When all animals have been created by Allaah, why is that we like cats and keep them as pets, while turn our faces away at the sight of a pig?
This question has raised many other questions in my mind. Why do we like cats but not the rodents? Why do we like parrots, budgies and canaries, but not crows or vultures? And why do we love butterflies but consider flies, ticks and mosquitoes as pests? Why do we like grass in our yards but spend a lot of money and efforts to get rid of dandelions and other weeds?
So it is not pig alone. People have their likes and dislikes and there are reasons for those preferences. We, as Muslims, however, should clearly understand how our like and dislike are shaped. We should look into it in a little more detail.
Allaah SWT has created everything in this universe for different purposes. Every creation of Allaah has a specific and important role in: sustaining life on the earth; maintaining the ecology in a state of balance and equilibrium; and functioning properly of natural systems. The role and functions of some of those things we know, and some we do not. As our knowledge is increasing through scientific research, we are discovering more and more things about the important roles and functions played by different plants and species in the sustenance of life and balance on the earth. With every advancement of knowledge, it has been becoming increasingly clear that nothing in this universe is useless, without an important role or function.
Out of all the things we find on the earth, some are directly useful for human beings and some are not. They are useful for some other plants or species. Many of them are indirectly useful for people through a chain of usefulness for many other species.
From all the things that are useful for human beings, some are useful as food while others are useful for their medicinal properties. Some of them provide useful services and some are good just for beauty and aesthetics. The things that Allaah SWT in His ultimate knowledge and wisdom knew to be beneficial for human beings whether physically, psychologically or spiritually, were declared Halaal for us to be consumed or used in moderation. He declared Haraam for us those things that He knew had potential of inflicting any kind of physical, psychological or spiritual harm. Similarly, some of the animals, despite their useful role in the greater scheme of things, are not suitable for human contact or touch. They are unclean, impure or Najas. Their physical contact with human beings, as per the ultimate knowledge of Allaah SWT transmitted to us through His messenger, causes physical or spiritual uncleanliness for human beings. Hence, we have been advised to keep away from their touch or contact.
Allaah SWT taught us about Halaal and Haraam and clean and unclean as a favour to us, being the Most Merciful Lord. He knew that we would not know the reality of everything, so He took upon Himself to guide us. We are discovering some of the things through our research now after about a hundred thousand years human beings have been in existence. We may, however, never be able to discover some of the hidden harms or benefits of various things by the time the world ends. Hence, Allaah SWT was kind to tell us all those things in the form of religious laws of Halaal, Haraam, clean and unclean (Najas).
Although, the question was about pets, I have explained the matters of Halaal and Haraam because the same line of reasoning leads to questions about both of these issues.
At this point it will be useful to remember that Allaah does everything for a purpose and use. None of His actions or decisions is in vain. He is also very kind to His creations. He also expects human beings to be kind and to do only what is meaningful, purposeful and fair. Hence, we must review everything we do from that perspective. Accordingly, it become clear that a Muslim who wants to live in obedience to Allaah will never use an animal in any way that is not purposeful, meaningful, kind or fair. Following this principle, we can slaughter an animal for food or we can kill an animal if it has become dangerous to a human population, otherwise we cannot kill or hunt them. We can employ the services of the animals for cultivation, transportation, etc. But whatever we do, we have to do it kindly and painlessly. Thus, we cannot hunt them for sport, we cannot tease them for fun and burden them cruelly or beyond their capability. Doing so will make Allaah angry for the crime of abusing His creation.
The same rule of usefulness should be used to determine if we should keep a pet. Thus, if a person keeps a cat to take care of the mice, it is useful. If a person keeps a dog to tend the sheep, to guide a blind person or to guard a property, that is purposeful and useful. On the other hand, if a person keeps a bird in a cage, fish in a tank or any animal just as a pet, without any clear purpose, it is not appropriate. It is neither useful nor kind. Instead of serving any purpose, it makes human beings serve the animal. A person may like to keep a pet because it is considered fun, interesting or cool in his/her society, but it is a big waste of a very precious human resource, i.e. time. Keeping a pet at home will waste a lot of your precious time in serving the needs of the animal rather than investing that time in the service of Allaah or fellow human beings. It is also unkind because it causes many animals to be removed from where they belong -- their natural habitat and natural way of living.
Hence, to keep an animal without any clearly useful purpose does not behove a Muslim. The Messenger of Allaah said, “An aspect of the beauty of a person’s Islam is his staying away from meaningless or useless activities.”
So the points I am making are:
- Every animal is a creation of Allaah and has a useful role in the natural scheme of things. Although people have their likes or dislikes, we do not hate any animal. We do avoid some animals because of their impurities (Najaasah) that may impact us physically or spiritually.
- We should be kind to animals and leave them in their natural habitat. We should not keep them as pets. It is either unkind, or time-wasting or both. We must not tease them for fun, hunt them for sport, or torture them for any reason whatsoever.
- We are allowed to use animals for useful purposes in a kind, gentle manner. Allaah SWT, the Creator of the animals, has allowed us to kill them only for food, only with His permission granted through invocation of His name and only in the manners prescribed by Him through His messengers.
- We must follow what Allaah has told us in matters of Halaal and Haraam. He has done so as a great favour to us out of His mercy on us.
I hope this clarifies many questions that are raised about animals.
May 2, 2002