I Have Touched Dogs

Note: The original posting of this was first published on my Facebook. This post here comes with a few additions.

The recent ‘I want to touch a dog’ event in Malaysia has stirred quite an interest with the Malaysian Islamic authorities. Islamic authorities are claiming that such an event was an insult to clerics and were seeking to misguide Malaysian Muslims.

What has long been seen as a taboo topic, suddenly opened and thrown out in the open and has gotten the Islamic community in both Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore split and divided on this discussion. While most of the robust discussions have remained on online platforms, it is clear that we are seeing once again, a rise in the number of Facebook clerics, who make their appearance to share their knowledge of Islam to others.

And there are clerics on both sides, debating the merits of why it was a good and bad event. (I’m curious to hear MUIS position on this) (I came across this link on MUIS website with regards to Guide Dogs but is applicable to all kinds of dogs nonetheless)

But at the end of the day, as a Muslim, I think it is more important to ask of the intention. Even when you commit a crime, in passing judgement, your intention plays a very important role towards how the sentence is passed.

So anyway, Malay-Muslims (have to emphasize on this because I only hear from Malay-Muslims) LOVE to say this, “yang penting nawaitu” (what is most important is the intention) and the organizer’s intention I believe was clear when he mentioned education – to help overcome their fear of dogs and bring Malaysians together to promote tolerance and understanding that goes beyond culture, race or religion’.

Even for myself here in Singapore, it’s been close to 2 years that I’ve had plans to organise a similar event but hasn’t quite had the capacity or time to stretch myself to organise one.

The event would have the following objectives:

  1. To educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike on what sertu is and how one performs the sertu (I’m sure many of us wouldn’t know how to because we believe it’s better to avoid than to go through the hassle)
  2. Muslims to get over their unfounded fear of dogs (Muslim parents here have a habit of saying that it’s Haram to touch a dog)
  3. To clear misconceptions and to educate Muslims and non-Muslims on Islam’s relationship with dogs

I, for one, grew up never being scared of dogs and wouldn’t keep my distance from them. I was raised in a family that loved animals and I also knew that our family leftover food were being fed to the dogs at my dad’s workplace because he would often collect the bones of the chicken we ate and leftover rice to be packed and given to the dogs every single morning when he went to work. (May God bless my dad for his loving soul)

While we won’t be keeping dogs at home because we may need to sertu the whole house, this doesn’t mean that we cannot learn to love these animals the same as how we love cats or hamsters or birds or rabbits. And while I’ve been told that there is no need for such an event because Muslims could always go to an animal shelter to show love and care as well as to touch the dogs, how many Muslims would actually bother to go to an animal shelter to visit much less volunteer and volunteer specifically to care for the dogs?

We just happen to live amongst people who keep dogs as pets and the likelihood of us meeting a dog daily is much higher than the chances of us going to the animal shelter to care for the dogs there.

If sertu is our concern, then all we need is just soil. If soil is a concern, then buy the sertu soap (can support a fellow brother’s business also).

While we continue to debate this issue in Singapore, I believe that my other Muslim friends in the Arabian peninsular and in Indonesia are probably puzzled because they have dogs living in their household and have been living with them for a very long time.

Yes, we can argue and debate based on mazhab but none of the mazhabs ever said that touching a dog is haram. I just have the opinion that I will do what I feel is just and right in how I deal with people and animals because at the end of the day, what really matter is, as how everyone puts it, “nawaitu” (intention).

Just like how when my students like to ask me if I’m Malay or Chinese, Muslim or Christian and all I’ll tell them is that I am of the human race and it doesn’t matter what religion I belong to because what matters more is whether or not I am a good person and whether or not I am a good teacher.

As for me, ‘I have touched dogs’.

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