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HomeOrder by PublisherE - IFons VitaeThe Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)
The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)
The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)

The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity : A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale Told Originally by a 10th Century Muslim Iraqi (Rabbi Anson Laytner)

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ISBN: 1887752706
Author: Rabbi Anson Laytner
Publisher: Fons Vitae (2005)
Pages: 115 Binding: Paperback

Description from the publisher:

A true interfaith title. The ancient antecedents of this tale are thought to have originated in India, but the first written version of the story was penned in Arabic by members of the Islamic "Brethren of Purity", Ikhwan al-Safa, a Sufi order, in the environs of Basra, Iraq, sometime before the tenth century of the Common Era. In their version, the story was the twenty-fifth of fifty-one "letters", or treatises, the Rasa'il comprising an encyclopedia, in which were described the mysteries and meaning of life.

Much later, this one story, The Letter of the Animals, was translated and adapted by Rabbi Kalonymus ben (son of) Kalonymus, known among Christians as Maestro Calo, at the request of his master, King Charles of Anjou (in France), in the year 1316. The story was popular in European Jewish communities into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Besides being published in Hebrew, it also was translated into Yiddish, German and Spanish. The text used was published in Jerusalem under the title Iggeret Baalei Hayyim (The Letter of the Animals) by Mosad HaRav Kook in 1949.

Kalonymus lived primarily in Arles, in the Provence region of France. The region at that time, along with Spain and Italy, were highly cultured and more tolerant than other parts of Europe because of the influence of and contact with the Islamic/Arab world through Muslim Spain. Rabbi Kalonymus, like many others, was busy translating into Hebrew Aristotle and many others important classical thinkers, whose works had been preserved in Arabic and transmitted by the Arabs to the West.

How current this tenth century tale is for both the young and old of today! It addresses environmental and animal rights issues with charming effectivity. A Muslim Sufi work of 10th century Iraq, translated by a Rabbi into Hebrew, and rendered into Latin for a Christian king is now translated from the popular Hebrew version by Jews into English, edited by a Christian and illustrated exquisitely by a Muslim woman from India under the patronage of a Saudi princess. This is a true interfaith and multi-cultural title!

In this fable, eloquent representatives of all members of the Animal Kingdom – from horses to bees – come before the respected Spirit King to complain of the dreadful treatment they have suffered at the hands of humankind. During the ensuing trial, where both humans and animals testify before the king, both sides argue their points ingeniously, deftly illustrating the validity of both sides of the ecology debate.

“Fons Vitae is to be congratulated for making this work available in its current form...the cooperation of representatives from all the religions of the Abrahamic family in the preparation of the present book – reminds us of the basic truth that the most crucial problems of today are those which all authentic religious people face together…They have provided a book of value for experts on medieval thought as well as ordinary readers interested in reading a fascinating story of enduring spiritual worth and great current significance.”

--Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Washington University

Additional material from the appendix of "The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity" (See also: Extended reviews and comments - Read more)

Animals in Islam

Within the tenets of Islam are found strong support and guidelines for the protection and treatment of animals.

In the Qur'an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), it is emphasized that animals be treated as humanely as any other of God's vast creation. The Qur'an goes as far to say that cruelty to animals is equivalent to cruel treatment of a human being. Kind treatment of animals is considered a good deed in the same sense that good conduct and treatment between human beings is deemed a good deed. The following Hadith illustrates this point:

The Prophet said, "While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well, and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, 'This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine.' So, he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him.'' The people asked ``O Allah's Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?'' He replied: ``Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being).'' (Narrated by Abu Huraira -- Volume 3, Book 40, Number 551)

God created man to be the guardian of the Earth and gave him dominion over its inhabitants. Therefore, mankind is held responsible for an injustice he has done to any of God's creatures. The Qur'an specifies that animals function as a community in the same way that human beings do, and all creatures have their place. The Qur'an also shows that it is not only human beings that give praise and worship to God through prayers but animals as well, as evident from this passage.

"Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises are celebrated by all beings in the heavens and on earth, and by the birds with extended wings? Each one knows its prayer and psalm, And Allah is aware of what they do.'' (Qur'an 22:18)

It says in another Hadith narrated from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet said “Do not use anything in which there is a soul as a target.” –Narrated by Muslim

In Islam, the Qur'an and Hadith give clear guidance on several matters concerning animals, aside from their treatment and roles. Another issue which is carefully described in the Qur'an and Hadith is the slaughter of animals for food. In Islam, one must follow strict guidelines from the Qur'an and Hadith on the process and proper way of slaughter.

From Animals in Islam by Anayat Durrani

The sources quoted in Animals in Islam by Al-Hafiz B. A. Masri are the Qur'an, the first source of Islamic law (Shari'ah); Hadith or Tradition, the second source; and Ijtihad, inference by analogy, the third source. Together, these three sources make up Islamic case law or 'Juristic Rules" (qwdidatul-fiqhiyah) that are the guidelines to be followed for any legal question. Many issues relating to animals, such as vivisection, factory farming, and animal rights did not exist 14 centuries ago and therefore, no specific laws were passed about them. To decide on issues developed in recent times, Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) has left it to Muslim Jurists (fuqaha'a) to use their judgement by inference and analogy, based on the three above-mentioned sources.

Dominion Over Animals

The Qur'an Majeed states that man has dominion over animals: "He (God) it is Who made you vicegerents on earth." (Qur'an 35:39), but makes clear that this responsibility is not unconditional and states what happens to those who misuse their freedom of choice and fail to conform to the conditions that limit this responsibility: "then We reduce him (to the status of) the lowest of the low." (Qur'an 95:4,5) "…they are those whom Allah has rejected and whom He has condemned….because they served evil" (Qur'an 5:63). "…they have hearts wherewith they fail to comprehend, and eyes wherewith they fail to see, and ears wherewith they fail to hear….Such (humans) are far astray from the right path. (Qur'an 7:179).

There are…people who take the concept of man's dominion over animals as a licentious freedom to break all the established moral rules designed to protect animal rights. The Imam Hazrat Ali has this to say about (those who misuse their authority over the weak): "A savage and ferocious beast is better than a wicked and tyrant ruler." (Maxims, see Ref. No. 4, pp. 203, 381).

Animals Are Our Teachers

Muslims have often been advised by their mentors to learn lessons from some species of animal. For example, the Imam Hazrat Ali gives this piece of advice: "Be like a bee; anything he heats is clean, anything he drops is sweet and any branch he sits upon does not break." (Maxims of Ali; translated by Al-Halal from Nahj-ul-Balagha (in Arabic); Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; p. 436. The Imam, Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib was the son-in-law of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(s), and the fourth Caliph (644-656 A.C. = 23-24 A.H.).

Animals Are Members of Communities and the Family of God

The Holy Prophet Muhammad(s) puts it in these words: "All creatures are like a family (Ayal) of God: and he loves the most those who are the most beneficent to His family. (Narrated by Anas. Mishkat al-Masabih,3:1392; quoted from Bukhari.)

The Qur'an Majeed states: "There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but they are communities like you…". (Qur'an 6:38).

The Holy Prophet(s) used to say: "Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself." (Wisdom of Prophet Mohammad(s); Muhammad Amin; The Lion Press, Lahore, Pakistan; 1945).

According to the learned commentators of the Qur'an….animals all live a life, individual and social, like members of a human commune. Even those species which are generally considered as insignificant or even dangerous deserve to be treated as communities; that their intrinsic and not perceptible values should be recognized, irrespective of their usefulness or their apparent harmfulness."

Abu Huraira reported the Prophet(s) as telling of an incident that happened to another prophet in the past. This prophet was stung by an ant and, in anger, he ordered the whole of the ants' nest to be burned. At this, God reprimanded this prophet in these words: 'because one ant stung you, you have burned a whole community which glorified Me'. (Bukhari and Muslim).

The Islamic law (Shari'ah) concerning the rights of animals are very elaborate and explicit. In the case of the ants' nest, the following Juristic Rule would apply: Any damage or a damaging retaliation for a damage is forbidden. (La zarara wa la zirar).

“Verily God is not ashamed to speak of the gnat.” –Qu’ran, The Cow, Surah al-Baqarah 2:26

Providing for Animals Used to Carry Heavy Loads

Animals in the service of man should be used only when necessary and their comfort should not be neglected

Saying daily prayers (salat) is one of the five most important obligations of the Moslem religion. In the following Hadith, one of his companions tells us that the holy Prophet(s) and his fellow travelers used to delay even saying their prayers until they had first given their riding and pack animals fodder and had attended to their needs: "When we stopped at a halt, we did not say our prayers until we had taken the burdens off our camels' backs and attended to their needs." (Narrated by Anas. Awn (Ref. No. 32); 7:223; Hadith aNo. 5234. Also 'Guillaume' (Ref. No. 57); pp.106, 107).

Cruelty to Animals

According to the spirit and overall teachings of Islam, causing unavoidable pain and suffering to the defenseless and innocent creatures of God is not justifiable under any circumstances. Islam wants us to think and act in the positive terms of accepting all species as communities like us in their own right and not to sit in judgement on them according to our human norms and values.

Prevention of physical cruelty is not enough; mental cruelty is equally important. In the following incident, a bird's emotional distress has been treated as seriously as a physical injury:

We were on a journey with the Apostle of God(s), and he left us for a while. During his absence, we saw a bird called hummara with its two young and took the young ones. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back and said: 'who has hurt the FEELINGS of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her'. (Narrated by Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah bin Mas'ud. Muslim. Also Awn (Ref. No. 32) Hadith No. 2658. Also "Guillaume' (Ref. No. 57); p. 106).

It is reported by the same authority that: "a man once robbed some eggs from the nest of a bird. The Prophet(s) had them restored to the nest." (id).

The Holy Prophet(s) has even tried the 'Punishment and Reward' approach in the following Ahadith:

The Islamic concern about cruelty to animals is so great that it has declared the infliction of any unnecessary and avoidable pain 'even to a sparrow or any creature smaller than that' as a sin for which the culprit would be answerable to God on the Day of Judgement.

The Prophet(s) told his companions of a woman who would be sent to Hell for having locked up a cat; not feeding it, nor even releasing it so that it could feed herself." (Narrated by Abdullah bin 'Omar. Bukhari, 4:337; recorded in Riyad (Ref. No. 28), Hadith No. 1605; p. 271. Also Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 2242. English translation by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1976; Vol. 4, Hadith No. 5570; p. 1215. (According to the English translation, this Hadith was also narrated by the Abu Huraira and by Naqi who had heard it from Abdullah); Hadith No. 5573; p. 1215.) This Hadith has been recorded by almost all the authentic books of hadith, as the Re. No. 53 will show)

Islam's concern for animals goes beyond the prevention of physical cruelty or even condescending kindness to them, which is a negative proposition. It enjoins on the human species, as the principal primates of animated world, to take over the responsibility of all creatures in the spirit of a positive philosophy of life and to be their active protectors.

The Prophet(s) was asked if acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by God. He replied: 'yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.' (Narrated by Abu Huraira, Bukhari, 3:322. Also Muslim, Vol. 4; Hadith No. 2244. Also Awn (Ref. No. 32), 7:222, Hadith No. 2533. Also Mishkat al-masabih, Book 6; Chapter 6.

Mishkat Al-Masabih concluded from "Bukhari" and "Muslim" to the effect that: 'A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to human beings' and that: 'Kindness to animals was promised by rewards in Life Hereafter.' (Mishkat al-Masabih; Book 6; Chapter 7, 8:178.)

Animals Have Consciousness

Many passages from the Qur'an Majeed and Ahadith state that all animals are endowed with spirit and mind and "…there is ample evidence in the Qur'an Majeed to suggest that animals' consciousness of spirit and mind is of a degree higher than mere instinct and intuition. We are told in the Qur'an Majeed that animals have a cognizance of their Creator and, hence, they pay their obeisance to Him by adoration and worship: Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises are celebrated by all beings in the heavens and on earth, and by the birds with extended wings? Each one knows its prayer and psalm, And Allah is aware of what they do. (Qur'an 24:41).

It is worth noting the statement that 'each one knows its prayer and psalm'. The execution of a voluntary act, performed consciously and intentionally, requires a faculty higher than that of instinct and intuition. Lest some people should doubt that animals could have such a faculty, the following verse points out that it is human ignorance that prevents them from understanding this phenomenon: The seven heavens and the earth and all things therein declare His glory. There is not a thing but celebrates His adoration; and yet ye mankind! ye understand not how do they declare His glory…(Qur'an 17:44).

Animals and Humans Must Share Natural Resources

Once it has been established that each species of animal is a "community" like the human community, it stands to reason that each and every creature on earth has, as its birth-right, a share in all the natural resources. In other words, each animal is a tenant-in-common on this Planet with human species.

The Qur'an repeatedly emphasizes that food and other resources of nature are there to be shared equitably with other creatures. Below are just a few of numerous such verses: Then let man look at his food: how We pour out water in showers, then turn up the earth into furrow-slices and cause cereals to grow therein - grapes and green fodder; olive-trees and palm-trees; and luxuriant orchards, fruits and grasses….as Provision for you as well as for your cattle. (Qur'an 80:24-32).

Again, in the following verses, the bounties of nature are enumerated with the accent on animals' share in all of them. Everything was created for human AND non-human animals: And He it is Who sends the winds, as glad tidings heralding His mercy. And We send down pure water from the clouds, that We may give life thereby, by watering the parched earth, and slake the thirst of those We have created - both the animals and the human beings in multitude. (Qur'an 25-48,49).

And the earth: He {God} has assigned to all living creatures. (Qur'an 55:10).

The essence of Islamic teachings on 'Animal Rights' is that depriving animals of their fair share in the resources of nature is so serious a sin in the eyes of God that it is punishable by punitive retribution: The Qur'an describes how the people of Thamud demanded that the Prophet Saleh(s) show them some sign to prove he was a prophet of God. (The tribe of Thamud were the descendants of Noah. They have also been mentioned in the Ptolemaic records of Alexander's astronomer of the 2nd century A.C.)

At the time of this incident, the tribe was experiencing a dearth of food and water and was, therefore, neglecting its livestock. It was revealed to Prophet Saleh(s) to single out a she-camel as a symbol and ask his people to give her fair share of water and fodder. The people of Thamud promised to do that but, later, killed the camel. As a retribution, the tribe was annihilated. This incident has been mentioned in the Qur'an many times in different contexts. (Qur'an 7:73, 11:64, 26:155, 156; 54:27-31).

Experimentation on Animals

Needs are classified in three categories: necessities (al-Masalih ad-darurfyah) without which life could not be sustained; needs required for comfort and easement from pain or any kind of distress, or for improving the quality of life (al-Masalih-al-haiya); and luxuries (al-Masalih at tahsiniyah) desirable for enjoyment or self-indulgence.

Some rules that can be applied to these needs to determine whether experiments on animals would be allowed: What allures to the forbidden, is itself forbidden. (Ma'ad'a ela al-harame, fahuwaharamun"). This rule implies that material gains, including food, obtained by wrongful acts, such as unnecessary experiments on animals, become unlawful (haram).

No damage can be put right by a similar or a greater damage." (Ad-dararu la yuzalu be mislehi au be dararin akbaro minho). When we damage our health and other interests by our own follies, we have no right to make the animals pay for it by inflicting similar or greater damage on them, such as by doing unnecessary experiments to find remedies for our self-induced ailments.

Resort to alternatives, when the original becomes undesirable. (Iza ta'zuro al-aslu, yusaru ila-l-badle). This rule places a great moral responsibility on experimenters and medical students to find alternatives.

The basic point to understand about using animals in science is that the same moral, ethical and legal codes should apply to the treatment of animals as are being applied to humans. According to Islam, all life is sacrosanct and has a right of protection and preservation.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad(s) laid so much emphasis on this point that he declared: "There is no man who kills {even} a sparrow or anything smaller, without its deserving it, but God will question him about it." (Narrated by Ibn 'Omar and by Abdallah bin Al-As. An-Nasai, 7:206,239, Beirut. Also recorded by Musnad al-Jami - Ad-Darimi; Delhi, 1337. Also, Mishkat al-Masabih; English translation by James Robson, in four volumes; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan; 1963 (hereafter referred to as 'Robson').

He who takes pity {even} on a sparrow and spares its life, Allah will be merciful on him on the Day of Judgement. (Narrated by Abu Umama. Transmitted by Al-Tabarani).

Fur and Other Uses of Animals

There is a large-scale carnage of fur-bearing animals….to satisfy human needs, most of which are non-essential, fanciful, wasteful and for which alternative, humane products are easily available….The excuse that such things are essential for human needs is no longer valid. Modern technology has produced all these things in synthetic materials and they are easily available all over the world, in some cases at a cheaper price.

Some juristic rules that apply are: "That which was made permissible for a reason, becomes impermissible by the absence of that reason." (Ma jaza le uzrin, batala be zawalehi) and "All false excuses leading to damage should be repudiated." (Sadduz-zarae al-mua'ddiyate ela-l-fasad). These rules leave no excuse for the Muslims to remain complacent about the current killing of animals in their millions for their furs, tusks, oil, and various other commodities.

The Qur'an does mention animals as a source of warm clothing (Qur'an 16:5), but modern-day clothing made of synthetic fibers is just as warm as clothing made from animal skins and makes clothing from animal skins unnecessary. The Qur'an refers only to the skins and furs of domesticated cattle which either die their natural death or are slaughtered for food. Today, millions of wild animals are killed commercially just for their furs and skins, while their carcasses are left to rot. Fourteen centuries ago Islam realized the absurdity of this wasteful and cruel practice and passed laws to stop it in the following Ahadith:

The Holy Prophet Muhammad(s) prohibited the use of skins of wild animals. (Narrated by Abu Malik on the authority of his father. Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi as recorded in Garden of the Righteous - Riyad as-Salihin of Imam Nawawi; translated by M.Z. Kahn; Curzon Press, London, 1975; [hereafter referred to as Riyad]; Hadith No. 815, p. 160.)

The Holy Prophet Muhammad(s) forbade the skins of wild animals being used as floor-coverings. (id)

The Sayings of Muhammad – of Animals and Duties owed thereto – Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi (d. 1191)

“Are there rewards for our doing good to quadrupeds, and giving them water to drink?” Muhammad said, “Verily there are heavenly rewards for any act of kindness to a live animal.”

Verily God hath one hundred loving kindnesses: one of which He hath sent down amongst man, quadrupeds and every moving thing upon the face of the earth: by it they are kind to each other, and forgive one another; and by it the animals of the wilds are kind to their young; and God hath reserved ninety-nine loving kindnesses, by which He will be gracious to His creatures on the last day.

A man came before the Rasul (messenger) with a carpet, and said, “O Rasul! I passed through a wood, and heard the voices of the young birds; and I took and put them into my carpet; and their mother came fluttering round my head, and I uncovered the young, and the mother fell down upon them, then I wrapped them into my carpet; and there are the young which I have.” Then the Rasul said, “Put them down.” And when he did so, their mother joined them: and Muhammad said, “Do you wonder at the affection of the mother towards her young? I swear by Him who hath sent me, verily God is more loving to His creatures than the mother to these young birds. Return them to the place from which ye took them, and let their mother be with them.”

Once Ali was seated and a cat came and fell asleep upon the edge of his cloak. Lest he disturb the cat when he needed to leave, he cut the fabric of his coat around the sleeping cat.

-related by the Caliph Ali

* * *

“One of the most touching cart stories in early Arabic history relates the tale of the Sufi from Baghdad, Abu Bakr al-Shibli (d. 945) who dies and was seen by one of his friends in a dream. On being asked what God had done to him, he said that he had been granted admission to Paradise but was asked by the Lord if he knew the reason for this blessing. Shibli enumerated all his religious duties – fasting and praying, performing the Pilgrimage and giving alms – but none of these acts of piety had saved him. Finally the Lord asked him, ‘Do you remember the cold day in Baghdad when it was snowing and you were walking in your coat when you saw a tiny kitten on a wall shivering with cold, and you took it and put it under your warm coat? For the sake of this kitten We have forgiven you.’”

“There is a lovely story of the Prophet rescuing a gazelle as he was out walking he saw that a gazelle had fallen into a trap. He talked to her and she told him that her two kids were waiting for her to feed them, but how could she reach them? The Prophet helped her out of the trap and promised to wait in her place until she had performed her motherly duties. While he was standing there the hunter arrived, deeply disappointed to see that his prey had gone and that a man (he did not know it was the Prophet) had taken her place. Then the gazelle came back accompanied by her kids, and the hunter, touched by this sight repented and not only let the gazelle go but embraced Islam. This story was so much loved that in the Sindhi language alone there are thirteen long poems dealing with this topic.

From Islam and the Wonders of Creation: The Animal Kingdom

By Annemarie Schimmel

Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation London

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