Islam and Dogs

© G.M. Woerlee


The relationship between followers of Islam and dogs is strange and almost schizophrenic. Most followers of Islam detest dogs, saying they are unclean beasts, and that Mohammed forbade the possession of dogs, as well as association with dogs. They often neglect, mistreat, and kill dogs, while at the same time they accepting the utility of guard and hunting dogs, saying that the prophet Mohammed enjoined these things upon them in the Holy Quran (see articles by Silas, Dr. Ayoub M. Banderker, Hediyah Al-Amin, Godtube, Mufti Ebrahim Desai). So let us examine these attitudes, and see if there really is any scriptural justification for the attitude of followers of Islam and dogs. (The reader should note that there are many clickable links bringing them to the direct sources of this piece)

One of the hadiths (a saying or deed of Mohammed) in the Sunnah of Bukhari is very clear regarding the attitude of the prophet Mohammed towards dogs.

Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 540:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar: Allah's Apostle ordered that the dogs should be killed.

This is very clear indeed, and is furthermore supported by other passages emphasizing the degraded nature of dogs.

Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 34, Number 439:
Narrated Abu Mas'ud Al-Ansari: Allah's Apostle forbade taking the price of a dog, money earned by prostitution and the earnings of a soothsayer.

Furthermore, yet another Hadith in the Sunnah of Bukhari states that good deeds are negated by possession of a pet dog. Only working dogs are permitted a true follower of Islam.

Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 542:
Narrated Sufyan bin Abi Zuhair Ash-Shani: That he heard Allah's Apostle saying, "If somebody keeps a dog that is neither used for farm work nor for guarding the livestock, he will lose one Qirat (of the reward) of his good deeds everyday."

Worse yet, as if this were not enough to reveal the unclean nature of dogs, the angels of Allah also refuse to enter a house in which there is a dog.

Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 450:
Narrated Salim's father: Once Gabriel promised the Prophet (that he would visit him, but Gabriel did not come) and later on he said, "We, angels, do not enter a house which contains a picture or a dog."

These hadiths are very clear about the relationship between Islam and dogs. Not only must dogs be killed, but dogs are also unclean and degraded beasts, only to be permitted as working and hunting dogs! This is the attitude of many followers of Islam, and this is the reason why many shun contact with dogs. Even so, despite this attitude of followers of Islam to dogs, they are tolerated to a degree, and there is interaction between humans and dogs, because we read in another Hadith in the Sunnah of Bukhari that dog saliva is also unclean.

Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 4, Number 173:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "If a dog drinks from the utensil of anyone of you it is essential to wash it seven times."

But there is nothing in the Holy Quran to support any these attitudes. Practically everything we read about dogs is only to be found in the hadiths of Mohammed. We do find some tolerance of dogs as working and hunting dogs, but nothing else. But was Mohammed directly inspired by Allah when he stated all these things we read in these hadiths? I say this, because in verse 5:4 in the Holy Quran, (which many believe to be the literal word of Allah as revealed to Mohammed), we read that followers of Islam are permitted to eat food caught by dogs.

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. (Quran 5:4)

This is really strange. Dogs usually never catch their prey with sterile gloves or sterile instruments, instead they catch and handle their prey in their slavering, salivating jaws, liberally smearing unclean dog saliva all over the caught animal. Hunters handle this prey, seemingly without becoming unclean, and then people eat this prey without becoming unclean. Is this prey washed seven times before eating to remove any traces of dog saliva, or is cooking sufficient? Very strange ... This raises the deceptive nature of the Sunnah again, because if what we read in the Quran is the true will of Allah, then these passages regarding the relationship of Islam and dogs is further evidence of the tendentious nature of the Sunnah (see the Misleading Sunnah).

Stranger yet, this curious dualism in the relationship between Islam and dogs, as well as the internally contradictory nature of the Sunnah and its relation with the Holy Quran are further emphasized by other hadiths relating to dogs. So we read in the Sunnah of Bukhari that dogs must die, are at best unclean, but then we read other passages where people are rewarded by Allah for saving the lives of dying dogs! And I thought dogs were supposed to be killed ...

Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 538:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that."

Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 43, Number 646:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, "This dog is suffering from thirst as I did." So, he went down the well again and filled his shoe with water and watered it. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him. The people said, "O Allah's Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He replied: "Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being)." (See Hadith No. 551)

The last passage is a statement of a noble general principle of Islam - regard for all living creatures - and reveals the fundamental principles underlying these otherwise curious passages. However the relationship between Islam and dogs is even stranger than what is revealed by these few passages. Consider the following Hadith describing the reaction of Mohammed to a Bedouin urinating in a corner of the mosque, the house of worship.

Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 4, Number 218:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet saw a Bedouin making water in the mosque and told the people not to disturb him. When he finished, the Prophet asked for some water and poured it over (the urine).

Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 4, Number 221:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Bedouin came and passed urine in one corner of the mosque. The people shouted at him but the Prophet stopped them till he finished urinating. The Prophet ordered them to spill a bucket of water over that place and they did so.

The only reaction to such a Hadith is one of amazement. Try urinating in a mosque anywhere in the world nowadays, and I would imagine the reaction of followers of Islam would be very different to the tolerant response of Mohammed. But this very method of purifying the ground with a bucket of water raises a fascinating question about the relationship between Islam and dogs revealed by the following hadith.

Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 4, Number 174:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "A man saw a dog eating mud from (the severity of) thirst. So, that man took a shoe (and filled it) with water and kept on pouring the water for the dog till it quenched its thirst. So Allah approved of his deed and made him to enter Paradise." And narrated Hamza bin 'Abdullah: My father said. "During the lifetime of Allah's Apostle, the dogs used to urinate, and pass through the mosques (come and go), nevertheless they never used to sprinkle water on it (urine of the dog.)"

Combine this passage with the previous passages about the urinating Bedouin, and you cannot but ask yourself whether the prophet Mohammed considered dog urine to be a pure and clean fluid suitable for mosques, while considering the urine of ignorant Bedouins, and humans in general to be unclean! This implies a very strange relationship between Islam and dogs - followers of Islam believe dogs to be unclean beasts deserving of death, and whose saliva is definitely unclean, yet at the same time believing dog urine to be so pure and holy that it may be left undisturbed in mosques! A frivolous person might even suggest that this very strange statement of Mohammed provides a hitherto unexploited commercial opportunity for people in Western countries - the export of dog urine to Islamic countries in exchange for oil!!

The only reaction possible to such things is one of amazement. However, such amazing, strange, fickle, and contradictory sayings and deeds of Mohammed regarding dogs are far from irrelevant. They have profound consequences. Many followers of Islam believe the Holy Quran to be a literal transcription of the word of Allah as revealed to the prophet Mohammed. And the word of Allah as revealed in the Holy Quran tells us that the deeds and speech of the prophet Mohammed are an example for all mankind, telling us that Mohammed was a man who knew and understood the wishes of Allah.

Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the last Day, and remembereth Allah much. (Quran 33:21)

Many followers of Islam believe that the sayings and deeds of Mohammed are preserved for the benefit of humankind as hadiths in the Sunnah, and that these sayings and deeds of Mohammed in the Sunnah are a guide for mankind as to how Allah wishes people to behave. Allah is perfect and eternal, and the laws of Allah are also perfect and eternal, so why are the deeds and sayings of the prophet Mohammed regarding dogs so contradictory, inconsistent, and imperfect? Does this mean that Allah is contradictory, inconsistent, and imperfect? Highly unlikely, impossible even, because Allah is perfect! These inconsistent and contradictory sayings and deeds of the prophet Mohammed regarding dogs either prove that Mohammed was not always inspired by Allah in all he said and did, or that the transmission of knowledge of the sayings and deeds of Mohammed in the hadiths is imperfect and incorrect. So the relationship between Islam and dogs is actually proof that the hadiths in the Sunnah are full of human error, and as such are unsuited as a guide next to the Holy Quran. Surely these are signs in this for a people who reflect ...


This page last modified 22 October 2008





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