Animal Sacrifice and Compassion
''Islam speaks a lot about mercy and at the same time does cruelty to animals. Is killing of animals (for food) right?
Islam has exhorted the believers to be merciful to everything on earth. The prophet says ''Be merciful to those living on earth, and He who is in the heaven will be merciful to you'' (Tabrani)
''One who is not merciful will not obtain mercy'' (Bukhari, Muslim)
''Only the unfortunate can become merciless'' (Abu Dawud)
All creatures on the earth are viewed by Islam as communities like those of the human beings ''There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) Communities like you'' (6:38)
The prophet has taught that if it rains even after man becoming arrogant, it is out of concern for other creatures.
''The rain would have stopped if people stopped paying Zakat. It rains as a result of (the presence) beasts'' (Ibnu Maja)
Helping and serving anything that has life is a good deed.
''(Helping) any creature that has a live liver will bring you reward'' (Bukhari)
The prophet said: ''While walking along, a person felt thirsty. He saw a well, climbed down and drank water. When he climbed up, he saw a dog licking soil out of extreme thirst. He told himself. ''This dog is extremely thirsty, like I was before'' Again he climbed down the well, filled his shoes with water, and biting it using the teeth, came up. He quenched the thirst of the dog. For this god became grateful to him and forgave (his sins)'' Hearing this the followers asked the prophet. ''Do we have rewards in animals too? The prophet replied: ''In all living things with a live liver you will have reward'' (Bukhari, Muslim)
The prophet narrates another incident: ''A dog was running around the well. It was almost dying out of thirst. Seeing this an Israelite who was a womaniser, removed his shoes and filled it with water and gave the water to the dog and drank some himself. For this deed the god forgave him" (Bukhari)
Harming any creature is sin. The prophet has strictly prohibited it. He tells ''Because of a cat a woman was punished. She kept the cat tied until it died of hunger. Thereby she deserved hell'' (Bukhari, Muslim)
''Killing a sparrow or a creature smaller than it unjustifiably is a matter answerable to God. When he was asked about justifiable reason the prophet replied: ''For food, for sacrifice and also not leaving it unused'' (Ahmed)
The prophet has prohibited killing of animals for sport, and also engaging them for fight for entertainment (Muslim, Tirmidhi)
Similarly the prophet has prohibited stoning of animals and the killing of honey bees, ants and sparrows etc. (Muslim, Abu Dawud)
The prophet says: ''If anyone unnecessarily kills a bird, on the Day of Judgment it will cry and complain to God: ''Oh Lord, so and so killed me unnecessarily. He killed me not for any use'' (Nasaee, Ibnu Hibban)
Once the followers of the prophet had put a fire to keep off cold. The prophet asked them to put off the fire out of concern that ants may burn. He scolded a person who put his camel to starving without giving it food. Similarly he has prohibited sealing on their faces or burning for mark on the back. The prophet has advised to be merciful even to trees. He told a boy who was throwing stones at a tree ''Never throw stones at any tree when stone falls on it the tree will feel pain''
Hence, Islam has asked to be merciful to all things in the universe.
However, nothing can live here without food. Plants, insects, reptiles, aquatic creatures, cattle, birds and all other living things live by taking food. For this each creature has to use some other creature. For their sustenance some plants use other plants, and some rare plants use even other creatures for food. Insects eat plants and other creatures. All creatures which live in water, air, land or sea use other plants or creatures for their food. The food habit of each creature depends on its physiological features. Being herbivorous the rabbit has teeth and stomach which are suitable for chewing and digesting the food it usually takes. Lion is carnivorous; hence its mouth and stomach are suitable for its food habit.
Man is created in such a way that he can eat vegetable food as well as non vegetable food. The teeth of pure herbivorous animals like goat, sheep, cow etc are flat, so as to make their eating convenient, whereas the teeth of carnivorous animals like tiger are pointed and sharp. Man has teeth suitable for both vegetable and non vegetable food. Some of the teeth are flat and while others are pointed and sharp. In other words man is created as both herbivorous and carnivorous.
This is also true of the digestive system. The digestive system of the herbivorous is suitable for digesting its food, and that of carnivorous is good for digesting the food it takes. Human digestive system is suitable for both kinds of food. The condition of human teeth and digestive system prove that man is both herbivorous and carnivorous.
The earth and whatever it contains are created for the use of human beings. In other words man is the central point of the earth. Allah tells: ''Do you not see that God has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made His bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, (both) seen and unseen?'' (31:20)
''Of the cattle are some are for carriying burden and some for meat; Eat what God hath provided for you, and follow not the footsteps of Satan: for he is to you an avowed enemy'' (6:142)
''And in cattle (too) ye have an instructive example; from within their bodies we produce (milk) for you to drink; there are, in them, (besides), numerous (other) benefits for you; and of their (meat) ye eat:'' (23:21)
''It is He who made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender and that ye may extract there from ornaments to wear:'' (16:14).
Even those who refute the theory that everything on earth is arranged for human beings, are practically using them in actual life. For his use man ploughs fields, digs wells and ponds, and constructs roads, bridges and houses. While doing all these he is not at all bothered about what happens to the insects and other creatures which are living there. He doesn't remember that he is constructing roads and bridges on the earth for which other creatures too have an equal right. In the same way man uses plants, fruit trees, crops and everything for his interests. So practically everyone agrees that the earth and everything it contains are created and arranged for the use of human beings.
Though the concept `Ahimsa' says that no creature should be killed, no one on the earth lives in accordance with it. Those who do not eat meat live by eating vegetable food. Plants have life and feelings. So like the carnivorous the herbivorous too are involved in biocide and inflict pain on the plants.
If a person is wounded and the wound gets infected, he uses anti- biotic to kill the germs. He destroys worms in the stomach, and kills mosquitoes that lay eggs in dirty puddles. He kills bed bugs and mosquitoes. In short there is no one who doesn't destroy any creature at some time or other in life. There can't be any such person.
If the germs can be killed for the good of human beings, using the same logic, meat can be used as it is a nourishing food. Meat contains nutrients like protein, iron, vitamin B etc. If some one doesn't find any fault in killing plants, insects and germs for people's healthy existence, it becomes baseless to argue that meat, which is food for millions, should be avoided.
So while asking people to be extremely merciful to the living creatures Islam has also approved of eating their meat. Millions of people in the world live by eating meat, and prohibiting this food is against the interest of the people.
For meat to be permissible for eating Islam has asked the followers to cut the animals uttering the name of God. This rule teaches that like any other good deed, the animal which is another creation of God, is used for an essential purpose and that too only in accordance with His grace and mercy. It has also given strict instructions that while slaughtering the animal its pain should be reduced as far as possible. The prophet said: ''Allah has decided good in all things. So if you kill do it gently; and if you slaughter do it also gently. Make the knife's edge sharp and make it painless to the animal'' (Muslim).
Once a person told the prophet: ''While I slaughter the goat I show mercy on it ''Hearing it the prophet replied: ''If you are merciful to it, Allah will be merciful to you'' (Hakim)
Once Umar al Farooq happened to see a person pulling the legs of a goat that was being taken for slaughtering. Umar told him: ''Accursed are you! Lead it gently to death''
As in Islam Hinduism also has allowed meat. The assumption that Hinduism considers meat as taboo is wrong. The puranas have mentioned about many sages and saints who used to eat meat. When Sree Rama was sent to the jungle to stay there he told his mother that in the forest he would not get the delicious meat dish. This incident is mentioned in verses 20, 26, and 94 of the Ayodhya chapter of the Ramayana. It reveals that Sree Rama was fond of eating meat.
Brihadaranyakopanishad says: ''If a man wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a famous scholar, frequenting assemblies and speaking delightful words, a student of all the Vedas and an enjoyer of full term of life, he should have rice cooked with meat of a young bull or of one more advanced in years and he and his wife should eat it with butter. Then they should be able to beget such a son.....'' (6-14-18)
The Soul of Sacrifice
"Still, is the animal sacrifice during Hajj and Eid right? Why such a large number of animals are killed?
The animal sacrifice in Islam commemorates the end of an extreme deed that frequently occurred in the dark corridors of history, the human sacrifice. Simultaneously it is a reminder of another great sacrifice and a solemn pledge of dedication.
Even in the very old age the prophet Abraham had no child. He became sad and prayed to God to give him a child. At the end of the prayers God, the lord of the Universe, gifted him a child. The child was named Ismail. When the beloved son was able to walk with him God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Ismail. Both the father and the son obeyed God's command and got ready for sacrifice. Then came God's command that Abraham need not sacrifice his son, and instead of him he can sacrifice and animal.
The material life always prompts a person to ask the question, "what will he get? But religion always evoke the thought in the believer as to ''what can he give." For this thought his answer will be like ''anything that is dear to me'' and sacrifice can show this determination practised in life.
Abraham was willing to sacrifice anything that was dear to him to dedicate before God. The animal sacrifice during Hajj and Eid, which is celebrated on this occasion, is a symbolic re-enactment of the life of Prophet Abraham, a life that was characterised by dedication for God. It is a solemn pledge and declaration that a person is ready to give anything that is dear to him. It also contains an aspect of his firm belief that anything, whether it is wealth, status, fame, gold, family, power or dignity, will not be a reason to live against God's will.
It is rather difficult for people to sacrifice things which lie closer to their hearts and which they consider as the most important. The believer declares that he is willing to do it. Outwardly animal sacrifice is only the killing of a life, but its inner meaning is so noble. As already mentioned, it contains a pledge that for the pleasure of the lord of the Universe, the believer is ever willing to sacrifice and give whatever is dear to him. Hence the Quran says about sacrifice: ''It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches God: it is your piety that reaches Him'' (22:37)
Many forms of worship in Islam are beneficial to the society in general, and to the poor and destitutes in particular. It is also true of animal sacrifice. Allah commands: ''Then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want'' (22:28)
Islam has instructed people that on the occasions of joy, as an expression of gratitude to God, it is good to feed people, especially the poor among them. As meat and related food are the most nutritious, the generous believers are very particular in distributing them. Incidentally it must be mentioned that meat is an important dish in the feasts of people anywhere in the world.