A Sheikh and a Rabbi walked into a bar one day and found a Priest sitting on a stool with a dog by his side. (They had come for an interfaith dialogue event.)
“I’m terribly sorry,” apologized the Sheikh, firmly. “But I cannot sit here.”
“What’s the problem?” inquired the Rabbi.
“The dog is an unclean animal for us Muslims: we do not allow them.”
“We also think poorly of dogs,” concurred the Rabbi. “Although we allow them.”
The priest was silent, observing an earlier vow. However, the dog was a talking dog, and so replied: “I don’t see the problem. Let me review your narrations and holy books for you.”
The dog’s speech went as follows:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever keeps a dog, one Qirat of the reward of his good deeds is deducted daily, unless the dog is used for guarding a farm or cattle.” (Bukhari 3:515)
Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying; “Angels do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or a picture of a living creature.” (Bukhari 3:515)
All you beasts of the field, come to devour — all you beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all. “Come,” they say, “let me get wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure.” (Isaiah 56:9-12)
What is a dog? A good dog guards the cattle and the wheat. A good dog acts as a shepherd to its flock, and keeps the beasts of the forest away from the crops.
A useless dog is kept within the house, idle, consuming, dreaming, in slumber.
As a metaphor, the meaning is clear: a dog is like a minister, a shepherd, a sheikh. Their purpose is to keep their flock along the path, to protect the fields of Wisdom, the fields of tafsir free of blight and vermin, for our consumption. The useless dog of the narration is the same kind of dog spoken of in Isaiah, an idle, corrupt sheikh, without knowledge, shepherds without understanding, intoxicated, consuming themselves the food of Wisdom, consuming the Qur’an, but without understanding. And angels will not enter a house with an idle dog. A house should be a shelter, a refuge, a sanctuary, a masjid. A house is a masjid. And the City of London has many houses now, the ummah rejoices in their plenitude: but how many contain idle dogs? Muslims check your houses, Angels fear to tread therein.
But the Qur’an and the narrations surrounding Prophecy are not metaphoric. The dog spoken of is not simply a metaphor, it is a Symbolic Function, regulating our relationship to the Real. Its function is to herd our relationship with the Real. Our relationship with the Real is linguistic, perceptual, active, communicative, logical: and so the way in which the dog herds this relationship is perceptual, linguistic, active and logical.