Muslims and dogs can coexist, according to Egypt’s grand mufti who said that all living creatures were pure and it was the public’s belief that dogs were unclean.
Grand Mufti Shawky Allam made the statement on the Sada Al-Balad channel, adding that there was a difference of opinion between scholars.
The public viewed dogs as impure but the Maliki doctrine said they were not. He said that the Malikis came to this conclusion from their logic that every living animal was pure.
“We adopt the Maliki doctrine here in Dar Al-Iftaa (Egypt’s Islamic advisory body) and have ruled on this issue based on it,” he added. “It is possible to coexist with a dog and still worship God. If you perform wudu (ablution) and there is saliva from the dog on your body or your garment, there is absolutely nothing wrong with praying and there is no need to repeat wudu or wash clothes.”
The status of dogs in Egypt is a source of discord, mostly between dog owners and breeders and religious hardliners.
There was controversy when people on social media circulated a picture of the president’s religious adviser Osama Al-Azhari shaking hands with a dog. He was subjected to insults. To clarify his position he explained that he followed the Seven Sleepers, a group of youths who hid in a cave to escape religious persecution and emerged hundreds of years later. They were a supreme example of goodness and divineness and had no shame in keeping a dog, he added.
Vocalist Mahmoud Al-Tohamy was subjected to verbal abuse last year. He took to Facebook to defend his position, sharing his pictures with a dog called Costa and accompanying these with evidence about the purity of dogs: “Whoever says a dog is impure, tell them God did not create anything impure.”
“If the Seven Sleepers came into contact with the saliva of an unclean dog, the garment would be washed, then they would perform wudu and pray as usual … The Seven Sleepers’ dog died next to them and remained a companion to them all their lives, yet people found no objection to that,” Al-Tohamy added.
Ahmed Karima, professor of comparative jurisprudence and Islamic law at Al-Azhar University, said that people should go back to scripture as God permitted hunting-dogs and guard-dogs. He also expressed his admiration for Imam Malik bin Anas’ ruling that every living being was pure.
“In Dar Al-Iftaa, we are trying to make people’s lives more sophisticated and, in the current period, people have become very attached to pets. We take the Maliki doctrine because it considers that every living thing is pure,” Omar Al-Wardani, secretary general of fatwas at Dar Al-Iftaa, said.
The mufti’s statements were welcomed, especially by dog owners and pet associations, but hardliners criticized him.