For some time now, a horse has been catching a public bus in Dearborn, Michigan. It is a little horse, certainly, and it is in the company of a woman. The woman is blind and the horse is her seeing-eye horse.1
A seeing-eye horse? Why not a seeing-eye dog? Well, because the woman is a Muslim, a devout Muslim, and so she believes that dogs are impure.
The presence of horses on buses is just one way that Muslim superstition about dogs is impacting life in Western nations. Another is the objection to seeing-eye dogs in taxis.
In recent years there have been many reports of Muslim taxi drivers who have refused to transport blind people accompanied by guide dogs. For example, the Sunday Herald Sun reported on 6 October 2006 that at least 20 blind people in Melbourne had lodged discrimination complaints against Muslim taxi drivers for refusing to carry them with their guide dogs. A spokeswoman for Guide Dogs Victoria said that “blind people regularly reported taxi drivers refusing to carry them because of their dogs.”2
The Daily Telegraph reported on 24 May 2007 that the mistreatment of the blind by some Muslim taxi drivers in Sydney had been exposed by none other than the NSW Human Rights and Disability Discrimination Commissioner. Commissioner Graeme Innes, who is himself blind and reliant on a guide dog, said that “he was refused service on average once a month”. On a number of occasions taxi drivers had told him that it was against their Islamic religion to allow dogs into their taxis. In support of Commissioner Innes’ complaint, a spokesman for Vision Australia said, “It is fair to say that the (Islamic) religion has made the problem worse in the metropolitan areas than regional areas”. The NSW Government was so concerned about the problem that it introduced a fine of $1,100 for any driver who refused service to a blind person with a guide dog.3
Unfortunately, the threat of fines is unlikely to make Muslim drivers comply with the law. In October 2006, for example, a London taxi driver, Abdul Rasheed Majekodumni, refused to transport a blind woman because he considered her guide dog to be “unclean”. When the woman later complained to Abdul’s employer, she was told that she “should have more respect for other people’s culture”! A magistrate took a different view and found Abdul guilty of infringing the regulations of the Disability Discrimination Act and imposed a hefty fine. Nonetheless, after the case, Abdul “remained defiant and insisted that he would continue refusing passengers accompanied by guide dogs.”4
Some Muslim taxi drivers try to evade the law by feigning a medical condition. Late last year a UK taxi driver, Ali Raza Roshanmoniri, told a blind man “I can’t take your guide dog, it’s against my religion”. The following day, Ali lodged a doctor’s letter with his local council’s taxi licensing department stating that he was allergic to animal hair and consequently could not carry dogs. But the council was not fooled and it prosecuted him.5 Another UK taxi driver, Sallahaddin Abdullah, refused to take a blind couple, saying, “Sorry, I sneeze; my religion.” If only he had not made the second statement, he might have gotten away with the first.6
Another way for taxi drivers to avoid their legal obligation to serve the blind is simply to drive on the moment they see a guide dog. The chief executive of Seeing Eye Dogs Australia said, “I watch our patrons out my window and see taxis drive past them and the person who’s blind doesn’t even know they’ve gone by. It’s just appalling.”7
Restaurants run by Muslims in the West are also becoming restricted areas for the blind. The Ottawa Sun (Canada) reported in February 2008 that “a Muslim restaurant owner refused to serve a blind woman who entered the restaurant with her guide dog, telling her, ‘I’m not allowed.’”8 The Telegraph (UK) reported in December 2008 that a blind man was denied entry to a Muslim-run restaurant, despite showing an official card certifying that his guide dog was permitted access to all public premises. “I was made to feel like a piece of dirt,” the blind man said. “They told me I couldn’t come in because it was against their religious beliefs to have a dog in the restaurant.”9
And it is not just the blind in the West who are finding themselves oppressed by sharia law regarding dogs. Last year the Scottish police force upset some Muslims by using a puppy in an advertisement. Posters and postcards were distributed in Dundee to inform the public of a new police phone number, and for visual appeal they featured a black German Shepherd puppy sitting in a policeman’s hat. A Muslim councillor, Mohammed Asif, said: “My concern was that it’s not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards. … They (the police) should have understood. Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if they’d seen it was going to cause upset they wouldn’t have done it.” Indeed, a police spokesman grovelled: “We did not seek advice from the force’s diversity adviser prior to publishing and distributing the postcards. That was an oversight and we apologise for any offence caused.”10
Puppies on postcards are the least of the British police force’s problems concerning dogs and Muslims. Sniffer dogs at railway stations are an even greater affront to Muslim sensibilities. The Daily Express stated last year that “Police sniffer dogs trained to spot terrorists at railway stations may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers—after complaints that it is against the suspects’ religion. A report for the Transport Department has raised the prospect that the animals should only touch passengers’ luggage because it is considered ‘more acceptable’.” Insisting that it would continue to use sniffer dogs indiscriminately to detect explosives, the Transport Police nonetheless declared that its dog handlers would be mindful of “cultural sensitivities”.11
Cultural sensitivity towards people whose religious ideology includes jihad, holy war, against anyone who does not revere their Prophet, Muhammad, and worship their God, Allah? Given that increased railway security in London is the direct result of the suicide bombings of three trains in London in 2005 by Muslim terrorists (not to mention the suicide bombings of four trains by Muslim terrorists in Madrid in 2004), surely Muslim citizens should be the last to object to—and the last to be given an apology for—any measure deemed necessary to detect explosives being smuggled into train stations!
On another matter to do with Muslims, dogs and police in Britain, the Association of Chief Police Officers has drawn up guidelines urging police to be aware of “religious sensitivities when using dogs to search for drugs and explosives” in mosques and Muslim homes. “Where Muslims object, officers will be obliged to use sniffer dogs only in exceptional cases. Where dogs are used, they will have to wear bootees with rubber soles.” Seriously!12
So, what is it about dogs that sends Muslims barking mad? Don’t bother looking in the Koran: the answer is not there. Dogs are mentioned only twice in the Koran, and neither reference explains the Muslim hatred of dogs.
The first reference involves a simile, likening the man who rejects Allah’s signs to a panting dog:
Relate to them the story of the man to whom We sent Our signs, but he passed them by: so Satan followed him up, and he went astray. If it had been Our will, We should have elevated him with Our signs; but he inclined to the earth, and followed his own vain desires. His similitude is that of a dog: if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out his tongue. That is the similitude of those who reject Our signs; So relate the story; perchance they may reflect. (7:175-176, tr. Yusuf Ali)13
Even if we construe this first reference to dogs in the Koran as negative, it is not seriously negative. Our contempt is directed not to dogs but to men who are as nonchalant and uncomprehending as dogs. The dog in the comparison is merely being doggy, which is fine for a dog; the man in the comparison is also being doggy, which is not fine for a man.
The second Koranic reference to dogs is a literal reference to a dog that companioned several faithful young men whom Allah supposedly preserved in sleep in a cave for 300 years:
Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave: they said, “Our Lord! bestow on us Mercy from Thyself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!” Then We drew (a veil) over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave, (so that they heard not) … Thou wouldst have deemed them awake, whilst they were asleep, and We turned them on their right and on their left sides: their dog stretching forth his two fore-legs on the threshold: if thou hadst come up on to them, thou wouldst have certainly turned back from them in flight, and wouldst certainly have been filled with terror of them. … (Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth, doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: “My Lord knoweth best their number; it is but few that know their (real case).” Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers. (18:10-11, 18, 22, tr. Yusuf Ali)
This second and last reference to dogs in the Koran seems to be quite positive. The dog is the companion of faithful Muslim youths, and is numbered with them. It is preserved by Allah along with the youths for 300 years in the cave, and it may even have kept guard over them for that time. There is no hint of abhorrence here.
If not the Koran, then what explains the Muslim antipathy to dogs? As with the majority of Islamic superstitions, regulations and practices, the explanation for it lies in the Hadith, that body of Islamic holy literature that records the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad.
In his last sermon, Muhammad said, “I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.”14 The Sunnah is the Prophet’s manner of life, and it is recorded in the Hadith.15 And the Hadith records Muhammad’s attitudes and teachings on dogs. This is the source of Muslim loathing for dogs.
There are many canonical hadiths (Arabic plural, “ahadith”) about Muhammad and dogs. And they reveal that Muhammad, the perfect Muslim and the perfect model for all Muslims, disliked dogs intensely and was extremely superstitious about them.
Sometime after emigrating from Mecca to Medina, Muhammad ordered his followers to kill the dogs of the city:
Allah’s Apostle ordered that the dogs should be killed. (Bukhari, Vol 4, Bk 54, No 540)
Ibn Umar reported Allah’s Messenger giving command for killing dogs. (Muslim, Bk 10, No 3809)
Always eager to obey, Muhammad’s men applied themselves with enthusiasm to the slaughter of Medina’s dogs:
Allah’s Messenger ordered the killing of dogs and we would send (men) in Medina and its corners and we did not spare any dog that we did not kill, so much so that we killed the dog that accompanied the wet she-camel belonging to the people of the desert. (Muslim, Bk 10, No 3811)
Muhammad’s order had unforeseen and unfortunate consequences. In their zeal, his canine hit men killed the working dogs of herders and shepherds who happened to be visiting Medina. To avert trouble, Muhammad partially rescinded his order:
The Prophet of Allah ordered [us] to kill dogs, and we were even killing a dog which a woman brought with her from the desert. Afterwards he forbade [us] to kill them, saying: Confine yourselves to the type which is black. (Abu-Dawud, Bk 16, No 2840; cf Muslim, Bk 10, No 3813)
To further placate the people of Medina and its surrounds, Muhammad even declared it acceptable to keep dogs for agricultural purposes:
Allah’s Messenger ordered the killing of dogs and then said: what is the trouble with them (the people of Medina)? How dogs are nuisance to them (the citizens of Medina)? He then permitted keeping of dogs for hunting and (the protection of) herds. (Muslim, Bk 10, No 3814)
While conceding that dogs could be kept in certain circumstances, Muhammad nonetheless prohibited their sale. He declared it unlawful to receive a payment for a dog and maintained that such payments were detestable:
The Prophet forbade payment for dog and cat. (Abu-Dawud, Bk 17, No 3472)
the Apostle of Allah [said]: The earnings of a cupper are impure, the price paid for a dog is impure [ie, abominable],16 and the hire of a prostitute is impure. (Abu-Dawud, Bk 17, No 3414)
Muhammad’s reason for sparing the dogs of Medina and for permitting the ownership of dogs in certain circumstances was purely political, purely pragmatic. He begrudgingly made these concessions to avoid alienating many of his followers. But what was his reason for wanting to kill the dogs in the first place? What accounts for his antipathy? The following hadith provides an answer:
Maimuna [one of Muhammad’s wives] reported that one morning Allah’s Messenger was silent with grief. Maimuna said: Allah’s Messenger, I find a change in your mood today. Allah’s Messenger said: [The angel] Gabriel had promised me that he would meet me tonight, but he did not meet me. By Allah, he never broke his promises, and Allah’s Messenger spent the day in this sad (mood). Then it occurred to him that there had been a puppy under their cot. He commanded and it was turned out. He then took some water in his hand and sprinkled it at that place. When it was evening Gabriel met him and he said to him: You promised me that you would meet me the previous night. He said: Yes, but we do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture. Then on that very morning he commanded the killing of the dogs … (Muslim, Bk 24, No 5248)
Going on this hadith, it would seem that Muhammad’s death sentence against dogs arose from his disappointment at having been cheated of a visit from an angel because of a pup hidden in his house, coupled with his eagerness to ensure open access to Muslim homes for angels in the future.
Why do angels so dislike dogs? The Hadith gives no answer. Perhaps it is because dogs are unhygienic. Certainly, Muhammad touches on the matter of cleanliness in the following hadiths:
The Messenger of Allah said: The purification of the utensil belonging to any one of you, after it is licked by a dog, lies in washing it seven times, using sand for the first time. (Muslim, Bk 2, No 549)[Muhammad] said: When the dog licks the utensil, wash it seven times, and rub it with earth the eighth time. (Muslim, Bk 2, No 551)
Muhammad seemed to appreciate that it is insanitary to have dogs in contact with food utensils, yet his proposed counter to contamination involves hocus-pocus as much as hygiene. Washing a utensil with water is sensible, but washing it seven or eight times is simply superstitious.
But to return to the angels’ dislike of dogs: Perhaps the celestial beings detect a sinister quality in canines? Certainly, Muhammad maintained that some dogs are satanic:
He [the Messenger of Allah] said: The black dog is a devil. (Muslim, Bk 4, No 1032)
He (the Holy Prophet further) said: It is your duty [to kill] the jet-black (dog) having two spots (on the eyes), for it is a devil. (Muslim, Bk 10, No 3813)
Given the devilish nature of black dogs, one would expect angels to avoid them. But, according to Muhammad, angels avoid all dogs, not just black ones. Hence, dogs in general deprived their masters of the company and comfort of angels. Muhammad reiterated Gabriel’s claim, and added to it:
The Prophet said, “Angels do not enter a house which has either a dog or a picture in it.” (Bukhari, Vol 4, Bk 54, No 539)
Allah’s Messenger [said]: Angels do not accompany the travellers who have with them a dog and a bell. (Muslim, Bk 24, No 5277)
Muhammad also claimed that dogs could render a Muslim’s prayers ineffective:
the Prophet [said]: A menstruating woman and a dog cut off the prayer. (Abu-Dawud, Bk 2, No 703)
the Apostle of Allah said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer … (Abu-Dawud, Bk 2, No 704) [NB. A “sutrah” is an object—whether permanent, such as a wall or a pillar, or temporary, such as a saddle or a spear—in front of a praying person to symbolically shield him against persons/animals who might pass in front of him.]
The Messenger of Allah said: When any one of you stands for prayer and … there is not before him (a thing) equal to the back of the saddle, his prayer would be cut off by (passing of an) ass, woman, and black dog. … (Muslim, Bk 4, No 1032)
Though by no means the only culprits, dogs (and perhaps especially black dogs) have the effect of preventing a Muslim’s prayers from reaching Allah, if they happen to wander in front of a supplicant who has not taken the precaution of setting up a makeshift barrier (“sutrah”).
Muhammad’s youngest wife, Aisha, was indignant when she learned of his announcement about the obstructers of prayers. One hadith records:
Narrated Aisha: The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, “Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people).” I said, “You have made us (i.e. women) dogs. …” (Bukhari, Vol 1, Bk 9, No 490)
The depth of Muhammad’s dislike for dogs hints at the depth of Aisha’s sense of humiliation. Another hadith (Bukhari, Vol 1, Bk 9, No 486) records Aisha as asking, “Do you make us (women) equal to dogs and donkeys?” It is, sadly, a rhetorical question.
Muhammad also believed, or at least encouraged others to believe, that keeping dogs resulted in a loss of reward with Allah, thereby lessening a Muslim’s chances of entering Paradise:
Allah’s Apostle said, “If somebody keeps a dog, he loses one Qirat (of the reward) of his good deeds everyday, except if he keeps it for the purpose of agriculture or for the protection of livestock.” (Bukhari, Vol 4, Bk 54, No 541)
Allah’s Messenger [said]: He who keeps a dog other than that meant for watching the herd or for hunting loses [merit] every day out of his deeds equal to two qirat. (Muslim, Bk 10, No 3815)
It hardly matters whether the penalty for keeping a dog is one qirat or two, nor does it matter what precisely a “qirat” is, for the main meaning is plain: keeping a dog will cost the keeper part of the spiritual merit he has accumulated by doing good deeds. Given that Islam is a “works” religion, a haemorrhaging of merit is a serious matter. Muhammad maintained that Muslims will only enter Paradise if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. Let there be a featherweight more on the side of the bad, and all is lost. So no Muslim can afford to risk losing even one grain of merit by keeping a dog, let alone one or two grains every day! Dogs detract from good works and thereby imperil the worker’s entry to Paradise: no wonder they are considered injurious, and even iniquitous!
According to the Hadith, then, the Prophet Muhammad ordered his companions to kill all dogs; and when he later revoked the order for political reasons, he gave no reprieve to black dogs, which he claimed were devils. He declared that dogs prevent angels from entering a house and from accompanying a traveller. He also asserted that dogs impede a supplicant’s prayers and reduce an owner’s spiritual merit, thereby endangering his eternal reward.
It is for these reasons that Muslims to this day dislike dogs. It is for these reasons that a Muslim blind woman in Michigan takes a horse onto public buses. It is for these reasons that non-Muslim blind people in Sydney are refused rides by Muslim taxi drivers and blind people in Ottawa are bared from Muslim-owned restaurants. It is for these reasons that police in Dundee apologised for using a photograph of a puppy on publicity posters and sniffer dogs in London are made to wear rubber-soled bootees when searching for drugs and explosives in mosques, the worship centres of the “religion of peace”.
And dogs are just one of dozens of things that, thanks to their Prophet, Muslims are touchy about. From pork to polygamy, from head coverings to halal cuisine, from exclusive prayer rooms in public buildings to women-only sessions in community swimming pools: Muslims are making demands and forcing changes in the open societies that had the decency (and, it is now apparent, naivety) to welcome them in.
The lives of devout Muslims are governed by the superstitions and obsessions of their Prophet. And they want the lives of non-Muslims to be governed by these superstitions and obsessions, too. For freedom and fairness’ sake, we should make every effort to resist what they want.
- “Tiny horse trains as guide for blind Muslim woman”, Chicago Tribune, 10 April 2009 – http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/apr/10/news/chi-ap-horse-blindmuslim. See also “Seeing-Eye Horse Guides Blind Michigan Woman, Fox News, 10 April 2009 – http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,514157,00.html
- “Muslim cabbies refuse the blind and drinkers”, Sunday Herald Sun, 8 October 2006 – http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/muslim-cabbies-refuse-the-blind-and-drinkers/story-e6frf7kx-1111112326962
- “Biased cabbies face fines”, The Daily Telegraph, 24 May 2007 – http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw-act/biased-cabbies-face-fines/story-e6freuzi-1111113597246.
- “‘Unclean’ guide dog banned by Muslim cab driver”, Daily Mail (UK), 6 October 2006 – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-408912/Unclean-guide-dog-banned-Muslim-cab-driver.html#
- “Fine for taxi driver who told blind man: I can’t take your guide dog, it’s against my religion”, Daily Mail (UK), 11 November 2008 – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1084828/Fine-taxi-driver-told-blind-man-I-guide-dog-religion.html
- “Muslim Taxi Drivers vs. Seeing-Eye Dogs”, Daniel Pipes, 14 June 2007 update – http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2005/11/muslim-taxi-drivers-vs-seeing-eye-dogs
- “Sack the rogue taxi drivers, The Daily Telegraph, 25 May 2007 – http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sack-the-rogue-taxi-drivers/story-e6frf0a0-1111113606099?from=public_rss
- “Muslim Taxi Drivers vs. Seeing-Eye Dogs”, Daniel Pipes, 14 February 2008 update – http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2005/11/muslim-taxi-drivers-vs-seeing-eye-dogs
- “Blind man’s guide dog barred from restaurant for offending Muslims”, Telegraph (UK), 15 December 2008 – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/3775993/Blind-mans-guide-dog-barred-from-restaurant-for-offending-Muslims.html
- “Muslims outraged at police advert featuring cute puppy sitting in policeman’s hat”, Daily Mail (UK), 1 July 2008 – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1030798/Muslim-outrage-police-advert-featuring-cute-puppy-sitting-policemans-hat.html#
- “Sniffer dogs offend Muslims”, Daily Express (UK), 27 June 2008 – http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/50071
- “Sniffer dogs to wear ‘Muslim’ bootees”, The Sunday Times, 6 July 2008 – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4276489.ece
- A translation of the Koran can be found on the website of the Center for Jewish-Muslim Engagement, University of Southern California – http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/
- “Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) Last Sermon”, copy on the Muslim Student Associations West website – http://www.msawest.net/islam/fundamentals/prophet/lastsermon.html
- Translations of three canonical compilations of Hadith (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and Sunan Abu-Dawud) can be found on the website of the Center for Jewish-Muslim Engagement, University of Southern California – http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/
- In an explanatory note to his English translation of this hadith, Professor Ahmad Hasan states that the word (khabith) translated “impure” literally means “abomination”. See Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol 2, published by Kitab Bhavan (New Delhi, 1990; rpt 1997), footnote 2874, page 974.
Copyright © Andrew Lansdown