Is violation of animals’ rights in question? How can one be freed of the responsibility of violation of animals’ rights?

The Details of the Question

Is violation of animals’ rights in question? How can one be freed of the responsibility of violation of animals’ rights?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

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-Mardiyye ala al-Hadiyyetilalaiyya, 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)

Therefore, those people will be called to account due to wronging animals. If a person wronged animals and regretted after that, he needs to repent since he cannot ask forgiveness from them and do good deeds. He needs to get ready for the accounting by doing righteous deeds so that he will not lose on the Day of Judgment. What matters is to repent sincerely and to try to spend one’s remaining life by acting in accordance with Allah’s consent. Allah will not embarrass a slave who tries to repair his mistakes and who spends his remaining life by acting in accordance with Allah’s consent.

Answer 2:

Animals have partial free will. For, when you treat an animal well, it approaches you without fearing; when you treat it badly and hit it, the animal runs away from you when it sees you. We understand from it that animals have partial free will. However, it is not enough for being held responsible. That is, their partial free will is not like man's free will, which can be expressed as follows: “Regarding worshipping and obeying Allah, he will do it if he wishes and not do it if he does not wish it.”

It is possible to divide laws of Shari'ah into two. One of them is the religious laws. People are held responsible for them. The other is the laws of nature like the law of gravity and the burning property of fire. A person who jumps into space falls down and is punished by the pain caused by that fall.

The legitimate sustenance of wild animals is carrion. They cannot violate one another's rights. They are informed about this natural law through inspiration and an instinct from their creation. A bird learns the necessities of life through inspiration. Similarly, what it needs to do in its life is informed to him naturally through inspiration.

Therefore, they cannot harm living animals and cannot oppress weak animals thinking that they are strong. An animal that acts like that will be punished in this world or in the Gathering Place in the hereafter. They will not go to Hell since they do not have intellect.

How do animals receive inspiration?

There is a different realm that directs and controls every living being, from the sparrows that hide behind the branches of a tree when it gets dark to the ants that return to their nests, from the fish that hide in the hollows of a rock to a gazelle that seeks safety in a distant corner of the jungle. All of them find the places to spend the night in the best way through inspiration, instinct and divine control.

The next day, an awesome day with various activities starts when the first rays of the sun appear in the horizon. All of them set off with a feeling, turn, fly, run, walk, swim... However, none of them knows where they go, what the time is, when they will return to their nests. Nevertheless, all of their affairs are settled through inspiration.

Animals know their Lord, who gives them inspiration, through inspiration. An animal might not know what it is, how many feet it has, its stomach, liver, etc. but it knows that it exists. It wants to protect this existence. If you try to take it from it, it will run away from you. Every animal that knows its being through inspiration and that is pleased with it has a feeling of thanking to this grant in their hearts in a form that we cannot know. Yes a being that knows itself needs to know its Lord too. This meaning is valid for all animals. However, their knowing their Lord is very little like knowing themselves but it is true.  

Any animal that we see and meet cannot know our inner world; similarly, we cannot know its inner realm.  What we know is only its brain and organs. Even if we know what swims in their blood, we cannot know what passes through it. Then, how can we claim that these beings, whose inner realms we are ignorant about, do not know their Lord?

What will the state of animals be like in the Gathering Place?

If we divide living beings into three as having life, having spirit and having intellect and consciousness, plants have only life. Animals have both life and spirit. People, angels and jinn have life, spirit and consciousness. Among these beings, only people and jinn are held responsible. They are bound to obey Allah's orders and prohibitions; they are subject to a test throughout their lives. When they die, they will go to Paradise or Hell. 

Since animals are deprived of feelings like intellect and consciousness that will encumber responsibility on them, concepts like sin-thawab, good-bad, Paradise-Hell are not in question for them.

All animals, from unicellular ameba to whales, have spirit. Essentially, spirit itself is eternal; it does not die or disappear. The body in which the spirit lives temporarily dies and decays. 

As it is clearly stated in the Quran, spirit is under the order, power and control of Allah Almighty. Nobody but Allah can control spirit. It is Allah who creates it and who maintains it.

As for the issue of the state in the Gathering Place, two species will be resurrected there; their eternal place will be determined after they are called to account: They are human beings and jinn

The state of animals is completely different. Two verses regarding the issue are as follows:

“When the wild beasts are herded together (in the human habitations)...” (at-Takwir, 81/5)

“The Day when man will see (the deeds) which his hands have sent forth, and the Unbeliever will say, "Woe unto me! Would that I were (metre) dust.” (an-Naba, 78/40)

In the interpretation of these verses, according to the narrations of Abdullah bin Umar, Abu Hurayra and Imam Mujahid, Allah Almighty will resurrect animals on the Day of Gathering; He will give their rights by taking them from one another and will give them the order, “Be Dust!” Then, all of them will be transformed into dust. Unbelievers will watch the animals and will envy them; they will ask Allah to transform them into dust. (see Tabari, the interpretation of an-Naba, 40)

Animals are not responsible beings but they will be given and taken their rights to a certain extent. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) stated the following in a hadith:

“You will give the rights of every being to them. Even the right of the hornless sheep will be taken from the horned sheep through retaliation.”

Thus, he states that no injustice will be left unreciprocated. According to the statement of hadith scholars, an ant will take its right from another ant. (Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır. Hak Dini Kur'dn Dili, VIII/5599)

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi explains this issue as follows: 

“Although the bodies of animals with immortal spirits perish, they will receive reward and punishment in a manner appropriate for them in an eternal realm.” (Lem'alar (in Ottoman Turkish), p. 887) (5)

Yes, the spirits of animals will remain eternal; Allah Almighty will keep their spirits. However, only Allah knows how He will keep spirits since spirit is under His control.

If violation of rights is in question among animals, there will definitely be violation of rights between a human being and an animal. An animal that harms a human being without a reason will called to account; similarly, a human being that wrongs animals will be called to account. This accounting will take place in the Gathering Place.

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