Islam is more than just a religion, it’s a way of life. Because of this, Islam includes rules for its followers in all sorts of areas of life, from how to pray to how to conduct business, and this includes how to treat animals.
Islam instructs its followers to be kind to animals and show love for all living things. Islam came at a time where animals were treated very poorly and as if they had no feelings. Islam was a pioneer for animal rights. As the Quran says, “We have not sent you (Muhammad) but as a mercy to the worlds.” (21:107).
Killing animals for fun, or torturing them, is strictly forbidden in Islam. Hunting animals for sport is also not allowed in Islam. Setting animals against each other, such as in cock fights, is forbidden, as is using animals for target practice. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, “There is no man who kills [even] a sparrow or anything smaller, without its deserving it, but Allah (God) will question him about it [on the Day of Judgment],” and “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself.” The Prophet cursed one who kills a living creature as a mere sport (as in hunting) (Muslim).
Even when slaughtering an animal for food, Islam instructs Muslims to do so humanely. The knife must be sharp so it will be quick and as painless as possible for the animal. Also, the animal being slaughtered should be kept separate from the other animals, so they do not see the others dying and get scared.
Kindness to animals can be a reason for one to go to heaven. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A man saw a dog eating mud from (the severity of) thirst. So, that man took a shoe (and filled it) with water and kept on pouring the water for the dog till it quenched its thirst. So Allah approved of his deed and made him to enter Paradise.”
While compassion towards animals is a reason to go to heaven, being cruel to them can be a reason for going to hell. Narrated By ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar : Allah’s Apostle said, “A lady was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. She entered the (Hell) Fire because of it, for she neither gave it food nor water as she had imprisoned it, nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” [Bukhari Vol.4, Book 56, #689]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) had a pet cat named Muezza. He cared about her so much that one day when he was getting ready to go out, he found her asleep on the sleeve of his cloak. So he cut off his sleeve rather than wake her up. There was also one of the companions of the prophet who loved cats very much, and the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) nicknamed him Abu Hurairah, which means Father of Cats.
Six chapters of the Quran are named after animals: The Cow (chapter 2), The Cattle (chapter 6), The Bee (chapter 16), The Ant (chapter 27), The Spider (chapter 29), and The Elephant (chapter 105). There are numerous verses in the Quran about animals, and we are often told by God in the Quran to look at the animals as signs of his existence. “Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of (the air and) the sky? Nothing holds them up but (the power of) God. Verily in this are signs for those who believe.” (16:79)
Kindness to animals is very important in Islam. If you are not treating animals kindly, you aren’t treating your fellow humans kindly. “If you want to be loved by your Creator, love His creatures.” (At-Tirmidhi).