What is the Islamic stance on dogs? | Facts about the Muslims & the Religion of Islam

If you’ve ever seen a Muslim acting skittish around dogs, or trying to avoid them, you may wonder whether Islam has a negative stance against “man’s best friend.” Do Muslims dislike dogs? Are Rover and Fluffy considered “dirty,” even after they’ve had a bath? Can a Muslim have a dog as a pet?

To understand Muslims’ beliefs about dogs, there are several nuances to consider. Islamic rulings, cultural norms, and personal preferences all come into play.

What does Allah say about dogs?

Dogs are mentioned in the Quran a few times, always in positive or neutral ways. In Chapter 5, God says that it is permissible to eat game that your dog has hunted for you. (5:4) In Chapter 18, Allah mentions a guard dog which protected pious youngsters as they slept in a cave. (18:18)

Although we see in the Quran that dogs can be humans’ trusted helpers, there are different scholarly opinions about the purity of dogs. Cleanliness and ritual purity are extremely important to Muslims, and some substances and animals are considered najis, or unclean.

Different opinions

Many scholars hold the opinion that a dog’s saliva is impure, and some believe even its fur is impure. So, according to this school of thought, to be in a state of ritual purity, a Muslim must pour water over any area of their body that a dog has touched. This explains why some Muslims prefer to avoid them.

On the other hand, one school of thought claims that all living things, including dogs, are inherently pure. Since it is impossible to know which opinion each and every Muslim follows, if you are a dog owner, it would be best to err on the side of caution. To be respectful, please restrain your dog from licking or jumping on your Muslim friends/neighbors/colleagues unless they are clearly welcoming your dog’s affection.

Can a Muslim have a dog as a pet?

Because of various ahadith (sayings of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him), Muslims generally do not have dogs as pets, but rather as workers. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever would keep a dog for other than hunting, herding, or farming will lose a great reward every day.” (Bukhari)

According to an article on the topic by Imam John Yahya Ederer, there is also some difference of opinion on this topic. “The Maliki opinion is that the hadith [about working dogs] does not indicate prohibition, rather it is makrooh (disliked). There is also a rare opinion from a handful of Malikis that all of the prohibitions on owning a dog were abrogated, and thus keeping a dog as a pet is permissible.”

Even though a small minority of Muslims might have pet dogs, throughout Muslim-majority lands, it is very uncommon for people to have dogs in their homes. They are much more likely to have cats, rabbits, birds, or other pets.

Did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say that dogs should be killed?

Some non-Muslims take a few ahadith about dogs out of context and use them as anti-Muslim rhetoric. They cite them as “proof” that Muslims hate dogs and are cruel to animals.

Sadly, even some Muslims do not understand the context of these ahadith.

As Imam Ederer writes, “The problem with cultural Islam is that much of it is an exaggeration of scripture. People go overboard in their interpretation or application of our scripture. The case with Muslims’ aversion to dogs is indeed rooted in authentic ahadith . . . Some of these ahadith, when read by themselves, do indeed give that idea. Most people do not know the scholarly discourse on such ahadith, especially when it comes to combining the texts or understanding their application in juristic derivation.”

What are the misunderstood ahadith about dogs?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If dogs weren’t a nation among God’s creation, I would have commanded you to kill all of them. So just kill the jet black one.” (Tirmidhi, 1486)

Another hadith says: “Someone asked Abu Dharr, ‘What feature is there in a black dog which distinguishes it from the red dog and the yellow dog?’ He said: ‘O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil.’” (Muslim, 4:299).

At face value, these ahadith do seem harsh. Why would the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) want to kill dogs, or call them a “devil?” After all, this is the same Prophet who prohibited the killing of any living creature without reason.

Most scholars believe that these pronouncements had to do with an outbreak of rabies. At the time that he (peace be upon him) made these statements, there was likely a certain type of black dog that was rabid or violent, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) knew that people’s health and safety were at stake. When the problem abated, the Prophet (peace be upon him) abrogated his statement. Therefore, Muslims today are not allowed to kill dogs unless they pose a significant threat.

About this topic of killing dogs, Imam Ederer writes:

“I agree with the scholars that have rightly logically understood this whole matter as being a past outbreak of rabies, where the Islamic value of preserving life and health had to outweigh the sanctity of the life of dogs, and obliged us to wash all potentially ingestible dog saliva. Therefore I hold that dogs are not in any way impure, and that there is nothing impure with petting and even getting licked by a dog. It makes perfect sense to me that the reason for killing the black dog was that there was a particular type of black dog which was rabid or violent in some way, and that is why the Prophet ﷺ called it a devil.”

Did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say anything nice about dogs?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A Muslim man was walking in the desert dying of thirst when he found a well. He went down to drink, and upon coming out, he noticed a dog panting hard, dying of thirst. So he climbed back in and filled his shoe with water. He gave the dog to drink and God forgave his sins. The companions then asked the Prophet, ‘Are we rewarded for helping beasts?’ The Prophet then said, ‘Helping any living thing has a reward!’” (Bukhari)

While on a military expedition to Mecca, the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by a mother dog lying in their path with her pups suckling from her. To prevent her from being harmed, he ordered one of his Companions to guard her, lest any of the oncoming army disturb or harm them (Imtāʿ al-Asmāʿ, al-Muqrizi).

Some people just . . . don’t like dogs

Let us not forget that Muslims are regular humans who have likes and dislikes. Their personality, upbringing, culture, and even allergies can influence their reactions to dogs. For many people who did not grow up in the West, the concept of having pampered dogs who live like family members, sleeping with humans in the same bed and sharing plates and bowls, is unheard of. Many people’s exposure to dogs in their youth was minimal; they either saw wild dogs that ran through the streets causing trouble, or guard dogs, who were to be avoided and feared.

Some Muslims (and non-Muslims) have been attacked or bitten by dogs, and their inherent fear is completely justifiable. Dog owners would be considerate to remember that not everyone is a fan of dogs for various reasons. No matter how much they love their pet, they should not assume that strangers –whether Muslim or not – want to interact with it.

In conclusion:

  • Dogs are one of the creations of Allah, and Muslims are commanded to treat all living things with kindness and compassion.
  • However, Muslims are allowed to kill an animal that is dangerous or vicious.
  •  Most scholars of Islam believe dogs are unclean; a minority believe they are pure.
  • Muslims generally don’t have dogs as pets, but might keep them as working animals like guard dogs or sheep dogs.
  • In many parts of the world, dogs are not seen as indoor pets. Due to negative experiences or cultural biases, some people have an innate fear of them.
  • In general, it is safest for dog owners to ask Muslims how they feel about dogs before letting their pet approach them – even if their pet is gentle and friendly.


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