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What did Prophet (S) mean when he said,

نهى رسول الله ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ عن صبر البهائم

“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) forbade tying up animals.”

Sahih Muslim, Sunan Ibn Majah 3186

does it mean it is haram to tie a cow, we do it all the time in farms or other places where we keep it.

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  • The version of ibn Majah doesn't quote the full information about the situation where the prophet() expressed this prohibition. – Medi1Saif Apr 29 at 11:59
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The prohibition is on tying up an animal and then using it as a target for archery etc. It is not about tying up cattle to manage them which is a common practice and is acceptable as long as you feed them.

The hadith of Sahih Muslim makes it more clear:

سمعت هشام بن زيد بن أنس بن مالك ، قال : دخلت مع جدي أنس بن مالك دار الحكم بن أيوب ، فإذا قوم قد نصبوا دجاجة يرمونها ، قال: فقال أنس: نهى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أن تصبر البهائم

Hisham bin Zaid bin Anas bin Malik said: "I entered, the house of Al-Hakam bin Ayyub along with my grandfather Anas bin Malik, and there were some people who had made a hen a target and were shooting arrows at her. Anas said: 'The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) forbade taking animals as targets."'

Sahih Muslim

قال العلماء صبر البهائم أن تحبس وهي حية لتقتل بالرمي ونحوه

The scholars said that صبر of animals is imprisoning them while they are alive so that they can be killed by archery and the like

Sharah Nawawi

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