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Dogs in the House


I have a few questions about keeping pets in Islam. I have read on the Internet that the keeping of a dog is haraam unless the dog is being used for hunting or farming, while any other animal (reasonably) may be kept as a pet as long as it’s cared for. Using a dog for the sake of protection or pure enjoyment is considered haraam? The source from which I received this information also stated that dogs are vile and contaminated, and there are certain procedures a Muslim must partake in to wash themselves after coming in contact with a dog, wet dog, and/or its saliva. I would like to know if this is true. If this is factual, how should new converts of Islam (that love her/his dog as if it were a family member) confront this problem? Also, it was stated that the Qur’an should not be read when there is a dog in the house. I have been reading the translated version of the Qur’an all this time (I’m almost halfway done), not knowing that what I have been doing may be very wrong! However, since the book is not handwritten and is translated, is this situation not even considered? Have I committed extremely unacceptable offenses due to my ignorance? Please ease my confusion. Thank you.

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First of all, I’d like to apologize for this late reply. In fact, your question is very interesting and I really appreciate your posing it, for it will help a lot in dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s concerning this issue. Thus addressing many misconceptions that have filled some minds.

To start with, I find it very important to make it clear that while setting rules and codes to govern human affairs, a divine religion like Islam 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’s 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 issue of dogs is one of the most debatable issues in recent times, especially as da’wah gains ground in the West, whereby people enter into Islam in large numbers. Thus, the questions on the lips of many reverts is: ‘can I keep my dog while still abiding by my religious obligations? Will my new religion take away from me my dog, which has become my closest friend?’

What makes this issue so debated is the fact that 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.

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, etc. It’s further reported that some of the Prophet’s companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, 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 Qur’an. The Qur’an makes it clear that there is no harm in eating animals grabbed by hunting dogs. Furthermore, it’s through the Qur’an that we get acquainted with the story of the Cave Companions (ahlulkhaf) 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, I recall here the hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh), 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.’

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 (pbuh) states that showing kindness to animals is a means of earning reward:

‘In every living being there is reward.’

Adding to this is the hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh) 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. Said the messenger of Allah (pbuh):

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

Having said this, we have to ask: ‘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 answer is very simple. The basic rule in Islam is the permissibility of keeping dogs for hunting and guarding. Still, the exception to the rule is: 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.

We will be able to understand this fact, when we notice that some people do pay a great deal of attention to their cats and dogs, 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 cats and dogs, than they spend on their own sons and daughters! Then, 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.

You see,  going to extremes in showering dogs with love, concern and kindness, is what shari’a goes against, because there should be no collision between human rights and animal rights. Thus, 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’s also due to the danger that the dogs posed at a certain time during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh), that he ordered for the killing of the dogs, but he later rescinded this order. As we know, stray dogs pose as a nuisance and health hazard. They tend to defecate indiscriminately in the open, thereby posing a danger for children and pedestrians.

It’s also worth mentioning that the health risks in getting too close to dog, allowing it to lick children’s hands, utensils…etc is not to be overlooked, especially as this has been affirmed by many experts. I’d like you to read the following:

‘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 dogs, wolves and rarely in cats. These worms differ from others in that they are minute and invisible, consequently, they were not discovered until very recently.’

So,  in light of all these facts, I want to sum it up. You don’t need to worried about keeping your dog (within the necessities sanctioned by Islam, i.e. for protection or taken as watch dog) as long as you know the rights you owe it and as long as you know that your love for your dog must not affect your religious duties. I want to emphasise here that all that you have heard or what is cited above does not indicate that dogs are rendered an impure animal. But my advice to you is not to get too much in contact with it, keeping in mind all the above-mentioned problems.

To let you know, not all scholars regard dogs as impure. For instance, the Malikite Jurists maintain that the dog is pure, even its saliva, and this is the predominant opinion. So, it is not obligatory to wash the body or the clothes, but one must still wash a bowl that touched or licked by dog. The Hanafite Juristic School and some of Hanbali Jurists say that it’s only dog’s saliva that’s 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 doesn’t 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 nothing wrong in Islam with one’s getting in contact with animals as long as caution is demonstrated. There is nothing wrong in reading the Qur’an while you have your dog at home; what you heard concerning this is baseless. Islam does not go against keeping a dog for the reasons mentioned above.

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