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In the foregoing sections, those Ahadith and instructions were discussed which govern the mutual behaviour of Muslims. The Holy Prophet's (S.A.W.) teachings and sayings also deal with the manner of our conduct in respect to all mankind and even the other creatures of Allah Almighty.

It is related by Jareer Ibn Abdullah (R.A.) that the Prophet (S.A.W.) said "Those whose hearts are devoid of mercy for others, will not obtain the mercy of Allah."

The word "others" used in the hadith, includes not only the Muslims but the non-believers too. Everyone, indeed, has a claim to kindness and compassion, no matter what class or community he may belong to. True, sympathy and kindness towards the non-believers and wrong-doers, however, would demand that first of all, a sorrow and concern is felt in the heart at their plight and transgression and an effort is made to save them. Besides this, in cases of physical or worldly want and suffering, we are commanded to be kind and helpful to them.

This hadith actually imparts a stern warning to those who do not treat their fellow-men with kindness and compassion and remain indifferent to their needs end difficulties.

In another hadith, narrated by Abdullah Ibn Amr (R.A.) the Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have said "The Most-Merciful(i.e. Allah)will have mercy on those who are merciful. Show compassion to the dwellers of the earth, then the One who dwells in the heavens (Allah) will show compassion to you!"

A strong emphasis to show kindness and mercy to all the creatures of Allah on earth, with whom one comes into contact, is contained in the hadith. It first tells that there will be a special mercy of Allah on those who are merciful and then gives assurance that the Almighty will show compassion to those who are compassionate to His creatures. This emphasis, to show kindness and compassion to the "dwellers of the earth", not only includes men of all faiths and nationalities, but also the animals and other creatures.

A similar hadith has been reported by Anas (R.A.) and Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.) - The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "All creatures are the 'Ayaal' (family) of Allah. The most beloved to Allah, amongst His creatures, is the one who is good to His 'Ayaal' (family - i.e. creatures).

Those who are dependent on a person for the necessities of life (like food, clothing etc.) are called his'Ayaal'. Therefore, in this regard, all the created beings are the 'Ayaal' of the Creator - Allah. He is the sole Cherisher and Sustainer. The above hadith, thus explains that whoever shows kindness and sympathy to the creatures of Allah will be deserving of His love and mercy.

Kindness to Animals

The Holy Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.), like the earlier Prophets, permitted the use of those animals created for the purpose of riding or carrying loads and permitted the use of flesh of those animals which have been declared clean for food. This actually, is a blessing of Allah Almighty and is in accordance with His commands. But at the same time, as explained earlier, these creatures should be treated with kindness and mercy.

Abu Hurairah (R.A.) related the narration of the Prophet (S.A.W.): "Once, a traveller (during the course of his journey) came upon a well. Feeling thirsty, he went down into it- drank water and came out. (There was no rope nor bucket). On coming out he saw a dog that was licking the wet earth (around the well). The man took pity and went down(into the well- again), filled his boot, held it by the teeth, came out an d gave water to t he dog to drink. This (simple) service to the thirsty dog pleased Allah to an extent that He blessed the man with salvation (forgave him all his sins)". Abu Hurairah (R.A.) says that upon hearing this, the companions (sahabah) enquired "Oh, Prophet of Allah is there a reward for us even on removing the distress of animals?" "Yes" replied the Prophet (S.A.W.) "(in fact) on removing the distress of every living being!"

The mercy and benevolence of the Almighty is stirred by the display of such deeds of pity and sympathy- due to which He grants forgiveness and salvation. It should be noted here that the aim of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) was not merely to narrate the story, but to stress the importance of kindness and compassion to all the creatures of Allah - even to a dog!

Severity of Cruelty to Creatures

The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), on the one hand emphasised that all creatures of Allah be treated kindly, and on the other hand warned against cruelty to them explaining that to unnecessarily inflict pain on the creatures is a great sin.

It is reported by Suhail Ibn Hanzaliyyah (R.A.) that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) once came upon a camel whose belly had shrunk to its back (due to starvation). On seeing it he remarked, "Oh people! Fear Allah with regards to the dumb animals. (i.e. Do not starve them like this). Ride them while they are in good condition (i.e. well fed) and when you leave them, leave them in the condition that they are well!"

The moral of the hadith is that anyone who possesses an animal, should feed it properly and then take only as much work from it as it may bear(nothing beyond its endurance).

Jabir (R.A.) narrates that once The Holy Prophet(S.A.W.) saw a donkey that had been branded on the face, upon which he exclaimed "The person who has committed this (cruel) act is removed from the mercy of the Lord (Creator)."

As is still practised in many places, in those days it was customary to brand animals (like horses, donkeys, cows, etc.), with red-hot irons, as a mark of recognition. To brand the face of the animals, which is the most sensitive part of the body, by burning a mark on it, is definitely a most cruel act. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) felt deeply hurt on seeing that this had been done to the poor animal, which made him utter the above sentence. This surely was an expression of severe resentment against such cruelty!

In another hadith, related by Abdullah Ibn Umar(R.A.) the Prophet(S.A.W.) said "A certain cruel, hard - hearted woman will be cast into Hell, (simply) because of (her cruelty to) her cat. She held it is captivity until it died (due to starvation). She neither gave it anything to eat, nor set it free so that it could feed on the worms and insects of the earth.

It is clear from this hadith that the cruelty to animals is most displeasing to Allah the Almighty, and it can lead one to hell!

These few Ahadith of the Prophet (S.A.W.) give an idea of the Islamic teachings concerning the treatment of animals - and all creatures, but, it should be remembered that these do not conflict with the command for killing poisonous creatures, such as snakes, scorpions etc. which is actually an act of service to men and to other creatures of Allah.

The world has, only recently, realised the need for the prevention of cruelty to animals, but our Holy Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.) had taught this to mankind centuries ago!