Legal status of bestiality in Islam

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There is a consensus among Muslim scholars that bestiality is prohibited and has been a major crime since the beginning of Islam.[1][2][3] What the scholars have differed about, is the punishment for such a crime.[4] The majority hold the view that this is not a capital offence and it is left to the Muslim judge (or the state in today’s context) to decide the punishment[1][2][3] which will fulfil the objectives of employing penalties in Islam like deterrence etc. Such punishments in Islamic legal system are called Ta’zir (discretionary) punishments.[2][5]

Qur’an

Say, "My Lord has only forbidden immoralities - what is apparent of them and what is concealed - and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know."

⚛ Qur'ān 7(Al-A'raf): 33[6]


The Arabic word Al-Fawahish which translated as “immoralities” here, has been taken to include “unlawful sexual intercourse” in the translations of Dr. Ghali and Muhsin Khan. Part of verse 6:151 is similar in this context[2][3][7] and apparently, it is a matter of consensus among Muslim scholars that bestiality comes under “unlawful sexual intercourse”.[1][2][3][4]

The following is one commentary on verse 6:151 by Mufti Shafi Usmani:

The word: فواحش (al-fawāhish) (...) [is] usually translated in English as immodest, indecent or shameful acts. In the terminology of the Qur’ān and Hadīth, these words are used to denote every evil act the vicious and disorderly effects of which reach far and wide. This is the meaning given by Imām Rāghib al-Isfahānī in Mufradāt al-Qur’ān and Ibn Kathīr in An-Nihāyah. The prohibition of Fuhsh and Fahshā’ (obscenity, indecency, adultery, fornication, whoredom or abomination or monstrosity of any description) appears time and again in the Holy Qur’ān, for example, in Sūrah An-Nahl, it is said: ينهى عن الفحشاء والمنكر: (He forbids you from the indecent and the evil -16:90) and, in Sūrah Al-A‘rāf, it is said: حرم ربى الفواحش (my Lord has forbidden indecent deeds - 7:33). (...) if it is taken in the commonly and widely understood sense, that is, in the sense of immodesty, then, it would be referring to shameful acts, their prelimineries [sic] and their means and motives. (...) Some respectable commentators say that outward indecencies refer to shameful acts the evil of which is common knowledge and everyone knows what it means.… in terms of the commonly held view, it is inclusive of all open and secret methods of immodesty, indecency and act of shame.

⚛ Qur'ān 6(Al-An'am): 151 | Mufti Shafi Usmani, Tafseer-e-Maariful Quran (English) [8]


Verses like these are clear prohibitions for illegal sexual relationships and there is no ambiguity or difference of opinion among Muslim scholars which sexual associations are legal in Islam. As these do not include bestiality, therefore it is logical to believe that such verses are distinct prohibitions against it.

Hadiths

It was narrated from Ibn`Abbas that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever has intercourse with a Mahram relative, kill him; and whoever has intercourse with an animal, kill him, and kill the animal.”

Provide hadith collection book name [9]

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whomever you see having relations with an animal then kill him and kill animal.” So it was said to Ibn 'Abbas: “What is the case of the animal?” He said: “I did not hear anything from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) about this, but I see that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) disliked eating its meat or using it, due to the fact that such a (heinous) thing has been done with that animal.”

Provide hadith collection book name 1455 [10]

Ibn 'Abbas (RAA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “… if you find anyone having sexual intercourse with animal, kill him and kill the animal.” Related by Ahmad and the four Imams with a trustworthy chain of narrators.

Provide hadith collection book name [11]

The Contradicting Narrations

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: If anyone has sexual intercourse with an animal, kill him and kill it along with him. I (Ikrimah) said: I asked him (Ibn Abbas): What offence can be attributed to the animal? He replied: I think he (the Prophet) disapproved of its flesh being eaten when such a thing had been done to it. Abu Dawud said: This is not a strong tradition.

Provide hadith collection book name 4464 [12]

'Asim reported from Abu Razin on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas saying: There is no prescribed punishment for one who has sexual intercourse with an animal. Abu Dawud said: 'Ata is also so. Al Hakam said: I think he should be flogged, but the number should not reach the one of the prescribed punishment. Al-Hasan said: He is like a fornicator. Abu Dawud said: The tradition of 'Asim proves the tradition of 'Amr b. Abi 'Amr as weak.

Provide hadith collection book name 4465 [13]

Ibn Hajar says that narration (4464) has a defect in its chain and the second narration in Abu Dawood (4465) is more correct. (Talkhis al-habeer)[2] Dr. Ahmad Shafaat notes several factors that weaken the authenticity of narrations prescribing capital punishment in the case of bestiality, or at-least such an interpretation of them.[14] He also points out that the four Sunni schools of law unanimously agreed against the capital punishment and favoured the discretionary punishments; such an understanding would not have been possible if these narrations were interpreted in such a direct way. Other Muslim scholars say, that it is generally understood that such Hadiths have “exaggerated wording as a form of emphasis” since the schools of Islamic law ascribe although a severe punishment for such a crime, capital punishment is not assigned (Awn al-Ma’bud Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud).[15]

The Punishment

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 1565–1566 CE) counts “bestiality” in his List of Enormities.[16] Hasan Basri and Imam Abu Yusuf said that such a person should be punished the same as a person who commits Zina (i.e. capital punishment for married or one hundred lashes for unmarried). Imams Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmad said that such a person should be given a Ta’ziri (discretionary) punishment and this is the more sound opinion as killing him is not proven. Ibn Hajar also states this (Talkhis al-Habeer).

Imam's Abu Yusuf and Abu Hanifa state that the meat of such an animal should not be eaten. Citing one Hadith of the prophet which prohibits the killing of animals unless it is done for some useful purpose, some scholars are of the opinion that such an animal shouldn’t be killed. (Taken and Interpreted from Fiqh ul Hadith - Sharh Al-Durar al-Baheya, P.617/618, Urdu).[2] In another hadith the prophet (pbuh) has said that to slaughter an animal is not permissible lest you do it to eat it. (Talkhis, Muwatta, Abu Dawood in Maraseel)[2]

Ayatollah Khomeini, in his book Tahrir al-Wasilah writes: “Anyone who commits intercourse with an animal first receives the ta’zir punishment (around 25 lashes). If he repeats it, he is to be executed after the fourth time.”[17] If the animal, on whom such an act was performed is Halāl (the animal whose meat consumption is allowed for Muslims), it should be killed and the meat not consumed by anyone. In case the animal did not belong to the criminal, financial compensation for the animal to the owner must also be provided as a form of financial penalty.

In short, the majority opinion is that discretionary punishments are prescribed for bestiality, which may differ from time and place depending on the Muslim jurist. There is not enough unequivocal evidence to prove the death penalty for such cases. The meat of such an animal although not explicitly forbidden is greatly disliked, because of which some scholars call for the killing of the animal if it belongs to the category of Halāl animals. If the animal did not belong to the criminal, he is supposed to pay the price of the animal to the master in the form of a financial penalty. It should be mentioned at this point that scholars are not the absolute authority in deciding Islamic law and are often found giving dissimilar rulings but in this case there does not appear to be any significant difference of opinion.

Criticisms

The following are some of the criticisms that are made to the above stated concept.

No Prohibition in the Qur’an

Some critics argue that bestiality is not prohibited in the Qur’an.

Muslims, in response, contend that this can be construed as a case of disagreement on the interpretation of some Qur’anic verses, among others specifically 6:151.[7] For most Muslim scholars verses like 6:151 would be considered a clear prohibition against bestiality. However, people having an incomplete understanding of Islam (or a different perspective on it), can argue that this verse is not an explicit prohibition.

Additionally, it is argued by some that the only reason verse 6:151 in this particular context can just be dismissed offhand is if a person is falling for, knowingly or unknowingly, his/her confirmation or conservatism biases. The only thing that might satisfy them is if the Qur’an was written like a book of state constitution, and read something like: The prohibition of this action is written in volume 4, chapter 56, paragraph 3, sentence 6 where it says so and so and its punishment is such and such. This is a feature the Qur’an doesn't claim to have.

In any case, there are a number of actions that are not explicitly prohibited or sometimes even mentioned in the Qur’an. For example, the actions of branding animals on the face[n 1] or using them for target practice[n 2] etc. are not explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an but in the Haidth literature. Similarly, the method of prayer – which, generally speaking, each and every Muslim adult has to perform five times, every day for the rest of his/her life – is not provided in the Qur’an, explicitly or implicitly. Surely, actions that are repeated literally billions of times each day in the world, have more right to be included in the Qur’an as compared to bestiality, an action done by a fringe group of deviants.

Furthermore, similar to when prohibiting suicide[n 3] or harming oneself[n 4], instead of condemning specific methods of doing it individually, a general prohibition is given; for shameful deeds, in a similar fashion, a general prohibition is provided. Also, for Muslims, although the Qur’an being the primary source of law, it isn’t the only one. It would be impractical for God to include, literally and in a most explicit sense, all the prohibitions and allowances in a book that is supposed to be memorized by hundreds of thousands of people.

It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.

⚛ Qur'ān 33(Al-Ahzab): 36[22]


From this verse and many others similar to this one, it is clear that, actions prohibited by the prophet have similar significance to the actions prohibited by God.

Some critics contrast the explicit prohibition of bestiality in the Bible with the absence of its counterpart from the Qur’an. It is very interesting that in such scenarios, Christians who argue for the discontinuity of Mosaic law for present day Christians find themselves, like Muslims, in a similar dilemma, because the explicit prohibition is quoted in The Old Testament part of the Bible (i.e. in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy[23]) and not in The New Testament.[24]

Keith Plummer authoring a paper on this issue cited, Thomas Schmidt who, while discussing the prohibition of homosexuality, said, “a biblical view of sexuality does not depend on lists of prohibited activities but on the pervasiveness and reasonableness of an affirmed activity: heterosexual marriage.”[25] Another interesting point of commonality is that the discontinuity Christian scholars use the prohibitions against homosexuality as the foundation for concluding the illegality of bestiality. Some Muslim scholars also happen to follow a similar logic, and are criticised by some (which at times includes Christian missionaries too) for doing so.

No Prohibition in Authentic Books of Hadith (Kutub al-Sittah)

It is argued that the prohibition of bestiality does not exist in the most authentic Hadith books.

While it is true that the two most authentic Hadith books (among Sunnis not Shia’s) don’t talk about this crime, but this argument is essentially a red herring[n 5] because there are six books that can be considered as having the status of near-universal approval, as part of the accepted canon of Islam (at-least Sunni Islam, that is). These books are called Kutub al-Sittah (six books).

As has been discussed in the section “Hadiths” above, narrations recorded in Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah which form part of Kutub al-Sittah – although Sunan Ibn Majah isn’t universally accepted as such – do record narrations condemning bestiality.

No ‘Prescribed Punishment’ construed as Legality

The claim that because Islam does not have any “prescribed” punishment for bestiality, therefore it must be legal.

This is a Non sequitur[n 6] (Latin for: “it does not follow”) fallacy. People who give this argument are likely to be mistaken about the word “prescribed” in this context. There are actually only five crimes about which it can be said that there is some sort of unanimity on the matter of prescribed punishments from the Qur’an – which are: unlawful sexual intercourse (fornication, adultery), false accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, wine drinking (sometimes extended to include all alcohol drinking), theft, and highway robbery (or any armed attack).[26] There is usually some small or large difference of opinion on other punishments whose source is the hadith.

It is true that bestiality does not have an already agreed upon or pre-arranged punishment, however majority of Muslim scholars hold the view that it is left to the discretion of the jurist to decide a punishment which could change from time and place. There are many other crimes for which the same methodology is followed, like lying, backbiting, riba etc.

An interesting case of suppressed evidence[n 7] fallacy becomes apparent when critics try to use Dr. Ahmad Shafaat’s article[14] to show the weakness of hadiths seemingly promoting capital punishment for bestiality – even though Dr. Shafaat only argues against the prescription of capital punishment for certain crimes; he does not discuss whether these crimes themselves are sinful or not, or whether other punishments are transcribed for them or not. These critics completely ignore the part where some form of punishment is clearly being suggested.

Ahmad bin Yunus related to us that Sharik, Abu al-Ahwas and Abu Bakr bin ‘Ayyash related to them from ‘Asim (bin Bahdalah Abi al-Najud) from Abu Razin from Ibn ‘Abbas who said: “There is no prescribed punishment for one who has sexual intercourse with an animal.” Abu Da`ud said: “‘Ata also said so.” Al-Hakam said: “I think he should be flogged, but the number should not reach the prescribed punishment (for zina`, that is, 100 lashes)”. Al-Hasan said: “He is like al-zan.” Adu Da`ud said: “This hadith of ‘Asim weakens the hadith of ‘Amr bin ‘Amr.” (Abu Da`ud 3872)[14]

This Hadith is the same as Sunan Abi Dawud 4465 mentioned previously.

Basically, what happens is that, the first part (i.e. no prescribed punishment) and the third part that shows Adu Da`ud’s apprehensions for the death penalty are used to support the concept of legality of bestiality in Islam but the middle portion which clearly talks about the recommended punishment being lashes is disregarded in its entirety. Additionally, Dr. Ahmad Shafaat in the same paper also contends that fāhishah from Qur’an 7:33, 6:151 and others can also mean bestiality; which is another point that is ignored (although it is possible that this argument may have been missed by the critics, as it is further down the page).

Instructions for Purification after the Crime, Construed as Allowance for the Crime

The most common argument to prove the allowance for bestiality in Islam is that, because Islamic legal texts talk about the procedures for cleansing or purifying oneself after committing such an act, the natural conclusion is that bestiality is condoned in Islam.

This argument is simultaneously a combination of a Red herring, Non sequitur, and Affirming the Consequent[n 8] fallacies.

Non sequitur – because the claim is not a natural conclusion of the provided facts, very similar to when after hitting someone the recommended action to apologize, does not mean that hitting was fine in the first place or that as long as a person keeps on apologizing after the action, he is allowed to continue that activity for as long as he/she likes. A Red herring – because it distracts the reader from the fact that the critic was unable to provide any direct explicit evidence for allowance of bestiality from authentic primary sources of Islamic law. Affirming the Consequent – because the necessary condition of the presence of a cleansing procedure after committing bestiality is not a sufficient condition for proving the legality of bestiality.

Rulings such as these, exist because jurists have the responsibility to define the procedures for as many actions as possible, no matter how improbable they may be. It is argued that, definition of procedures for purification, in case of touching the private parts of the deceased, don’t imply allowance, but answers to questions of people probably tasked with “washing and enshrouding the deceased” – similar is the case for the act of bestiality, i.e. jurists defining procedures in answer to the questions of people hearing of, in truth or in rumours, about such actions so that, such a criminal does not remain spiritually unclean and therefore unable to perform prayers for the rest of one's life.

It is also contended that generally, the sections regarding rulings on cleansing or purification of body and those on punishments are separate from each other in books of fiqh (Islamic law). A principle in law is used while discussing such matters, which states, “That which is clear does not need clarification.” Apparently, there is unanimity among Muslim scholars that intercourse with an animal is abhorrent, repulsive and despicable, according to natural human disposition (fitra), reason, and the sacred law. There is no doubt about the sin of such an action.[15] One’s conclusions after reading such individual sections are usually based on premises or underlying presuppositions which, if one is ignorant of the related material, can be often incorrect. Such appears to be the case for this scenario.

An absurd example is provided to clear the fallacies here. The US “Child Welfare Information Gateway” has a publication titled: Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights.[27] It discusses the State laws giving legal foundation for the termination of parental rights in specific cases. The following quotation is taken directly from this publication:

Alabama

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Ala. Code § 12-15-319

If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence that the parents of a child are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to their child, it may terminate the parental rights of the parents. In making this determination, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:

  • (…) The parent has tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated the child, or attempted to torture, abuse, cruelly beat, or otherwise maltreat the child, or the child is in clear and present danger of being thus tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated as evidenced by the treatment of a sibling.
  • (…) The parent has committed any of the following:
    • Murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent
    • Aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent
    • A felony assault or abuse that results in serious bodily injury to the surviving child or another child of that parent
  • Unexplained serious physical injury to the child proved to be the result of the intentional conduct or willful neglect of the parent.[28]

The above is likely to be written by lawyers who have to take meticulous care in making certain they don’t leave any loopholes in the wording, but still, applying the same fallacious logic used on the rulings given by Muslim scholars, who are likely to not be concerned as much with such nuances, it can similarly be argued that the US State laws allow parents to “torture, abuse, [and] cruelly beat” their children or “murder or manslaughter” a child or “aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder or manslaughter” of a child or cause “serious physical injury to the child”. Apparently, even if the law does not allow this, the only punishment that the parents face, is to have their parental rights terminated.

Shu’bha Al-Arba’ (شعبها الأربع)

Some critics argue that the words Shu’bha Al-Arba’ meaning: “Four Parts”, appearing in some Prophetic traditions used for the person a man is having intercourse with, indicates that bestiality is being referred to.

This too can be construed as a suppressed evidence fallacy, because these critics while taking into account the narrations that are ambiguous – more so for the critics than Muslims themselves – about whose four parts are being talked about, the ones which clearly include the words "of the woman" or "of the wife" are disregarded.

Narrated Hisham: as the following Hadith 290. Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "When a man sits in between the four parts of a woman and did the sexual intercourse with her, bath becomes compulsory."

Provide hadith collection book name 291 [29]

Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet (May peace be upon him) as saying : when anyone sits between the four parts of a woman and the parts (of the male and female) which are circumscised[n 9] join together, then bath becomes obligatory.

Provide hadith collection book name 216 [32]

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "When (a man) sits between the four parts of his wife's body and exerts himself, then Ghusl becomes obligatory."

Provide hadith collection book name [33]

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "When (a man) sits between the four parts of his wife's body and exerts himself, then Ghusl becomes obligatory."...

Provide hadith collection book name [34]

The narrations which are “ambiguous”:

… She [Lady Aisha] replied: You have come across one well informed! The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and the circumcised parts touch each other a bath becomes obligatory.

Provide hadith collection book name 349 [35]

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that: The Messenger of Allah said: "When a man sits between the four parts (arms and legs of his wife) and has intercourse, then bath is obligatory."

Provide hadith collection book name [36]


Furthermore, Muslims argue that the position for intercourse with an animal makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for the man to be "between the four parts" of an animal. Such an activity would have to be performed from the back and not from the front. This further weakens the Islam critics’ anomalous interpretation.

The Arabic word Shu’bha (شعبها) is translated by critics as legs, which is a possible translation but definitely not the only one. The word can also mean pillars, straight standings, standings, straight sticks, etc. Online translations usually translate it as "people"[37] but some include "branch" as well. The above hadith translators have translated it as "parts". Additionally, the literal word in Arabic for "leg" is "Saaq" (ساق), "Saaqaan" (ساقان) for two legs, and "Siqaan" (سيقان) is the plural of leg that is three or more.

Contentious Scholarly Opinions

Islamic law is not dependent on the individual reasoning or interpretation of any modern (or in most cases, any modern or classical) Muslim scholar.

“Actions of Muslims, whether or not they are claimed to be in the name of Islam or in the name of God are not to be equated with normative authentic Islam. It is the later that is the criterion of evaluating such actions and to judge whether they are consistent with it or not and to what degree.” - Dr. Jamal Badawi

Whether any Muslim scholar believes in the allowance of bestiality or not, if such a “scholar” is unable to provide evidence from authentic primary sources of Islam, such a reasoning cannot be deemed as founded in religion.

Commentary of Imam Al-Nawawī

It is argued that because, Imam Al-Nawawī in his exegesis of one particular Sahih Muslim Hadith regarding Shu’bha Al-Arba’ (شعبها الأربع) referred to in the previous section, talks about cleansing oneself after any type of sexual intercourse which includes bestiality as-well, Al-Nawawi believed that Shu’bha Al-Arba’ refers to the four legs of an animal or that bestiality is allowed in Islam or even both.

Imam Al-Nawawī admits the disagreement of scholars regarding the meaning of Shu’bha Al-Arba’ but none of the differing positions he recounts, include four legs or anything else that would indicate that an animal is being referred to here, instead of a human female.

The conclusion of the legality of bestiality because of the presence of instructions for washing after the act, suffer from the same fallacies, as discussed before in section, #Instructions for Purification after the Crime, Construed as Allowance for the Crime. Moreover, Imam Al-Nawawi writes about the penetration of the penile head and “whether it was done willfully or forcefully” would necessitate washing. Using the critics’ faulty interpretation of Al-Nawawi’s commentary it will also become justifiable, that forceful penetration, which can be inferred as sexual assault, is also allowed in Islam. Disregarding the issue of bestiality for a moment, the critics will find it, extremely difficult (if they continue to use their fallacious arguments) and impossible (if they use objective reasoning) to prove the permissibility of such an act in Islam.

Additionally, this hadith comes from “The Book of Menstruation”[38] of Sahih Muslim where the main focus is on the issues of cleanliness after performing actions that make a Muslim adult impure. This is not “The Book of Legal Punishments”[39] or “The Book of Judicial Decisions”[40], or some other book dealing with punishments or the legality/illegality of actions. Therefore, Imam Al-Nawawi does not appear to have any reason to include the punishment of bestiality in his exegesis of this hadith, regardless of whether he believed in it or not.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s Book Tahrir al-Wasilah

Ayatollah Khomeini’s book Tahrir al-Wasilah has been referenced to indicate that the Ayatollah, also allowed bestiality[41]. These citations alleged to be from Tahrir al-Wasilah have been repeatedly criticized as fabrications.[42][43][44]

Although the other contentious rulings of Khomeini appear to be, argued as grossly misrepresented by some but nevertheless, authentic[45][46], the ones regarding alleged allowance for bestiality are incorrect. An argument made is that these are mistranslations; when Khomeini says “A man can have sex with animals...”, it should’ve been translated to “If a man were to have sex with animals...”.[47] Another problem is that Khomeini also talks about the punishment for bestiality which is completely (and in all likelihood, deliberately) ignored by the accusers.

The Tahrir al-Wasilah citations on “allowance” for bestiality are directly contradicted by the prescription of punishment for such an act in the very same book. Khomeini and other jurists say In this respect: “Anyone who commits intercourse with an animal first receives the ta’zir punishment (around 25 lashes). If he repeats it, he is to be executed after the fourth time.” If the animal, on whom such an act was performed is Halal (the animal whose meat consumption is allowed for Muslims), it should be killed and the meat not consumed by anyone. In case the animal did not belong to the criminal, financial compensation for the animal to the owner must also be provided as a form of financial penalty.[17]

The Sistani Fatwa

An image of a fatwa (Islamic legal ruling) from Sayyed Ali Hosseini Sistani – described as the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims – which states distaste but overall permissibility of bestiality, has been somewhat popular over the internet.

It is argued at forum Al-Haq (post started in June, 2010), that this is a fabricated fatwa and not one issued by Sistani. Some of the arguments made in support of this are that the ruling contains spelling mistakes, seals are different and the question of why is the ruling not present on Sistani’s website (as the ruling contains the link “sistani.org” at the top of the page).[48] A reference for this ruling at the “Q & A” section of Sistani’s website “sistani.org” using the search word “Animal” was not found.

Using this alleged ruling from Sistani is more problematic because it has been used extensively by Sunnis, more than any other group, to berate the Shia' sect for giving such a deviant ruling.[49][50][51][52] An image search on this would have easily come to the conclusion that bestiality is considered a shameful act by Muslims.

Invalidation of the Hajj and Fast

It is contended that because, some Muslim scholars hold the opinion that a Muslim adult’s Hajj (obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca) and fasts are not invalidated because of committing bestiality, it naturally means Islam has a tolerant view on the crime.

Muslims argue that claims like these, are a result of alack of understanding of how Islamic fiqh works. Muslim scholars cannot make religious rulings just on the basis of their personal whims and desires, they require, a similar precedent in the sources of Islamic law or Qiyās (analogical deduction)[n 10] or some other religious/legal reasoning before giving a particular ruling.

This is not a matter of consensus among Muslim scholars, but those who do support such a ruling, likely do it because there isn’t enough evidence from original Islamic sources that unequivocally prove the invalidation of these religious practices in such cases. This happens sometimes when there is no reliable evidence to show that the Prophet declared such an invalidation and therefore, scholars are also hesitant to declare something especially when it comes to declaring a negative ruling (i.e. rulings on invalidations, restrictions, punishments etc.). Maalik and Abu Hanifah held the opinion that bestiality does not invalidate Hajj, while Ash-Shaafiʻi and Abu Thawr held the opposite view. Regarding fasting, one of the opinions held by the Shaafiʻ was that a fast is not invalidated. Therefore, there are two opposite opinions and the matter is open to Ijtihad (scholarly reasoning).[53]

There is enough evidence for invalidation in the case of intercourse between humans,[54][55][56] probably because of which some scholars do hold the view of invalidation for the case of bestiality too, but apparently in the view of another group of scholars the evidence is not enough.

Internet Searches

SVI Values for search term, "Google" and its relative Regional interest

The argument is made that because Muslim majority countries have a high Google Trends' search volume index number for queries termed as bestiality related, this for some reason translates into tolerance for bestiality in the Muslim community and by extension possible allowance for it in Islamic law.

The amount of criticisms that can be stacked up against the methodology used for such an argument would require a separate article. A concise analysis of the data used for such a conclusion and then review of the faulty methodology was done[57].

In that data the representation of countries by religion appeared to be pretty evenly divided. The interesting thing was the comparatively high prevalence of the South Asian Bloc (SAB) namely Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, and in it the high representation of Pakistan. Excluding the SAB, and for some degree of equivalency the top two, most prevalent for Christian majority, Muslim majority regions appeared 11 (with the value fluctuating between 10 and 11), Christian majority 10 and Buddhist/Hindu 6 times.

For the data analysed, the SAB had a high degree of results tilting effect. In-fact, Pakistan and Bangladesh made up 68% of the total of Muslim majority countries representation in the dataset while India and Sri Lanka made up 78% of the total Buddhist/Hindu representation. Of the 27 different countries present in this dataset, just four countries of the SAB made up 51% of all the representation, while the remaining 49% of the values were divided among rest of the 23 countries.

Some of the problems with such a methodology were found to include:

  • Small difference in search terms, giving drastically different results, so much so that regions represented zero times in the original dataset were found among the top two in this new data.
  • Considerably varying results using different time periods for the analysis.
  • Search terms in regional languages, giving varying results. For example, regarding search terms in English, some regions surpassed other regions with whom they shared regional languages, but when it came to search terms performed in their regional languages the results were found to be completely the opposite.

Regarding the inherent inaccuracies in such data, Google back in 2010, officially made the following statement:

“We do our best to provide accurate data and to provide insights into broad search patterns, but the results for a given query (...) may contain inaccuracies because the sample size is too small for the results to be statistically sound.”[58]

In summary, although one Muslim majority country did have an exceptionally high representation for the particular search terms considered, even which is criticisable from several avenues; no other Muslim majority country shows any extraordinary behaviour, they possibly might have, in some different time period, but not in the one analysed (which was the most comprehensive to use for such a scenario). Therefore, the relation of bestiality with Muslim countries even by using such fallacious methodology is unsupported. The most reliable conclusion that could be established are the peculiar results for the South Asian Bloc, even which could be completely thrown out by attributing this uniqueness entirely to something as simple and unrelated as a difference in the popularity of making Google searches in English, instead of other regional languages.

Because of the unreliability of such conclusions, any of the countries mentioned above should not be used as arguments against their “morality”.

Bestiality in Muslim Countries

The individual cases of bestiality, happening in Muslim countries is also used to show that the overall Muslim communities and Islamic law have tolerance for the crime.

This is in a sense the definition of the Hasty generalization fallacy[n 11], which is making broad or all-encompassing conclusions based on small sample groups or making hurried deductions without considering all the involved variables. It is absolutely true that bestiality does occur in some Muslim societies and probably has since the beginning of Islam. However, it is also a fact that, even before the beginning of Islam, it has been happening in non-Muslim societies as well. Given the range of human psychology, it’s probably a statistical certainty that such things will happen in any group of sufficient size. Moreover, whether these activities happen or not, it is a causation[n 12] and affirming the consequent fallacy to relate a group’s ideology with them.

Examples of bestiality in non-Muslim states:

  • North American, Mr. Peterson had sex with two dogs.[59]
  • North American, Mr. Fanning, engaged in sexual acts with a dog.[60]
  • North American, Unknown suspect, sexually assaulted several horses.[61]
  • North American, Mr. Romero, sexual activity with a miniature donkey, claimed it was his constitutional right to have sex with animals.[62]
  • North American, Mr. Brenner, wrote a book Wet Goddess, about his sexual relationship with a dolphin, and said, “Neither one objected”.[63]
  • North American, Mr. Slaughter told Border Patrol workers about his sexual contacts with a pig, a dog and a horse.[64]
  • North American, Mr. Perez stated he had sexual contact with a pit bull and was charged with felony sexual contact with an animal.[65]
  • North American, Mr. Antunes was involved in oral sex with his girlfriend’s dog.[66]
  • North American, Mr. Vereen, pleaded guilty to having sex with a horse twice in two years.[67]
  • North American, Ms. Lindsey, a highly respected and highly educated scientist was found performing lewd acts on two pets in photographs.[68]
  • North American, Mr. Easley, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a miniature horse.[69]
  • A Vice NSFW documentary: Asses of the Caribbean, documented the widespread practice of pubescent boys having sex with donkeys in a South American country.[70]
  • The case of the North American engineer whose death during zoophilic activities[71] proved as a catalyst, in the state where the death had occurred, for creating a law that prohibited both sex with animals and the videotaping of the same.[72]

Examples of commercialized bestiality in non-Muslim states:

  • North American, Mr. Spink arrested for running, what authorities stated to be, a bestiality farm. A 51-year-old West European tourist was also arrested who was accused of having sex with three dogs.[73]
  • According to one The Daily Beast article, a particular North European country’s law criminalizing bestiality was supported by just 76 percent of the population suggesting the possibility that 24 percent of the population would “like freedom of movement when it comes to pursuing beasts for pleasure”.[74] (This was the view of the article’s author, it is possible that they just had neutral attitude towards the law, which to be fair is still problematic with regards to bestiality, or there could just be some other entirely innocent reason.)
  • Because of the ban in other Western European countries, one Nordic country had to face a “rise in the underground animal sex tourism”.[75]
  • According to one newspaper article published back in 2008, because the laws at that time in two Nordic countries were pretty open regarding “a person’s legal right to engage in sexual activity with an animal”, this led to a thriving industry in which people paid to have sex with animals. The law stated that sex with animals is perfectly legal “so long as the animal involved does not suffer.” Services were openly advertised on the internet. The newspaper was told that many animals were used like this for several years and “the animals crave the sexual stimulation.” The cost for such activities was around USD$85 to $170.[76] The new laws are likely to have fixed this issue, at-least as far as the legality of such actions is concerned.
  • According to a 2012 article, a West European state animal protection officer, claimed animal sex abuse was on the rise, with bestiality brothels being set up across the country.[77] This particular state’s law was changed in 2013, which was criticized by zoophiles who argued that their relationships with their “partners”, as they preferred to call them, are entirely mutual.[78]

Western Europe based zoophile communities include Zoophiles Engagement für Toleranz und Aufklärung.[79]

Zoophile pornography films like The Good Old Naughty Days, Dogarama, Animal Farm, Bestialità, The Dog Game, 24 Horas de Sexo Explícito, created figures like "Wilma" and the "Dutch Sisters" and also animal celebrities such as "Hector", a Great Dane starring in several films. Apparently, mainstream performers also appeared in such films in their early careers. Additionally, there appears to be a number of underground animal pornography actresses who specialize in bestiality movies.

References to bestiality are not uncommon in Western media such as adult cartoons, movies and novels. Additionally, books like The Final Confession Of Mabel Stark and Bear (a novel about a sexual relationship between a woman and a bear) are also penned down. Art films exploring sexual relationships between humans and animals have also been produced.

In some non-Muslim countries, arguments supporting bestiality have regularly been presented. One is as follows:

“Animal sexual autonomy is regularly violated for human financial gain through procedures such as AI [artificial insemination]. Such procedures are probably more disturbing physically and psychologically than an act of zoophilia would be, yet the issue of consent on the part of the animal is never raised in the discussion of such procedures. To confine the "right" of any animal to not be sexually violated strictly to acts of zoophilia is thus to make law based not on reason but on moral prejudice, and to breach the constitutional rights of zoophiles to due process and equality before the law. (...) Laws which criminalize zoophilia based on societal abhorrence of such acts rather than any real harm caused by such acts are an unjust and unconstitutional infringement on individual liberty.”[80]

The purpose of this section is to only show the existence of zoophiles in non-Muslim countries. The authors here, in no way, intend to argue, which society is more moral and which is less. Because of this, none of the countries’ names or zoophiles’ first names were mentioned above. However, to allow the facts to be reviewed externally, links to online news articles had to be referenced as well.

Answers on the Internet

This section has been included to demonstrate the number of places from which, information about the prohibition of bestiality in Islam could have been obtained by the Islam critics.

Islamqa.org

Here, bestiality is called “absolutely unlawful” and a “major crime in Islam”.[1]

Islamweb.net

Qur’an verse 6:151 and a narration of the Prophet is used to justify the prohibition of bestiality. It is also mentioned that instead of the capital punishment Ta’zir (discretionary) punishments should be applied.[2]

Answers.com

On Answers.com it is contended that although bestiality is not talked about in the Qur’an, it is condemned in Islam and even considered a capital offence by some scholars.[81]

Quora.com

Quora’s answer indicates that although bestiality might not be explicitly forbidden it is widely considered as prohibited.[82]

Last word

Although it occurs to some small extent in different cultures, every society in the world, for the most part at-least, is against the concept of bestiality; the likely reason for which is that it is naturally abhorred. Some societies use the cloak of animal rights to make such a practice unlawful and other societies use religion to reach the same conclusion. As it has been discussed earlier, Islam’s primary and secondary sources seem to clearly and unequivocally outlaw bestiality, and there does not appear to be any significant difference of opinion on the matter among Muslim scholars.

No information in this article should be used to criticise any culture or religion as that requires much more detailed analysis and research than was the purpose of this article. Efforts were made to present the information in as objective a manner as possible.

Notes

  1. Jabir reported the Prophet (ﷺ) as saying when an ass which had been branded on its face passed him. Did it not reach you that I cursed him who branded the animals on their faces or struck them on their faces. So he prohibited it.[18]
  2. Jabir bin ‘Abdullah said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) forbade killing any animal when it is tied up (for use as a target).”[19]
  3. O you who have believed, do not consume one another's wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. (Qur’an 4:29 – Sahih International)[20]
  4. And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good. (Qur’an 2:195 – Sahih International)[21]
  5. The red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic.
  6. Non sequitur (Latin for "it does not follow"), in formal logic, is an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises.
  7. Pointing out individual cases that confirm a particular position, while ignoring related cases that contradict that position.
  8. Affirming the consequent fallacy is committed when a necessary condition for an argument is confused as being a sufficient condition for that argument.
  9. Female circumcision is a practice that pre-dates Islam. According to guiding principles in Shariah, if the harms of a particular practice outweigh the possible benefits (which has been proven by empirical data) the action becomes Haram (prohibited).[30][31] A detailed booklet was authored by Ibrahim Lethome Asmani and Maryam Sheikh Abdi on this matter titled “De-linking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam” which details several reasons why this practice is un-Islamic and refutes the reasons given by some Muslims on the allowance for it in Islam.[30]
  10. In Islamic jurisprudence, qiyās (Arabic: قياس ‎) is the process of deductive analogy in which the teachings of the Hadith are compared and contrasted with those of the Qur'an, in order to apply a known injunction (nass) to a new circumstance and create a new injunction. This, however, is only the case providing that the set precedent or paradigm and the new problem that has come about will share operative causes (‎عِلّة, ʿillah). The ʿillah is the specific set of circumstances that trigger a certain law into action. An example would be a comparison between alcohol and heroin. Alcohol has been explicitly declared unlawful, but there is no direct condemnation of heroin. But since both share a common feature i.e. they are intoxicants-- and alcohol has been declared unlawful because it intoxicates, heroin is also declared unlawful in Islam because, like alcohol, it is an intoxicant.
  11. Hasty generalization is a generalization based on insufficient evidence – essentially making a hasty conclusion without considering all of the variables. In statistics, it may involve basing broad conclusions from a small sample group that fails to sufficiently represent an entire population.
  12. A real or perceived link between two variable does not necessarily imply that one is the cause of the other.

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