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Can I keep a dog at home?

Here is a question from a viewer:

“Assalaamu alaikum, I just have a question regarding having a dog in the house. I am a Muslim convert living in a Christian family and we have a puppy in the house. This decision was out of my control. Also, we can't keep it outside because we live in Australia. To elaborate, snakes or spiders could harm the puppy. I am afraid that I will lose good deeds each day. What should I do?”

The dilemma is understandable: our questioner can't keep the dog outside because of snakes and spiders, and this is not within her control.

The Islamic principle is that if something that's not within your control you're not going to be held responsible for that by God.

More broadly, let's say she was in control of this situation, and she could decide what to do with the puppy. What does one do with the puppy? The Islamic tradition has varied responses to this question. Mostly, Muslims understand that the saliva of the dog is impure, and one can't get close to the dog. In addition, one can’t allow the dog to lick a person. Indeed, this is based on a hadith.

This is widely followed, one will find many fatwas online. Islamic verdicts given by Muslim scholars that if a dog licks one’s utensil, one has to wash it seven times and an eighth time using earth as a purifying method.

According to the Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah site, the official Egyptian Fatwah site, there was some allowance for keeping a dog in the house. They said that one may want to have a separate prayer place where the dog does not enter. However, they have in looking at all of these narratives, they have reached that conclusion. They have given the sort of permission. Although one can find other fatwas on the same site which show more of a reluctance to reach that level of permissibility.

However, one should be aware that the traditions in the same books regarding dogs, one should kill dogs. In addition, Muslims don’t eat pork but they don’t kill them.

Some of the hadiths try to justify this by saying, “Leave alone the other dogs but kill the black dogs because the black ones are devils. However, that seems a little bit odd for Muslims today.

Looking at Fatwah sites, somebody mentioned the scenario: “We were in this neighborhood and we were giving the call to the prayer, and whenever this particular call to the prayer gives the call, the dogs in the neighborhood start barking. However, the dog barks when that one caller calls.”

There are different opinions on this situation. Some people say, “Let's get rid of this caller, there’s something wrong with his call. Some people say, “Let's get rid of the dogs.” The Mufti, the answerer, who was supposed to be a scholar of Islam says, “There's nothing wrong with the muezzin, the caller to prayer, just to get rid of the dogs or you may want to get rid of the dogs, but how they're going to do away with the dogs? However, this is very odd and most Muslims will say, “There's no reason why we should kill dogs. However, if there's no reason on why one should kill dogs that means that one is not going by those Hadiths that speak about dogs, so something is wrong there.

Perhaps, there was some suspicion regarding dogs. Maybe because of an epidemic, rabies, etc. Somehow in the reports about this it all got mixed up in the minds of people over the first couple of hundred years of Islamic tradition. That is being related by word of mouth until the confused narratives in the end maybe one can keep guard, farm, and sheepdogs. However, one doesn’t let their saliva touch a person because the saliva is impure, and doesn’t keep the dog in the house.

One needs to be aware of the Islamic tradition that is varied on the subject. Some people think that the saliva of the dog is impure. Some think the saliva of the dog isn’t impure. This latter view is held by some of the Malki School, one of four widely recognized schools and acceptable schools of Islamic jurisprudence in the Muslim world.

Having said that, the Maliki Schools holds that dogs’ saliva is impure but not the domesticated ones. However, if one follows that view, then one must follow a minor view. Most Muslims will look at you funny because you have a dog in the house and it’s taboo.

What do you do in the end?

Follow your own conscience. We have people that are well placed within Islamic communities in Canada and America who do have dogs. In Canada, we have Dr. Ingrid Matson, who is a Professor of Islam Studies at a well-known University of Canada. She was president of one of the largest Muslim organizations in North America for a couple of years.

In the United States, there is Khaled Abou El Fadl. He is a reputable scholar. He wrote many books. He champions the rights of dogs. He published a book, “The Search of Beauty in Islam.” In his article, in the encyclopedia of religion and nature, he writes about this tradition about dogs and Islam has been misunderstood. He has a dog. He’s a very proud owner of a dog.

There’s a vary of tradition. One should be aware of the society, the people that one interacts with, and the place that one lives too. One should think about the viewpoint of other people and how it might impact a person. Will it make a person feel sad because people are criticizing one owns a dog? Or does one have a strong personality that says, “If I know that I’m not doing something wrong in the eyes of God, then I don’t care what other people think.”

Know yourself, your environment, and your religion.

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