A "Muslim" cabbie in the UK has made headlines (and blogosphere Islamophobes' day) by refusing service to a blind passenger because of the presence of her seeing-eye dog, claiming it to be "unclean" and prohibited in his car by his religion.
Sadly, this is not an isolated occurence. (Almost as sad, stupid Muslim antics here force me to cite Daniel Pipes approvingly: Pipes rightly dismisses this neurotic taboo as "Muslim lore". It's far more complicated than many Muslims realize.)
Don't get me wrong–I have my share of canine hangups, myself. Like a gosling raised among ducks, I imprinted off Pakistanis for most of my life, so I don't cotton to dogs running around the house, either. But it is a rather different and infinitely more serious matter when a blind person's seeing-eye dog is involved.
Curious, the Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) example doesn't seem to support this Muslim's "pious" discrimination. Notes these pertinent ahadith from Sahih Bukhari (collected on Barbara R. von Schlegell's helpful "Dogs and Islamic Law" page):
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may pace be upon him) as saying: "A prostitute saw a dog moving around a well on a hot day and hanging out its tongue because of thirst. She drew water for it in her shoe and she was pardoned (for this act of hers)." Sahih Muslim, Book 026, Number 5578
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "A man saw a dog eating mud from (the severity of) thirst. So, that man took a shoe (and filled it) with water and kept on pouring the water for the dog till it quenched its thirst. So Allah approved of his deed and made him to enter Paradise." And narrated Hamza bin 'Abdullah: My father said. "During the lifetime of Allah's Apostle, the dogs used to urinate, and pass through the mosques (come and go), nevertheless they never used to sprinkle water on it (urine of the dog)." Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, Number 174 [*]
Evidently, our Blessed Prophet looked upon dogs with far more compassion than some Muslims look on their fellow human beings! I can't figure out whether that fact is more inspiring than it is depressing. For a person blessed with sight and health to be so indifferent to the plight of an another human being, and a blind one at that. It makes you want to vomit…and slash somebody's tires.
I'm certainly no faqih and I'm sure others in the blogosphere have already contributed more informed analysis of this matter, but unless I'm mistaken the hadith traditions being invoked by this mullah cabbie concern either the ritual purity of one's prayer or the cleanliness of one's home. I have not heard of any hadith that warn us against the evils of carrying dogs on camels or horses (i.e., which would be analogous situation in the Prophet's day). And I assume the cabbie in question doesn't live in his car. So even a literal application of those ahadith would seem problematic.
Assuming for a nanosecond that these ahadith apply to this scenario, has the pious brother never heard of soap?? If a Muslim soils himself–which is about as ritually unclean as you can get from an Islamic perspective–all it takes to regain purity for the purposes of prayer is a bath followed by the normal wudu ablutions. How then can a dog's mere presence permanently defile a car?
Reading some of news about Muslims as a Muslim, one occasionaly feels pangs of that shame that can only be caused by the uncivilized antics of a redneck cousin normally hidden from view in the wilderness. Of course, when it comes to Muslims today the knuckleheads get most of the limelight. And in this case, it's far worse than your typical provincial gaffe, as the offending mores are simply inhumane.Some Muslims could learn a lot from Jesus' words in the Gospel of Mark: "And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." We aren't made for the benefit of fiqh. Fiqh is here for us, to make like easier–yes, easier–and to help us reach our spiritual potential. Moreover, if your understanding of fiqh leads you to treat others inhumanely–e.g., leaving a blind person stranded–there's a good chance you're getting something really basic terribly wrong.
At least the proverbial Pharisees–i.e., the letter-of-the-law-loving "mullahs" critiqued in the Gospels–knew their own tradition. So many of us invoke Shariah while being utterly ignorant of it. (Ironically, one of the greatest of all Pharisees, Rabbi Hillel, famously taught that the essence of Judaism was to help one's fellow man. The rest, he said, was "commentary".)
Sickening. This "Muslim" richly deserves to get sacked. (I put that word in quotes in the spirit of sayings of the Prophet like "He who has a mustard seed's worth of pride is not a Muslim." or "He who does not want for his brother what he wants for himself is not a Muslim.")
And I'm not piling on or being unfair. Quite to the contrary, I'm scrupulously taking the gentleman's claim at face value. If the brother is correct and this is indeed an ironclad rule of Islam, one so sacred and indifferent to circumstance, then he needs to be in a different line of work, doesn't he? We should actively encourage him, for his own sake and in the spirit of "enjoining good and forbidding evil", to get into a more halal profession that doesn't require him to be in close proximity with such religiously problematic passengers. (Seeing-eye dogs are just the tip of the iceberg. What about ghair-mahram women to whom he is neither married nor closely related? The occaisional prostitute (or man with one)? Youngsters clearly on the way to commit zina? Inebriated pub goers?)
By the way, one can't invoke darurah so selectively and in a manner that harms others. It's one thing to disregard its exemptions for oneself–it is your choice to make your own life harder–but to deny it others when they are in such evident need seems a complete perversion to me. (I'd love to see a fatwah on this case from a scholar, especially a Hanafi one.)
It's enough to make me bring a dog to jum'ah! (A Great Dane, of course…)
* This isn't a particulary insightful observation, but it's amusing to see that these anecdotes were narrated by Abu Huraira (ra), a companion of the Prophet known for his love of cats (in fact, for those who don't know, his name literally means "Father of Cats"). I guess he transcended that great intracivilizational faultline through the ages: the cat lovers vs. the dog lovers . (I'm in the former camp, big time.)