I was recently asked a question from one of the brothers who purchased an Amstaff dog to be utilised as a guard dog. He keeps the dog outside and observes the rulings pertaining to najasat. The brother said he came across conflicting views on the permissibility or impermissibility of purchasing dogs and wanted to know once and for all what the ruling is.
The domestic dog was originally bred from wolves, the modern grey wolf being the domestic dog’s closest relative. Dogs were domesticated over 15,000 years ago, before man utilised farming techniques. Many people in the western world own dogs, for instance there are 4.8 million dogs in Australia, 9 million dogs in the UK, and over 76 million in the United States. In addition to being a normal pet, there are many usages for dogs, including: companion animals for disabled individuals, herding dogs (collies and sheepdogs), hunting dogs (hounds and pointers), rodent control (terriers), rescue dogs, and of course, guard dogs.
In Islam, can one own a dog? Before looking at the verdicts from the maraja’ we will examine dogs in the Quran and examine a tradition (hadith) about dogs.
Dogs in the Quran
There are three main places where Allah mentions dogs in the Quran. The first is in the story of the People of the Cave (Ashab al-Kahf) where Allah states: “You will suppose them to be awake, although they are asleep. We turn them to the right and to the left, and their dog [lies] stretching its forelegs at the threshold…” (18:18)
Second, those who follow their carnal desires are likened to dogs: “…but he clung to the earth and followed his [base] desires. So his parable is that of a dog: if you make for it, it lolls out its tongue, and if you let it alone, it lolls out its tongue. Such is the parable of the pope who deny our signs…” (7:176)
Third, the ruling about hunting dogs is mentioned. This ruling leads one to understand that it is permissible to own a dog for hunting, at least: “…as for what you have taught hunting dogs [to catch], teaching them out of what Allah has taught you, eat of what they catch for you and mention Allah’s name over it…” (5:4).
Najasat of Dogs
Although the Quran does not specifically state that dogs are najis, there are many traditions (ahadith) that indicate the najasat of dogs. There are two categories of such traditions. The first category specially state that dogs are najis. An example of such a tradition is when Imam Sadiq (a) was asked about dogs and he responded: “They are najis, discard water that a dog drank from and do not perform wudu from it. [Also] smear dirt on the dish before washing it.” The second category are traditions that do not specifically state dogs are najis, but it is understood from the rulings pertained therein. Refer to Wasa’il Al-Shia by Shaykh Hurr Amuli, v.3, p.415-418.
Sayyid Khamenei was asked whether it is permissible to purchase dogs and keep them at home as pets. He answered: “It is permissible to buy and sell guard dogs, herding dogs, and hunting dogs and to keep them in specially allocated areas. It is strongly advisable, however, to refrain from keeping dogs at home as pets…”
Sayyid Sistani was asked whether it was permissible to keep a dog as a pet in the house. He answered: “It is better not to, and its preferable to choose another animal as a pet, as a dog is ritually impure (najis) according to Islamic law, and thus it would cause one to live with considerable difficulty. It’s also been mentioned that prayers in a place with a dog around is makruh.” Sayyid Sistani also states it is impermissible to purchase or sell non-hunting dogs unless there is a significant lawful use, a guard dog would fall under the category.
Hence, according to both maraja’ purchasing a guard dog would be permissible. Furthermore, keeping the dog as an outside pet would prevent the difficult that Sayyid Sistani referred to and the circumvent the strong advise of Sayyid Khamenei to not keep them as house pets.
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