Egypt’s Grand Mufti Swaky Allam has ruled on the status of dogs in Islam, declaring that contact with dogs does not restrict the ability to pray as dogs are “pure” animals.
Rabat – Egyptian Islamic authorities have ruled on the issue of Muslims owning dogs, ruling in favor of “man’s best friend.”
The debate over the cleanliness of dogs in relation to religious observance had become increasingly public in Egyptian society. Religious hardliners argued that dogs are unclean and contact with the furry creatures prohibits the ability for Muslims to pray.
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Swaky Allam declared on August 17 that contact with dogs does not restrict the ability to pray, as dogs are “pure” animals.
“If you perform wudu 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,” he said in a televised statement on Sada al-Balad channel.
“We adopt the Maliki doctrine here in Dar Al-Iftaa (Egypt’s Islamic advisory body) and have ruled on this issue based on it.”
The issue over the ownership of dogs among Muslims had turned public after Osama al-Azhari, a religious advisor to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was photographed “shaking hands” with a dog.
Al-Azhari was subjected to online vitriol and insults over the picture, leading him to clarify his views. Al-Azhari invoked the story of the “seven sleepers.”
The story of the seven sleepers revolves around a group of young men and a dog who, in the year 250, hid in a cave to escape religious persecution in Ephesus in current-day Turkey. The story, which is revered in Islam and Christianity, tells of the group’s reemergence three centuries later, when their Christian faith was no longer persecuted.
Al-Azhari indicated that the seven sleepers were a “supreme example of goodness” and their keeping of a dog in their presence indicated that dogs meant the animal could not have any religious impurity.
Pure without exception
Popular religious singer Mahmoud al-Tohamy also received public abuse over his affection for dogs after sharing pictures with a dog on Facebook. He accompanied his picture with a statement on the religious status of dogs, saying, “Whoever says a dog is impure, tell them God did not create anything impure.”
Al-Tohamy also invoked the story of the seven sleepers.
“The Seven Sleepers’ dog died next to them and remained a companion to them all their lives, yet people found no objection to that,” he said.
Professor in Islamic law, Ahmed Karima, supported Al-Tohamy’s statement. He outlined scripture that explicitly permits Muslims to own the animals for hunting or as guard dogs.
Karima also repeated a statement by Imam Malik bin Anas, who had ruled that every living being was pure without exception.
While the Grand Mufti’s ruling was well-received by Egypt’s dog-owners, several religious conservatives criticized the ruling. Egyptian law, however, is already settled on the matter. Intentionally killing a domesticated animal is punishable by up to six months in prison.