Prophet Muhammad’s mercy went beyond humanity to include animals and even inanimate things.
Addressing his Companions, once he (peace be upon him) said:
“While a man was walking he became very thirsty, so he descended into a well and drank from it. When he came out he found a dog panting and eating the soil due to thirst. He (i.e. the man) said, ‘This creature is suffering what I suffered,’ so he went down again, filled his shoe and climbed up holding it in his mouth to give drink to the dog. Allah appreciated that from him and forgave his sin.”
The Companions asked:
“O Messenger of Allah, is there a reward in [kindness to even] animals?”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied:
“In [serving] every living creature is reward.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
By this principle, “in [serving] every living creature is reward”, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the forerunner of all organizations and associations for the protection of animal rights and kindness to them. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) preceded them by hundreds of years when he said:
“A woman was punished on account of a cat. She confined it until it died and entered the Hellfire because of it. She neither fed it nor allowed it to search for its own food.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
By this the Prophet meant to teach his Companions kindness to animals and good treatment of them and to show them that killing an animal unlawfully or causing its death could lead one to enter the Hellfire. This is something unknown in man-made laws [and systems] which govern people today.
And he (peace be upon him) warned against killing an animal without [a valid reason] reason, saying:
“No person kills a bird or anything larger without right but that Allah will ask him about it on the Day of Resurrection.”
Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is its right?”
“Its right is that one slaughters it to be eaten and not merely cuts off its head and throws it away.” (An-Nasa’i)
The Prophet Muhammad also ordered kindness when slaughtering. He said:
“Indeed, Allah has decreed Ihsan (precision) for all things. So when you kill, kill well; and when you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade, and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” (Muslim)
One scholar mentioned that some westerners had accepted Islam when they learned about the Islamic manner of slaughter, which points to the perfection of this religion in every aspect.
And the Prophet said:
“Do not take anything in which has a soul as a target.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) meant not to make a living animal a target to shoot at, as that is contrary to the mercy which should be part of the believer’s character.
Prophet Muhammad used to prohibit injustice and oppression to animals and was much concerned with this matter. Once he entered a garden belonging to a man from the Ansar. There he found a camel, and when it saw him, it moaned and its eyes shed tears. The Prophet (peace be upon him) approached and stroked its head and it became quiet. He said:
“Who is the owner of this camel?”
An Ansari youth said:
“I am, O Messenger of Allah.”
So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Will you not fear Allah concerning this beast of which Allah has given you ownership? Indeed, it has complained to me that you starve and exhaust it.” (Abu Dawud)
Even trees had a share in the mercy of Muhammad (peace and be upon him). Al-Bukhari narrated that when the Prophet’s Minbar (pulpit) was built, a palm tree by which he used to give his sermon cried out like a child. The Prophet descended from the pulpit and hugged it, and it moaned as a child does when being quietened. [Thereupon,] he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“It wept at no longer being able to hear the reminder [of Allah].”
When al-Hasan (may Allah have mercy on him) related this narration he wept and said:
“O Muslims, a piece of wood longed to be with the Messenger of Allah, and you are more worthy to long for him.”
May Allah enable us to become embodiments of mercy to humanity, animals and even trees like the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Adapted from the book “Forty Encounters with the Beloved Prophet – His Life, Manners and Characteristics” by Dr. Adel ibn ‘Ali al-Shiddy.