Cats, monkeys, dogs and other beasts

Q: I would like to ask your Eminence about the ruling on trading in and possessing animals and birds for the purpose of having a hobby or for decorative purposes. These include for example: 1- Decorative birds such as parrots and other colorful birds 2- Reptiles such as snakes and lizards 3- Predators such as wolves, lions, foxes, and so on.These animals and birds are possessed either for their beauty or for their fur. (Part No. 13; Page No. 39) It should be noted that they are very expensive and will be kept behind bars, but dealing in them is very profitable.

A: First, selling decorative birds like parrots, colorful birds and nightingales for their voices is permissible because looking at and listening to them is permissible. There is no text in the Shari`ah which forbids selling or possessing them; at the same time, there are texts which may be understood to mean that it is permissible to keep them in cages, as long as they are fed and watered and given all the care that is needed. Among these texts is the Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Anas who said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the best of people in attitude. I had a brother called Abu `Umayr who had just been weaned, I think. When he (peace be upon him) came, he would say, ‘O Abu `Umayr what happened to the nughayr?’ – a nughar [young sparrow or small bird] with which he used to play... Al-Hafizh (a Muslim scholar memorizing 100,000 Hadith at least) Ibn Hajar said in his commentary book Fat-h Al-Bary, when enumerating the things that we learn from this Hadith: “… It is permissible for children to play with birds; it is permissible for parents to allow their children to play with things with which it is permissible to play; it is permissible to spend money on permissible things to entertain children; it is permissible to keep a bird in a cage and it is permissible to clip a birds' wings – for one of these matters must have been the case with Abu `Umayr, and whichever one it was, the other is also implied in the ruling. There is also the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) in which the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: A woman entered Hell because of a cat which she detained but she did not give it food or water, and she did not let it free so that it could eat of the vermin of the earth. (Part No. 13; Page No. 40) If this is permissible in the case of cats, then it is also permissible in the case of birds and the like. Some scholars saw that it is Makruh (disliked) to keep them in cages. Others saw that this is not permissible because people do not need to listen to their voices and look at them. This is an unnecessary luxury and soft living, and it is also foolishness because it means that one is enjoying the voice of a creature that is calling out longing to be allowed to fly and grieving that it cannot fly freely in the open air. This view was stated in Al-Furu`, its Footnotes (4/9) and Al-Insaf (4/275) by Al-Murdawy. Second, among the conditions of valid sales is that the sold object should be something which is absolutely permissible to use and benefit from, without such permissibility being conditional on the existence of a need or a dire need. There is no benefit in snakes, which are indeed harmful, so it is not permissible to buy or sell them. The same applies to lizards – there is no benefit in them, so it is not permissible to sell or buy them. Third, it is not permissible to sell predators such as wolves, lions, foxes or any (Part No. 13; Page No. 41) other fanged carnivore, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade that, and because it is a waste of money, which was also forbidden by the Prophet (peace be upon him). May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.