Qitmir and Dogs in Islam

Qitmir a Blessed Dog

The Kahf Surah of the Holy Qur’an mentions the story of some believers and their loyal dog (who is known as Qitmir in Islamic traditions). They probably lived in Ephesus, Turkey, in the years after the Prophet Jesus (may God bless him and give him peace) brought his Message of the Gospels to the Eastern Mediterranean world. Antonius, a young follower of the Gospels fled the persecution of a Pagan King to the safety of the mountains and there he became a shepherd, assisted by his loyal dog Qitmir.

In the mountains Antonius could pray to God in safety and he and his dog lived there simply, but happily. One day some more youths fled to those mountains, after facing the danger of the Pagan King’s tyranny and together with Antonius and Qitmir they hid from the King’s men in a cave. There God the Merciful caused a sleep to overcome them and they all fell into a state of suspended animation and God ordered the loyal dog Qitmir to wait in the mouth of the cave with his legs stretched out. Merciful God protected the youths and He ordained that anyone who came near the mouth of the cave would become afraid and flee.

And you wouldst have thought

 

that they were awake

 

although they were asleep,

 

and We caused them to turn over

 

to the right and the left,

 

and their dog

 

stretching out his paws

 

on the threshold.

(Surah al Kahf 18)

After many, many years He revived the blessed youths and their dog in a safer age in which Paganism had been abandoned and the people of the land now followed the teachings of the Prophet Jesus (may God bless him and give him peace). According to popular Muslim belief the blessed dog Qitmir was granted Paradise along with the good youths. Many have speculated on the exact number of the sleepers, but God is telling us to avoid getting distracted with the details, the meaning of the events is what is important.

Some will say they were three,

their dog the fourth,

and some say they were five ,

their dog the sixth,

guessing randomly,

and some say seven,

their dog the eighth,

My Lord is best aware of their number,

No one knows them save a few

(Surah Al Kahf 22)

The Holy Qur’an states that the story of the sleepers in the cave was narrated to remind the reader that God’s promise is true. Qitmir was a special dog and showed the dogs good qualities of loyalty.

The great Sufi Mevlana Rumi was once by the edge of the moat of Qonya city. A group of students from a nearby college saw him and decided to test him with the following question.. “What colour was the dog of the Seven Sleepers of the cave?” Without pause or though Rumi answered: “Yellow/sallow.” A lover is always yellow/sallow; as am I; and that dog was a lover.” The students bowed down to Rumi’s knowledge and became his followers.

Dogs in Islam

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The dog is one of the creatures of Allah , He created it for a purpose and it has served the human beings as a guard of flocks, a hunting companion and in other ways for many thousands of years. The Sufis have often used the qualities of the dog as a metaphor. They have encouraged their students to emulate the good qualities of the dog (especially loyalty), whilst avoiding the less desirable qualities that they sometimes manifest (aggression). Islamic teachers have taught that Children of Adam should avoid behaving like an angry dog and that they should not ‘bite people’.

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Islamic experts on spiritual purification have also taught their students to emulate the good qualities of the dog such as their loyalty and obedience to their masters (or in the case of the human being to God). Many well known and true stories from many lands of great canine fidelity (such as the story of Greyfriars Bobby) provide something which human beings can learn from. Just as the dog is naturally loyal to his master the human being should be loyal to their Divine Master, just as the dog tends to love their owner even if they sometimes receive harsh treatment from them the human being should love God even if He sends them tests and makes their earthly life challenging and just as the dog who receives benevolence and sustenance from his master will often give his life to protect his master so should the human being be ready to give his life for his Divine Master.

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God created all the animals in the creation for very good reasons that are known to Him and He has ordered that we should be kind to them. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and give him peace) encouraged kindness, mercy and the decent treatment of all animals. Good hearted believers hold all animals in merciful affection, because they know they are of the different ‘Ummahs’ of God and that He had a good reason for everything He created, they don’t even hate the dirtiest animals such as pigs or rats, rather they are duty bound to be kind and merciful to them as with all other animals.

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Where believers have power over dogs they must give them humane, decent and appropriate treatment or they may face retribution on the Day of Judgement or punishment in the hereafter. The great benefit from having mercy and doing charity for even humble dogs was demonstrated when the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) once saw a non-Muslim prostitute help a thirsty dog by giving it a drink of water from a well.

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The blessed Prophet (saws) explained that by that one good deed that all of that woman’s sins had been forgiven! Yet dangerous dogs may be humanely euthanized and it is an obvious duty of modern humanity to provide veterinarians neuter feral dogs (and cats) to prevent them from breeding, just as it is to provide them with other aid.

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In Islam it is allowed to eat the meat of the small pray animals that are caught by the trained hunting dog so long as Bismillah (in the name of God) is recited when the dog is released to the chase. However, although hunting for food is allowed by God hunting for sport is strictly forbidden, and the type of hunting that is allowed is with the trained dog who catches small edible prey and then instinctively shakes it in a way that humanely kills the animal by quickly breaking its neck, before carrying it un-mauled to its master as a food source. In the Holy Qur’an God Almighty Himself tells us that it is acceptable to eat the meat that has been caught by by the mouth of the trained hunting dog (and a dog who catches an animal naturally salivated on it as it returns it to its master).Yet today we may find most of those who call themselves Muslims would never eat such meat, even if it was washed seven times, the last of which being with dust. Indeed through this we can see that the attitudes of many people who claim Islam, in relation to the dog, have been imbued with cultural ideas from non-Divine sources. In fact we must remind the one who tries to reject the meat caught by a dog as being unclean that they are making that which has been allowed by Allah prohibited and this in itself is a form of disbelief.

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Many Muslims have always kept dogs to help them look after their, sheep or cattle, as guard/watch dogs or as hunting dogs. The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) encouraged all of the beneficent uses of dogs and the early Muslims mostly used working dogs that were sent out with the sheep and which lived with them and guarded them from wolves and other predators. The dogs are servants of God, just as all the animals are, but there are two obvious reasons why the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) apparently discouraged his companions from having purely pet dogs, these being waste and hygiene. During the early era of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) the Muslims lived in an arid area of an age of limited material resources in which food often became scarce, often the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and his companions would have periods of time when they had to survive upon the most minimal amounts of food, even to the extent of tying rocks over their stomachs to suppress hunger pangs, those rich people who were keeping pet dogs would be feeding them rather than the poor who needed the food. The Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) discouraged the Muslims from making any unnecessary expenditure, they were taught to own only those things that they needed for life and to give away surpluses to those who really needed them, because of this gold jewellery and silk were forbidden to men, families were discouraged from owning more bedding that they needed (and it was said that bedding beyond one spare set for visitors was ‘the devil’s’). In this light is can be seen that the Companions who acquired a pet dog for no reason were feeding and looking after them and using their money in that way when they could have used the money to better effect by feeding the hungry humans (or even stray dogs) as an act of charity with that same wealth, hence the Hadith that keeping a dog for no good reason undoes some part of ones good works each day. Yet Muslims in general should be aware that most people who keep dogs in the modern age do so for dual reasons as a companion and also crucially as a working guardian who will bark if intruders, robbers, rapists etc are about. Even the smallest dog may be useful in this way. Even those who don’t bark may deter burglars. New Muslims are well advised not to get any new dogs unless they can genuinely say to themselves that it is a dog with a working value, such as agricultural use, a guide dog, a guard dog or a small dog who may bark at intruders and alert the family etc etc.  In any case, Muslims with dogs should be sure to increase their deeds of charity and worship.

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In the highly authentic and original Maliki school of Islamic understanding the dog is considered to be ritually pure and even the saliva of the dog is ritually pure (that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t wash it off if it gets on you), however many Muslims consider the saliva or the wetness of a dog, or even the dog itself to be impure, that is up to them, but in the Maliki school the dog is seen (like all animals) as being essentially pure and the Madhab rejects several views that are held by the other three Sunni schools of Fiqh, as they contrast with both Qur’anic verses and the Amal of the blessed Salaf of Madinah.

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Many Islamic scholars forbidden Muslims from paying money for dogs, although others have permitted it. The reality is that when people buy dogs it encourages the cruel trade of dog breeding which has caused untold suffering. Why would someone who needs a dog buy one when the world is full of unwanted puppies and homeless dogs? 

Some Further Reading Links

Hamza Yusuf

Abdul Hakim Murad

Animals in Islam

Spiritual Teachers and the Animals

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