The Professor was answering an email interview …
1. Tell me about dogs you’ve owned- which breeds etc
Back in Australia I’ve had 3 dogs. Two, Rover and Dip, were complete mongrels. We suspected that Dip might have been half dingo: he was pitch black and eventually developed psychopathic tendencies. We bought Dip as a puppy from a petrol service station in a country town called Emerald. Unfortunately had to get him put down when he tried to maul my brother to death (thankfully my brother is ok). Rover was a proper family dog, but a real frankenstein mongrel, a bit of everything. Like me. He had a peculiar sense of humor, very larrikin in a doggy kind of way. We adopted an older dog, K9, who was a half poodle, from the dog pound. She was infested with fleas when we got her and was constantly trying to run away to the council estate where her previous owner, an old lady, had passed away.
2. Do you know any other Muslims in the UK who own dogs?
No: I’ve never seen this here. In my father’s country, Indonesia, you can see the biggest difference between the predominantly Hindu island of Bali and the (Muslim) island of Java in that there are no dogs on the streets in Java but Bali is full of them. They unanimously do not like me but have no problem with the Balinese. Animals are rather attuned to the geological curvature of the Spirit.
3. Why is there a historic ambivalence between muslims and dogs?
Within Islam, there are a whole host of hadeeth (Prophetic narrations) that are generally very anti-dog. For example,
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)
There is a particular hadith (slightly weaker than the ones I cite above) that relates that Prophecy ordered all dogs killed after the angel Gabriel (by whose dictation he received the Qur’an) explained that he was avoiding Prophecy’s house because there was a puppy under the bed.
On the other hand, there is also a hadith that say one woman was granted entry into heaven for giving water to a dog and also other hadeeth stating the permissibility of dogs to guard orchards and livestock. The Qur’an also narrates a story (in Surah Al Khaf) of the “sleepers of the cave” who were a kind group of holy men who slept for generations in a cave alongside their dog, as a sort of sign from God. There is an argument that the dog was there to protect them in some way. So kindness to animals in general is encouraged and working dogs would appear to be fine.
Within the domain of fiqh, it would appear that the mainstream interpretation of these hadeeth and the Qur’an is that (non-working) dogs are unclean, unappealing to angels and certainly makruh (undesirable) if not outright haram (forbidden).
4. Has there always been?
I am unsure of this.
5. How do you deal with the idea that dogs are unclean.
I am a Sufi, so I take a Sufi understanding of the verse and the hadith. I believe that a “lazy dog” does indeed prevent Angelic revelation (spiritual growth). But a “dog” in this context means, effectively, a spiritual leader (who might be within ourselves or actually a real leader working in a mosque). A working dog who attends to the garden of his mosque, or guards the “flock” is a-okay in God’s eyes. But lazy dogs should be banned (leaders who are just into wearing the religious garb and power that follows, shouting in our faces about what is haram and what is not, for example).
While the Sufi understanding is somewhat “unorthodox”, it is, I am told, quite in keeping with the Judaic trope of the “dog” in the the Torah/Tanakh — and the Qur’an for me is a perfection of previous revelations, but as such carries, repeats and reinforces their tropes and stories. See, for example, the verses of Isaiah below:
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)
My Jewish friends tell me that these verses do indeed refer to spiritual leadership. Obviously your normal fido isn’t particularly inclined to get wine and strong drink (which, by the way, refers to the intoxication of Divine knowledge/gnosis in Sufism). Not that this is any strong argument for my position — it is just a curiosity.
Of course that is no argument to change the mainstream fiqh of Islam and I wouldn’t want to do that. I merely follow the Sufi teaching I was raised in that appears to make a lot more sense of the hadith (otherwise I don’t understand why one hadith would encourage kindness to animals, one verse include a dog in the cave and the other hadith condone the outright banning of dogs — but I believe these things all hold a kind of internal consistency).
I emphasize again that my way of dealing with this idea is very nonstandard and I have no problem with the orthodox view here. There is a book that concerns this written by the leader of an important Sufi tariqa.
All this said — I actually don’t really like dogs as much as cats. Cats are extremely significant in Islam — one of the main sahaba (disciples) of the Prophet was Abu Huraira, the “father of the kitten”, known as such because he always had a kitten following him. He was in the habit of carrying cats around in his cloak (which is perception in Sufism) and once, when the Prophet was being attacked by a snake, Abu Huraira saved him by releasing the cats from his cloak onto the snake.
The reason is that cats (unlike dogs) are hyperdimensional entities that, in their actual aspect, have access to molecular trans-symbolic lines of flight. In my 20s, I was producing music under the patronage of a Sydney DJ known as Seraphic Sherl. I’d press my tracks and he’d play them to the city on his radio show. One night my cat Matrix managed to transport herself, astrally, via one of these pieces, from our house about 15 kilometers into his studio. The music was like a kind of kitty tube for her. He heard her running around there and commented as such to the whole of Melbourne. She thought she was chasing a mouse — maybe she chased it along the beats of the music. (DJ Sherl, while a formative and important supporter when I first started dropping science in Music — before I ended up doing so properly as a Professor — eventually got “weirded out” by my sonic experiments and, on the recommendation of his guru, broke off all contact in what he referred to as a “Tibetan Cleansing Ceremony”. I checked him out on Facebook recently and I gather he has quit music completely and is now working in some capacity at an Ashram in Thailand).
I don’t intend to buy a dog for my daughters, although they are keen on puppies. In the countryside its great, but I don’t understand how you can keep a dog in London with these tiny backyards.
Following the mainstream sunnah of Islam, I bought my kids a cat instead. We named her Axioma Befuddlement.
Let me know if this helps or you need anything else!
The Professor’s wife comes in.
Wife: What are you doing?
Professor: Oh, answering some answers for some undergraduate. The guys put him in touch with me because he is doing research on Muslims and dogs: can you image? I think its for his final year project or something but, y’know, I’m surprised at how abrupt he is with these emails. I’m used to it with my students, but I presume this guy is from SOAS or something, a humanities person who has a better idea of e-social niceties. Anyway I’ve got a standard spiel about this stuff, so was just cutting and pasting.
Wife looks over the email.
She powers up her MacBook. At some point, idly checks the undergrad’s name on Facebook.
Wife: Hey, that’s not some undergrad — it’s that journalist from the BBC with the big hair! You know, the only Asian they’ve got on Newsweek besides the Sikh comedean.
Professor: Oh wow. I love the the big hair guy. Well, that explains his email style. I should have been more serious with my answers. Ooops. Too bad I already hit “send”.