1,000 Turned Up For Event
Pharmacist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, organizer of the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, was pleasantly surprised when 1,000 people turned up at the event on Sunday morning. He had expected only 60. And the majority of those who turned up were Muslims. This has now turned out to be one of the largest impromptu events organized in just three weeks.
One participant, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki, brought her 4 children to Central Park in Bandar Utama, Selangor so they and she can overcome their fear of dogs. Like many Muslims, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki was brought up thinking touching dogs is haram. Speaking at the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said: “It is also to show that touching a dog is not haram. People are worried about touching the dogs more as it’s a sin instead of worrying about the biggest sins”. Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki was a former religious teacher.
Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said that her ustaz husband gave her permission to attend this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event. Describing that moment, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said: “I wanted to jump for joy when he said ‘yes’ and I told my children they had to go. And all of them came today with me to overcome their fear and to learn that dogs are also creatures created by Allah that need love and care. I am still scared of big dogs so I am touching the small ones first”.
22 year old Nik Farhana Nik Othman said: “I am curious, that is why I am here. I touched a few. I never had a chance like this before. I grew up in Kota Baru and I study at the International Islamic University Malaysia. My parents don’t know that I am here but my friends are very supportive”.
23-year old housefwife Fatimah came dressed in a full black veil with only her eyes visible. she said: “I came here to learn more about interacting with dogs, about ‘samak’ and ‘sertu’ cleansing. I’ve never done such a thing before”.
Children had a field day touching dogs. 7-year old Nur Aliyah Mohd Nasir who touched at least 12 dogs said: “I am very happy. I touched many dogs and carried them. My favourite is the Husky”.
Pet shop owner Aaron Choo, 25, said: “I’m very happy to see Muslims so eager to learn about and touch the dogs. I really do hope events such as these continue and I’m very happy to participate again”.
Syed Azmi Alhabshi reacted this way when 1,000 people turned up: “We only expected 60 but this is way more than 60. This is overwhelming and I hope I provided enough water for the dogs and apologise for any shortcomings”.
Did Syed Azmi Alhabshi touch a dog? He said: “I wanted to touch a Husky but I was so busy”. But he did manage to touch a few dogs for the first time in his life. Dog owners had brought Husky, German Shepherd, Doberman, Golden Retriever and Poodle to the event. There was even a purebred sleek-haired Afghan hound.
33-year old Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin, a religious teacher and Masters student at UTM’s Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (Casis) was on hand to give talks on touching dogs in Islam. He said: “Dogs are also god’s creatures. We need to overcome the mentality of seeing the animal as an offensive creature. Teach the young to love others but at the same time know the limit of touching one”. Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin added: “This is the first time I’ve given a religious talk to many non-Muslims. I’ve always wanted to try giving dawah (preaching) through an urban approach. It’s a wonderful experience”.
Describing the event, Syed Azmi Alhabshi said: “This is just a baby step for us. I don’t know whether people will now understand not to throw stones at dogs but we want people to know that if they are not knowledgeable or are curious about things, they should just ask. If we ask nicely, people will respond. I didn’t expect to see so many Malays today. I didn’t expect many people to come in yellow or orange. I didn’t expect the kids. Having the kids here is the best thing ever. We are doing this for them”.
Protest Galore After The Event
Datuk Othman Mustapha, director-general of the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (Jakim) said: “This event has never been held previously and is the first time being exposed to the community. We are Muslims and our religion has stated clearly the penalty regarding dogs. Jakim will investigate the matter immediately and any action will be referred to the existing provisions”.
Jakim has now issued a fatwa against touching dogs. Citing Prophet Mohammad, the fatwa said the Prophet ordered that containers which had been used by dogs to drink from were to be washed, which showed that the tongue, saliva and mouth of dogs were unclean. It then asked: “If the tongue and mouth are categorised as unclean, then of course the rest of its body is also unclean. Furthermore, dog saliva is created from its own sweat, and if the sweat from its mouth is unclean, then the sweat from the entire body is also unclean. Touching dogs or pigs without pressing reasons is haram. This act is called ‘Al-Tadhammukh Bi Al-Najasah’ and is defined as something which is forbidden to be done without need such as saving a hunting dog from a fire”.
The fatwa said that Muslims cannot keep dogs as pets, but it added: “However, Islam has given a few exemptions from this definition and allows dogs to be kept for hunting, herding of goats or in orchards or fields. But to make dogs into tame companions which live under the same roof as their masters, Islam does not allow it and it is not a necessary situation which is exempted”.
Animal lover Iskander Lazarus said Muslims still have to “abide by the National Fatwa on keeping and rearing dogs, which at the moment is prohibited. These are laws of the religion for Muslims, so it has to be observed. This campaign was to educate people to care for dogs that are injured or hurt. It is a good awareness campaign that also tells Muslims on how to cleanse themselves after caring for a dog but it is not encouraging the Muslims to go against the Fatwa”.
Over at the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), Selangor Mufti Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said: “No approval was given on our part to hold the ‘touch-a-dog’ program. The program was being held by an individual on his own initiative. We are not clear what was the justification. It is under the local government’s purview to approve, not the religious authorities”.
When told that Jakim is investigating this event, Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said: “Congratulation on their initiative. At least people will realise that it is not advisable (for Muslims) to touch dogs”.
PAS deputy youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abd Hadi, son of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, said: “Instead of campaigning to touch a dog, it would be better if they campaigned about taking care of an orphan. The Prophet Muhammad once said that anyone who strokes the head of an orphan would receive plenty of reward for each strand of hair stroked. Instead of learning about how we should stroke a dog’s back, why not we learn how to cleanse our feet during wudhu (ablution) without taking off the layer of clothing”.
But former Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin disagreed that it is haram to touch dogs, saying: “If it is haram to touch najis (filth), then it is also haram to touch one’s own excrement or that of children or others in your care when cleaning them. It would also be forbidden to do any work which involves najis, like cleaning toilets or dealing with blood or pus (both considered najis). The same can be said of veterinarians. So to rule that (touching dogs) is forbidden is a shallow ruling. It is thus not forbidden to touch dogs”.
Think About It
What message is being sent when 1,000 people turned up for this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event? Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said she was brought up in the belief that touching a dog is haram. How many other Muslims are also in this position? Why are protests coming out now after the event, when the organizer had talked about it 3 weeks earlier? Did Jakim and the other protesters expect a very low turnout at this event and were caught by surprise? So now, the final question. Who is right? Is it haram to touch a dog?