Comment: Dogs, faith and reason

From Malay Mail Online:

“Surely the worst of living creatures in God’s sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not reason” — Quran, 8:22

As we can see from the above Quranic verse, the worst of living creatures are neither dogs nor pigs but those who shun themselves away from reasoning.


The present online debate on the position of dogs in Islam is one fine example of how, outside the Quranic realm, things can turn topsy-turvy for a Muslim — sometimes giving rise to a conflict between the traditionalist Muslims and the rationalist Muslims (erroneously called liberal Muslims).


Rationalists […] seeks [sic] to examine the reasons before accepting a fatwa, hence the hesitation to simply accept scriptural interpretations of traditionalists ulama on absolute basis.

Taking the debate on dogs again as an example, nothing in the Quran describes dogs as impure. In fact the Quran clearly states that it is permissable to eat animals caught by dogs (Quran 5:4). Step outside the Quranic realm and suddenly a Muslim finds himself confronted by a myriad set of juristic opinions concerning dogs, to the extent dogs are considered as impure and are discouraged from being raised as pets.


Something this piece either misses or chooses to withhold from its readers is that Allah Most High Himself in the Quran commands us to also refer to the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ when it comes to legal matters. Allah Most High commands this in verses such as, “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination” (Q4:59). Additionally, He Most High says concerning the Prophet ﷺ, “Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him” (Q53:3–4).

Thus, one cannot claim to follow a “Quranic realm” without acting upon those – and similar verses – that command us to look at the states of the Prophet ﷺ. And that is exactly what juristic opinion does: it takes into account all of the religious evidence available. Furthermore, jurists use reason to understand Revelation – whereas modern rationalists selectively employ reason to rationalize away inconvenient Revelation.

Not every legal ruling is rational. The is especially the case with rulings related to rituals and acts of worship – which includes matters related to purity and purification. One is not free to simply reject simply because it does not appeal to their reason: Allah Most High says, “Seest thou such a one as taketh for his god his own passion (or impulse)? Couldst thou be a disposer of affairs for him?” (Q25:43), and “Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire? Allah has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart (and understanding), and put a cover on his sight. Who, then, will guide him after Allah (has withdrawn Guidance)? Will ye not then receive admonition?” (Q45:23).

Let’s take a quick look at one of the reasons that many scholars – including Shafi‘is and Hanbalis – consider dogs to be impure. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The purification of one of your vessels, if a dog has lapped from it, is that it be washed seven times, the first of which is with soil.” [Muslim]  Purification occurs to remove the state of impurification or to remove an impurity. Since a vessel is not described with being in the state of ritual impurity, it follows that the vessel from which the dog lapped contains an impurity. And it is the dog’s lapping that must have brought that impurity, and since similar reports are not found for other animals nor is there any evidence to support something particular dog or that vessel or that lapping – so it doesn’t take long to conclude that dogs as a species are impure.

Furthermore, Allah says other things about the worse of creatures. He Most High says, “For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are those who reject Him: They will not believe” (Q8:55). One really cannot cite one verse without implying the other. The second verse clearly cannot apply to believers – including the ulema – so neither can the first.

If anyone is stepping outside the Quranic realm or jettisoning reason, it is those to ignore Allah’s command to look to the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.

  • Shafiq Ayman Rosland


    Dear Shaykh,

    I heard you’re now living in Malaysia. Welcome to Malaysia!

    Are you currently teaching anywhere in KL? Particularly Shafi’i fiqh or any of your books?