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August 10, 2009


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

It is a bit odd, I would think, to give a dog a first and last name.

The generalizations quoted from the end of the article are a bit tendentious or at least misleading. Some Muslims do in fact believe dogs, like pigs, can cause ritual impurity, and this is especially so amongst Muslim jurists (yet there is no absolute consensus on the matter) but it is important to bear in mind that "A common insult used by people [in Middle Eastern cultures], no matter whether they are Muslim, Jew, or Christian, is to call someone a dog or the offspring of one. Yet these same cultures have also accepted dogs as living creatures worthy of humane treatment and [are] valued for their usefulness in guarding property, hunting and herding sheep."

It is likewise important to appreciate the fact that Muslims, like Middle Eastern peoples in general (let's not forget that the vast majority of Muslims reside outside the Middle East), have ambivalent feelings toward dogs, in part, for example, because we find the Qur'an invoking the dog as a simile for disbelievers (Q 7:176) and ahadith "advise Muslims not to stretch out their arms like dogs when they prostrate themselves in prayer." In particular, "they can profane a mosque or place of prayer by their presence."

That said, "Islamic literature also expresses favorable attitudes toward dogs. Muhammad is reported in the hadith to have said that when a man or woman gives water to a thirsty dog, that person would be rewarded by God and enter paradise." The Qur'an also has the touching tale of a dog named Qitmir who kept company with the Companions of the Cave (18:9-26). And the famous Persian Sufi poet, Jalal al-Din Rumi, believed dogs possessed an inner awareness of God's love for his creation (for a balanced portrait of the Sufi perspective here, please see Javad Nurbakhsh's Dogs: From a Sufi Point of View [London: Khaniqahi-Nimatullahi, 1989]).

Whatever the virtues of dogs, "cats tend to be held in higher esteem in Islamic tradition than dogs."

The quoted material is from the entry on "dogs" in Juan E. Campo, ed., Encyclopedia of Islam (New York: Checkmark Books/Facts on File, 2009).

pet insurance

hey, my cat's called rolo sparky clembo and i don't think it's strange.
we call her "rol-ly" for short.

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