She Wants to Own a Snake
Fatwa No: 453133

Question

I think that snakes are beautiful and fascinating creatures of Allah and even as a child I wanted to own one. I learned that it is not permissible to keep an animal that can harm you and neither to pay money for an animal which has no benefit. But is it okay if I adopt a harmless non-venomous snake from the local shelter where the only fee I would have to pay is a financial support for the shelter but not the cost of the animal itself? Please note that these shelter animals as far as I know can't just be freed because they are not native to the country I'm living in. Please give me a direct answer, thank you.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The basic principle is the impermissibility of owning snakes because the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Five are miscreant creatures which should be killed inside the Haram (sacred precincts of Makkah) or outside it: the snake, the speckled crow, the rat, the mordacious dog, and the kite.” [Muslim] This is to protect people from their harm and wickedness.

Badruddeen Az-Zarkashi said: “It is forbidden for Al-Mukallaf (the person who is competent for religious assignments) to own things, including the dog for someone who is not in need for it, as well as the rest of the five harmful things: the kite, the scorpion, the rat, the speckled crow, and the snake.” [Al-Manthoor fi Al-Qawaa’id Al-Fiqhiyyah]

But if there is a benefit from breeding them, such as conducting scientific experiments on them and the like, while being safe from their harm, then there is no objection to saying that it is permissible.

However, if there is no harm from them, and owning them is merely for breeding them, then it is some sort of futility and a waste of money, even if it is just for supporting the shelter so that they allow you to own an unharmful snake, it is still a sort of paying money in vain. Many scholars stated the prohibition of owning them, even if they are not harmful, according to the general Islamic texts that command killing them. So, according to the precaution principle for one’s religion, one must absolutely avoid owning them.

So, it is better to devote your efforts towards what benefits you in this worldly life and the hereafter and keep in mind that if the person follows his desires constantly, that will harm him.

Allah knows best.

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