Concerning guide dogs, police dogs, and other work dogs

Since writing “Comments on the recent ‘Dogs are not impure’ article”, several people have asked about contemporary uses for working dogs, particularly the use of guide dogs for the visually and hearing impaired, and police dogs. Several recent writings from scholars of Islamic law mention many use case and consider them analogous to the three mentioned in the ḥadīths.

In the previous piece I wrote that

There is general agreement amongst the scholars that we are discouraged from keeping dogs, and that we should not keep dogs without need to do so. This is due to the many ḥadīths that mention that anyone who keeps a dog will lose rewards for each day he keeps it, unless the dog is for hunting, protecting livestock, or protecting crops.1 While the scholars agree that it is permissible to acquire dogs for the purposes mentioned in the ḥadīths (hunting, guarding livestock, and guarding crops), they disagree concerning other purposes. Ḥanafīs and Mālikīs tend to consider it offensive to obtain dogs for purposes other than the ones mentioned in the ḥadīths. Shāfiʿīs consider it unlawful to obtain dogs that do not fulfill a need similar to the ones mentioned in the ḥadīths (hunting and protecting). Ḥanbalīs consider it unlawful to obtain a dog unless it can carry out one of the tasks in the ḥadīths mentioned above.2

So the Ḥanafīs, Mālikīs and Shāfiʿīs see the three cases mentioned in the ḥadīth as “qiyāsable” – being extensible to other cases via legal analogy [Ar. qiyās]. Ḥanbalīs, however, do not agree that these case are “qiyāsable.” Before looking at how recent legal writings handle the new use cases of our age, we need to look at how the Ḥanafīs, Mālikīs, and Shāfiʿīs handled cases that were not mentioned in the ḥadīths.

Classical scholarship

If we look in the books of those who do accept the qiyāsability of these three cases directly mentioned in the ḥadīths, we find discussion of several cases where they saw a potential for analogy. The most common of these are dogs guarding houses and alleyways inside cities, and dogs protecting belongings while traveling.

From the discussions on dogs guarding houses and alleyways, it is clear that the base-case under discussion is keeping guard dogs outside one’s living quarters. Although there is disagreement within each school, the Shāfiʿīs eventually settle on it being permissible due to being analogous to guarding herd and crops, and that doing so fulfills a need [Ar. ḥājah].3 The Mālikīs tend to agree.4 The Ḥanafīs settle on a similar ruling, but with the proviso that it not be done unless one worries for the safety of persons or property, and with the addition that dogs really should not be inside the house.5

As for traveling with a guard dog to protect themselves and their baggage, the Shāfiʿīs consider it permissible,6 while the Ḥanafīs7 and Mālikīs8 consider it offensive or unlawful.

Imāms al-Juwaynī and al-Nawawī both mention the impermissibility of keeping a dog simply due to the aesthetic qualities of its appearance.9

I brought up the older books to show two points. The first is that scholars who see it as possible to extend the cases mentioned in the ḥadīth to other uses for dogs disagreed over individual uses. The second is that those scholars did not automatically accept every potential use, but rather looked carefully before finally accepting or rejecting an individual use.

Contemporary uses & recent scholarship

Recent writings from scholars of Islamic law and legal institutions affirm some contemporary use cases of work dogs. Examples include:

  • The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), which issued an irshād regarding guide dogs for the visually impaired.10
  • Sheikh Nūr al-Dīn ʿIṭr, who mentioned police and military dogs, and dogs to detect explosives and drugs.11
  • Sheikh Tawfīq al-Būṭī, who mentioned police and military dogs, using dogs to detect explosives and drugs, and guide dogs.12
  • Sheikh ʿAṭiyyah Saqar, who mentioned police dogs.13

Closing

This short response, in shā Allāh, is enough to satisfy the curiosity of those asking about the permissibility of using guide dogs and police dogs.

And Allah knows best, and success is only through Him.



  1. You can see a samples of those ḥadīths here. These ḥadīths are included in the arguments of almost all of the books cited below – though they are not the only evidence. 
  2. Kamāl ibn Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 7:118; Ṣāliḥ ʿAbd al-Samīʿ, Al-Thamr al-Dānī, 714; Al-Fawākih al-Dawānī ʿalā Risālah Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qīrwānī, 2:344; Sharḥ al-Talqīn, 2:429; al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:493; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīh Muslim, 3:186, 10:236; al-Anṣārī, Asnā al-Maṭālib, 2:9; al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-Muḥtāj, 3:284; Ibn Qudāmah, Al-Mughnī, 4:191–192; al-Bahūtī, Kashshāf al-Qināʿ, 3:154; Ibn Mufliḥ, Al-Ādāb al-Sharʿiyyah, 3:226. 
  3. Al-Māwardī, Al-Ḥāwī al-Kabīr, 5:379–380; al-Shīrāzī, Al-Bayān, 5:53; al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:491; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 3:186; al-Nawawī, Rawḍat al-Ṭālibīn, 3:352; al-Anṣārī, Asnā al-Maṭālib, 2:9; Ibn Mulaqqin, Al-ʾIʿlām bi-Fawāʾid ʿUmdat al-Aḥkām, 10:158 
  4. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Al-Tamhīd li-ma fī al-Muwaṭaʾ min al-Maʿānī wa al-Asānīd, 14:233; al-Qarāfī, Al-Dhakhīrah, 13:336; al-Khurashī, Sharḥ Mukhtaṣar Khalīl, 8:9; Al-Fawākih al-Dawānī ʿalā Risālah Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qīrwānī, 2:344; Sharḥ al-Talqīn, 2:429; Al-Thamr al-Dānī Sharḥ Risālah Ibn Abī Zayd Al-Qīrwānī, 714. 
  5. Al-Kashānī, Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ, 5:142; Kamāl ibn Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 7:118; Barīqah Maḥmūdiyyah fī Sharḥ Ṭarīqah Muḥammadiyyah, 4:196. 
  6. Al-Māwardī, Al-Ḥāwī al-Kabīr, 5:379–380; Al-Najm al-Wahhāj, 4:27; Ibn Mulaqqin, Al-ʾIʿlām bi-Fawāʾid ʿUmdat al-Aḥkām, 10:159. 
  7. Al-Kashānī, Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ, 5:142. 
  8. Al-Qarāfī, Al-Dhakhīrah, 13:336. 
  9. Al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:491; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 3:186. 
  10. Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), “Irsyad on Guide Dogs,” muis.gov.sg. Their irshād is particularly interesting since they, as Shāfiʿīs, consider dogs to be filthy. See also “Irshad and fatwa: Clarifying what is meant by Singapore’s MUIS”
  11. Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr, Iʿlām al-Anām, 4:300. 
  12. Tawfīq al-Būṭī, Al-Buyūʿ al-Shāʾiʿ, 302–303. 
  13. ʿAṭīyyah Saqar, Fatāwā al-Azhar, 10:151.