Hasnul Bin Ismail — Dogs are considered a “taboo” in Malay/Muslim societies, or are they?

Nr. 18    Juni 2011 TRANS: Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften

Section | Sektion: Tiere als Teil unserer Städtekultur

Dogs are considered a “taboo” in Malay/Muslim societies,
or are they?

(A personal perspective)

Hasnul Bin Ismail (Selangor D.E., Malaysia) [BIO]

Email: heshmael2007@yahoo.com

 Konferenzdokumentation |  Conference publication



Dogs have always been regarded as a taboo in Malay societies and perhaps, most Muslim societies in general. But in modern societies or city-lives all around the globe, where dog rearing is now a trend rather than just meant for a purpose to enhance human lives, it may still be regarded as a taboo in Malay/Muslim societies despite the exposure to “Western ways of living”. But dogs were mentioned several times in the Holy Quran, the holy book of all Muslims despite political differences between the Sunnis & Shi-ites (1). However, there is no mention of dog rearing as being a taboo or sinful, none of that is reflected in the holy book. Nonetheless, with the different modes of understanding the actual importance of the hadith or sunnah, some seem to tolerate canines, while some, regard dogs as unclean animals and have to be avoided entirely despite the fact that canine rearing has had been in practice in the Middle East for thousands of years. The athletic-looking, saluki or pronounced “slu-ghi”, is one of the oriental sight-hound breeds that are known to be the oldest domesticated canine known. The salukis, and other oriental sighthounds are still being associated with the nomadic tribes from West Africa to Western China, who are mostly Muslims, practicing or not. With regards to having or rearing dogs, different religious scholars have different views and opinions, therefore the hukum or legal ruling/verdict becomes a conflicting situation or otherwise known as Khilaaf. Thus, the best solution is to avoid having dogs as pets. However, for those who already have them as pets or those who have a very keen interest in the line of having dogs in general, the outcome or verdict should be actually a must but makruh. In Islamic terminology, something which is makruh is a disliked or an offensive act (literally „hated“). Though it is not haram (forbidden) and therefore not a sin, a person who abstains from this action will be rewarded. Muslims are encouraged to avoid such actions when possible. This is one of the degrees of approval (ahkam) in Islamic law. This is also the view of Iman Ibnu Abdil Barr in the book of At-Tamhid, as the disallowing of dog rearing is not firmly acted upon, thus the verdict is makruh. The laws pertaining to each individual may differ but the methodologies & principles remain the same. Thus referring to the disallowing of dog rearing becomes more of a public interest (maslahat) in terms of cleanliness (hygiene), relationship with our neighbours, zoonotic diseases, and so forth. If all these do not seem to become a problem/nuisance in society/public interest, then the laws to disallow dog rearing ultimately disappear, or in other words, will be uplifted.




For those who have lived or are living in Southeast Asia, as it is in most parts of the Malay Archipelago: mainly Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia, may have already known or realized that it is indeed an environment where, culturally dogs in general are considered taboo, filth and unclean.

To understand this, it is best to explain about the culture briefly and hopefully, allow readers to digest further and understand the Malays and their culture, with respect to Man’s best friend, the Dog.

The Malay Archipelago is located between mainland South-eastern Asia (Indochina) and Australia. It is located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, comprising of about 20,000 islands and is the world’s largest archipelago in area. It includes the countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, East Timor and most of Papua New Guinea.

However, the term Malay usually refers to the ethnic group living in the Malay Peninsula (which includes the southernmost part of Thailand) and east Sumatra as well as the cultural sphere that encompass a large part of the Malay Archipelago. Nonetheless, the concept of a „Malay race“ which included the peoples of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines was put forward by European colonialists. The Malay ethnic group is the majority in Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam and a sizable minority in Singapore and Indonesia, and they form the majority in the five southernmost provinces of Thailand, which historically made up the old Malay kingdom of Patani. These people speak various dialects of what is known as the Malay language. The ethnic Malay has had an Islamic culture ever-since the 15th century (2).

Traditionally ethnic Malays were scattered all over the Malay Archipelago, mostly by the sea, as fishing villages. They were the typical seafarers, the nomads of the sea. They were not strong like the Javanese who had the powerful Srivijaya Empire, and further were pushed down from the north by the Siamese Kingdom during those days before Islam took root in the Malay Archipelago.

Malay cultural influences filtered out throughout the Malay Archipelago, and included the monarchical state, religion (Hinduism/Buddhism in the first millennium AD, Islam in the second millennium), and the Malay language. The influential Srivijaya kingdom had unified the various ethnic groups in Southeast Asia into a convergent cultural sphere for almost a millennium. It was during that time that vast borrowing of Sanskrit words and concepts facilitated the advanced linguistic development of Malay as a language. Malay was the regional lingua franca, and Malay-based Creole languages existed in most trading ports in Indonesia (3). I think this is attributed to the fact that, most people who live by the coast were the“ scattered“ Malays, thus enabling the Malay language to be used as a common language. But then again, the Malay language is a language that has been so influenced greatly by other languages: from Arabic to Javanese, Persian to Portuguese and so forth.

Although Muslims had passed through Malayan Peninsular as early as the 10th century, it was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that Islam first established itself on the Malayan Peninsular. The adoption of Islam during the 15th century saw the rise of number sultanates, the most prominent of which was the Melaka (Malacca). Islamic culture has had a profound influence on the Malay people, but has also been influenced by them (4, 5).

Islam is a religion, but to many Malays, Islam is a culture. It is a practice handed down by their fathers, and their father’s father before that. It is something they do out of habit rather than out of the education they have received. The majority of Malay Muslims confuse between what is religion and what is culture. They take both as one and the same and, on many an occasion, practice religion as if it was part of the Malay culture, or adopt some of the old cultures thinking they are doing an Islamic thing. Even some pre-Islamic Middle-Eastern culture, is regarded as Islamic in some cases. Even well educated Malays who have studied abroad, despite the broad spectrum of things they have undergone or are exposed to, a number of common cultural local Islamic norms/aspects are taken up blindly without much questioning (4).

The major bulk of Malay Muslims are Sunnis, and follows the ways of the ultra-orthodox Syafiee/Shafiee (4), where dogs are just considered filth or popularly, najis, and there is no mention of salukis, an oriental sight-hound which seemed to be well tolerated by Arab Bedouins. However people tend to forget about the special verse allocated for this special breed, Surah Al-Maeda 5:4.

In the Quran, there is no say if dogs in general can be kept or not, whether they are filthy animals. There are four major schools of thoughts in Sunni Islam: Hanafi, Hambali, Syafiee and Maliki (6). The strictest and the most ultra-orthodox among the four, is Syafiee of which most Muslims in the Malay Archipelago adhere to. It has always been a generalization that when you go to a Malay-Muslim household be it in Malaysia or Singapore, cats would be the common household pet. We grew up knowing that the Prophet Mohammad loved cats. When you mention „dog“, it has become taboo up to today among the local Muslim society. Even the word „dog“ in Malay is „anjing“ and like the Arabic word „kelb“, „anjing“ could be another way of saying „filthy“. It fact it is definitely degrading to call one „anjing“, the lowest.

But then again, history has indicated the Malays were mostly seafarers, living off from the sea, and barter trading with the proto-Malays/aboriginal Malays/”orang asli”, even during pre-Islamic periods. Dogs were never needed, as there was no need to. The aborigines had dogs, but the Malays need not need them. When the European colonialists open up the thick rainforest/inlands, they wanted the Malays to become farmers but without much success, though other migrant races seemed to venture into almost all forms of industry, but the Malays were stagnated and laid-back. The Malays were not nomadic people that live off from livestock industry, agriculture was something foreign, and thus further adding the fact that that dogs have never been part of the Malay life culturally.

Like most Malays, I grew up not to like dogs, „keep away from them“, that is what we were told to do: „Dirty animals they are!“, „Can’t touch them!“. While growing up in suburban Singapore, living in a multi-racial neighborhood, there were neighbors with dogs and I was fascinated with the different appearances as I had a Eurasian neighbor with Dobermans and Chihuahuas. I remembered I had to wash myself with clayey water when my other neighbor’s Japanese spitz grabbed my legs and rubbed against them. It was also confusing that some elderly Muslims said, „we cannot touch or do whatsoever with dogs“, and some said, „yes you may if and only if they are dry and not ever when wet“, and some said, „yes but not the mucosa areas of the body meaning the mouth, nose and other parts that secrete bodily fluids“. So for a growing child, it was indeed confusing and cast doubts on which is correct.


Dogs/Hounds mentioned in the Holy Quran

Dogs/Hounds are mentioned in the Al-Quran several times, not just once: I have decided to list these verses & their English versions.

Verses 5:4, 7:176, 18:18, 18:22 (three times) but none of the verses has any indication that God remarked that dogs are dirty animals or give further reason why they should be avoided or treated the way a number of Muslims think they should.
It must be reminded that the Holy Quran is in Arabic, and the English so-called translations indicated here, are just versions or interpretations by:

  1. Yusuf Ali
    Hafiz Abdullah Yusuf Ali (14 April 1872 – 10 December 1953) was a South Asian Sunni Islamic scholar who translated the Qur’an into English. His translation of the Qur’an ranks alongside the translation of Marmaduke Pickthall as the most widely-known and used in the world.
  2. Shakir
    Sheikh Mohammed Shakir b. Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Qadir was born in 1282 Hijri/1866 CE in Jirja, a city in Upper Egypt. He studied and graduated from Al Azhar University. He died in 1358 Hijri/1939 CE in Cairo. Mohammed Habib Shakir has been stated by many internet sources as „a well known translator of the Qur’an into English.“ He has been associated with the translator M. H. Shakir of the translation published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an.
  3. Pickthall
    Author of The Meaning of the Glorious Koran
    (Mohammed) Marmaduke Pickthall (April 7, 1875 – May 19, 1936) was a Western Islamic scholar, noted as a poetic translator of the Qur’an into English. A convert from Christianity to Islam, Pickthall was a novelist, esteemed by D. H. Lawrence, H. G. Wells, and E. M. Forster, as well as a journalist, headmaster, and political and religious leader.

I. Sura Al-Maidah/Maeda/Ma’ida
(Arabic: سورة المائدة , Sūratu al-Mā’idah, „The Table“ or „The Table Spread with Food“) is the fifth chapter of the Qur’an, with 120 verses. It is a Madinan sura.

5:4 يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَمَا عَلَّمْتُم مِّنَ الْجَوَارِحِ مُكَلِّبِينَ تُعَلِّمُونَهُنَّ مِمَّا عَلَّمَكُمُ اللّهُ فَكُلُواْ مِمَّا أَمْسَكْنَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَاذْكُرُواْ اسْمَ اللّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ

5:4 (Yusuf Ali )
„They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food). Say: lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what ye have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by God: eat what they catch for you, but pronounce the name of God over it: and fear God; for God is swift in taking account.“

5:4 (Shakir)
„They ask you as to what is allowed to them. Say: The good things are allowed to you, and what you have taught the beasts and birds of prey, training them to hunt– you teach them of what Allah has taught you — so eat of that which they catch for you and mention the name of Allah over it; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is swift in reckoning.“

5:4 (Pickthall)
„They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye teach them that which Allah taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allah’s name upon it, and observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is swift to take account.“

These hounds used for hunting would be what is known to be the Saluki today (Arabic: سلوقي ). It is perhaps the oldest known domesticated canine breed. A study published in the May 21, 2004, issue of Science confirms the Saluki’s antiquity through DNA analysis identifying it as one of the earliest canine breeds to diverge from wolves (7). Like elsewhere in the Fertile Crescent region, Saluki-like animals appear on the ancient ceramics from Susa and Sialk of 3500 BC in Iran, as well as on Egyptian tombs of 2100 BC (8). In Persian/Turkic speaking regions, the saluki is known as Tazi (in Persian: تازى ). It is a word which can mean:
Afghan Hound, Persian Greyhound, Persian Hound, Saluki, Khala Tazi ; A name, such as Ahmad at-Tazi referring to being Arabic, or Arabian.

Personally, despite the differences whether the hunting canine is an Afghan hound (aboriginal or not), an Azawakh, a Central Asian Sighthound, a Sloughi or Saluki, they are all connected via the Silk Route, with the nomadic tribes using them to hunt for game. Almost most of these nomadic tribes or people are Muslims, practising or not.

II. Sura Al-A’raf
(Arabic: سورة الأعراف , Sūratu al-A’rāf, „The Heights“) is the seventh chapter of the Qur’an, with 206 verses. It is a Meccan sura.

7:176 وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث ذَّلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

7:176 (Yusuf Ali)
“If it had been Our will, We should have elevated him with Our signs; but he inclined to the earth, and followed his own vain desires. His similitude is that of a dog: if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out his tongue. That is the similitude of those who reject Our signs; So relate the story; perchance they may reflect.“

7:176 (Shakir)
„And if We had pleased, We would certainly have exalted him thereby; but he clung to the earth and followed his low desire, so his parable is as the parable of the dog; if you attack him he lolls out his tongue; and if you leave him alone he lolls out his tongue; this is the parable of the people who reject Our communications; therefore relate the narrative that they may reflect.“

7:176 (Pickthall)
„And had We willed We could have raised him by their means, but he clung to the earth and followed his own lust. Therefor his likeness is as the likeness of a dog: if thou attackest him he panteth with his tongue out, and if thou leavest him he panteth with his tongue out. Such is the likeness of the people who deny Our revelations. Narrate unto them the history (of the men of old), that haply they may take thought.“

III. Sura Al-Kahf, „The Cave“
(Arabic: سورة الكهف , Sūratu al-Kahf) is the 18th surah of the Qur’an with 110 ayat. It is a Meccan sura.
In the story of the men of the cave in Sura 18:18, it seems that God sees dogs as part of men’s lives:

18:18 وَتَحْسَبُهُمْ أَيْقَاظًا وَهُمْ رُقُودٌ وَنُقَلِّبُهُمْ ذَاتَ الْيَمِينِ وَذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ وَكَلْبُهُم بَاسِطٌ ذِرَاعَيْهِ بِالْوَصِيدِ لَوِ اطَّلَعْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَوَلَّيْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِرَارًا وَلَمُلِئْتَ مِنْهُمْ رُعْبًا

18:18 (Yusuf Ali)
„Thou wouldst have deemed them awake, whilst they were asleep, and We turned them on their right and on their left sides: their dog stretching forth his two fore-legs on the threshold: if thou hadst come up on to them, thou wouldst have certainly turned back from them in flight, and wouldst certainly have been filled with terror of them.“

18:18 (Shakir)
„And you might think them awake while they were asleep and We turned them about to the right and to the left, while their dog (lay) outstretching its paws at the entrance; if you looked at them you would certainly turn back from them in flight, and you would certainly be filled with awe because of them.“

18:18 (Pickthall)
„And thou wouldst have deemed them waking though they were asleep, and We caused them to turn over to the right and the left, and their dog stretching out his paws on the threshold. If thou hadst observed them closely thou hadst assuredly turned away from them in flight, and hadst been filled with awe of them.“

However, the Hadith (9) tells us that angels will not enter into a room where there is a dog. So for 300 years that the people and the dog were in the cave, implying that no angel ever entered?

Yet God says „We turned them…“ Surely the use of „we“ would actually include „the angels“.

18:22 سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاء ظَاهِرًا وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا

18:22 (Yusuf Ali)
„(Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth,- doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: „My Lord knoweth best their number; It is but few that know their (real case).“ Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers.“

18:22 (Shakir)
„(Some) say: (They are) three, the fourth of them being their dog; and (others) say: Five, the sixth of them being their dog, making conjectures at what is unknown; and (others yet) say: Seven, and the eighth of them is their dog. Say: My Lord best knows their number, none knows them but a few; therefore contend not in the matter of them but with an outward contention, and do not question concerning them any of them.“

18:22 (Pickthall)
„(Some) will say: They were three, their dog the fourth, and (some) say: Five, their dog the sixth, guessing at random; and (some) say: Seven, and their dog the eighth. Say (O Muhammad): My Lord is Best Aware of their number. None knoweth them save a few. So contend not concerning them except with an outward contending, and ask not any of them to pronounce concerning them.“

I wonder if this dog that slept with the men in the cave, could it either be a hunting dog or a herding dog, but only Allah knows best.



During these modern times, we are also witnessing a turn of history. There are tremendous global changes taking place with results in unfortunate natural calamities. In these ideological, political and informational upheavals are signs and opportunities, as well as challenges for the Muslim Ummah to reclaim and restore the Islamic spirit and culture. Generally Muslims try to be pious, many are affluent, well educated, and have a great desire to build Islamic communities and educational institutions for themselves and for future generations. Unfortunately, the Muslim Ummah in general, and Muslim communities all over, are divided and often at cross-purposes, resulting in a great waste of energy, time and resources, while opportunities for Islamic renewal and da’wa (teachings) are being lost. Sadly it is a reality, we find Muslims at loggerheads with one another with such petty issues, accepting things blindly without much research despite being well learned, and the list is endless. Sometimes we find ourselves with having leaders who more keen on political gains or even personal gains.

Living in a society where dogs are considered a taboo, and having people who just take things blindly is not unusual in our so-called „modern“ Islamic country known as Malaysia. Sadly, there is no proper education that seems to help clear these „issues“, as it appears it has become embedded in the Malay/Muslim culture, that dogs are a taboo, and that is final, or is it?

What are Hadith? Hadith are narrations originating from the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Hadith are regarded by traditional schools of jurisprudence as important tools for understanding the Quran and in matters of jurisprudence. Hadith were evaluated and gathered into large collections mostly during the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz during the 8th and 9th centuries. These works are referred to in matters of Islamic law and history to this day. The two main denominations of Islam, Shi`ism and Sunnism, have different sets of Hadith collections.

Clearly the Hadith are very useful guides, but it has to be reminded that hadith are indeed not the word(s) of God. So to clarify any confusion that may arise, we need to interpret those hadith in the light of the Quran, which is the word of God. There is no distinction whether a Muslim is Shi’te or Sunni, comes from any ethnic background as the Quran is the same, and has always been and read in its original text which is Arabic. The Quran does not have any contradiction thus providing more evidence that the Quran far outweighs any other „Islamic“ text in terms of validity and logic.

From the beginning, the Hadith literature seems to present its readers with contradictory statements. Whether it was allowable to write down traditions of the Prophet in the early days of Islam is questionable, and probably not fully known. Abu Huraira, a late convert to Islam and a companion of the Prophet, narrated nearly 3,500 Hadith. Abu Huraira, stated in one Hadith that the Prophet, once observing his followers writing down his sayings, gave them a resolute warning to refrain from doing such things. He then cited the evils of making religious books out of the personal sayings of previous Prophets. Finally he told them: „Do you not know that nothing but the writing of books beside the book of God led astray the peoples that were before you?“ Even in one Hadith of Abu Huraira, evidently the sayings of the Prophet, compiled before this warning, were heaped together and burned. Reliability of the sources of the Hadith is indeed important, before deciding to follow it, and how consistent the Hadith are with the moral vision of God who speaks in and through the Al-Quran.

In a divine religion like Islam, it is indeed very important to make it clear that while setting rules and codes to govern human affairs, it must never let those rules be detached from the realities of life. As Allah says in the Qur’an:

“God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties.” (Surah 2, Verse 185).

This means that the rules and teachings must not pose a difficulty for its followers. Thus, it is normal to assume that certain benefits, apparent or hidden, are inherent in Shari’a injunctions. Of course, this is apart from the sense of worship that compliance with them implies.

The dog-issue is often one of the most debatable issues, as indicated that in the verses in the Quran, there was no mention of dogs being unclean. Nonetheless, there are many Prophetic hadiths that warn Muslims about getting into contact with dogs. In fact, some of these hadiths give warnings that going against this rule takes away a sizeable amount of reward from a person’s record (of good deeds) daily. Adding to that is the Prophet’s order for killing the dogs in Medina and the Angel Gabriel’s refusal to enter the Prophet’s house in one of his visits, citing the presence of dog as reason (9).

But alongside with this, are many hadiths that call for showing kindness to animals in general, including dogs, and the permissibility of keeping dogs for hunting, guarding, and so forth. It was further reported that some of the Prophet’s companions, were in the habit of keeping animals for farming purposes or even for fun and pleasure.

So to clarify this confusion, we need to interpret those hadiths in the light of the Quran. The Quran makes it clear that there is no harm in eating animals grabbed by hunting dogs. Furthermore, it’s through the Quran that we get acquainted with the story of the Cave Companions (ahl-ul-khaf) who had with them their dog; this clearly shows that dogs have historically been used for guarding the person and the property of its owners.

This also indicates that dogs must be treated well they are of the animals referred to in the verse: There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you (Surah 6 Verse 38).

The implicit message of this verse is that in Islam, the concept of mercy covers humans as well as animals, for Islam accords animals inviolable rights, part of which is to be fed well and not to be subject to torture or ill-treatment. Hence, another hadith in which the Prophet, stated that a woman was doomed to enter Hell because of a cat ‘which she neither fed nor let it eat from the vermin of the earth’ (10).

This hadith makes it clear that Islam does not go against keeping animals, including watch or hunting dogs, as long as one does not neglect them. In fact, the Prophet states that showing kindness to animals is a means of earning reward (11):

‘In every living being there is reward.’

Adding to this is the hadith in which the Prophet told his companions a story concerning a man who found a dog in the desert panting and licking the dust due to thirst. The man went to a well, filled his shoes with water, and relieved the dog’s thirst (11)). Prophet said:

‘Allah appreciated this and forgave him all his sins.’ (Reported by al-Bukhari)

This may prompt one to ponder, ‘How is it that the religion that is rich in all these fine precepts about animal rights, is the same religion that warns its followers about getting into contact with dogs and even emphasizes that the utensils licked by dogs should be washed 7 times, one of them with earth?’

The basic rule in Islam is the permissibility of keeping dogs for hunting, herding and guarding. However, the exception to this rule is that, excessiveness must be avoided as much as possible. The care and concern for human beings should take higher priority over the care of animals, and the reward for that is greater. Without doubt, it is not unusual that some people today, do pay a great deal of attention to their pets, at the expense of other things. It is better for Muslims to make the best use of their time in that which is beneficial and good. Some people spend more money on their beloved pets, than they spend on their own relatives, let alone the poor and needy. They may even bring their pets to stay in luxurious hotels and bequeath large amounts of money to them. Extremes in showering pets with love, concern and kindness, is what the shari’a goes against, because there should not be any collision between human rights and animal rights. In observing how lavishly the well off treat their dogs while despising their relatives, and how much attention they give their dogs while neglecting their neighbors, one realizes the wisdom of the cautious approach the shari’a has towards this issue.

It is also due to the danger that the dogs posed at a certain time during the lifetime of the Prophet, that he ordered for the killing of the dogs, but he later rescinded this order (12, 13, 14, 15, 16). As we know, stray dogs pose as a nuisance and health hazard. They tend to defecate indiscriminately in the open (17), thereby posing a danger for children and pedestrians. In 7th Century Arabia, public hygiene was not at its utter best, and dogs up to today have always been known to be scavengers.

It is also worth mentioning that the health risks in getting too close to dog, allowing it to lick children’s hands, utensil and so forth, should not to be overlooked, especially as this has been affirmed by many experts.

‘Some lovers of the West in Muslim countries claim to be full of love and compassion for all living creatures and they wonder why Islam warns against this „best friend“ of man. For their benefit, we quote here a lengthy excerpt from an article by the German scientist, Dr. Gerard Finstimer, (translated from the German magazine: Kosinos) in which the author sheds light on the dangers to human health, resulting from keeping dogs or coming in contact with them. He says:

‘The increasing interest shown by many people in recent times in keeping dogs as pets has compelled us to draw public attention to the dangers, which result from this, especially because pet dogs are hugged and kissed and permitted to lick the hands of the young and the old, and what is worse, to lick the plates and utensils, which are used by human beings for eating and drinking. Besides being unhygienic and uncouth, this practice is bad manners and abhorrent to good taste. However, we are not concerned with such matters, leaving them to be addressed by teachers of etiquette and good taste. Rather this article is intended to present some scientific observations. From the medical point of view, which is our main concern here, the hazards to human health and life from keeping and playing with dogs are not to be ignored. Many people have paid a high price for their ignorance, as the tapeworm carried by dogs is a cause of chronic disease, sometimes resulting in death. This worm is found in man, in cattle, and in pigs. But it is found in fully developed form only in canines, and rarely in cats. These worms differ from others in that they are minute and invisible, consequently, they were not discovered until very recently.’

With better veterinary care, and proper management today, with good sanitary practices, one may argue that the occurrences of such incidences should be markedly reduced.

It should also be stated that not all Islamic scholars regard dogs as impure. The Malikite Jurists maintain that the dog is pure, even its saliva, and this is the predominant opinion. Hence it is not obligatory to wash the body or the clothes, but the bowl that is being used in the home that was touched or licked by a dog, must be washed. The Hanafite Juristic School and some of Hanbali Jurists say that it is only the dog’s saliva that is filthy and impure, but its body is not. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah considers this view to be the most correct. Thus, if a person’s clothes get wet from touching the dog’s fur, this does not render them impure. Also, if one touches the dog’s fur after making ablution (wudu‘), this does not nullify the ablution, but if one gets touched with dog’s saliva, then one has got tainted with impurity, and it must be removed.

What this implies, is that apart from going into extreme in human’s relation with animals in general, dogs in particular, there is no harm in Islam with one’s getting in contact with animals as long as caution is demonstrated at all times.



Due to the differences in the views and opinions among Islamic religious scholars with regards to dog rearing, the hukum or verdict becomes a conflicting situation or otherwise known as khilaaf. Thus, the best solution is to avoid having dogs as pets in general. However, for those Muslims who already have them as pets or those who have a very keen interest in the line of having dogs in general, the outcome or verdict should be a must, but makruh. The laws pertaining to each individual may differ but the methodologies & principles remain the same. Therefore with regards to the disallowing of dog rearing among Muslims, becomes more of a public interest (maslahat) in terms of cleanliness (hygiene), relationship with our neighbours, zoonotic diseases, and so forth. If all these do not seem to become a problem or nuisance to the society or public interest in general, then the laws to disallow dog rearing ultimately disappear, or in other words, will be uplifted. Thus, dog rearing is not a taboo, but in actual fact, considering the general public interest in hand, is makruh (allowed but discouraged).



1 Hazleton, L (2009). After the Prophet. Anchor Books. 2 Barbara Watson Andaya, Leonard Y. Andaya (1984). A History of Malaysia. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 55. ISBN 0-333-27672-8,0-333-27672-8. 3 John Wright (2007). The New York Times Almanac 2001. New York: New York times company. p. 492. ISBN 1-57958-348-2. 4 Syed Husin Ali (2008). The Malays, their problems and future. Malaysia: The Other Press Sdn Bhd. p. 57. ISBN 978-983-9541-62-5, 978-983-9541-61-8. 5 Anthony Hearle Johns, Nelly Lahoud (2005). Islam in world politics. New York: Routledge. p. 157. ISBN 0-415-32411-4. 6 Branon Wheeler, Applying the Canon in Islam: The Authorization and Maintenance of Interpretive Reasoning in Ḥanafī Scholarship, SUNY Press, 1996. 7 Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog – Parker et al. 304 (5674): 1160 – Science. 8 Xavier Przezdziecki, Le Destin des Lévrier, Translated by Jonathon Brown, ISBN 2-904304-17-7. 9 Saheeh Bukhari: Volume 4, Hadith Number 448 10 Saheeh Bukhari: Hadith Number 3318 11 Saheeh Bukhari: Volume 001, Book 004, Hadith Number 174; Volume 3, Book 40, Number 551; Volume 3, Book 43, Number 646; Volume 4, Book 54, Number 538; Volume 4, Book 56, Number 673; Saheeh Muslim: Book 026, Number 5577; Book 026, Number 5578; Book 026, Number 5579; Malik Muwatta: Book 49, Number 49.10.23) 12 Saheeh Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 540; Saheeh Muslim: Book 010, Number 3809; Book 010, Number 3810; Book 010, Number 3811 13 (Saheeh Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 29, Number 54; Volume 3, Book 29, Number 55; Volume 4, Book 54, Number 531; Saheeh Muslim: Book 007, Number 2717, Book 007; Number 2718; Book 007, Number 2719; Abu Dawud: Book 10, Number 1844 14 Saheeh Muslim: Book 010, Number 3812; Book 010, Number 3814 15 Saheeh Muslim: Book 010, Number 3813: Abu Dawud: Book 16, Number 2839; Book 16, Number 2840 16 Saheeh Muslim: Book 024, Number 5248 17 Saheeh Bukhari: Volume 001, Book 004, Hadith Number 174



Much thanks to Ustadz Hafiz Firdaus Abdullah & Ustadz Emran Ahmad, for their guidances in this sensitive issue: Dogs in the general Muslim community. Also to Mr. Kamal Badr , editor-in-chief of IslamOnline.net’s English website, whose inputs have helped in clarifying the matter. Not forgetting my lovely salukis, which have intrigued myself to write on these sensitive issues.


 Inhalt | Table of Contents Nr. 18

For quotation purposes:
Hasnul Bin Ismail: Dogs are considered a “taboo” in Malay/Muslim societies, or are they? (A personal perspective) –
In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 18/2011.
WWW: http://www.inst.at/trans/18Nr/II-18/ismail18.htm

Webmeister: Gerald Mach     last change: 2011-07-20