All major schools and branches of Islam accept spay/neuter surgery––if it is done correctly
Few ANIMALS 24-7 articles have been more often read, in more nations, than What did the Prophet Mohammed really say about dogs?
This article, updated most recently on August 22, 2021, was among the first offerings when www.ANIMALS24-7.org debuted in April 2014.
Response from both the Sunni and Shi’ite sectors of the Islamic world has been overwhelmingly positive.
On the shores of Tripoli
A correspondent from Tripoli, Libya, however, recently reminded ANIMALS 24-7 that our review of Islamic teachings about dogs, including especially the Prophet Mohammed’s own hadiths mentioning dogs, unfortunately omitted any discussion specific to dog and cat sterilization, especially by conventional spay/neuter surgery.
Islamic teachings about spay/neuter have become an issue in Tripoli, where the Animal Health Authority and the University of Tripoli College of Veterinary Medicine are reportedly soon to introduce monthly neighborhood spay/neuter clinics, but have encountered “some pushback on social media,” the ANIMALS 24-7 correspondent informed us, “saying that interfering with the reproductive system of animals is against Islam.”
Reports Wikipedia, as probably the most accessible reference for Muslims as well as most of the rest of the world, “Muslim scholars are divided on the issue of neutering animals. Most, however, maintain that neutering cats is allowed, ‘if there is some benefit in neutering the cat and if that will not cause its death.’
Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen
“Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, a 20th-century Saudi Arabian Sunni imam, preached,” Wikipedia continues, “’If there are too many cats and they are a nuisance, and if the operation will not harm them, then there is nothing wrong with it, because this is better than killing them after they have been created. But if the cats are ordinary cats and are not causing a nuisance, perhaps it is better to leave them alone to reproduce.”
But when there are “too many cats,” and when they are “not causing a nuisance” are very much judgment calls, and Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen appears to have made no mention of sterilizing dogs.
In search of more specific authoritative guidance, ANIMALS 24-7 consulted four other online references offering counseling to the Islamic faithful.
Sheikh Sayyed Mutawalli Ad-Darsh
“Sheikh Sayyed Mutawalli Ad-Darsh, former chairman of the United Kingdom Shari`ah Council, states:
‘Neutering or sterilizing animals, while not encouraged in Islam, is not completely forbidden either. Abdullah ibn Umar, a companion of the Prophet, reported that the Prophet forbade the neutering of horses and other animals.’
‘However, according to another tradition, the Prophet permitted the sterilization of an animal so long as the operation is carried out early in its life and not when the animal reaches maturity. Hence, it may be acceptable to neuter pets such as cats, particularly if one wants to prevent the birth of a multiplicity of unwanted kittens.’
Sheikh M.S. Al-Munajjid
“Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author,” who produces the Islamist web site IslamQA, “adds: ‘Preventing your cat from reproducing is preventing a natural process that Allah has created in it. Undoubtedly the rulings on animals are not as serious as in the case of humans, but this does not mean violating the rights of the creation of Allah.
‘If this operation will cause harm, or it will cause complications for the cat, then it is not permissible. The prohibition against causing harm is general and includes harm against both humans and animals.’”
In other words, since a properly performed spay/neuter surgery should not cause harm or complications for a cat, spay/neuter with appropriate anesthesia and after-care is acceptable.
Botched spay/neuter surgery is not acceptable, a perspective that humane spay/neuter surgery providers will universally endorse, no doubt welcoming the endorsement of Islamic religious authority for following correct surgical procedure.
Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, & Hanbali
Concerning dogs and other animals, the About Islam web site continues, “Scholars differ concerning the neutering of non-humans as follows,” summarizing the views of scholars representing the four major branches of Sunni legal interpretation:
“Hanafi scholars say that there is nothing wrong with neutering animals, because that benefits both the animals and humans.
“Maliki scholars say that it is permissible to neuter animals whose meat may be eaten, and it is not reprehensible, because that makes the meat better.
“Shafi`i scholars make a distinction between animals whose meat is edible and others. They say that it is permissible to neuter animals when they are small, if they are animals whose meat is edible, but it is unlawful in other cases. They also stipulate that this neutering should not cause the animal’s death.
“According to the Hanbali scholars, it is permissible to neuter sheep because that makes the meat better, but it is makruh (unacceptable) in the case of horses, etc. Imam Ahmad said: ‘I do not like for a man to neuter anything. Rather that is makruh because of the prohibition on causing pain to animals.’
About Islam decrees
Again, since causing pain is the issue, properly performed spay/neuter surgery which does not cause suffering to the animal may be accepted.
Concludes About Islam, “Therefore, we say that if there is some benefit in neutering the cat and if that will not cause its death, then it is permissible.”
By extension of the About Islam reasoning, sterilizing dogs should also be permissible.
Dar Al Ifta fatwa
Suggests https://www.dar-alifta.org/Foreign/ViewFatwa.aspx?ID=1255, representing the Dar Al Ifta center for Islamic research established in Cairo, Egypt, in 1898:
“The principle regarding animals is to treat them with mercy and kindness and avoid interfering with their reproductive autonomy, except when their reproduction proves harmful.
“Therefore, when harm is proved in a particular case, it is permissible to neuter an animal following the Islamic legal maxim that states, ‘Undertake the lesser harm to ward off the greater.’
Says https://www.ummah.com/forum/forum/family-lifestyle-community-culture/islamic-lifestyle-social-issues/465762-what-does-islam-say-about-neutering, “The view of the majority of scholars is that neutering anything is generally disliked, unless it be for a more beneficial purpose. For example some schools consider it okay to neuter those animals whose meat may be eaten as it makes the meat better.
“Cats , however, do not fit in this scenario as cat meat [along with dog meat] is haram [absolutely forbidden]. But you must ask yourself what benefit will neutering bring? If it will prevent the cat from producing offspring who will then be killed after being born, due to an excess, then it may be considered okay. If it is to prevent offspring for no truly beneficial reason, then it is not okay as you will be preventing a natural process created by Allah.”
Islamists appear to conditionally accept s/n too
One Islamic advice web site, the Islamist IslamWeb, published from Doha, Qatar by the Al-Balagh Cultural Society, https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/99794/neutering-unwanted-dogs-to-stop-them-from-breeding, opines that “As regards castrating dogs, it is forbidden to castrate an animal the meat of whom is forbidden to eat, as this is torturing the animal and abusing it, and changing the Creation of Allah. Opposition to killing the dog is due to the fear of exterminating dogs, and the species of dogs should not be cut off by castration.”
Since dogs are at no risk of extinction from spay/neuter, and since properly performed spay/neuter should involve neither torture nor abuse, even the superficially anti-spay/neuter IslamWeb position would appear to accept use of spay/neuter surgery with adequate anesthesia, in hygienic conditions with appropriate after-case.
International Islamic University
Yet another perspective was offered in April 2016 by veterinarian Myat Min of the International Islamic University in Selangor, Malaysia, in a paper entitled Animal Care: An Islamic Perspective With Particular Reference to Unwanted Pets––Stray Dogs & Cats, accessible as a free download from many online sources, including https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318722967_ANIMAL_CARE_AN_ISLAMIC_PERSPECTIVE_WITH_PARTICULAR_REFERENCE_TO_UNWANTED_PETS_-_STRAY_DOGS_AND_CATS
Summarized Myat Min, “The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore or MUIS (MajlisUgama Islam Singapura) is supportive of cat sterilization, stating that in the long run, it is more humane to control the stray population by sterilization, rather than by putting them down or enabling them to breed in the streets, hungry and prone to diseases.
“The MUIS Fatwa Committee states: ‘Fundamentally, all mazhabs (Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence) allow the sterilization of animals. After analyzing the arguments and position of the different mazhabs and medical opinion from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Fatwa committee decided that sterilizing cats on the basis of ‘maslahat’ (general good) is harus (permissible).
Department of Islamic Advancement
“In Malaysia,” Myat Min added, “the Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia or Jabatan Kemaguan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) also issued a fatwa [religious opinion] in 2002 that ‘All pets like cats and dogs are allowed to be neutered or spayed in order to maintain the health and welfare of both the animals and the community.”
Spay/neuter programs have now been active in the cities of Ipoh, Petaling Jaya, and Serian, Malaysia for close to 20 years, directed by organizations including Noah’s Ark Ipoh, Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better, and the Sarawak SPCA.
Turkey, India, Indonesia
Indeed, spay/neuter appears to have long since been both culturally and politically accepted in most and perhaps all majority Islamic nations.
Turkey, largely through the efforts of Friends of Fethiyea Animals founder Perihan Agnelli, in 2004 adopted a national law making neuter/return dog and cat population control the official national policy.
The Turkish law is modeled after the national Animal Birth Control program in effect in India since 2003. While only about 15% of the Indian population are Muslim, Indian Muslims are about 11% of the total Islamic population of the world; only Indonesia (13%) and Pakistan (also 11%) have more. Bangladesh trails at 9.2%.
Many spay/neuter programs operate in the majority Islamic parts of Indonesia, though the oldest, hosted by the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) works in a majority Hindu environment.
Pakistan & Bangladesh
Pakistan as yet has no national program encouraging spay/neuter, but several major cities do, or have had, economic and political conditions permitting.
The first may have been started in November 2004 by I.H. Kathio, DVM at the Richmond Crawford Animal Hospital in Karachi.
Kathio, born in Larkana, Pakistan, owns three veterinary clinics in Pennsylvania, as well as three now operating in Pakistan, offering free services to the poor, including spay/neuter.
Providing spay/neuter service appears to be the major program of the Bangladesh Animal Welfare Foundation and the street dog rescue Obhoyaronno, founded by local activist Rubaiya Ahmed with Humane Society International support.
Former Humane Society International spay/neuter specialist Rahul Sehgal in February 2012 announced that Dhaka, the Bangadesh capital city, had agreed to suspend killing street dogs in appreciation of the success of the Obhoyaronno program.
The Sunni version of Islam predominates in Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia, but spay/neuter also appears to be increasingly well-accepted in Iran, an officially Shi’ite nation whose government has since 1980 often been hostile toward keeping dogs as pets.
The Vafa Animal Shelter, founded by the Tehran-based Center for Animal Lovers, has offered spay/neuter surgery since 2007.
Amir Vahdat of Associated Press reported in March 2017 that, “The Aradkouh Stray Dogs Shelter, located near the small town of Kahrizak,” best known as the site of a notoriously brutal underground prison, “has been hired by the Tehran city government to vaccinate dogs and sterilize them to control the stray population.”
GlobalNews reporter/producer Negar Mojtahedi mentioned in November 2017 that “A non-governmental shelter in Mashhad called Mehr has taken in more than 300 stray animals. All of them are vaccinated, neutered and spayed.”
Mashad, 500 miles east of Tehran, is the second largest city in Iran.
Egypt & Gaza
Many Egyptian animal shelters have performed spay/neuter surgery for decades, but Cairo veterinarian Mohamed Shehata, founder of Egyptian Vets for Animal Care, in February 2020 initiated “the country’s first [official] spay and neuter program,” according to Isabel Debre of Associated Press.
In July 2020, Wafaa Shurafa and Fares Akram of Associated Press reported, Said el-Er, who in 2006 founded the only animal rescue organization in the Gaza strip, started the first Palestinian spay/neuter program.
Said el-Er “spent years trying to organize a spay/neuter campaign,” Shurafa and Akram summarized, “but met with resistance from local authorities and vets, who said it was forbidden. He eventually secured a fatwa, or religious ruling, stating that it is more humane to spay and neuter animals than to consign an ever-growing population to misery and abuse.
“Once the fatwa was issued, el-Er said local authorities did not object to the campaign as a way of promoting public health and safety.
“The Hamas-run health and agriculture ministries allowed veterinarians to carry out operations and purchase supplies and medicine, he said.
“The Gaza City municipality provided land for a shelter earlier in 2020,” Shurafa and Akram finished.