Traditional Islam considers the dog unclean

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The most recent of the Abrahamic religions, Islam, has a more problematical relationship with dogs. Just as in Judaism and Christianisty, the Quran says that all animals are made by Allah, that Allah loves all animals and that they should be treated with kindness and compassion. As in Judaism and Christianity, Islam instructs that all animals exist for the benefit of humans.? Dogs are mentioned only five times in the Quran in which it explicitly states they are allowed for hunting. In one mention, there is a description of a family living in a cave with their companion dog. There’s no mention of the dog being dirty.

?Just as the Jewish Talmud is a collection of interpretations of the Bible, in Islam the ‘Haditha’ are supplements and interpretations of the Quran. And this is where the dog has become ‘dirty’. One Sunni commentator in particular, Abu Hurayra appears to have simply disliked dogs. (One of my Muslim clients tells me his name translates as “father of the little cat” and that while he loved cats he hated dogs – and women even more.)?Islam incorporates public hygiene laws into religion (just as Judaism does) and one hadith states that if a dog drinks from your vessel, the vessel must be washed seven times. In a region of the world where rabies, transmitted in saliva, was endemic, this was a profoundly sensible regulation but it has been re-interpreted in a more draconian fashion, including the need for ritual cleansing if you are touched by dog saliva.?There are a number of haditha concerning Muhammad’s attitude towards dogs. One says that the company of dogs, except as helpers in hunting, herding, and home protection, nullifies your other good deeds as a Muslim. However, another hadith advocates kindness to dogs. It recounts that Muhammad told a prostitute that because she gave water to a thirsty dog her sins were forgiven.

?Islam remains in a quandry concerning dogs. A fundamentalist British-based website issues these instructions to believers.??Do not allow a dog in your house as a pet or any other non-necessary reason.??When you hear a dog bark at night, say “audhu billah” (“I seek refuge in Allah”).??Do not own a dog unless used for hunting, or as a guard dog to people or animals such as cattle, or any other necessary reason such as a help to the blind, etc.??It is no sin to kill a rabid dog, even in the Masjid?If using a dog for hunting, always say “Bismillah” (In the Name of Allah) before releasing it to catch prey. If another dog may have killed the animal other than the one you said “Bismillah” on, then do not eat the animal.??Kill a dog that is pure black. Take the pure black dog to the dog pound; they automatically “put down” (i.e. “put to sleep”, kill) a dog after a few weeks of no-one claiming the dog.??Do not sell a dog for a price.??Have mercy on a dog (that is not pure black) who needs help to survive.?

On the other hand, many modern Muslims are perfectly comfortable keeping pet dogs and using dogs for reasons other than hunting or guarding. In Pakistan, religious scholars such as Qudrat Ullah Shebah have argued in print why pet dogs and assistance dogs such as guide dogs for blind people are perfectly acceptable within the tenets of Islam. My veterinary clinic is adjacent to a large Muslim population, mostly from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine but also from Indonesia. Of course I meet a self-selected sector of the Muslim world but my clients are, I think, representative of mainstream assimilated Islam where attitudes towards dogs are enlightened and relaxed.?

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