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Our Stores. Results for - fit. All the latest offers delivered right to your inbox! We Accept. Shipping Methods business days Minimum 10 business days. Our Locations. Customer Service. Their questions are mostly limited to whether or not particular meat is lawful for them to eat - a purely self- interested concern. When today's Islamic jurists are asked to apply ijtihad to issues of animal rights, they typically do little more than rehearse the positions of their ancient predecessors. This is as true of Shi'i jurists - for whom the practice of ijtihad theoretically never abated - as it is for their Sunni counterparts.

Thus, the recent "animal rights" treatises of such scholars as the Iranian Hashem Najy Jazayery, the Kuwaiti Mustafa Mahmud Helmy, and the Indian Ashraf Ali Thanvi are really nothing more than com- pilations of Qur'an and hadith citations such as those cited in chapter one, accompanied by brief and somewhat obvious com- mentaries. What is largely missing now in the world of Islamic jurispru- dence is any kind of deeper discourse that engages contemporary Animals in Islamic Law 43 understandings of animal rights, factory farming, and species preservation.

The main reason for this lack is that the system of Islamic jurisprudence responds only to inputs; that is, Islamic jurists work on whatever questions individual Muslims put to them. Until Muslims start asking their preferred legal experts for opinions on contemporary animal-related issues, the jurists will not waste time on them. A secondary problem is that since so many of these questions today arise from contexts which are entirely new in history, jurists can refer only to precedents where the contexts were dramatically different and may shed little light on those of the present. Finally, the tendency toward resisting new restrictions, on the principle that "all is allowed unless explicitly forbidden," adds a heavy weight of inertia where new understandings of animal rights are concerned.

Islamic law developed during the eighth to tenth centuries to meet the need for a universally accepted code of norms within an exceptionally diverse and cosmopolitan Muslim soci- ety. This need is, if anything, even stronger today. Among Muslims, no guiding principle can hope to find universal valid- ation unless it emanates from Islamic law. Thus, even were contemporary jurists to read the works of Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Bernard Rollin, and Evelyn Pluhar, or pay visits to factory farms or scientific laboratories, technically speaking none of these would be admissible sources for the derivation of Islamic laws.

It may be, however, that becoming familiar with these contemporary arguments and experiences would enable Islamic jurists to search the accepted sources of jurisprudence with new eyes. Still, it will be extremely difficult for any eventual animal rights-conscious Muslim jurists especially in the more taqlid- oriented Sunni tradition to overcome the longstanding impulse to refer to thousand-year-old models.

The most likely resource for an Islamic jurisprudence regarding animals which takes the 44 Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures unprecedented conditions of today into account is the principle of maslaba, or "seeking the common good. This is because while there appears to be nothing in Islamic law that would allow for privileging the vital interests of animals when they conflict with human interests even non- vital ones , there are many aspects of how animals are mistreated today which also have a negative impact on humans as well. It is there that the principle of maslaba can come into play.

Factory farms are less likely to be declared un-Islamic because they are abusive of animals, than because Muslims come to understand the consequences of eating drug-ridden meat or liv- ing in proximity to huge quantities of untreated animal waste. Unfortunately, to date the principle of maslaba has most often been invoked as a way of overriding traditional restraints on human activities, by those arguing that the "needs" of human development trump the heed to preserve and protect nature.

To engage in the kind of jurisprudence called for by the condi- tions of the present day will require a boldness and creativity rarely seen among experts in Islamic law over the past ten cen- turies. Nevertheless, the acceleration of change and innovation which characterize today's world, as well as the rapid deterior- ation of the natural systems which make both human and non- human animal life possible, all cry out urgently for the attention of contemporary Islamic scholars. It may be hoped that one day soon these experts will get beyond the handing out of pat answers based on thousand-year-old precedents and conditions, and apply their interpretive skills to the unprecedented situations in which humans and the animals affected by their activities find themselves today.

While the opinions of Al-Azhar's jurists are theoretically no more binding than those of any others and carry no formal enforcement capability, they perhaps come closest to Animals in Islamic Law 45 constituting a normative voice for Sunni Muslims. For any Sunni Muslim wanting to persuade other Sunnis of a particular pos- ition on a given issue, getting the support of Al-Azhar's chief jurist known as the Sbaykh al-Azbar is a powerful tool. As early as the s Muslim animal rights activist B. He doesn't say of whether stunning livestock prior to slaughter was acceptable under Islamic law.

A committee was formed and came back with a unanimous opinion: that the stun- ning of livestock is lawful as long as it doesn't interfere with the bleeding procedure prescribed by Islamic law. They apparently did not consider the unreliability of stunning, the assembly-line conditions normally associated with the use of stunners, nor any other aspect of the issue. More recently, Al-Azhar has hosted an important conference on animal rights - apparently the first recognized Islamic institu- tion in the world to do so.


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The conference participants, who included scholars of Islamic law, history and philosophy, government officials, veterinarians, and animal rescue workers, called for improved treatment of ani- mals in scientific research, food production, and other areas, as well as for further elaboration of concern for animals from an Islamic perspective. The participants also agreed to undertake certain concrete measures, such as getting slaughterhouses to provide slaughtering services free of charge during 'Id al-Adha so as to reduce slaughter in the streets , adding "humane slaugh- ter" lectures to the curriculum at Egypt's colleges of agriculture and veterinary medicine, and establishing training sessions for butchers to bring their practices in line with Islamic directives.

Part of the aim of this would be "to answer unfair accusations directed at Is lam and Muslims. This is such a recent development, however, that it is impossible to say how far- reaching the results will be. Almost invariably, however, animal figures were employed as symbols for particular human traits, or were entirely anthropomorphized actors in human-type dramas.

In other words, even where non- human animals appear, the real message is about humans. This holds true in the realms of philosophy and mysticism as well as in popular literature and the arts. Only in scientific works, such as treatises on zoology, are animals observed, discussed, and described in their own terms, and even then the emphasis is often on their uses or dangers for humans.

Animals in Islamic Philosophy Islamic philosophy falsafa in the early centuries derives primar- ily from the Hellenistic tradition, known to Muslim intellectuals through translations of famous works from Greek and Aramaic into Arabic. Aristotle's Historia animalium was translated into Arabic in the eighth or ninth century, and served, along with 48 Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures much of Aristotle's other work, as a starting point for Muslims engaged in philosophical inquiry.

Abu Nasr Ai-Farabi d. Like the Greeks, Muslim scholars did not make the disciplinary boundary between philosophy and science that Western academia perceives today; thus, the most well-known intellectual figures often excelled in more than one discipline.

By and large Muslim philosophers were more interested in metaphysical questions such as the nature and existence of God than they were in mundane issues like the treatment of animals, the phenomenal world's importance being mainly its potential to illuminate the workings of the Divine Mind. One might even sug- gest, as their Muslim critics often did, that the philosophers were primarily interested in.

All in all the philosophical tradition is not a particularly rich place to look for Muslim attitudes about animals, but there are some exceptions. Zakariyya al-Razi, d. Rhazes accepts the need for killing wild animals when they pose a risk to human life, but finds it difficult to justify the slaughter of domestic creatures.


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  • In the end, however, he rationalizes both cases by claiming that by killing an animal one is liberating its soul and thus allowing it to transmigrate into a superior body, bringing it closer to salvation. The great philosopher-physician Avicenna Abu Ali ibn Sina, , one of the principal "islamicizers" of the Greek peripatetic tradition, wrote a very short mystical treatise called The Bird Al-Tayr in which he employs the oft-used symbol of a Animals in Philosophy and Science 49 bird in flight to represent the soul's journey "upward" to find ultimate reality.

    Avicenna 's bird, who narrates his own tale in the first person, is first freed from his cage by other birds; they then all fly away together in search of "the King. Both Muhammad Ghazali and his younger brother Ahmad wrote mystical treatises modeled on Avicenna's The Bird, as did the illuminationist philosopher Shihab al-din Suhrawardi. Each stage is seen as being more developed and more perfect than the last. This hierarchy, based as it is on an originally pagan worldview, cor- responds to that found in the Qur'an and, for that matter, in Western Christian culture as well.

    Muslim philosophers and Sufis also follow the Greeks in dis- tinguishing between the "animal soul" and the "rational soul," the latter being uniquely found in humans. The former is located in the heart and, being material, is subject to eventual destruc- tion. The latter, by contrast, is immaterial and eternal.