Why Don’t Animals Have to Pray?

22 April, 2017
Q Salam, the question that is bothering me is why did Allah create living creatures? Human beings, animals, etc... And why does He want us to pray to Him? And why only human beings? Why are animal not able to pray or know anything about Allah if it is really important to remember Allah and worship him?

Answer

Salam Fathima,

Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Islam teaches us that the whole of the universe and everything in it is Allah’s creation. That is to say, everything other than the Creator came out of the Will and commandment of Allah the Creator.

If He had not exercised His creative fiat, we would not have been here to know Him or to think of Him. In the Holy Quran Allah Almighty says what means:

{I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me […]} (Quran 51:56)

And worship in its essence means the worshiper understands that they owe God what is due to Him, namely their sincere gratitude to Him for their very existence, as well as all the blessings they enjoy in this world.

Worship is nothing but an expression of the worshiper’s thanks where it is due.

Salah or the Islamic prayer is a unique form of worship that declares man’s abject surrender to the will of His Creator-Sustainer. Allah does not need our Salah or Sawm (fasting) or any other form of worship.

On the contrary, it is we who need these. And all our expressions of gratitude to Allah help us establish an unbreakable connection to the Lord and Master of the universe. This is crucial for our spiritual growth, and it takes us to an ineffable state of peace here and paradise in the hereafter.

The word “Islam” meaning “surrender” has been used in the Quran to refer to the natural condition of all beings – living or inanimate – being subject to the physical and biological laws of the universe, which are Allah’s own laws. Nothing or no being is exempt from Islam in this sense.

But there is another sense of the word “Islam” as it applies to humans. For, of all the creation of Allah, humans are special. They are beings gifted with reasoning power and freedom of choice, though in a limited sense.

Allah Almighty in the Holy Quran teaches us that humans are created as His khalifah (ambassador or vicegerent) on earth. Let us try to understand what this means:

Allah also says what means:

{We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation.} (Quran 17:70)

And

{It is He Who hath created for you all things that are on earth […]} (Quran 2:29)

The above two verses mean that Allah Almighty has created animals as well as all the varied objects of the universe for our purpose. As the animals do not possess freedom of will or reasoning power, they cannot, on their own, choose to worship Allah or refuse to do so.

They are not, therefore, responsible or answerable for their actions. Because they cannot comprehend the significance of worship; nor can they willfully disobey Allah. Their actions are instinctive and so they do not exercise choice. They follow Allah’s natural laws He has created them and the universe with.

In this way, they are “Muslims” (i.e. those who surrender to Allah) too. But as we humans possess freedom of will, in the areas where we can exercise this freedom, we can either choose to submit to Allah or refuse to do so.

Hope this makes it clear why animals are not required to offer ‘Salah’ for instance, while humans are commanded to do so.

We can also see that the diverse and manifold phenomena of the whole of creation make the universe one of indescribable order and beauty. All these show to any thinking human a glimpse of Allah’s creative power:

{Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding […]} (Quran 3:190)

As Allah has created all things for our use, we have His permission to use them; however, not as we please, but according to His guidance, observing the limits He has set, as has been indicated above.

This is a responsibility and a trust that only humans can undertake; and so only humans have been appointed custodians of all the bounties of nature. Therefore, it is their duty to act with responsibility and with gratitude.

This is the meaning of the khilafah (stewardship or ambassadorship) vested with them. And this means that we need to move forward in life and attain progress on earth by the proper use of Allah’s bounties.

As a reward to those who live by His guidance observing the limits set by Him, Allah has prepared His paradise. And to those who misuse Allah’s bounties by rejecting or ignoring His guidance, there is hell too.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Are We Entirely Free?

How to Understand Fate and Free Will?