Are animals ordained to suffer at our hands?
By: A. Muhammad

The initiative behind this research is a question that has been on my mind for a number of years, but which I had never found a satisfactory answer to it in the past. The question itself was a product of my great love for animals.

The Quran contains numerous verses in which God commands us to treat other people well and stay away from aggressing against others.
However, there is not one verse in all of the Quran that tells us to treat animals kindly and refrain from torturing animals unnecessarily. There may be general verses against aggression that can be construed to arrive at this instruction, but there are no direct words that forbid us from mistreating animals. This absence did not seem justified in my mind considering that God told us that animals are the true believers who worship and glorify God constantly:

[24:41] Have you not seen that everything in the heavens and the earth glorifies God, even the birds in their flight formation? Each has known its prayer and its glorification. God is Knowledgeable of what they do.

In contrast, when it comes to the human being, God describes him as unappreciative (
14:34), transgressing and ignorant (33:72). Why then would God not instruct us to treat animals kindly when they are the ones who worship God unconditionally and constantly?

Moreover, God gave man dominion over everything on earth, including all animals of the earth:

22:37] Thus did He subject them to you so that you may magnify God for guiding you and give good news to the good-doers.

[45:13] And He subjected for you what is in the heavens and what is in the earth, all from Him. In that are signs for people who reflect.

God knows that many men are evil and that they torture animals and kill them for sport, such as fox hunting which has only been outlawed in the UK recently, or for human pleasure and entertainment, such as bull fighting in Spain and cock fighting in Peru, both of which see the animals killed in the most inhumane manner. These, plus many more cases of animal abuse and animal cruelty that take place all over the world on a daily basis, begged the question as to why did God not instruct us even once to treat animals kindly, but instead commands us to treat the transgressing, ignorant fellow human well?

The first Quranic verse to analyse is the following:

[44:56] They do not taste death therein beyond the first death and He has shielded them from the punishment of Hellfire.

This verse, which speaks of the believers, and we established that all animals are pure believers, tells us that at the end of their life on earth, believers do not taste death but that their 'nafs' (self) are invited to enter
Paradise (16:32 and 36:26-27). What this means is that we may see a believer, be it a human or an animal, dying and looking as in pain or suffering, but in actual fact they do not taste death at all and they are not in any pain which appears before our eyes.

The narration of the death of Jesus in the Quran is a clear example of the truth of this matter. The enemies of Jesus believed that they crucified and killed him, which indicates that the body of Jesus must have been still alive as far as they could see, but in actual fact, they never killed him since God had raised his 'self' unto Him. It only appeared to them that Jesus was dying by their own hands:

[4:157] and their saying, “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.” In fact, they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him,
but it appeared to them that they did. Those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it; they only follow conjecture. For certain, they did not kill him.

[4:158] Rather,
God raised him unto Him; God is Dignified, Wise.

The words "
They have no knowledge of it" indicate that the ones who killed Jesus did not have the knowledge of how these things work and what they were seeing with their own eyes was no more than an illusion.

3:55 we read that God told Jesus that He is cleansing him from his enemies, which means that God spared Jesus any pain at the hands of his enemies:

3:55] God said, "O Jesus, I am taking you back, raising you to Me and cleansing you of those who disbelieved.

It follows from this example that animals, being confirmed believers, do not taste death either nor do they suffer any if the pains associated with the death process. This applies whichever way they die, even though to our own eyes it may look like they are suffering. It may look to us that it is we who are killing the animal, but in fact God had already raised their 'self'. The example of Jesus is the confirmation of this matter.

The believers do not taste death nor the pains that come with death, while the disbelievers suffer death at the end of their earthly life and go through the pangs of death with the angels beating them up:
[6:93] ........... If only you could see the transgressors during the pangs of death .....
[8:50] If you could only see when the angels take back those who disbelieved, beating their faces and their rear ends: “Taste the punishment of the Fire.

If the believers are not treated the same as the disbelievers in death, what about during their life time? The focus here should be on the life of animals and not the life of humans. The reason being that God tells us that the majority of the human race are disbelievers (12:103) and are misguided (6:116), while all animals are believers, submitters and constant worshippers of God. Even the believers among the humans may revert during their lifetime, and so they cannot be regarded as confirmed believers until they depart this life as believers.

What does the Quran tell us about the way animals are treated (by God) during their life on earth?
The following verse sheds light on this matter:

Or do those who commit bad deeds think that We will treat them as those who believe and do good deeds, whether in their life or in their death? Miserable indeed is their judgment.

In the above verse God distinguished between how He treats the believers in their life and their death, and how He treats the disbelievers. We already analysed the death of believers, but now by virtue of 45:21 we have the added information that the lives of believers are also different.

Now as we focus on the animals once again, we know that everything in the heavens (which includes the animals) have accepted the second chance given to them by God (33:72) and thus, they come into the life on earth as believers and submitters. In contrast, the human being was transgressing and ignorant when he rejected the second chance :

[33:72] We have offered the Trust to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but they refused to carry it and were afraid of it while
the human being accepted it. Indeed, he was transgressing, ignorant.

By virtue of their submission to God, God has already redeemed the animals. During their life on earth, they worship and glorify God constantly (24:41). Would there be any justification for God to put them through any torture or punishment on earth when He has already redeemed them?

Let us read the following words:

8:33] But God would not punish them while you are among them, nor would God punish them while they ask for forgiveness.

If God does not punish those who seek forgiveness, even when they may not be redeemed yet, would God punish those who have already been redeemed (animals) and who are glorifying and worshipping God constantly?

Having concluded that it is not becoming of the Most Merciful to punish those whom He has already redeemed and who glorify and worship Him constantly (animals), we still see animals in front of our eyes being mistreated and suffering at the hands of humans everyday. We also hear them when they cry in pain, so how is it possible to equate what we see with our own eyes with what the Quran tells us about the animals and their submission and worship of God?
This urgent question can only be resolved if we accept that what we see with our eyes may not be the whole truth. Also that there is a lot that we do not see with our own eyes. Ultimately, we must believe God's words that tell us that God never inflicts any injustice on anyone:
God does not inflict an atom's weight of injustice. 4:40

We are reminded of the case where we would be seeing a believer dying a painful death. We see them in extreme agony and suffering, yet by virtue of 44:56, we know that they are not tasting death at all and that they have been invited to enter
Paradise (36:26-27). We also need to be reminded of the death of Jesus when the disbelievers thought they killed him and crucified him, yet in truth he was not there to taste any of the torture they put him through.
The above information leads to a further question:
If we see a believer suffer then die in front of our eyes, yet we know that this believer did not suffer one bit nor tasted death, then why is it difficult to envisage an animal that looks to be in great pain yet is not suffering at all?

Even though the above analysis is based on clear Quranic information, my mind was still wondering: can it really be as easy and simple as that? We know that animals and all believers do not taste the second death, but what about pain that animals are put through in their normal life? I asked myself if there are any words in the Quran that provide us with a case in point to affirm that a person may be in a situation which causes great pain and suffering yet God shields them from all the pain of such an event? Is there any Quranic support for this concept?
This leads us to the story of prophet Abraham when his idol worshipping people condemned him to the fire, then we read the words:

[21:69] We said, "O fire, be coolness and peace upon Abraham."

This event, is conclusive in confirming that someone can be in the midst of a situation that normally causes extreme pain and suffering yet God can very easily shield them from any pain. Those who condemned Abraham to this gruesome torture would have undoubtedly thought that he was suffering the worst pain possible, but once again, just like those who thought they killed and crucified Jesus; it only "appeared to them" that they did.

Does this happen to animals and God shields them from all pain, even though to our eyes it may look like they are suffering? Do we ever get to witness any case in real life where the principle of shielding pain is proven?
My happiness was great one day when I was watching a documentary about wild life in Africa. Unlike lions, who kill their prey swiftly, then proceed to eat it, hyenas on the other hand chase their prey till they wear it down then when it falls out of exhaustion, they start to eat it while it is still alive.

In one scene, a group of hyenas did just that. They chased a wildebeest until exhaustion, then while the wildebeest stopped running and was sitting on the ground, the hyenas were eating it alive. What I could not understand while watching this event was that the wildebeest was sitting upright whilst being eaten, without moving and without crying out in any pain whatsoever. Initially I was filled with sadness for the poor helpless wildebeest, and wondering why does God allow such suffering for creatures that worship Him and glorify Him constantly!

My sadness soon evaporated when I heard the commentator say that at such times, the animal goes into shock, and when in shock the body produces a hormone that masks all pain. At once I was praising God, whose mercy I never doubted
for even one second. I later verified the concept of shock masking pain for myself and found it to be absolutely true, and it often happens in humans as well.

This article is not an invitation to exercise cruelty to animals. Those who torture animals unnecessarily are still committing a great sin, to which they will be held accountable, since God prohibited all forms of aggression. This article is merely to piece some significant Quranic verses together which produce yet another example of God's infinite mercy.

A rational question that requires an answer is: Since God shields the believers from pain, why do many sincere believing people experience pain and suffering throughout their lives? Why are they not shielded like the animals?

The answer is that the human being is not a confirmed believer and submitter to God until the moment of his death. Throughout his life, he may maintain his belief, or as often happens, he may revert to disbelief.
Just like a student who is studying to obtain an academic degree. The student may be knowledgeable and industrious throughout the year, but he will not earn the academic degree until graduation day when he has sat the exam and passed the exam. The duration of the exam for the human being is his life span, but graduation day is at the moment of death.

The Quranic evidence presented points to the fact that God has shielded animals from all pain and suffering, even if it appears to us that they are suffering. The concept itself is not irrational, for it is not any different than when God shielded Abraham from the torture of the fire, or when the disbelievers thought they were torturing and killing Jesus, when in fact, it only appeared to them that they did.

This can be the only rational explanation as to why there is an absence in the Quran regarding prohibiting cruelty to animals or mistreatment. Even when God tells us that animals are created to supply us with food and warmth, God never added that we should kill them humanely. Did God overlook these instructions, or has God, in accordance with divine mercy and justice, already taken care of these matters?