Islam does not encourage Muslims to keep dogs if there is no necessity for it, or if there is no urgent need or scholars (ulama) regarding the rule of keeping and touching dogsdarurat (dire situation). Thus, a Muslim should refrain from keeping dogs as a hobby or when there is no permissible reason to do so. This is based on a hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari and Muslim:
مَن اقْتَنَى كَلبًا - إلاَّ كَلبَ صَيْدٍ أوْ مَاشِيَةٍ - فَإنَّهُ يَنقُصُ مِن أَجْرِهِ كُلَّ يَومٍ قِيرَاطَانِ
Which means: Anyone who keeps dogs - besides hunting dogs or shepherd dogs- then their daily rewards is reduced by one Qirat.1
Allah s.w.t says in the Quran, in surah Al-Maidah verse 4:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَمَا عَلَّمْتُمْ مِنَ الْجَوَارِحِ مُكَلِّبِينَ تُعَلِّمُونَهُنَّ مِمَّا عَلَّمَكُمُ اللَّهُ فَكُلُوا مِمَّا أَمْسَكْنَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ
Which means: They ask you, [O Prophet Muhammad], what has been made lawful for them. Say, "Lawful for you are [all] good foods and [game caught by] what you have trained of hunting animals which you train as Allah has taught you. So eat of what they catch for you, and mention the name of Allah upon it, and fear Allah." Indeed, Allah is swift in account.
According to the scholars of tafsir (Quranic exegesis), hunting animals in this verse refer to those that are used for hunting such as eagles and hunting dogs.2 Thus, as stated in the hadith above, Islam allows the use of dogs if there are valid reasons such as hunting animals, herding livestock, protecting the crops (farming) and safety of the home or similar situations/reasons where security and effectiveness are concerned. Imam Shafi'i once said:
3وَلا يَجُوزُ اقْتِنَاؤُهُ إِلا لِصَاحِبِ صَيْدٍ أَوْ حَرْثٍ أَوْ مَاشِيَةٍ أَوْ مَا كَانَ فِي مَعْنَاهُمْ .
Which means: And it is not allowed to keep dogs unless for someone who hunts or for farming or for herding livestock or those in similar situations as them.
Imam Al-Mawardi is of the opinion:
4لا يَجُوزُ اقْتِنَاءُ الْكَلْبِ حكمه إِلا أَنْ يَكُونَ مُنْتَفَعًا بِهِ فَيَجُوزُ اقْتِنَاؤُهُ.
Which means: The ruling for keeping dogs is that it is not allowed, unless there are benefits to it. And if there are benefits, then one is allowed to keep dogs.
Among the uses of keeping dogs in today's world are: using dogs to assist in challenging jobs for security personnel such as tracking criminals, drugs, explosives such as bombs and mines, to locate victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis etc. This therefore clarifies that touching a dog is not a sin as may have been understood by some members of the Muslim community.
Among the principles of Shariah that is often emphasized is the prevention of anything that leads to difficulties or harm. If the difficulty cannot be avoided, unless by abolishment of the difficulties, then the Shariah tries to remove these difficulties. This is based on the Islamic legal maxim that seeks to give ease to Muslims.
Allah s.w.t says:
لا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلا وُسْعَهَا
Which means: Allah does not place a burden greater than a soul can bear.
(Surah Al-Baqarah verse 286)
A person who is ill, or has lost his vision, is among those who are in difficulty or urgent need. Allah says in surah An-Nur, verse 61:
لَيْسَ عَلَى الأَعْمَى حَرَجٌ وَلا عَلَى الأَعْرَجِ حَرَجٌ وَلا عَلَى الْمَرِيضِ حَرَجٌ
Which means: There is not upon the blind [any] constraint nor upon the lame constraint nor upon the ill constraint
(Surah An-Nur verse 61)
Therefore, if the blind needs a guide dog to help him be independent and able to manage his daily affairs on his own, whereby without the aid of the guide dog he will not be able to manage his daily affairs well and it cause him much difficulty and hardship, then in such circumstances the use of a guide dog is a necessity for him, and the ruling (hukum) is harus (permissible)
Muslim scholars/jurists have different opinions with regard to the ruling that dogs are considered impure (najis). According to the majority of scholars from the Shafi'i mazhab (school of thought), dogs fall in the category of najis mughallazah (major impurity).5 Any area that comes into contact with the saliva or excrement (urine or stool) has to be cleansed once with water that is mixed with earth (soil) and then followed by clean water 6 times. This method is referred to as sertu. Despite that, touching and holding dogs as explained above, is not against Islamic law and is not a sin.
Scholars from the Maliki and Hanafi mazhab are of the opinion that dogs are not impure6 except for their saliva. Thus any body part or object that comes into contact with the saliva of a dog has to be cleansed using the method explained in the earlier paragraph. Nabi s.a.w said:
«طُهُورُ إِنَاءِ أَحَدِكُمْ إِذَا وَلَغَ فِيهِ الْكَلْبُ أَنْ يَغْسِلَهُ سَبْعَ مَرَّاتٍ أُولاَهُنَّ بِالتُّرَابِ»
“Cleanse your vase which the dog licked by washing it seven times and the first (wash) is with earth (soil).”
(Hadith narrated by Muslim)
However scholars from the Maliki mazhab and several of the scholars from the Shafie mazhab7, are of the opinion that hunting dogs are not considered najis mughallazah (major impurity), considering the fact that the dogs are frequently used during hunting8. Thus, the scholars of Maliki mazhab are of the opinion that any body parts or areas that come into contact with the saliva of the hunting dogs do not need to be cleansed as per the method explained above or even washed.
The same principle can be applied to that of guide dogs, for both the owner of the guide dog and others who come into contact with any part of the dog including its saliva. This is considering the fact that the aim of the guide dog is the same as that of the hunting dog i.e. the need to use the dog for daily activities. Hence, a blind person who needs to keep a guide dog to help him manage his daily affairs can adopt the opinion of several of the scholars from Shafie mazhab, as well as the scholars from the Maliki and Hanafi mazhab. This is considering the fact that it is difficult to sertu every time and in all situations. Allah swt says in surah Al-Baqarah, verse 185:
يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ
Which means: Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.
The fiqh maxim also states:
إذَا ضَاقَ الأَمْرُ اتَّسَعَ
Which means: When there is difficulty, (then the Shariah) brings about ease.9
The ruling is also the same for members of the Muslim community who may come into contact with guide dogs in public places and public transport (buses, trains etc). The approach of several of the scholars from the Shafie mazhab and those of the Maliki mazhab, with regard to this matter, can be adopted. For those who are of the opinion that they have to cleanse themselves if they come into contact with dogs, this can be considered as umumul balwa10 and they are not required to adhere to the requirement of cleansing themselves. Based on this opinion, Muslim owners of guide dogs do not need to cleanse or sertu their clothes or any part of themselves that come into contact with the guide dogs. However, if an individual is still sceptical of the cleanliness of their clothes or body, they can simply wash it off with water only.
If the guide dogs are brought to public places such as restaurants, public transport etc which are shared by all users of different backgrounds; and if one walks past an area where the guide dog may have rested or walked past it, then this falls under the concept of umumul balwa, and a person does not need to cleanse himself using the sertu method.
Islam commands us to do good to all creatures, including animals. Hence, we are very much encouraged to be kind those who need to use guide dogs to get around. Do not react in any way which may offend the owners of the guide dogs or hurt the dog itself.
In conclusion, in understanding the religious opinion on a ruling (hukum) there is a need for a Muslim to understand the different opinions of Muslim scholars/jurists regarding an issue. A profound and deeper understanding of this will ensure that the manners and ethics of manifesting the religious opinion can be maintained.
Office of the Mufti
Islamic Religious Council of Singapore
1Qirat : Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani narrated that the amount is equivalent to the size of Mount Uhud. Some ulama are of the opinion that it means: A large amount of which only Allah knows how much it is. Please refer to: Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalani, Fathul Bari, Chapter 7, pp 171.
2Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Riyadh, Dar Taibah, 2002, Chapter 3, pp 32.
3Al-Mawardi, Al-Hawi Al-Kabir, Beirut, Dar Al-Fikr, Chapter 5, pp 834.
4Ibid, Chapter 5, pp 834.
5Al-Shirazi, Al-Muhazzab, Beirut, Dar Kutub Al-‘Ilmiyah, pp 94.
6The basis for this opinion is as such: Islam allows the use of dogs for hunting purposes and rearing of livestock, hence if the entire dog is impure then how can it be allowed to be kept for certain purposes. Please refer to: Zuhaily, Wahbah, Fiqh Islami wa Adillatuhu, Damascus, Darul Fikr, 14th Edition, Chapter 1, ppn 305.
7Some scholars (fuqaha’) from the Shafie mazhab are of the opinion that the saliva of hunting dogs is not considered impure (najis). This is based on the verse, where Allah s.w.t. allows Muslims to use dogs for hunting. If the saliva of guide dogs is considered impure, then this will definitely bring about difficulty and hardship. Please refer to: Al-Mawardi, Al-Hawi Al-Kabir, Beirut, Dar Al-Fikr, Chapter 1, pp 589.
8There are several evidences that support the opinion of the Maliki mazhab, including what Allah s.w.t. says in the verse which means: So eat of what they catch for you, (Al-Maidah: Verse 4). Allah s.w.t. has made it permissible for Muslims to eat what the hunting animals have caught for the hunting animals. Thus according to Imam Malik, the saliva of dogs is clean. Please refer to: Wahbah Az-Zuhaily, Fiqh Al-Islami wa Adillatuhu, Damsyik, Dar Al-Fikr, 2nd edition, 1984, Chapter 3, pp 707.
9As-Suyuthi, Jalaluddin bin Abdul Rahman, Al-Asybah wa Al-Nadhoi fi Qawaid wa Furu’ As-Shafi’iyyah, Kaherah, Dar al-Salam, ed. 5, 2011, pp 208
10The concept of Umum Al-Balwa: When a matter becomes widespread/general and is difficult to avoid, then the matter becomes Umum Al-Balwa. As an example, a butcher will always be in contact with meat and blood from the meat. Hence we cannot deny that some parts of his clothes will be splotched by blood. However, he needs to avoid this as best as he can.