An Islamic Perspective on Treatment of Animals

Is there any ruling in Islam about treating animals?

Islam gives importance and orders to show respect to all living beings. A Muslim is responsible for his behaviours not only towards people but also towards animals and plants, so there are plenty of hadiths on animal treatment.

Islam wants people to behave animals gently

Narrated Hazrat Aishah(ra);
"I was riding a restive camel and turned it rather roughly. The Prophet (pbuh),said to me: 'It behooves you to treat the animals gently.' (Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2593)

Any cruel treatment to animals will be punished in the hereafter

"A woman was punished (by Allah) because of a cat. She had not provided (the cat) with food or drink, nor had she set it free so that it might eat the insects of the earth." (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1047)

Islam not only prevented the physical cruelty to animals, but also prevented mental cruelty to them

In the following hadith, we see that a bird's emotional distress has been treated as seriously as a physical injury:
Narrated Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah bin Masud;
"We were on a journey with the Prophet (pbuh), and he left us for a while. During his absence, we saw a bird called hummara with its two young and took the young ones. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet((pbuh), came back and said: "Who has hurt the FEELINGS of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her." (Muslim)
During a journey, someone travelling with the Prophet (pbuh), gathered some birds eggs from a nest. The mother bird's painful cries and commotion attracted the attention of the Prophet (pbuh) ,who asked the man to return the eggs to the nest. (Bukhari)
A companion to the Prophet (pbuh) came to him carrying baby chicks in his clothing and mentioned that the mother bird had hovered over them all along. He was directed to return the chicks back to the same bush. (Mishkat, Abu Dawud)

Islam stopped the torture and cruelty to animals which were generally practiced in the pre-Islamic period

During the pre-Islamic period, certain pagan superstitions and polytheistic practices involving acts of torture and general cruelties to animals used to be common in Arabia. All such practices were condemned and stopped by Islam. The following few sayings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), will serve as an example:
Hazrat Jabir(ra) has reported that Allah's Messenger(pbuh), forbade striking the face or branding on the face of animals.…The same companion of the Holy Prophet (pbuh),reported him as saying, when an ass which had been branded in its face passed him by, He(pbuh) said : "Allah curse the one who branded it." (Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah- Muslim). This Hadith is concerned with causing pain to the animal on the sensitive parts of its body, as well as with the disfigurement of its appearance.
When the Holy Prophet(pbuh),migrated to Madinah from Makkah, people there used to cut off camels' humps and the fat tails of sheep. The Prophet(pbuh), ordered this barbaric practice to be stopped. The temptation for the people to perform this sort of vivisection on the animals was that the juicy humps and fatty tails could be eaten while the animal remained alive for future use. To remove this avidity, he declared: "Whatever is cut off an animal while it is still alive, is carrion and is unlawful (Haram) to eat." (Narrated by Abu Waqid al-Laithi. Tirmidhi; Hadith No. 1480, Chapt. On Al-At'imah)
To make sure that no injury was inflicted on the animal while there was even a flicker of life in it, it was forbidden by the Holy Prophet(pbuh), to molest the carcass in any way, such as: by breaking its neck, skinning, or slicing off any of its parts, until the body is dead cold.
Many Muslim authorities have also given juristic opinions (fatawa) to the effect that, after slaughter, time should be given for the rigor mortis to set in before cutting up the carcass. (From the book Animals in Islam, written by Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri)

Killing animals for joy and for sport is forbidden

“If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, "O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose." (Nisai)
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." The listeners asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He replied, "That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away." (Nisai, Hakim)
Narrated Ibn Umar (ra) that he entered upon Yahyaa ibn Sa’eed and one of Yahyaa’s sons had tied up a hen and was shooting at it. Ibn ‘Umar walked over to him and untied it, then he brought it and the boy and said, “Do not allow your boys to tie up birds in order to kill them, for I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbidding the tying up of animals or other creatures in order to kill them.”(Bukhaari, 5195; Muslim, 1958. The version narrated by Muslim says, “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) cursed those who do that.”)

If an animal is to be killed for a purpose, it should be done in the best manner

"Allah has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease." (Muslim)

There is a reward in the hereafter for people in serving animals and any living beings

"While a man was walking along a road, he became very thirsty. He came to a well, got down into it, drank, and climbed out again. He then saw a dog panting and licking mud because of severe thirst. The man said to himself, 'This dog is suffering from the same state of thirst I did.'
So he went down the well (again), filled his shoe (with water), held it in his mouth (as he climbed out), and gave the water to the dog. God thanked him for that deed and forgave him (his sins)." The people then asked the Prophet: "Is there a reward for us in serving animals?" He replied: "(Yes), there is a reward for serving any (living being)."(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 38)

There is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive

The Prophet (pbuh), was asked if acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by the Almighty. He replied: "Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive." (Narrated by Abu Huraira, Bukhari)
"A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to human beings," and that: "Kindness to animals was promised by rewards in Life Hereafter" (Bukhari, Muslim).