Comments on the recent ‘Dogs are not impure’ article

I have been asked several times about the recent article titled ‘Dogs are not impure,’ says prominent Islamic scholar. I have not seen the television show or the fatwa mentioned in the article so I can comment only on the article itself.

The bulk of my reading over the past two months has been about dogs,1 so I am familiar with the issues mentioned in the article. I find the article to be poorly researched and written. Almost every paragraph contains statements that are either misleading or false. I advise readers to ignore the article and to seek their information from a reliable source.

Given the overall unreliability of the article, I would like to provide a very brief summary of the basic rulings related to the purity of dogs, keeping dogs, and keeping dogs inside the house.

There is disagreement concerning the purity of dogs and their saliva. Numerous ḥadīths2 mention that if a dog licks from one’s bowl, its contents need to be thrown out and the bowl must be washed seven times with water – using soil in one of the washings. Scholars differ in their understanding of these ḥadīths and other evidence related to this issue, leading to disagreement over whether dogs or their saliva are pure, and whether things touched by dogs need to be cleaned in a particular way. Ḥanafīs consider dogs to be pure, but their slobber filthy. Mālikīs consider dogs and their slobber to be pure. Shāfiʿīs and Ḥanbalīs consider dogs and their slobber to be filthy.3

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. 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.4

There is also disagreement concerning the use of household guard dogs. In addition to the ḥadīths regarding purity and loss of rewards, there are also ḥadīths mentioning that angels will not enter houses if there is a dog inside. Commentators mention that the angels that are barred are the ones that bring blessings and mercy, and make forgiveness – not the angels assigned to individuals to record their deeds and to protect them. Ḥanafīs tend to say that one should not get a household guard dog unless out of fear for the safety of one’s life or property. Even then, the dog should not be inside the house. There is a fair amount of disagreement amongst the Mālikīs. The well-known opinion I keep finding is that it is offensive to have them inside the house. Shāfiʿīs tend to permit guard dogs for houses and alley ways – and even if the dog is permissible to keep, it should not be kept inside the house.5

What is clear when reading the various opinions within and across the schools is that no one considers it recommended or merely permissible to have a dog in the house. The most lenient ruling is that it is offensive. Some of the scholars who hold this latter position mention that one will still be subject to loss of rewards, and some angels will be barred from the house. So while there is a case for having a dog that serves a valid purpose – there does not seem to be any case for keeping a dog as a pet just for companionship or pleasure – or its appearance.6

Given all the ḥadīths related to dogs (that keeping one without justification reduces rewards, that their presence in a house bars some angels from entering, that there was an order to kill them that was later reduced out of fear of exterminating the entire species, that jet-black dogs are wicked, the extra provisions required to clean up after them – which suggests that they are filthy), one really needs to be very careful before getting a dog. Contrary to some pieces that have been written in English: those reports related to dogs were not related by a single companion (Allah be pleased with them)

Each of the rulings I mentioned above have additional conditions, constraints, and details. All of those things must be known before obtaining a dog.

And Allah knows best.

UPDATE I watched the part of the episode that was the source for the article. Sheikh Ali’s response differs significantly from what is presented in the article. Arabic speakers can check for themselves. (The link should start you at the segment on dogs, 47 minutes in to the show.)

  1. Dogs today are used for a wide range of tasks not mentioned in our classical books. These tasks include: guide dogs for the blind, security dogs for the police and military, search dogs for humans trapped under rubble, detecting cancer, predicting and warning about seizures, as part of therapy for autism or PTSD, and many others. These tasks are beneficial to muslims. Many of them do not fit cleanly under hunting and guarding. Determining their legal status requires having a clear understanding of the textual evidence and rulings related to dogs, as well as a clear understanding of the contemporary task. And that’s why I have been reading so much about dogs. 
  2. The links provided for this and the other ḥadīths enable even a semi-curious English reader to verify that the reports are each narrated from the Prophet ﷺ by three or more companions (Allah be pleased with them all), putting them within the category of well-known (mashhūr or mustafīḍ). All of them are considered rigorously authenticated (ṣaḥīḥ). These reports cannot be waved away with the claim that they are singular (aḥād) or spurious fabrications (mawḍūʿah). If you’re going to dismiss them, at least identify where the chain broke or which one of them lied – you can’t just affirm or deny a specific ḥadīth based on surmise or it being inconvenient. One of the characteristics of Islamic legal scholarship is to use all the evidence that is available, as captured in the maxim that application of an evidence is superior to its abandonment (al-iʿmāl afḍal min al-ihmāl). 
  3. Al-Kashānī, Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ, 1:63; Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Ḥashiyat ʿalā Al-Durr al-Mukhtār, 1:208; Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Al-Tamhīd, 18:296–270; al-Ṣāwī, Al-Sharḥ al-Ṣaghīr, 1:43–44; al-Anṣārī, Asnā al-Maṭālib, 1:10; al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-Muḥtāj, 1:226–7; al-Bahūtī, Kashshāf al-Qināʿ, 1:181; Ibn Daqīq al-ʿEid, Aḥkām al-Aḥkām, 1:75–76; al-ʿIrāqī, Ṭarḥ al-Tathrīb, 2:120–121. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. Al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:493; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīh Muslim, 3:186. 

4 thoughts on “Comments on the recent ‘Dogs are not impure’ article”

  1. Adil, the Shariah does not want you to hate dogs. Have you read the narration of those that complained about the dead dog, and were told, “But it has nice teeth!” A lady, a prostitute, was given Jennah because of her kindness to a thirsty dog, so said the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace.) While I commend you for finding Mufti Musa’s writing in your face, I also advise you to find a Qur’an, and the only dog I am aware of mentioned in the Qur’an was a LOVER – according to the Hanafi Mufti and Jalaluddin Rumi. I lover, and a companion of Allah’s friends. I’m nat taking my shariah ruling from the Companions of the Cave, mind you, but think twice (or a hundred times) before thinking that hating a dog is from the Shariah.

    • Reul,

      Now that I read this post again, the word hate is likely not a good one to use. I feel uncomfortable around dogs and find no need to pet them, pick them up, etc., which I will do with cats. I am aware of the narrations and Qur’anic verses that you mentioned above, and I wouldn’t want to allow a dog to die of thirst, etc. However, I believe it is clear in the Sharia’h that we are not to treat them as a substitute for children, dress them in clothes, sleep in our beds with them, kiss them, and all the other stuff that many Americans do with their dogs. In short, they are not pets for us, rather they can be used for guarding farmland, livestock, etc.

  2. Nashma, please know that, generally speaking, Islam is moderate on matters. Not too much to either extreme. As I mentioned above, Allah forgave a prostitute because of her kindness to a thirsty dog, and the Companions of the Cave (Surah 18) were accompanied by a dog, which was described as a LOVER by the Sufi Poet and Hanafi Mufti Jalaluddin Rumi. I heard Shaykh Hamza Yusuf mention that his shaykh, Murabitul Hajj would eat with his right hand, while feeding a dog with his left, too. I said that not to contradict anything the Mufti says, if fact I defer all understand to his, I am countering the abuses you have seen and the “hate” mentioned above, claiming it to be Islamic. Peace

    • Thanks for clarifying this…Salam!

      Subject: Re: Comment on Comments on the recent ‘Dogs are not impure’ article


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