Is it permissible to keep chickens hungry so that they will start laying eggs again?

Details of the Question

- Will you give information about animal rights?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,


It is not permissible to keep chickens hungry and to afflict them no matter what the reason is. It is not permissible to keep animals hungry and thirsty; it is not permissible to do business like that either.   

Doing something like that means violation of animals’ rights. Allah will allow people whose rights were violated to demand their rights from others on the Day of Judgment; the people who violated animals’ rights will be punished to the extent of their violation. The oppression inflicted upon animals is worse than the oppression inflicted upon people and its penalty is heavier. For, it is not possible for people to ask forgiveness from animals. (Muhammed Said Burhani, at-Ta'liqat al-Mardiyya ala al-Hadiyyatil-Alaiyya p. 466 )

The following is stated in hadiths: "If Allah forgives people about injustice done to animals, many people will be forgiven. A woman who caused her cat to starve to death by imprisoning it will be punished in Hell by being scratched by a cat..." (Bukhari, Bad'ul-Khalq 16, Jaza'us-Sayd 7; Muslim, Hajj 66-67; Muwatta, Hajj 90; Tirmidhi, Hajj 21; Nasai, Hajj 113)

Answer 2:

Islam is a religion of high ethics and mercy. The mercy stipulated by Islam is so comprehensive as to include all creatures. It is one of the basic duties of the believers to show mercy to all people along with all of the other living beings. Our religion orders us to love people and to treat them with compassion and mercy; it also orders us to love animals and to show mercy on them. 

Nothing was created in vain in the universe. There are hundreds of wisdoms behind everything. Therefore, we should not forget that we have responsibilities toward the natural environment we live in and all of the living and non-living beings sharing the world with us in this environment.   

Allah created the universe in a very delicate balance. It is stated in the Quran regarding the issue that the sun and the moon followed courses exactly computed, that the herbs and the trees both prostrate in adoration, that the firmament was raised high, that the balance was set up and that the balance should not be transgressed. (ar-Rahman, 55/5-8)

As it is clearly seen in the verses, Allah imposed the law of general balance among all beings and phenomena so that the universe would run within a certain system.

Man is responsible for the running of this system regularly. When he upsets the balance, he will be punished for it partly in the world. The real penalty will be given in the hereafter. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in the Quran:

"Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned, that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from Evil)." (ar-Rum, 30/41)

One of the elements of this natural balance is animals. It is not enough to afforest, to keep it clean and to protect its water for a healthy environment. It is also necessary to deal with it in terms of animals and to protect all kinds of animals, domestic and wild, and insects. Our religion advises and warns us regarding the issue through the Quran and the hadiths of the Prophet.

Answer 3:

Along with stating that the one that makes animal serves man is Allah and that it is halal to make use of animals, Islam points out that it is necessary to love and to respect animals. We are advised to treat animals well and are warned not to keep them hungry and thirsty, not to beat them, not to take their cubs, not to hunt the mothers who have cubs unless it is necessary, not to use them as targets to aim, not to make them fight for fun, not to load them with excessive burdens by the hadiths and practices of the Prophet.

Once, the Prophet scolded the owner of an animal that was kept very hungry and whose bones were visible as follows:  “Are you not afraid of Allah?” The Prophet ordered those who milked sheep to trim their nails so that they would not hurt the udders of the sheep. When he saw that the fledglings of a bird had been removed from the nest, he had them placed in the nest again. He prohibited people from using animals as living targets and warned a woman who cursed the animal she was riding. He also prohibited people from branding animals, cutting their ears, insulting them, making them fight, hunting them for fun and loading them with excessive burdens. The people who committed them were punished in the history of Islam. Once, the Prophet appointed guards so that a dog and her puppies would not be disturbed when the army passed by and changed the route of the army. 

It is an undeniable fact that the rights of animals over humans are not based on fear of sinning only but also the consciousness that they were granted by the divine will, which caused Muslim communities to be sensitive about animal rights throughout history.

One of the problems that we often see in media is treating animals badly. Animals are abused, destroyed and treated very badly. This caused animal rights defenders to take action and the concept of animal rights became prevalent in this modern age. The existence of sacrificing animals in Islam caused negative judgments to occur about Islam related to animal rights. Animal rights came up to the fore only recently in the Western law systems (1), but when the verses and hadiths related to animals are examined, it will be seen that animals were given some rights in Islam long before, contrary to what is thought and claimed.

Some chapters of the Quran have the names of various animals: Baqara (cow), Nahl (bee), Ankabut (spider) and Naml (ant). Natural duties of some animals are mentioned in a verse (an-Nahl, 16/8) and it is stated animals were essentially created for the benefit of people. The Quran states that other living beings also worship Allah like humans and that birds had a language, deed of worshipping and glorification of their own. (an-Nur, 24/41; al-Isra, 17/44)

The issue that is insistently emphasized in hadiths about animal rights is their right to live. Killing animals unnecessarily and arbitrarily except certain harmful animals (2) is prohibited in the advice, orders and practices of the Prophet and it is stated that it is necessary to show mercy on them. (Nasai, Sayd,34, Dahaya, 42; Darimi, Sunan II, 115; Bayhaqi, Ahmad b. Abi Bakr, as-Sunanul-Kubra, Maktabatu Darul-Baz, Makkah 1994/1414, thq. Muhammad Abdulqadir Ata, IX, 279. In some versions of the hadith, a bird or a smaller animal is mentioned for killing unjustly / unnecessarily. For hadiths about mercy, see Tirmidhi, Birr, 16; Abu Dawud, Adab, 58, 66)

On the other hand, if the narrations that the Prophet ordered people not to spoil the nests of birds and not to remove their eggs and fledglings, that he had the eggs and fledglings that had been removed returned and that he prohibited the use of the skins of some wild animals as garments, saddles, etc.  (Abu Dawud, Libas, 40, Manasik, 23, Salat,122; Tirmidhi, Libas, 31; Bukhari, Dhabaih,13; Damiri, Hayatul-Hayawanil-Kubra, II, 496) are considered (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, Muassasatu Qurtuba, Egyp nd., I, 404; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 122; Damiri, Kamaluddin Muhammad b. Musa b. Isa, Hayatul-Hayawanil-Kubra, thq. Ahmad Hasan Basj, Darul- Kutubil-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1994/1415, I, 374), the importance the Prophet (pbuh) gave to animal’s right to live will be understood better.

The attitude of the Prophet (pbuh) related to ants and other animals (for the prohibition of killing ants, bees, frogs, hoopoes and woodpeckers, see Abu Dawud, Adab, 1645, 176; Ibn Majah, Sayd, 10; Damiri, Hayatul-Hayawanil-Kubra, II,119, 499) affected the generations to come very much and caused the formation of the consciousness about the rights of animals over humans.

On the other hand, the issue of hunting, which is important for the survival of animal species and generations, is mentioned in verses and hadiths. It is stated in verses and hadiths that hunting is halal (al-Maida, 12; Bukhari, Dhabaih, 12, Buyu, 3; Muslim, Sayd, 1; Abu Dawud, Sayd, 2; Tirmidhi, Sayd, 17; Nasai, Sayd, 18) but hunting that spoils the natural balance and hunting for fun are prohibited. (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, I, 357, II, 371)

Another issue mentioned in verses and hadiths about animal rights is paying attention to their food. The Prophet warned those who milked animals not to neglect their babies. (Haythami, Ali b. Abi Bakr, Majmauz Zawaid, Darur-Rayyan lit-Turath Darul-Kutubil-Arab, Cairo, Beirut 1407, VIII, 196) It is stated in a narration reported by Abu Hurayra that a bad woman saw a dog turning around a well on a hot day; it was panting due to thirst; she took off her shoes, filled them with water and gave the water to the dog and that Allah forgave her due to this and sent her to Paradise. (Muslim, Tawba, 155, Salam, 41) The Prophet mentioned the bad ending of a person who caused the death of a harmless animal by keeping it hungry and warned believers about it. (Bukhari, Bad'ul Khalq, 17, Shirb, 9, Anbiya, 50, 54; Muslim, Birr, 37,151)

Another important issue related to animal rights is their cleanliness and care. In a narration reported by Abu Hurayra, the Prophet wanted the noses of the sheep to be wiped and the sheep pens to be cleaned. It is also narrated that he ordered the goats to be cleaned. (2)

Another issue that is emphasized in hadiths is that the beasts of burden should not be loaded more than what they can carry. (3) Similarly, the Prophet (pbuh) said that animals should be regarded as divine trusts and that they should be treated well. (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 55, 61)

One of the important issues that the Prophet emphasized about animals, especially domestic animals, is that they should not be used in a way that is contrary to their nature. It is contrary to Islam to use animals in ways that are contrary to their nature. According to a narration of Ibn Abbas, the Messenger of Allah prohibited agitating animals in order to make them fight. (Abu Dawud, Jihad, 51, 56; Tirmidhi, Jihad, 30; Bayhaqi, as-Sunanul Kubra, X, 22) This prohibition includes making animals like roosters, camels, bulls, dogs, rams, etc. fight. This is also regarded as afflicting animals. 

Another issue that is emphasized related to animal rights in verses and hadiths is the prohibition of affliction and torture. Affliction and torture can be both material and spiritual (Muslim, Birr, 80). Both types of torture are prohibited definitely in hadiths. In that sense, it is definitely forbidden to hit animals on the face, to use living animals as targets to shoot (Muslim, Sayd wa Dhabaih, 12, 59; Bukhari, Dhabaih, 25), to tattoo on their faces (Muslim, Libas, 29, 106; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 56; Tirmidhi, Jihad, 30), to agitate animals in order to make them fight, to drag an animal by pulling it from its ear; they are all regarded as torture.

On the other hand, the purpose of the creation of some animals is to provide food for humans and to carry their burdens. It is regarded a humane duty to show mercy on these animals and not to hurt them while slaughtering them. The Prophet orders us to show them compassion and not to afflict them even while slaughtering them. According to the clear and insistent instruction of the Prophet, it is necessary to inflict the least pain upon an animal when it is sacrificed. (Muslim, Sayd, 11, 57; Tirmidhi, Diyat, 14; Abu Dawud, Adahi, 12; Nasai, Dahaya, 22; Ibn Majah, Dhabaih, 3)

The attention attracted to the rights of animals in verses and hadiths formed a Muslim community that was aware of the theory of animal rights and the verses and hadiths in question formed the ethical and legal basis of the theory related to treatments toward animals. It is known that orders were given in order to protect animal rights beginning from the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs in the history of Islam and that those who acted contrarily were punished.

It can be remembered here that the animals that had no owners were looked after and protected by the state and that foundations were established with this purpose in the Islamic history, especially in the period of the Ottomans. Legal norms related to animal rights existed in the Ottoman Laws since the first periods. For example, the following decree in the Istanbul Municipal Law dated 1502 is an example of it:

"Do not make an animal whose foot is wounded carry burdens. Take care of the feet of horses, mules and donkeys, and pay attention to their saddles. Do not load heavy burdens on animals because they cannot speak. If they lack anything, make the owner complete it. Punish those who do not act accordingly and who ignore. The rights of all animals that are not mentioned above and that were created by Allah should be controlled by officials. There is a religious decree on it." (4)

Thus, the legal status of the animals was superior to moveable goods. When we consider the statement of the verses and hadiths, their historical background and the approach of fiqh scholars toward the verses and hadiths in question, we can expand the concept of right in a way that will include animals. It is possible to understand from the verses and hadiths in question not only the fact that they have rights but also the types of rights they have.

In this context, we can list those animal rights as follows:

a) The most important right of the animals is the right to live.

b) Do not treat any animals badly, mercilessly and cruelly.

c) All animals have the right to cared, looked after and protected by humans.

d) Animals cannot be killed without a legitimate excuse. If it is necessary to kill animal, it needs to be killed abruptly, without giving any pain and without frightening it.

e) All wild animals have the right to live and reproduce in their private and natural environment, on land, in the air and in water.

f) Species of animals traditionally living in the same environment as humans have the right to live and reproduce harmoniously.

g) Any change that people make for their own interests or entertainment in this harmony or in the conditions is contrary to these rights

h) All working animals have the right to restrict the intensity of the working period, to be fed in a way that will repair and strengthen them and the right to rest.

i) Animals cannot be used for the entertainment of people.

Another point to note here is that the rights granted to animals are based on a superior will, not on humans, in other words, not given by human beings. It is an unquestionable fact that the consciousness that the rights of animals over human beings are based on not only the fear of sin but the consciousness that it was given to animals by divine will has been effective in making Muslim societies sensitive to animal rights throughout history. One of the important things the Prophet puts emphasis on related to domestic animals is to avoid using them for deeds that are not suitable for their structures. It is contrary to Islam to use animals in works that are contrary to their nature by deviating from the purpose of their creation. (see Assoc. Prof. Dr. Adnan Koşum, Diyanet Monthly Magazine February 2007)

Click for additional information:

Verses mentioning animals and the duties of animals... DO NOT UNDERRATE ANIMALS

1 – That coming to the fore did not take place in the form of being included in laws and regulations but in the form of a declaration. See. Universal Declaration of Animal Rights dated 15 October 1978 issued by Unesco, Sungurbey, İsmet, Hayvan Hakları, Maltepe Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi, İstanbul, 1999, p. 10331035. As a matter of fact, in Turkish legal system, in the civil code of almost all European countries, in the countries of the British Commonwealth and the current USA legal system, animals are regarded as possessions of humans. It is accepted that animals cannot have any rights different from humans. Animals can be the object of the rights, not the subject. 
2 - İmam Malik, Muwatta, Daru Ihyait-Turathil Arabi, thq. M. Fuad Abdulbaqi, Egypt nd., II, 933; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, II, 436; Bayhaqi, as-Sunanul Kubra, II, 449; Haythami, Majmauz Zawaid, II, 27, IV, 67; Damiri, Hayatul-Hayawanil-Kubra, II, 257.
3 – al-Azim al-Abadi, Abut-Tib, Muhammad Shamsul-Haq, Sharhu Awnul-Ma’bud Sunanu Abu Dawud, 7:221, Hadith no:2532.
4 - see İstanbul İhtisâb Kanunnâmesi, Topkapı Palace, R. 1935, Wrq. 96/b106/b, item. 58,73; Akgündüz Ahmed, Osmanlı Kanunnameleri ve Hukukî  Tahlilleri, Book II, II. Bâyezid Devri Kanunnâmeleri, İstanbul 1990, p. 296,297. For similar laws and animal foundations, see Sungurbey, İsmet, Hayvan Hakları, İstanbul Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi Yayınları, 1993, p. 165168; Zabıtaca Men’i Lazım Gelen Mevad Hakkında Zabıta Memurları ile Merkezde Bulunan Bilcümle Zabitanı Asakiri Zabtiye’ye Verilen Talimatın alt başlığı Yük Taşıyan Beygir Hamallarının ve Merkepçilerin Sureti Hareketlerine dair kanun dated 23 Muharram 1278 (31 July 1861) enacted by the will of the sultan. (Hayvan Hakları (supplement: second book), Maltepe Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi Yayınları, İstanbul 1999, quote from p. 1087.

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