Pets are a trust, a fairly big trust from Allah (SWT), that we undertake willingly when we bring them into our homes.
As I was leaving taraweeh prayers, I found four boys (aged between 9 and 11 years old) throwing a small plastic bottle of water around, like an American football, in front of the masjid entrance. The bottle would smash loudly on the ground, the boys would giggle, and then shake the bottle and throw it again. This was not good timing for these boys. The iman had just “scolded” parents before ‘Isha that the kids were running amuck during taraweeh (I’m paraphrasing here), including wasting water and getting into things they shouldn’t be getting into and that we, as parents, needed to supervise them.
Thinking that the boys were going to hit some little old lady with a flying bottle when everyone else came out, I discussed my concern with them and told them not to waste or throw the water any more. They seemed fairly unconcerned with the unwanted attention I gave them, but I assumed that they would listen. Not so fast. As soon as I turned around to walk towards my car, the plastic bottle smashed on the parking lot ground, fairly close to me. I turned around, because I was rather surprised that they would so blatantly disregard what an “auntie” had just mentioned to them. As I was discussing again why throwing water bottles is not a good idea, something crawled out of the bottle. It was a frog. It stopped moving. I thought it was dead. I was uncharacteristically speechless. I thought I might throw up.
When the horror and shock was over, I tried speaking calmly with the boys, but I was visibly upset. A young brother in his 20s who had also asked them to stop throwing the bottle mentioned something to me like, “Frogs live in water so it’s not as bad as it could be”. You’ve got to be kidding, I thought to myself. But I responded with something to the effect that frogs might like water, but they are not so inclined to be stuffed in a bottle, shaken up, and thrown 25 yards to smash against the pavement!
To cut a long story short, I spoke to two of the boys’ babas about what they did and texted the imam, all of whom were rightfully disturbed at what had happened. I then remembered that my daughters told me a few years ago that they heard that some of the boys were killing frogs. Clearly, or at least I hope so, none of these boys was familiar with the fact that the Prophet (SAW) told a physician who wanted to use frogs for medicine not to kill them. (Dawud) One of the Companions, AbdullaahIbn ‘Amr (RA) said that was because their croak is tasbeeh (saying subhan Allah). (Bayhaqi) But it shouldn’t take a hadith for anyone, including a child, to know that treating a frog in this manner is completely wrong in Islam or in any other belief system for that matter.
Albeit this is not what we see most kids doing to other living creatures, alhamdulillah. And I can recall boys when I was younger doing terrible things to insects and they turned out okay. So, I don’t think it means that these frog-torturing boys are going to grow up to be mass murderers. But it is behaviour that must be stopped for obvious reasons. And the place to instil kindness towards animals begins at home and it is made easy for us because of the Sunnah, which all leads to the topic of this current pet peeve – pun intended!
One thing that really disturbs me and which I find difficult to be in the same room with is the way many parents allow their children to treat their pets – specifically, like toys. Pets are not toys! That felt good; let me write it again – pets are not toys, and parents are responsible for making sure that their child doesn’t treat them as such.
Living creatures that move are not meant to be passed around child-to-child, who are squeezing them too tightly or otherwise causing them discomfort and/or fear. They are not meant to be chased throughout the house when they try to escape; they are not meant to be used as a babysitter to entertain children when a parent wants a well-deserved break. They should not be bought as an impulse purchase to assuage a whining kid. And a pet should never be tucked away in a back room or basement and allowed to be ignored when the novelty wears off. Pets are a trust, a fairly big trust from Allah (SWT), that we undertake willingly when we bring them into our homes.
The Seerah and ahadith are filled with stories of our beloved Prophet’s (SAW) kindness towards living creatures and warnings for us to treat them well. Likely most of us have heard the hadith about the man being blessed with Jannah after giving a thirsty dog a drink of water (Bukhari) or the woman who would enter hell because she prevented a cat from eating. (Bukhari) Most pertinent to the story of the boys above is the one about the bird killed for sport: Whoever kills a small bird for no reason, it will beseech Allah on the Day of Resurrection saying: O Lord, so and so killed me for no reason. And he did not kill me for any beneficial purpose. (Nasa’i)
One of my favourite ahadith which demonstrates our beloved Messenger’s (SAW) mercy to all the world concerns an abused camel: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) entered an orchard belonging to an Ansari and saw there a camel. When it saw him, it began to groan and its eyes shed tears. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) approached it and patted it on the hump and the base of its head until it quieted down. Then he (SAW) asked, “Who is the owner of this camel? To whom does it belong?” An Ansari youth stepped forward and said, “It is mine O Messenger of Allah!” He said, “Do you not fear Allah in respect of this beast which Allah has placed in your possession? This camel is complaining to me that you starve it and put it to toil.” (Dawud)
Indeed, one need only look at how the Prophet (SAW) comforted the groaning palm trunk when he (SAW) delivered his first khutbah from the new mimbar to know that all of creation should be treated with kindness. (Bukhari, Nasa’i) This point was particularly brought home to many of us in a recent class. The scholar mentioned that animals will be able to seek justice on the Day of Judgment even though they do not continue on to the next life. He said that this world is the animal’s Jannah and warned, “Woe to those whom make it their Hell.”
The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving. (Al-Isra:44)
J. Samia Mair is the author of five children’s books, the most recent Zak and His Good Intentions (2014) and The Great Race to Sycamore Street (2013). She is currently working on sequels. She is a staff writer for SISTERS Magazine and Discover, The magazine for curious Muslim kids and has published in magazines, books, anthologies, scientific journals and elsewhere.