A victim of Muslims’ misunderstanding: The dog — Arif Fahmi Md Yusof

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — The uploading of a video of a Malay Muslim celebrating Hari Raya in the facebook with his three dogs invites voluminous responses from Malaysians especially Muslims. Most of the Muslims consider the video as insulting Islam. Many regard this video as insulting episode in the Holy month of Ramadhan for Muslims. Regrettably, in this Holy month of Ramadhan, many use a very offensive and indecent language in the social media, commenting this video.

What is insulting here? It is about the dog. Muslims generally are sensitive to dogs. For majority of Muslims particularly in Malaysia, dogs are impure. Many Muslims try to avoid contacts with dogs. The intention of the person who uploaded the video may be good, to appreciate the similarities between the creation of God and to promote kindness towards animals especially the dog. Unfortunately, the cultural perspective in Malaysia is against this idea. 

Many people often adhere to an idea they heard without examining whether it is legally correct. Therefore, it is usual to find people who easily believe in erroneous ideas that may have no basis or evidence. In Islam it is pertinent to understand its teachings and observe them. The primary consideration in dealing with other beings, especially animals is promoting kindness and avoiding cruelty.

An act of kindness to the dogs is recorded in one hadith where a man gave a dog water to drink using his shoe as the vessel to contain the water. The hadith praises the man, and Allah forgives his sins as a result of his kind act of providing the dog water.

The Quran in some occasions mentions the dogs. In one of the most popular story of cave sleepers, the Quran also regards a place for a dog as similar to other humans when they were trapped in a cave. The Quran clearly mentions the position of a dog as one of the individuals that comprised in a group, doing what exactly the others are doing.

The verse clearly portrays the dog as important individual in the group and made no negative comment about its presence in the group, who are protected by Allah. The dog did not cause problem or trouble and there was no warning in the verses to keep away from the dog in the verse.

Furthermore, dogs are common in the time of Prophet Muhammad. They were part of daily life of people and shared the same environment.

During the Prophet’s time, the dog would enter mosques and even urinate in them. In one of the hadith, it is reported that the dogs would come and go easily into the mosque, and no one would sprinkle water on those areas of the mosque. It was also reported that a puppy once went under the Prophet’s bed.

The main sensitive issue relating to the dog is the question of purity. The four main school of laws differs on the question of purity of the dog. Some scholars mainly in Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of laws, believe that dogs are impure. Therefore, if a person touches a dog or licked by a dog, he has to wash that portion of the body or clothing before prayer.

The Maliki school of law does not consider dogs impure at all. Hanafi school of law regards the saliva of dogs to be impure. Therefore, only the part of body or clothing that the dog’s saliva touched needs to be washed and purified before prayer.

Majority of Muslims in Malaysia follow Shafi’i school of law. They may regard dog as impure or najis, which is in fact washable. At the same time, they must respect other opinions in other school of laws that consider dogs as pure.

Islam encourages its believers to learn, understand and adhere to its teaching. Differences of opinion do not permit Muslims to hate each other. It is a time for Muslims in Malaysia to appreciate the differences and diversity.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.