May 5, 2014 By Interactive scholars

Zoophobia in Islam

muslim dogs

I have often observed the stupid indifference of my Muslim friends to animals as an admixture of zoophobia (extreme fear of animals) and misozoony (Hatred of animals). First, I found them cynophobic (disliking dogs). One of my friends related to me the Prophetic hadith on washing seven times (one time being with water), in case a Muslim touches a dog. On another occasion, he told me about the importance of spider in the Muslim tradition as a spider had saved the Prophet and his follower Abu Bakar hiding in a cave from being found out by enemies. He added that as a lizard chirped at that time, a Muslim is supposed to kill lizards.

Will you please clarify?

Hope the questioner would rather have an opinion about Islam from its own textual sources than from some naïve believers. There are three problems cited in the question which we would like to answer one by one. We think that animals and indeed humans who are toxic, dangerous and detrimental to the well-being of people, nature, and environment should be penalized in the adequate manner.  And animals, including dogs that help people, nature, and environment should be preserved.


There are no Quranic grounding in the religion as regards the dislike of dogs. Surat al Kahf, (Chapter Cave 18)-one of the chapters in the Quran which pious believers recite every Friday, narrates how some young believers take shelter in a cave and a dog kept guard for them. There is also reference in the Quran to keeping hunting dogs. (Chapter 5) There is an interesting article on the importance of dogs in the Islam tradition written by Dr Khalid Abou el Fadl ( Here is a summary of his arguments.

1. Many of traditions attributed to the Prophet as saying to the tune of disliking dogs are apocryphal
2. Sentiments, if any, against dogs in the medieval Muslim culture should be understood in the context of ‘culturally engrained social anxieties about the aspects of nature that were seen as threatening or unpredictable.’ There is similarity between the European medieval folklore and the anti-dog sentiments.  Diseases like rabies were not brought under control at that time
3. “The Qur’an, the divine book of Islam, does not condemn dogs as impure or evil. In addition, a large number of early reports, probably reflecting historical practice, contradicted the dog-hostile traditions. For instance, several reports indicated that the Prophet’s young cousins, and some of the companions owned puppies.”


The following traditions can be cited as
‘It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The purification of the vessel of one of you, if a dog licks it, is to wash it seven times, the first time with soil.” Nararted by Muslim, 279.
And according to another report by Muslim (280): “If a dog licks the vessel of one of you, let him wash it seven times and rub it with soil the eighth time.”

There are different legal positions based on the above traditions. Imam Abu Haneefa and Imam Hanbal, of the Hanfi and Hanbali Schools of Law respectively, considered that hair of dogs is pure and their saliva, which contaminates the water, impure. Imam Shafi, of the Shafi School of law, considered both saliva and other parts (even hair) of the animal impure. Imam Malik, of Maliki School of law, considered neither saliva nor hair as impure.

Khalid Abou El Fadhl writes: Jurists, particularly from the Maliki school of thought, argued that everything found in nature is presumed to be pure unless proven otherwise, either through experience or text. Ruling that the traditions mentioned above are not of sufficient reliability or authenticity so as to overcome the presumption of purity, they argued that dogs are pure animals. Accordingly, they maintained that dogs do not void a Muslim’s prayer or ritual purity. Other jurists argued that the command mandating that a vessel be washed a number of times was intended as a precautionary health measure.

These jurists argued that the Prophet’s tradition on this issue was intended to apply only to dogs at risk of being infected by the rabies virus. Hence, if a dog is not a possible carrier of rabies, it is presumed to be pure. A small number of jurists carried this logic further in arguing that rural dogs are pure, while urban dogs are impure because urban dogs often consume human garbage. Another group of jurists argued that the purity of dogs turn on their domesticity—domestic dogs are considered pure because human beings feed and clean them, while dogs that live in the wild or on the streets of a city could be carriers of disease, and therefore, they are considered impure. It is clear from the evolution of these discourses that as nature became more susceptible to rational understanding, complex and potentially dangerous creatures, such as dogs, became less threatening for Muslim jurists.

The washing, we understand, is a precautionary measure against rabies at a time when the modern medicine has not developed. The position of legal schools vary in accordance with the exposure of different geographical regions at the time of Imams to medicine and health sciences.

Spider and Lizard

The hadith reported by Abu Hurairah on the authority of Prophet Muhammad that someone who kills a lizard in one stroke gets 100 hasana, and who kills it in the second stroke gets 70 hasana is not valid. There are several reasons attributed to the saying, one of them being cited by the author. That a lizard by dint of its separated tail pointed to the enemies Prophet Solomon’s hiding place and that a lizard blew up the conflagration in which Prophet Abraham was put  are other reasons. These narrations are isolated ones not supported by narrations from other sources. The reporter is held as a dubious one, too.

We don’t also think the spider story as valid, either. However, there is a Quranic chapter titled Spider in which it is said: ‘The Likeness of those who took to themselves patrons instead of god is like the spider that builds a house for itself. But surely the most fragile of houses is the spider’s house.’

This is beautiful metaphor built upon spider. This is much like the metaphor of cow and mosquito.

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