August 15, 2008
In a new translation
In May, Kristen Stilt, Associate Professor of Law and History, at Northwestern University, who is an Arabic Scholar, translated into English a Fatwa that is of great significance for the animals in Islamic countries.
The Fatwa was issued by Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, the Shaikh of Azhar, one of Islamís most revered institutions, in response to an inquiry from Ahmed El Sherbiny, Chairperson of the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends, as to the position of animals in Islam.
The response indicates clearly that the teachings of Islam require kindness to animals. This Fatwa, as it becomes known throughout Islamic countries is expected to have a positive impact on the treatment of animals.
An English translation was provided earlier. However, Kristen Stiltís translation is both clear and very readable.
Congratulations to Ahmed El Sherbiny for this important step in paving the way for the improved treatment of animals in a number of countries.
This is the text of the Fatwa:
Shaikh Tantawi's reply to Ahmed el-Sherbiny
In the Name of God, Most Compassionate and Most Merciful Thanks be to God, and prayers and peace upon the noblest of God's messengers, Muhammad b. Abdullah, and God' prayers be upon Him, His family, His companions, upon whomever has followed them to the Day of Judgment, and upon all of the Prophetic Messengers.
Mr. Ahmed el-Sherbiny, lawyer before the Court of Cassation and Chairman of the Egyptian Society for Animal Friends, has presented a letter that includes a request for a legal opinion on two matters.
The first matter deals with those people who torture an animal at its slaughter by committing acts that are contradictory with treatment with mercy. The second matter deals with long distance transport of animals from one country to another by means that do not provide for the animal's safety or its kind treatment, in the method described in detail in the letter.
Islamic law requires that the animal at the time of its slaughter must be treated with kindness and with procedures that uarantee to it mercy. All of this is covered by the beneficence that the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon Him) ordered in his uthenticated saying: "God has ordered beneficence in everything, so if you kill, be as kind as possible in the killing, and if you laughter, be as kind as possible in the slaughtering. One of you should sharpen your knife and one should make the animal be laughtered comfortable." (Related by Muslim). This saying of the Prophet proves that slaughter must be done with kindness and mercy to the animal, and is part of the meaning conveyed by the required beneficence pronounced in the saying.
Kindness and mercy to the animal is also understood from the requirement of sharpness of the knife that will be used in the slaughter, so that the animal is not pained by slaughter with a dull instrument. This is also what He (God's peace and blessings upon Him) clearly shows in His saying "one should make the animal comfortable." Fulfilling this order requires doing everything that makes the animal comfortable at the time of slaughter.
Many authenticated sayings of the Prophet show the prohibition on undertaking to sharpen or hone the instrument of slaughter in front of the animal to be slaughtered. The Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon Him) saw a man sharpening his knife in front of the animal that was going to be slaughtered, and the Prophet forbade that, and said to the man: "Do you want to slaughter the animal twice-once by sharpening the knife in front of the animal, and the second time by cutting its throat?" Imam Ali (May God be pleased with him) also forbade slaughtering a sheep in front of the other sheep or any other animal, so that the animal's perceptions are not harmed at the last moment of its life.
All of this proof clearly shows that any action incompatible with kindness to animals or treating them any way other than with mercy at the time of slaughter-such as in the manners mentioned in detail in the question-is a forbidden and sinful act, and is inconsistent with the kindness to animals that Islam requires. This is the answer to the first question.
With regard to the second question, we advise that Islam's call for kindness to animals and for treating them with mercy applies to all of the situations in which this mercy is necessary. This includes transporting animals. The transport must be done in a way that is comfortable and that ensures the animal's safety. The means of transport must protect against the causing of pain to the animal, threat to the life of the animal, or affliction of the animal with diseases contagious to humans or others. This rule is inferred from the saying of the Prophet, God's peace and blessings upon Him, that "Humans have the chance to perform a charitable act in their treatment of every living being." And also in His saying, Peace be upon Him: "A woman went to hell because of a cat that she had confined without leaving it any food, or allowing the cat access to bugs or fruits of the earth to eat." These two sayings of the Prophet, and others like them, show that the treatment of animals must be based upon the principle of mercy in every situation, including in the transport of them from one place to another.
Causing pain to the animal during transport as described in the letter is considered an action prohibited and forbidden in Islamic law, assuming, of course, that the situation is as described in the question.
God knows best and is most supreme.
Chief Imam and Shaikh of al-Azhar
Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi
signed April 24, 2008
Thanks to Kim Bartlett, President of Animal People, for passing this on to Best Friends.