My 5 year old came home the other day from school relaying a conversation she had with one of her teachers. They were talking about dogs and so 'Mercy' told Ms. Teacher “Dogs are fun, but they are dirty.” Teacher says: ”Dogs are not dirty?! Who told you that?” Mercy says: “Yeah they are, my mommy said that!” After Mercy shared with me the conversation a few days ago I felt compelled to teach Ms. Teacher what the Islamic stance is on dogs. I have always wondered how to politely inform others that I don't want their "babies" licking me, jumping on me, or touching me in any way, or my children for that matter. My mom suggested to tell people that we are all allergic to dogs, while I've been known to just say that my kids are afraid of them (which is actually partially true because of an incident that happened to one of them at the age of 2.5, but thats a whole other story I won't get into now). I am not happy about using these excuses, but I just haven't figured out a way to explain what my perspective, the Islamic perspective is on dogs without insulting their care-takers. After last week's conversation at Mercy's school, and this weekend's comment from a dog-owner at the park: "Oh, they don't want to play with you" said in a sad tone to her golden, long-haired dog, I have been compelled to set some things straight here! The last thing I want is for people to assume that just because Muslims don't share a crazy love towards dogs, does not by any means indicate that Islam is hateful towards them or even animals in general.
This is how it really is. True Muslims love to be clean, so much so that anything that interferes with purity is considered a hardship or burden. Wouldn't you agree that most people love to be clean anyways? So with Muslims, its not just about a feeling of cleanliness one feels after a morning shower, its about purity throughout the day and night. This is one of the reasons why we wash our hands, arms, face, rinse our mouths, head, behind our ears, and feet up to our ankles about 5 times/day before we pray to God. This is the most basic of rituals and duties of a Muslim. In Quran, Allah tells us:
"Oh you who believe! When you intend to offer prayer, wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles. If you are in a state of Janaba (i.e. post sexual relations), purify yourself (bathe your whole body)." (Al-Ma'idah 5:6)"Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves (by taking a bath and cleaning and washing thoroughly their private parts, bodies, for their prayers etc.)." (Al Baqarah 2:222)
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"Cleanliness is half of faith and Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) fills the scale, and SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah) and Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) fill up what is between the heavens and the earth, and prayer is a light, and charity is proof (of one's faith) and endurance is a brightness and the Qur'an is a proof on your behalf or against you. All men go out early in the morning and sell themselves, thereby setting themselves free or destroying themselves."(Sahih Muslim)
My findings about the way Islam sees dogs have been from reading authentic sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him), Quran, particularly the story in the chapter Al-Kahf, along with scientific knowledge of the innate qualities of dogs from random sites maintained from people whom seem to love them more than anything or even anyone else, and not least on the list, vets whom have posted information that every k-9 owner should know.
To backtrack for a second, everything has been created with a purpose, and ALL of creation with the same purpose of worshipping God alone; not only people, but rocks, birds, clouds, grass, pigs even, and yes dogs. God has never created a single creation without purpose, without that purpose. As humans we have the ability to reason, reflect, and write. These abilities are not given to other creations, not even at the very least. We have the ability to do, act, proceed, and accomplish things that don't constitute factors within primitive ways. This fact alone does not make us wiser. What makes us exceed from other “creations of God” is the use of our abilities, our given talents in the path of reaching God’s Pleasure. Having said all that, it is not right for anyone who calls himself a Muslim, who claims to love Allah, and who aims to be steadfast in attaining Allah’s Compassion to put down any of His creations, even pigs..even dogs!! When I say put down, I mean be cruel, or even disrespectful towards them. Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him) was quoted saying:
"A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, 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, Allah forgave her because of that."(Bukhari, Muslim)
Several roles are attributed to dogs. Dogs can be trained to be different things for different people, they can learn to be loyal companions of people. They do demonstrate certain intelligence, feelings, playful, and can be even taught to respect to authority, to at least some extent. Dogs are also known to be protectors. These resourceful qualities Allah has granted dogs make them useful towards humans in ways that other animals may not be. For these reasons, through Islamic Law, also known as Shariah, it is allowed to use dogs for hunting, farming, herding livestock. The Shariah Council in the UK has even lifted the ban for people who are blind, deaf, or handicapped back in 2002, to utilize guide dogs in facilitating their ease towards independence, and facilitate safety. So in Islam dogs can certainly be utilized in helping any typical person get particular jobs done, as well as being a compensatory aid for those afflicted with certain conditions. These are valid points in the benefits of caring for dogs, however to be fair, we have to consider that there are many people who are disabled, or have been handicapped without the use of dogs too, and do just fine without them as well. Also, many people farm, herd livestock, and hunt without a k-9 companion.
So again back to the point where Muslims, like me, (called crazy) are saying things about dogs being ritually impure. Here are a few things I found. Worms! Toxocara canis is a roundworm found in dogs. The eggs of these worms are also found in dog feces (sorry about the details!!). Supposedly it causes stomach-aches, sore throats, asthma, and to my surprise in rare cases causes blindness. The eggs can remain active in the soil for many years long after the dog mess has disintegrated. Dogs, by their very nature are hunters, eat carrion, and blood even if they are domesticated. When allowed to run free, they will eat dead animals if they find them. They are not particular about where they leave their excrement and have been known to even relieve themselves on human legs. Although they are smart, their understanding is limited so their strong territorial instinctive drive can come across very harsh if the dog is unfamiliar with who you are. As loving, wonderful, and beautiful even, dogs can be, these characteristics do not, and cannot ever change their nature, which keeps them impure animals.
For this reason of impurity Muslims are educated not to have dogs as pets for the sake of just companionship. As explained, to have them for assisting them for specific causes is permissible so long they avoid the licks, sharing the bed etc. Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him) taught us:
"If a dog drinks from your vessel, wash it seven times."(Bukhari, Muslim)
It makes it difficult on the Muslim to live a clean lifestyle due to the very nature of a dog, no matter how many doggy camps, doggy lessons, or doggy schools he/she’s been too. And for the record, there are many people who are not Muslim who would also agree! To have compassion for dogs is a must, as for all animals, to have mercy on them is also a must, but to consider them as clean animals is a false attribute to them, and this needs to be remembered. Below is a quote taken from an article. You can read it in full by clicking on the title of this post above.
"...Dogs in Islam
Many Muslims have misunderstood Islam’s teachings regarding dogs, and this misunderstanding has led to the mistreatment of these animals. The Prophet said, “Purifying a container that a dog has licked (in order for human’s to use it) is done by washing it seven times, the first washing being with dirt.”2 However, according to some scholars, a dog’s fur is considered pure3. Nonetheless, Muslims are discouraged from keeping dogs inside their homes, as the Prophet has been reported as saying that angels do not enter into a house that has a dog.
However, just because one does not keep a dog inside the home and doesn’t drink after it, that does not give one the right to neglect it, mistreat it, or kill it. The usefulness of this creature of God is indisputable. No other animal can compete with it in its loyalty to its caregiver, its abilities as a guard, and its talent for hunting. In fact, the Qur’an narrates in Surat Al-Kahf, or “The Cave,” the story of some pious youths who took refuge in a cave from the persecution and violence of the unbelievers. That these righteous people had a dog with them, and the fact that Allah mentions the dog and counts the dog among them, indicates that dogs are permitted to live among people. [And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep. And We turned them on their right and on their left sides, and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance (of the cave as a guard)] (Al-Kahf 18:18).
So dogs may be used for guards as well as for hunting, as the Qur’an also states: [They ask you about what is lawful for them (as food); Say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and those beasts and birds of prey which you have trained as hounds, training and teaching them (to catch) in a manner as directed to you by Allah; so eat what they catch for you, but pronounce the name of Allah over it and fear Allah, for Allah is swift in reckoning] (Al-Ma’idah 5:4).
In two separate hadiths narrated by Abu Hurayrah (the cat-loving Companion), the Prophet told his Companions of the virtue of saving the life of a dog by giving it water and quenching its thirst: one referred to was a man who was blessed by Allah for giving water to a thirsty dog. The other was a prostitute, who filled her shoe with water and gave it to a dog that was lolling its tongue in thirst. For this deed she was granted the ultimate reward: eternal Paradise.
Islam asks people to reflect upon this and be aware of each person’s duty toward God’s creatures, which He has put on earth for our use, not for our abuse. When the Prophet was asked if God rewarded acts of charity to the animals, he replied, “Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.”"