Often, we ourselves are an obstacle to people believing, because we present issues upon which there is clear difference of opinion and flexibility as unmovable absolutes, mostly based on our own profound ignorance.
Many English people — famously animal lovers — find themselves under the misapprehension that Muslims detest dogs. A misconception, we must acknowledge, which is promulgated by some Muslims, particularly those who adhere to the hardest positions. Thus do tensions between neighbours needlessly flare up in some communities.
My grandmother was a great dog-lover. Indeed, she often said that she had more time for animals than humans, always found supporting animal refuges and sanctuaries. She wouldn’t have been very impressed had we refused to enter her home out of contempt for her beloved pooch, her closest friend after her husband died.
There are three opinions in respect to dogs in the schools of jurisprudence. The Maliki school holds that all parts of a dog are clean while it is alive. The Hanafi school determines that it is part clean and part unclean. The Shafi school, often the strictest in fiqh, considers the dog unclean. There are, of course, arguments for each.
The Maliki position is based upon a famous story recounted in the Quran in which a group of youths fleeing persecution stop to take refuge in a cave. In Christian tradition, this story is known as the Seven Sleepers or the Sleepers of Ephesus. In Islamic tradition, it is known as the Companions of the Cave.
In the Quranic account, the youths are travelling with a dog. In fact, the dog is described as one of them. There is no indication that they were blameworthy for travelling with the animal, or resting with it at their side. The youths are described as righteous men.
This is one of several proofs the Maliki school uses to conclude that dogs are clean. Another is a hadith in which a man who used his shoe to quench a dog’s thirst is promised the reward of paradise for his benevolent actions.
A third proof is that a dog used to come and go inside the Prophet’s mosque, and was never removed. A fourth being that if a dog retrieves prey during a hunting expedition, you’re allowed to eat the coursed meat. It goes on like this.
There is no reason for Muslims to alienate their neighbours by insisting on a hardline position, which they could easily exchange for an easier one. Even if they insist on the harder position, it is still no reason to upset people: all they need to do, if they happen to get saliva on their hands, is to wash them and remake ablution, which is generally what hygienic people would do anyway.
There’s a well-known saying attributed to our Prophet, peace be upon him, which goes: “Make things easy for people and do not make them difficult. Give glad tidings and do not frighten them away.”
If only we could imbibe such wisdom, being mindful of the words we speak, and our daily actions. With wisdom, we could be a light to the people we walk amongst. We don’t have to be an obstacle, forever making our path seem alien and unpalatable. Actually, it’s the natural way, if only people could be allowed to see it.