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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mohamet and the Dogs

A couple of years ago, I had some rather pointed things to say about Islam's treatment of dogs.

A Muslim (at least I think it was a Muslim) found that article and had some pointed things to say to me in an email:





Freddy,

Having read your diatribe :-\ against Muslims for their
relationship (or lack thereof) with dogs, I felt it may be useful
for me to inform you of some facts:

- A Muslim does not become "unholy" if he / she touches a Dog.

That's rather direct and to the point. I wrote my emailer back and told him/her to read the Hadiths.


The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam Pg. 215 has this entry for "dogs"

Kalb, the dog, is also in Islam one of the "unclean beasts" (hence kalb as an abusive word, specially to unbelievers), primarily because its flesh may not be eaten (al-Nawawi ..) and further because, according to the Hadith, there are several special regulation regarding it. For example dogs render food which they lick impure and render unavailable water intended for ritual purifications…) Vessels, likewise, which have been licked by dogs, require to be cleaned several times including once with sand. In a certain way they render impure the whole room in which they are; for angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog and Muhammad had first to sprinkle the place on which a young dog had lain concealed with purificatory water before Djibril would appear to him….)

Dogs "cut off the salat", i.e. they make the salat worthless when they come into the immediate vicinity of the man at prayer (Ibn Madja, Ikama, bab 30), and one is all the more inclined to attribute this rule to the impurity of the dog as it also holds for menstruating women. The Arab commentators, however, explain it by saying that the dog frightens the worshipper and distracts him from his devotions (al-Sindi commentary on Ibn Madja as cited above). This is especially true of the black dog, for "he is Satan"). This saying is either to be interpreted literally as meaning that Satan occasionally appears in the form a black dog (cf. Faust) or it only means that black dogs in general are considered particularly dangerous. Dogs in general are considered noxious and should therefore be exterminated (al-Nasa’i, Said wa’l-dhaba’ih, bab 9-14_, but as "Allah does not create anything in which there is not a trace of His wisdom" (al-Sindi, commentary on this passage), this rule is applied only to black dogs.

It is only permitted to keep dogs for hunting, for herding and for watching (al-Nasa’i, op. cit.); whoever keeps a forbidden dog has to forfeit a portion of his possession daily (cf. Babylon. Talmud Shabbath, fol 63: "whoever possesses a dangerous dog keeps good fortune away from his house"). Dealing in dogs on the other hand is strictly forbidden (al-Bukhari, Buyu’ bab 25).

But in spite of its impurity and dangerousness the Arabs are able to appreciate the good qualities and services of the dog. Muhammad himself promises a woman a divine reward for a kindness which she had done a thirsty dog (al-Bukhari, Wudi, bab 33), and al-Kazwini (p. 403) characterizes the dog as "a particularly intelligent, very useful animal, patient in hunger an on the watch, whose cleverness and fidelity are shown in many ways".

So, to be specific, Islam teaches that dogs:

- Are unclean animals

- Render anything they lick, like utensils, impure

- Muhammad had to sprinkle an area where a dog had lain in order to get Gabriel (Djibril) to appear to him.

- Black dogs are akin to Satan, because Satan sometimes appears as a black dog.

- Though dogs may be useful as herding animals, they are for the most part obnoxious, potentially dangerous, should never be kept as pets, and are better off being exterminated.


I think my initial evaluation on how Islam has created a superstition surrounding dogs is based upon solid information.

But, if you need more convincing, see this comprehensive article from the website Answering Islam: Muhammad and the Dogs

Also this one on Muhammad's view of certain animals in general.

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