Living beings need shelters to live in. Human beings live in houses, wild animals in dens, birds in nests, and domestic animals in sheds. The place where horses are kept is called a stable.
Humans live almost in all the parts of the world, in different geographical and climatic conditions. Their traditions, physical appearance, dress and food habits differ from place to place. Some people are rich, some are poor. Early men lived in caves and had to cope with very primitive living conditions. Even today people live in igloos in some icy lands. The igloos are circular houses made of blocks of hard snow. Many people in Srinagar live in house boats, shikaras and dongas. Nomadic people like Gujjars and Bakarwals generally live in one-room kothas made of wooden planks and clay, with one door and one small opening. Various welfare schemes of government do not seem to have reached them yet.
To describe the different modes of living of all species of living beings on earth is indeed a difficult job. It is a vast and diverse subject. On one side there are micro organisms and small creatures like ants, flies, bees, etc, and on the other there are big animals like elephants, bulls, cows, buffaloes and other giants living on or below the surface of the earth. All the creatures whether living in water, air or earth adapt to their habitats.
Our habitats change with climate also. The habitats in plain areas and those on mountains cannot be alike. Similarly, the snowy and cold polar regions and the warm equatorial regions have also different habitats for their inhabitants due to climatic factors. Similar is the case with people and animals living in the deserts, tropical regions, high mountains and river basins, which require different kinds of dwellings but which are very dear to their inmates. They protect their homes and hearths even at the cost of their lives.
The nest of a sparrow was once destroyed during the repair and renovation of a house in my neighbourhood. When the sparrow came to know about it, it was shocked and repeatedly hovered over the site till she herself was killed by the accidental fall of some debris from the house. This way she sacrificed her life for the love and affection of her nest. Whenever the nests of the birds are damaged by natural calamities like lightning, thunder, storm, etc, these are often rebuilt by them at the same place.
There is a Quranic story about ants. The army of Hazrat Sulaiman (AS) was passing through a place where ants lived. The queen ant ordered all the ants to enter their hole lest they be trampled by the army of the Sulaiman. A house not only provides shelter and protection from rain and sun but gives a sense of security also. The inmates of the house protect it with all might. When the honey bees see anyone approaching their beehive, they immediately attack the person and sting it at every bare part of the body, especially the ear lobes and the forehead. The sting of a honey bee causes a lot of pain, itching, vomiting, dysentry, acidity, and sometimes leading even to death. At many parks with beehives we find large hoardings at the main entrance asking the visitors to observe do’s and don’ts with detailed instructions and precautions to be followed so that the attacks by the bees can be avoided. It is advised to cover every centimeter of the body by wearing full sleeves, covering the head with a cap, and avoiding using deodorants and scents. When attacked by the bees, one should lie on the ground and cover oneself using sleeping bags, towels and jackets, etc.
Same is the case with all other animals. Whenever they apprehend any danger to their dwellings, they become violent and protect them. This is the main cause of the man-animal conflict. If the animals are assured of their safe habitat, they will live in harmony with other species without any conflict, so rampant these days. It is ironic that we are very much concerned and careful about our homes and habitats but not so about others.
The welfare measures of governments for citizens should include animals also, and all creatures should be equally benefited by them. Programmes of the government for housing, health care and food should be extended to include animals. Let the veterinary healthcare system, especially in rural areas, be also improved.
Animals starve or eat garbage and polythene bags while fodder and food is dumped in gowdowns. At some dargahs, shrines and other holy places, some philanthropists among us feed the birds. There are no such arrangements elsewhere. No water bodies are available where the stray animals, birds and domestic animals can quench their thirst. It is our moral duty to provide all such basic needs to them. I remember that in the past there used to be pigeon holes, cowsheds, chicken cages and beehives almost in every household. With the modern architecture all such things are conspicuous by their absence. We no longer hear the cock’s crow at dawn which served as the alarm clock for Tahajud prayers and for eating Sehri during Ramadan month. Now we do not hear the chirping of birds in our courtyards. This should be a matter of concern for us.
Stray animals are a big public menace now. Human rights and animal rights should go hand in hand. Prophet Mohammad (SAW) has told us to respect the rights of animals. Once a companion was reprimanded for removing the chick of a bird from its nest and the Prophet (SAW) ordered him to put it back at its place immediately. In yet another Hadith it is mentioned that an old camel came to the Prophet (SAW) and bowed his head before him. The Prophet (SAW) sent for his owner and told him that the camel was complaining about over loading and not getting proper food. The Prophet (SAW) gave strict instruction to the owner of the camel to take proper care of the animal. Similarly, another camel complained to the Prophet (SAW) that when he was young the owner kept him properly and gave him good food and shelter, but now that he had grown old and was no longer able to take the load on his back, the owner had deserted him and was not providing him with proper food in his old age. The Prophet (SAW) called the owner and gave him strict instructions to take proper care and maintenance of the old animal. It is also narrated that a prostitute woman was forgiven by Allah and sent to Jannah simply because she had drawn water from a well for a thirsty cat.
People who migrate from one state to another state, or from one country to another country in search of employment, studies, or for earning a decent living, return to their original places of living because they have a special bond and affinity with them. Some coastal regions in our country are prone to floods and cyclones which cause loss of life and property every year, but people still continue to live there and do not leave their abodes. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are very common in some countries but still people continue to live there.
The magnitude, intensity and scale of natural disasters may vary from region to region, but people continue to live there because they love their homes and hearths. Some conflict zones in the world are at perpetual risk due to wars or communal and ethnic flare-ups. The displacement and migration of people is very negligible here also, and even those who do migrate return to their roots, braving the dangers. This is because they love their motherland and their homes.
It is quite clear from the above that normally no one wants to leave one’s original place of living and exhibits much love, affection and loyalty towards their place of origin in face of calamities, man-made or otherwise. This love, loyalty and affinity for home has been bestowed to human beings by nature; animals being no exception. This is a gift of God towards mankind for which we must be thankful to Him.
—The writer is a retired telecom engineer