Assalamualaikum SS Mufti, is it permissible to kill fire ants by burning the anthill?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Muslims are commanded to do good to all creations. It includes doing good to other people, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims and we are also commanded to do good to animals. This is stated in a hadith from Syaddad bin Aus RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الإِحْسَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ
“Verily Allah has enjoined goodness (ihsan) to everything;”
Sahih Muslim (1955)
The above hadith clearly states the obligation of doing good to every creation. Syeikh Abd al-Rahman bin Nasir al-Sa’di said: “Doing good includes ihsan (compassion/proficiency) towards all humans and animals. Even when it is time to slaughter animals, we are commanded to have compassion (proficiency).” Refer: Bahjah Qulub Al-Abrar, Al-Sa’di (1/127).
According to fiqh, the word كَتَبَ indicates obligatory. This is stated by Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali: “The word al-kitabah brings about the obligatory ruling of it according to jurists and usuliyyun, though some scholars have differing opinions regarding this matter. However, it is known that the usage of the word al-Kitabah in the Quran is for matters which are obligatory.” Refer: Tafsir Ibn Rajab (1/617).
Hence, when we say that being compassionate to animals is an obligation, then hurting and harming animals without any valid reasons stated by syarak is prohibited. Furthermore, neglect taking care of animals may lead to someone ended up in hellfire. This is in accordance with a narration from Abdullah bin Umar RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
عُذِّبَتِ امْرَأَةٌ فِي هِرَّةٍ حَبَسَتْهَا، حَتَّى مَاتَتْ جُوعًا، فَدَخَلَتْ فِيهَا النَّارَ
"A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger."
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) further said, (Allah knows better) Allah said (to the woman),
لاَ أَنْتِ أَطْعَمْتِهَا وَلاَ سَقَيْتِهَا حِينَ حَبَسْتِيهَا، وَلاَ أَنْتِ أَرْسَلْتِيهَا فَأَكَلَتْ مِنْ خَشَاشِ الأَرْضِ
'You neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the earth."
Sahih al-Bukhari (2365)
Coming back to the question asked, we share a hadith by Hamzah al-Aslami, where the Prophet PBUH said:
فَإِنَّهُ لاَ يُعَذِّبُ بِالنَّارِ إِلاَّ رَبُّ النَّارِ
“And do not burn him, for no one punishes with fire except the Lord of the fire.”
Sunan Abu Daud (2673)
From the above hadith, we could understand that someone is prohibited from using fire or burning creatures for it is only Allah SWT who could punish using fire. Hence, it is prohibited to kill or torture animals using fire or by burning them.
However, there is an exception for animals that are harmful where there is no other way to kill it unless by using fire. This is in accordance with a hadith from Abu Hurairah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
نَزَلَ نَبِيٌّ مِنَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ تَحْتَ شَجَرَةٍ فَلَدَغَتْهُ نَمْلَةٌ، فَأَمَرَ بِجَهَازِهِ فَأُخْرِجَ مِنْ تَحْتِهَا، ثُمَّ أَمَرَ بِبَيْتِهَا فَأُحْرِقَ بِالنَّارِ، فَأَوْحَى اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ فَهَلاَّ نَمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً
"Once while a prophet amongst the prophets was taking a rest underneath a tree, an ant bit him. He, therefore, ordered that his luggage be taken away from underneath that tree and then ordered that the dwelling place of the ants should be set on fire. Allah sent him a revelation:-- "Wouldn't it have been sufficient to burn a single ant? (that bit you).”
Sahih al-Bukhari (3319)
Scholars state that among the wisdoms that can be taken from the above hadith is: Only the ant that bit the prophet is an exception towards the general prohibition of burning and using fire to kill. It is permissible to kill harmful animal with fire by burning it, if there is no other way to prevent it from harming people.
To close, we would like to state that it is impermissible to burn fire ants’ anthill without any reason. Especially if the fire ants do not harm anyone. This is the blessing of Allah SWT for all creations, while showcasing our compassion for other creations which is an obligation for everyone.
Lastly, may Allah SWT give us the true understanding in practising our religion. Amin.