, such as cutting trees, pulling out any plants or weeds, hunting, and even pointing out the position of prey to a hunter, whilst in the sacred precincts of Mecca and while in the state of ihram. In this way it is desired that whilst in the sacred precinct, the believers do not commit even the smallest of sins and reach a state of ‘harmlessness’ in the full sense of the word, towards plants and all living things.
Through the practices carried out during the Hajj season, the believer acquires such a state of sensitivity that he will reach a state of eliminating all types of dissipation, sin and argumentation. He will not even be able to pull out a weed. Whilst performing all the rites of the pilgrimage including tawaf (circambulation of the Ka’bah), sa’y (walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa) and wakfa (stopping over at several of the sites), both man and woman, will be preserved from sin, and be freed of dissipation and argumentation as a result of continually lowering their glance…
This sensitivity of Islam is not only limited to the sacred precincts and the state of ihram. The Messenger of Allah has said:
“Allah will put in the Fire, the head of the one who cuts down a sidre tree” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 158-9/5239).
When asked about this hadith Abu Dawud gave the following answer:
“This hadith has been abridged and its meaning is this: Allah will place the head of the following person in hell: the one who unjustly cuts down a sidre tree whose shade benefits travellers and animals in the hills and countryside, having no rights to it”
The following event has an important lesson for us all. It demonstrates how the love and consideration of Islam extends to mankind, animals and even plants:
One time Abu ad-Darda , one of the leading Companions, was in the process of planting a tree in Damascus.
Somebody approached him and said in surprise at the state he saw before him:
“Though you claim to be the friend of the Messenger of Allah, you are busy planting a tree”. Abu ad-Darda gave the following reply:
“Now wait a minute. Do not be so rash in judging me! I heard the Messenger of Allah say:
“Whoever plants a tree from which people or any other of Allah’s creatures eat the fruits of, that tree will be considered charity from that person” (Ahmad, VI, 444).
Of course, in contrast to this, harming plants and other organisms is an act that bears its own sin. Our forefathers have expressed this very concisely as: ‘the one who cuts down a living tree is like the one who cuts off heads’.
The Prophet urged people to plant trees and green their environment. He was a personal example of this to his
companions. Ibn Abbas relates:
One day when the Messenger of Allah was passing by two graves, he said:
“They are both being punished, but not because of a sin that was great in their eyes. The first is being punished for talking about people, and the second for not taking the necessary precautions to prevent splashing himself after relieving himself”.
After that he asked for a moist branch of a date tree. He broke it into two and then planted one each at the head of each grave. Then he continued:
“It is hoped that this will relieve some of their punishment, as long as they do not dry up” (Muslim, Taharah, 111).
Even a moist leaf is in a state of zikr (remembrance of Allah) even though we are not aware of it. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an:
“The seven heavens and the earth and everyone in them glorify Him. There is nothing which does not glorify Him with praise but you do not understand their glorification. He is All-Forbearing, Ever-Forgiving” (Isra, 17:44).
In short, sometimes it so happens that the pleasure of Allah can be found in a great act, in an average act or sometimes it can be hidden in the smallest of deeds. The same is true for his punishment. In that case we must approach all of the creatures of Allah with compassion, mercy and love and run to their aid if need be.
Islam commands that we treat all living things, humans, animals and plants with kindness and love. Mankind has duties towards every one of them. The beauty of Islam is its understanding of a universal and all-embracing love and mercy which encompasses all of creation. A Muslim is like a long-running river bearing blessings for a thousand and one living things – animals, trees, the rose and the nightingale. The place it runs to can only be eternity and the ocean of reunion (wuslat).
However impossible it is for the sun to not give out heat, so too it is impossible for great souls to act unfeelingly towards other creatures. Mercy is a divine treasure that has been dispersed throughout the universe. And the source of that love and mercy is almighty Allah. Those who are deprived of mercy are like those who have lost the key to the greatest of treasures, that is the door to happiness.
Those friends of the Truth, who have attained to the source of love, Allah and his Messenger, will remain friends to all of creation for ever. They will not be considered gone and their lives will continue on after their death. The friend of Allah, Yunus Emre expresses this very nicely:
They have called the call to prayer at the death of Yunus
But it is the flesh that dies, the true lover never dies…
. Ihram is the preparatory state for making the pilgrimage to the Ka’bah (translator’s note)
22. Ihram is the name given to the white robes that are worn by the Pilgrims during the Hajj. It is also a condition in which pilgrims are meant to abide by certain rules particular to the sacred precinct. (translator note )