Killing Insects (Harming Animals)

It’s summer and one thing that comes with summer is insects. Many years ago, I remember one particular incident concerning insects, ants in this case. I was in my early teens, at our backyard just sitting and doing nothing special. An ant crawled on me and I smacked it, sending it to the ground. I didn’t think anything of it and that was the end of that, so I thought. A certain amount of time passed and another ant came to drag the dead ant away. I watched amazed and followed the little ant carry its comrade, mom, dad, sibling, I have no idea the relationship between them from the concrete floor into the earth and beneath the grass. I was moved by the scene as it seemed to me that those little creatures too had a community, did embody compassion, something I never entertained before that. Since then I had been careful to never kill insects, that incident did change how I look at these small annoying creatures we flick away so easily. Religiously we know it is permissible to kill pests or fomites which can be harmful to our health as they do carry disease. And even with the killing of these pests there are great precautions we must take as Muslims, ie we can’t cause unnecessary suffering to them. Killing animals for game and fun, or torturing them for fun, is strongly prohibited in Islam. There are fiqh books dedicated to this issue that one can explore. Growing up in a Muslim household, not harming the miskeen (poor) insects had always been pressed into my conscience. When bugs came into our house, (apart from flies and spiders), the means was to trap them and transport them outside, never harming them. But for me it took that incident seeing with my own two eyes one ant carry another, perhaps to its grave to really bring that enlightenment home.

Abu Hurayra related that, “The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) forbade making animals suffer.” [Bukhari]

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, ” Do not harm the creation of Allah.” [Abu Dawud, from al-Ma`rur ibn Suwayd. Imam Jamal al-Din al-Zayla`i declared it to be a rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith in Nasb al-Raya.]

The question then becomes what constitutes harm? Harm is relative depending on who you ask, hence why some people never eat animals because killing them even when done with precautions as the shariah has set, still believe this is harmful. Another thought comes to mind concerning this issue, is the issue of power. It just demonstrates the position we are in as human beings over this little critters or animals in general. Being the more powerful, it is easy to destroy, to squash and get rid of the problem, isn’t it? I can’t help but see the parallels in how humanity deals with each other, the strong exercising their power with the weak.


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