It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allaah be pleased with him that the Messenger of Allaah, peace and blessing be upon him, said: "While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, 'This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allaah The Almighty thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him." The people asked, "O Messenger of Allaah! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?" He, peace and blessing be upon him, replied, "Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate." (1).
In another narration, such incident occurred to a woman. It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allaah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allaah, peace and blessing be upon him, said: "A prostitute was forgiven by Allaah The Almighty, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allaah The Almighty forgave her because of that." (2).
Amongst the lessons drawn from the above-mentioned Hadeeth:
1- Al-Nawawi, may Allaah have mercy upon him, said: "This Hadeeth encourages kindness towards “respected” animals, which are those that we are not enjoined to kill. However, it is obligatory for us to kill what we are enjoined to kill such as a Kaafir (i.e. non-believer) (3) who is at war with the Muslims, apostate, mad dogs and the five animals mentioned in the Hadeeth (4) and whatever like them.
So reward may be attained by giving them (i.e. respected animal) water and treating them kindly, as well as feeding them and other actions, whether they are owned or free, and whether they belong to you or someone else, and Allaah knows best. End quote. (5).
2- This Hadeeth has a proof on accepting the deeds of the one who commits major sins among Muslims, and that Allaah The Almighty forgave such man or woman, out of His Great Generosity and Exalted Mercy, otherwise, major sins require a special repentance. Allaah knows best.
3- Muslim individual should not be overweening nor go extremely in committing sins. Rather, if one is sinner, he should hasten to return to Allaah The Almighty with sincere repentance. That is because texts have proved that a group of those who used to do majors sins was punished due to their sins.
(1) Reported in Saheeh Al-Bukhaari (2363) and Saheeh Muslim (2244).
(2) Reported in Saheeh Al-Bukhaari (3321) and Saheeh Muslim (2242) and the wording reported by the former.
(3) This does not apply to the Kaafir (i.e. the non-believer) who are not engaged in an act of war with Muslims because the right of a non-believer is respected in the same manner as a Muslim's right. [Translator]
(4) It was narrated that the Messenger of Allaah, peace and blessing be upon him, said: “There are five animals for which there is no blame on the one who kills them: crows, kites (hawk-like birds), mice/rats, scorpions and mad dogs.” [Narrated by Al-Bukhaari] [Translator]
(5) ‘Awn Al-Ma‘bood by Al-Azeem Abaadi 14/16.