Hazardous Path, Dogs, Efforts

Issue 984 » February 2, 2018 - Jumada al-Awwal 16, 1439

Living The Quran

Hazardous Path
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verse 52

"When Jesus became aware of their unbelief, he asked: 'Who will be my helpers in Allah's cause?' The disciples said: 'We are Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah. Do bear witness that we have surrendered ourselves to Him.'

The word hawari (disciple) seems to have been imported into Arabic from Hebrew. There is disagreement among the lexicologists about its true signification. In our opinion, it means a well-wisher, supporter and a helper. Just as the word ansar is used for the first Muslims who helped and supported Prophet Muhammad's call in its initial stage, hawariyyun is used for the disciples of Jesus who believed in him and supported him steadfastly. He taught and trained them with great love and care. They carried his message to all the cities and towns in the land and they are mentioned in great detail in the Gospels.

This verse means that when Jesus realised that the Pharisees and the leaders of the tribe of Israel would not believe, he focussed all his attention on his poor companions who did not possess worldly wealth but were sincere believers. This has been a common practice of the prophets. In the beginning, they would try to warn and to enlist the support of the influential people in their community. However, when they realised that these arrogant and heedless people were not willing to change, they left them alone and concentrated on the destitute companions who had responded to their call.

This verse shows, on the one hand, the Prophet's zeal to convey the message, and on the other, it also shows the firmness of his resolve and unshakeable faith in Allah that makes him independent of any need for others' help or company. Looked at closely, implied in this clarion call also is the message: Indeed, I have taken the path to my Sustainer. Let those who have the will and the courage, come and join me in treading this hazardous path. This decisiveness and determination of the Prophet can infuse even the dead with life. Those who are morally alive are awakened by this call that makes them restless and all the more eager for guidance.

In response to Prophet Jesus' call, Man ansari ila Allah, (who will be my helpers in Allah's cause?), his disciples unhesitatingly declared, "Nahnu ansarullah - We are Allah's helpers." In the statement of Prophet Jesus, the particle ila indicates the distance that had to be traversed to reach the final destination. And that was precisely what he, as a caller to Allah, had to do: to inform them about the hardships of the path and the distance that they had to travel. The disciples in their burning fervour, as it were, seem to have reached the final goal, indeed truly befitting the intensity and depth of the state of their faith or iman and of their islam, or obedience to Allah.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life


Islamic discourses on the nature, and function of dogs are representative of a range of tensions regarding the roles of history, mythology, rationality, and modernity in Islam. In fact, the debates surrounding the avowed impurity of dogs, and the lawfulness of possessing or living with these animals were one of the main issues symbolizing the challenging dynamic between the revealed religious law, and the state of creation or nature.

According to one tradition attributed to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, black dogs are evil, or even devils, in animal form [Musnad] Although this report did reflect a part of pre-Islamic Arab mythology, it had a limited impact upon Islamic law. The vast majority of Muslim jurists considered this particular tradition to be falsely attributed to the Prophet, and therefore, apocryphal. Nevertheless, much of the Islamic discourse focused on a Prophetic report instructing that if a dog, regardless of the color, licks a container, the container must be washed seven times, with the sprinkling of dust [Muslim] in one of the washings. Different versions of the same report specify that the container be washed once, three, or five times, or omit the reference to the sprinkling of dust. The essential point conveyed in these reports is that dogs are impure animals, or, at least, that their saliva is a contaminant that voids a Muslim's ritual purity.

Despite the attribution to the Prophet of a large number of traditions hostile to dogs, for a variety of reasons, many pre-modern Muslim scholars challenged this orientation. 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 [Muslim]. Other reports indicated that the Prophet prayed while a dog played in the vicinity [Muslim]. In addition, there is considerable historical evidence that dogs roamed freely in Medina and even entered the Prophet's mosque [Fath al Bari]. A particularly interesting tradition attributed to the Prophet asserted that a prostitute, and in some versions, a sinning man, secured their places in Heaven by saving the life of a dog dying of thirst in the desert [Fath al Bari].

As to the issue of purity, the main point of contention was as to whether there is a rational basis for the command to wash a container if touched or licked by a dog [Bidayat al-Mujtahid]. The majority of jurists held that there is no rational basis for this command, and that dogs, like pigs, must be considered impure simply as a matter of deference to the religious text. A sizeable number of jurists, however, disagreed with this position. 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.

In the contemporary Muslim world, dog ownership is common only among Bedouins, law enforcement, and the Westernized higher classes. As a matter of fact, it is rather striking that, to a very large extent, modern Muslims are unaware of the pre-modern juristic determinations that vindicated the purity of dogs. Nevertheless, this in itself is a measure of the ambiguous fortunes of the dynamics between Islamic law and nature in modernity. In the pre-modern age, Islamic law evolved in near proportion to the advances achieved in the human knowledge of nature. But as the institutions of Islamic law were deconstructed by European Colonialism, and with the rise of puritanical movements in contemporary Islam, Islamic jurisprudence has ceased to be a forum for creative thinking or dynamic interactions with the vastness of nature.

Compiled From:
"Dogs in the Islamic Tradition and Nature" - Khaled Abou El Fadl



Whatever of Allah's blessings you receive - His forgiveness, His rewards, His pleasure, and eternal comfort - all will be by dint of your own effort. You will receive these because of your actions. This will be the reward of your own striving. Life is the most precious thing of all. Assume full responsibility for it. Just as a shopkeeper tends his store, a businessman takes care of his trade, or a farmer carefully looks after his farm, you too should take the reins of your life in your hands. So, do open and close the shop at the right times, settle the accounts on a daily basis, and tend to your farm. When you strive to set yourself and your life right, when the desire to succeed here and in the Hereafter overwhelms you, Allah will keep on opening new avenues of growth and progress for you.

Allah only wants two things from you: one, determination, and second, effort and struggle, both accompanied with the purity of iman. After that, you will find nothing lacking in His patronage and reward. Always be wary of your actions. Adopt khushu (submissiveness and humility) towards Allah, He Who is Merciful and Compassionate. Have faith in His Grace and Mercy and in the truthfulness of His promises. Associate all your hopes with Allah. Call upon Him with fear and good expectation.

Compiled From:
"Dying and Living for Allah" - Khurram Murad