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Can We Keep Dogs As Pets?

Questioner

Bethany

Reply Date

Jan 25, 2017

Question

Dear Respected Scholar, I have a few questions about keeping pets in Islam. I have read on the Internet that the keeping of a dog is haraam unless the dog is being used for hunting or farming, while any other animal (reasonably) may be kept as a pet as long as it’s cared for. Using a dog for the sake of protection or pure enjoyment is considered haraam? The source from which I received this information also stated that dogs are vile and contaminated, and there are certain procedures a Muslim must partake in to wash themselves after coming in contact with a dog, wet dog, and/or its saliva. I would like to know if this is true. If this is factual, how should new converts of Islam (that love her/his dog as if it were a family member) confront this problem? Also, it was stated that the Qur’an should not be read when there is a dog in the house. I have been reading the translated version of the Qur’an all this time (I’m almost halfway done), not knowing that what I have been doing may be very wrong! However, since the book is not handwritten and is translated, is this situation not even considered? Have I committed extremely unacceptable offenses due to my ignorance? Please ease my confusion. Thank you.

Consultant

Answer


Can We Keep Dogs As Pets? - About Islam

Asalamu Alaikum Dear sister, 

In fact, your question is very interesting and I really appreciate your posing it, for it will allow me to address many misconceptions. 

To start with, I find it very important to make it clear that, while setting rules and codes to govern human affairs, a divine religion like Islam must never let those rules be detached from the realities of life. As Allah says in the Quran: 

{[…] God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. […]} (Quran 2:185)

This means that the rules and teachings must not pose a difficulty for its followers. Thus, it’s normal to assume that certain benefits, apparent or hidden, are inherent in shari’a (Islamic Law) injunctions.

Of course, this is apart from the sense of worship for which we must strive our utmost to accomplish. 

Thus, the questions for many reverts is: can I keep my dog while still abiding by my religious obligations? Will my new religion take away from me my dog, which has become my closest friend?

What makes this issue so debated is the fact that there are many Prophetic hadiths that warn Muslims about being in contact with dogs.

But alongside with this, are many hadiths that call for showing kindness to animals in general, including dogs, and the permissibility of keeping dogs for hunting, farming, and including protection.

So, to clarify this confusion, we need to interpret those hadiths that prohibit keeping dogs in the light of the Quran.

First, The Quran makes it clear that there is no harm in eating animals grabbed by hunting dogs.

Second, it’s through the Quran that we become acquainted with the story of the Cave Companions (ahlulkhaf) who had with them their dog. This clearly shows that dogs have historically been used for guarding people and property. 

Third, the Quran indicates that dogs must be treated well. They are of the animals referred to in the verse:

{There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you.} (Quran 6:38)

The implicit message of this verse is that, in Islam, the concept of mercy covers humans as well as animals, for Islam accords animals’ inviolable rights, part of which is to be fed well and not to be subject to torture or ill-treatment.

Having said this, we have to ask how is it that a religion that protects animal rights, is the same religion that warns its followers about dogs and even emphasizes that the utensils licked by dogs should be washed 7 times, one of them with earth? 

The answer is very simple. The basic rule in Islam is the permissibility of keeping dogs for hunting and guarding. Still, the exception to the rule is: excessiveness must be avoided as much as possible.

The care and concern for human beings should take higher priority over the care of animals, and the reward for that is greater. 

We will be able to understand this fact, when we notice that some people do pay a great deal of attention to their cats and dogs, at the expense of other things. 

Some people spend more money on their cats and dogs than they spend on their own sons and daughters, let alone on the poor and needy. They may even bring their pets to stay in luxurious hotels and bequeath large amounts of money to them. 

You see, sister, going to extremes is what shari’a goes against, because there should be no collision between human rights and animal rights. 

It’s also worth mentioning the health risks involved in allowing dogs to lick hands, utensils, etc. is not to be overlooked, especially as this has been affirmed by many experts.

German scientist, Dr. Gerard Finstimer, (translated from the German magazine: Kosinos) says: 

From the medical point of view, which is our main concern here, the hazards to human health and life from keeping and playing with dogs are not to be ignored. Many people have paid a high price for their ignorance, as the tapeworm carried by dogs is a cause of chronic disease, sometimes resulting in death. This worm is found in man, in cattle, and in pigs. But it is found in fully developed form only in dogs, wolves, and rarely in cats. These worms differ from others in that they are minute and invisible, consequently, they were not discovered until very recently.

I want to emphasize here that what is cited above does not indicate that dogs are rendered an “impure” or “vile” animal, as you said you read on another website. But my advice to you is to keep in mind all the above-mentioned problems. 

The Malikite Jurists maintain that the dog is pure, even its saliva, and this is the predominant opinion. So, it is not obligatory to wash the body or the clothes, but one must still wash a bowl that has been licked by dog.

The Hanafite Juristic School and some of Hanbali Jurists say that it’s only dog’s saliva that’s impure, but its body is not. 

Thus, if a person’s clothes get wet from touching the dog’s fur, this doesn’t render them impure. Also, if one touches the dog’s fur after making ablution (wudu), this does not nullify the ablution. But if one has dog’s saliva on oneself, then this must be remove. 

Also, there is nothing wrong in reading the Quran while you have your dog at home; what you heard concerning this is baseless.

So, dear sister, in light of all these facts, you should feel free to keep your dog (within the necessities sanctioned by Islam, i.e. for protection or taken as watch dog), as long as you know the rights you owe it and as long as you know that your love for your dog must not affect your religious duties.

I hope this better clarifies the issue in question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Shariah: Bringing Value to Our Lives (Series)

10 Characteristics of Shariah

‘Cat Man of Aleppo’ Stays in Syria to Look After Pets Left Behind

Prophet Muhammad’s Mercy toward Animals




About Kamal Badr

Kamal Badr holds a Masters Degree in International Law & Shariah from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, with a thesis written on "Modes of Reparation in Sharia & International Law -- Comparative Studies". He is working on His Ph.D. He has been an editor-in-chief for prominent Islamic websites.

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