Why, why, oh why do Muslims hate dogs?


There are a lot of silly things, all sorts of idiotic ideas you can get caught up in, if you take the scriptures of your respective religion too seriously. Doing so when reading Leviticus can lead to a lot of house fires due to the existence of mildew. And both Christian and Muslim holy books have verses prohibiting homosexuality – an awful lot of fuss has been caused by this recently, although for some reason the rather literal way it is taken in parts of Iraq and Syria have caused less of a stir than the liberalising or ignoring of their interpretation here.

Likewise, the Bible and Koran contain verses against blasphemy and apostasy. It has been an awfully long time since anybody was punished for these crimes against the Christian God in the West, but it is unfortunately all too mainstream in the Islamic world. But let’s leave these weighty subjects for another day, and have a gawk at the hilariously fraught relationship Muslims have with man’s best friend.

imageDogs are repeatedly denigrated in the Hadiths, although not the in Koran. They annul prayer if nearby, angels do not enter a house if a dog is inside, and having them as pets is forbidden. Exceptions are made for keeping them, if they are useful, but all the black ones are to be killed. From Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5246:

“A’isha reported that Gabriel made a promise with Allah’s Messenger to come at a definite hour; that hour came but he did not visit him. And there was in his hand a staff. He threw it from his hand and said: Never has Allah or His messengers ever broken their promise. Then he cast a glance (and by chance) found a puppy under his cot and said: ‘A’isha, when did this dog enter here? She said: By Allah, I don’t know. He then commanded and it was turned out. Then Gabriel came and Allah’s Messenger said to him: You promised me and I waited for you but you did not come, whereupon he said: It was the dog in your house which prevented me (to come), for we (angels) do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture.”

And from Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5248:

“Then on that very morning he commanded the killing of the dogs until he announced that the dog kept for the orchards should also be killed, but he spared the dog meant for the protection of extensive fields (or big gardens).”

Of course, like any problematic sections of the Bible or Koran, some take this and other verses with a pinch of salt, while others take it way too seriously. At their most extreme and violent, some Muslims lobby for the banning of dogs in public, and even have even killed people’s pet dogs.

On the other hand, there are many Muslims who try to point out the irrationality of taking the Hadiths on dogs literally, and many a long screed has been written, or speech given dealing with this nonsense, when really we would all much rather be out playing cricket.

One group in Malaysia held public events last year encouraging people to touch dogs. Interestingly though, the Malaysian government still denounced this as going against mainstream Islam, and there were the usual death threats from extremists. And the organisers did not challenge the notion that dogs are unclean – they educated people on “permissible” ways to touch a dog, and how they can purify themselves with a cleansing ritual after touching a dog. And they made it clear that the program never encouraged dogs as pets.

So it is not a misrepresentation to say that Muslims, or at least some Muslims, hate dogs. But even at their best, Muslims have loopy ideas about dogs which makes them perform silly rituals if they even want to touch one, and are forced into bizarre contortions of logic if they try to argue that Islam does not say bad things about dogs. Most importantly, this dynamic appears to be common in Islam when applied to matters far more grave than this. And sadly, there does not appear to be any appetite to just throw it all out, to say ‘you know what, those verses really are so obviously unnecessary, why don’t we just ignore these silly stories as remnants of outdated traditions from a bygone age.’

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David has studied history and political science at Melbourne University. His thesis was written on how the utilisation of Missile Defence can help to achieve nuclear disarmament. His interest in history was piqued by playing a flight simulator computer game about the Battle of Britain, and he hopes to one day siphon the earnings from his political writings into funding the greatest prog-rock concept album the world has ever seen.