Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Question: Assalamu alaykum
As Muslims we believe that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is the standard of moral excellence. I am finding it very hard to believe that the holy Prophet would order that all dogs be killed, just because the angel Jibril (AS) never entered his home because of a dog. Theres also no evidence that these general commands to kill dogs were only for harmful dogs. Theres also the following hadiths that suggest that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) hated dogs:
“Abd Allah B. Mughaffal reported the apostle of Allah as saying: Were dogs not a species of creature I should command that they all be killed; but kill every pure black one.”
Can you please clarify this matter as it is making me very uncertain about my faith?
Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahamtullah wa barakatuh
I pray you are well. Thank you for your question.
The Pinnacle of Moral Excellence
You are correct in saying that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the standard of moral excellence. In fact, he is its pinnacle. Just like a functioning compass always points north, if morality, perfect conduct, and character were a compass, it would invariable post to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). Time and time again we see that when he was faced with moral decisions which would have made great men buckle, he showed such great resolve and conduct that it overshadowed the greatest of deeds performed by others.
Allah is the source of morality and what is considered right or wrong. His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the very embodiment of revelation from Allah. ʿĀʾisha said that ‘His conduct had always been the Qurʾan’ (Bukhari). Many people come across narrations about the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) which they are uncomfortable with. What has been observed time and time again is that either these narrations are not authentic, or, that they have been decontextualised, misunderstood or both.
If it does happen that there is a narration one feels uncomfortable with, then one should remain calm and not feel that their faith is on the line. After seeing many such scenarios, I can say that once a proper understanding is reached, people feel comfortable with what was chafing at them earlier.
Before progressing, it is important to clarify which kind of dogs are referred to in the hadith. Most people, when reading these narrations, imagine cute puppies with big eyes, and then feel sorry for them. The dogs referred to here are not of that kind.
In most Western countries packs of wild dogs do not wonder around towns and cities unchecked. This is the case though in many places. I lived in a village on the outskirts of Damascus called Saqba, and there was a pack of dogs which wondered around the town after dark, and rummaged around in rubbish bins. Dogs such as there are a nuisance to a community and a health risk.
They carry and spread illnesses, just like rats do, and cause a lot of inconvenience to people. The killing of dangerous animals, or disease spreading animals – or Animal Euthanasia, as we refer to it in the West – is common and accepted throughout the world.
Some of these wild dogs can be taken in as puppies and trained for tasks such as hunting, guarding, and used as sheep-dogs. Others are vicious, dangerous and a nuisance to people.
I also think it is important to address the statement that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) hated dogs. This is incorrect. As we shall see there are a number of narrations in which He mentioned that people who had shown kindness to dogs were forgiven and rewarded by Allah.
In fact, whilst on a military expedition to Mecca, he passed by a bitch laying in their path with her pups suckling from her. To prevent her from being harmed he ordered Juʿayl b. Suraqa to guard her lest any of the oncoming army disturb or harm them (Imtāʿ al-Asmāʿ, al-Muqrizi). Is this the action of someone who hated dogs? What’s more is that his grandson Hasan had a puppy, which he left under a bed in the house of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace), which caused the angel Jibril to not enter (Abu Dawud).
Killing Dogs in Medina
To add to the reasons mentioned earlier, the saliva of dogs in impure according to the majority of scholars, as in their fur according to some. One of the most prominent teachings of Islam is purity on all levels, so this was a consideration, as was the fact that angels do not frequent a place where there are dogs. Medina was a hub for revelation at that time, and the knowledge the angel Jibril brought was very important to the developing religion and community.
For the above reasons a command to kill the dogs of Medina was initially given, but it was never intended as a permanent ruling, nor as something to be applied everywhere. It seems, however, that some of the companions may have got a bit carried away with this, and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not want an entire species to be killed so he forbade the killing of dogs with the exception of black dogs.
The proof that the ruling was not meant to the ubiquitous, nor permanent, is the verse which allows hunting with dogs and other animals (5:4). How could hunting with dogs be possible if all dogs had been killed?
The hadith of ʿAbdullah b. Mughaffal states that ‘The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) ordered that the dogs be killed. Later, he said, ‘What is the matter with them (the Companions) and the dogs?’ This was at the point when they even killed the dog of a bedouin lady who came to Medina with it. He then ordered that only the black dogs should be killed, and later the command was restricted to harmful dogs (al-Nawawī, Sharh Sahih Muslim).
Once again, the context of the hadith should be borne in mind when trying to understand it. The black dogs referred to were a specific set of dogs, and in the Arabic language the ‘shayṭān’, devil, can be used to refer to anything which is rebellious and unruly. This must have been a quality of that particular breed which made them dangerous. Later, the ruling was changed to only those who were actually like that.
All of the above contextualises the other narration of Abdullah b. Mughaffal ‘Had dogs not been a species amongst the other species I would have commanded that they all be killed, so just kill the jet black ones from them.’ (Muslim). The hadith maste,r Abu Sulaymān al-Khaṭṭābī, said that that this narration means that he did not want to kill all dogs because they were just like any other species in that they were created with a wisdom and purpose.
Every species searches for food, drink, and the means to preserve itself, and so, he disliked killing all of them. (Mawsūʿa bayān al-Islam).In this is a recognition of the value of life, but also of the potential harms they could cause.
The majority of jurists took the position that a utensil licked by a dog should be washed seven times, once with rubbing soil on it. In recent times, a university in Lebanon found that there are certain types of bacteria found the in saliva of some dogs which is only completely removed with soil. In this is a sign for people who reflect. (Yusuf al-Hāj Ahmad, Mawsū’a al-iʿjāz al-Ilmī),
The Hanafi’s maintain that the usual rules of purification in the shariʿa apply here too, and that the seven washes are a recommendation. Abu Hurayra told people to wash such utensils seven times on occasion, and thrice on occasion, which indicates that the number is a recommendation. (ʿItr, Iʿlam al-Anam).
It is clear from the above the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not hate dogs, nor were any of his command contrary to the high standard of moral excellence that he was the pinnacle of. There are many hadith praising the actions praising the actions of people who helped animals, just like there are those which threaten those who harm animals.
‘A man, walking with extreme thirst, descended into a well, drank from it, and came out. He saw a dog eating a the soil due to extreme thirst, and said, ‘This dog is experiencing what I was just going through.’ He then filled his shoe with water, held it with his teeth, climbed out, and let the dog drink from it. Allah thanked him and forgave him.’ The companions asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, are we rewarded for animals?’ He said, ‘In every living being there is a reward.’ (Bukharī).
In another narration the same reward was given to a prostitute who found herself in the same situation. Conversely, there a narrations which state that w woman will enter hell because she tied up a cat; not feeding it herself, not allowing it to forage for its own food.(Bukhari). He even cursed people who branded the faces of animals. The jurists are very clear on the fact that one must save the lives of certain animals – dogs being amongst them – even if it means spending one’s money on it,
I hope that your concerns are alleviated after this explanation. Everything from Allah and His Messenger is perfect. Sometimes we do not see it due to not having the full details, or because of the cultural baggage we have. May Allah show us the trust as the truth and allow us to follow it assiduously, and me He show us what it wrong as wrong as allow us to shun it.
May Allah bless you with the best of both worlds.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.
Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.
In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.
His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.
When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.