Why are dogs considered undesirable?
Why are dogs considered so undesirable and unclean in Muslim societies? Dogs are reviled and hounded, despite being so loyal, friendly and useful for human beings.
It is not what Muslims do but what clearly emerges from Quran and Sunnah that we believe what God’s message is. Muslim tradition and culture has had many influences over Islam and the message of it has been understood differently by different people. The end result is a tradition which is attributed to God even though some part of it, probably a pretty substantial one, is not Islam.
The challenge for us is to continue to strive to distinguish real Islam from the unreal one. That is exactly what we are trying to do at Al-Mawrid. Luckily we have Quran in its pristine form which can be understood even today quite as independently and clearly as it was done when it was revealed.
It is very important that while this effort goes on, we keep a very open mind, be critical of our own views, and don’t reject the views of others simply because they are not ours.
I agree that apart from the cleanliness aspect of dogs, there is nothing else wrong with them. If you had lived in areas where Maliki fiqh is predominant, you would not have found the same aversion for dogs. We think what we see in our environment is what Islam is, not realizing that Muslim tradition is quite diverse and rich. Ours is a particularly sub-continental understanding of Islam.
Dogs have been mentioned positively in the Quran in Surah Maidah (5:4) and Surah Kahaf (18:18). In hadith, too, there is a clear mention of their positive role as helpers for shepherds, for security purposes, and for helping in hunting. There is no doubt that dog is a loyal animal, in many cases much more than humans are.
The apparent criticism of dogs in hadith seems to be of certain dogs and/or for certain reasons. It seems that there were dogs in Madinah that used to stray around in the streets at times causing harm to people by their bites. It is also not considered desirable to have the kind of physical closeness which some dog-keepers maintain with them, with their saliva falling on them etc. We have to present ourselves before God five times a day; therefore we need to be careful about our cleanliness.
It is also said that Jibraeel alaihissalam once refused to enter the prophet alaihissalam’s house because there was a dog in it. That’s understandable. A dog’s presence was not appropriate given the kind of communication that was about to take place.