"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pet Owners, Read This (Some more of that fine old Islamic thinking)


We have all run across instances that illustrate the breathtakingly micromanagerial ends that Islam goes to in order to take up the time of its members. If they can be preoccupied with concerns such as these, at levels such as this (you ought to see the one about the proper way to trim your nails--I'm not kidding!), then they don't have the time to "rock the boat" by asking more penetrating questions.

Well, here is another illustration from an informative (and amusing) "Ask the Expert" sort of site where Muslims can go for avice with their most pressing issues. The site is .

The questioner is a Muslim from a non-Muslim family that has a pet dog. Muslims, I'm sure you know, hate dogs (among so many other things). I've done a teensy-weensy bit of editing to make it a little easier to read, so if you want to read the original, I've given the address above.


". . . one difficultly is regarding dog hair. My family keeps the dog confined to only certain areas in the home and keeps him out all day when we are around. They are very respectful of our practices. However, the dog sheds hair almost all year round. Almost everywhere you go, you will find the dog's hair. My mother vacums the house every day to try to keep it under control. Many times I will find dog hair on my clothing and also this dog hair has definitely (with yaqin) entered the washing machine which I use when I am there. Dog hair or any hair from an animal (that cannot be eaten) is impure when separated from the creature. I remember you mentioned checking yourself for cat hair before prayer. Can I pray with a small amount of dry dog hair on my person if it cannot be seen (with the eye) from a distance. Am I excused for all the filth of dogs that cannot be seen even with close inspection, that is invisible filth? (These questions present more difficultly then simply saliva because saliva is relatively easy to avoid and wash if the dispensation of substitution is apllied.)

My family's washing machine has been contaminated (with yaqin) with both dog saliva and wet hair. If I wash my clothes in this machine, do they then become contaminated or does the washing with detergent (according to the substitution position) make the machine pure?

Dog hair does not remain in the washing machine and I don't find it in the machine when I go to wash my clothing. However, dog hair and saliva have definitely been on my family's clothing and then they have washed it in the washing machine. No traces of saliva or hair remain. Is the washing machine pure from the ibdal position (because they are washing the clothing with soap and washing it in the machine)?


Some sensible measures you can take before Salat (in logical steps): (1) use a different garment to pray (like the Malays like to do, changing their still clean garments into their 'sarong', etc. everytime before prayer - even in mosques - that is why we have changing rooms in most Malaysian + Indonesian mosques); (2) use a sajjada; at this point there might not be anymore dog hair remaining but you should still try to (3) remove as much as humanly possible any dog hair from your body and clothes (and if there are still a small amount of impurities remaining that missed your notice after this point (even if they are visible), then the remaining impurities - since it is a great difficulty to remove all of it - are excused [maf'uw]). Remember that dog hair when it is dry, is only impure in itself (i.e., its 'ayn) and it does not make other things impure. If after checking your clothing and your body and then you proceeded to pray but then later you find a few hairs remaining on you or on your clothing or on your immediate place of prayer, then your prayer is still valid. This is because the remaining hair is considered to be athar najasa [traces of impurity] that are difficult to remove and these athar najasa are therefore excused, in the same way as when a small amount of blood for example, if found on you, is excused. (There is tafsil in this ruling. The original fiqh ruling is in fact, dog hair, even if a little (meaning even one hair) is not excused (due to the severity of this type of impurity, the Mughallaza), but in your very unique case ['udhr nadir; or literally, rare excuse], after taking all of the above necessary and other possible precautions that humans could, if dog hair are still found (and there is no more choice or way around it because it is beyond what humans are accustomed to bear), then this is considered a Darura [necessity], and necessity excuses one from the rule to the degree demanded by necessity. Once considered a Darura situation, there are two positions in our school. The less-than-the-standard fiqhi position is one does not need to repeat the prayer: in this Darura situation (for which one is allowed to pray even in a state of Najasa (for dog hair is not maf'uw) and the prayer is valid and one does not sin), know that you will be following the alternative position [Qawl Marjuh] (which is actually the Qawl Qadim [the Early Position] of our Imam). The alternative to following this alternative position (namely following the Qawl Azhar) would mean that you have to [Wajib] keep on repeating that same prayer until you stop discovering dog hair during the course of your prayer. Of course, this applies only when that dog hair discovered immediately after the prayer is, with yaqin, there during the course of the whole prayer. If there is the slightest doubt or thought that the dog hair came about (such as being blown by the wind - hubub al-rih and the like) after the prayer is finished, or there is some delay in the discovery of that hair after the taslim or that it could still be some other hair, then there is no need to follow the weak position of our school, since there is no question of the validity of the prayer in the first place and the possibility of you continuously repeating your prayer does not arise. There is a second way out of this dilemma (for which its legal basis ['illa] is in fact, an extension of that first position, but with the added difference that you repeat the prayer at a later time), and this is the more precautionary opinion, the Ihtiyat (and it is better to follow this one, since one will not in the end follow the alternative position, and our later Imams agree on this one and also, it is the way of Ihsan). Again, if you find yourself in this Darura situation, then you can pray even in a state of Najasa, but you must [Wajib] make up the prayer (but not because that prayer was invalid) at a later time (when you are no longer in that Darura situation, such as when you depart from your mother's house to go the mosque or some other place), whereas the prayer performed while in Darura and during that rare excuse is what is known in our school as the Salat li-Hurma al-Waqt, or the prayer, however incomplete (its pre-conditions), is nevertheless performed in deference to the Prayer Time (in case that if you were to die before the repeat or i'ada of that prayer, then you will be free from any blame for missing that prayer). (If you do this, then you have to be aware that you are praying the Salat li-Hurma al-Waqt and intending it as such during the niyya of that prayer--just like for the prayer performed in a place where there is normally water but you have to make Tayammum or the Fard Salat on the train and the like.) Again, if there is the slightest doubt that it is not dog hair (ask yourself please, how can you be so sure that this is dog hair: could it not be from the sajjada perhaps)? I cannot make this more clearer than to say that as a rule, if there is the slightest doubt whether the hair is pure or impure, then it must be deemed pure because of al-Aslu 'Adamu.)

Since the washing machine is - as you say, with yaqin - contaminated by the Mughallaza, then it would be better for you to do the laundry at another place (for even if the other place is also contaminated with Mughallaza but you do not know of that fact and therefore have no yaqin knowledge of it). I know this is unusual but unfortunately even if you take the takhfif of ibdal and use soap, dog hair will still be around. And since you are certain that it is dog hair that remains in the machine, then it becomes Mughallaza every time it is moist and wet. Clearly if this is the case, there is great hardship. This is a good illustration of what I have said regarding the act of judging whether there is Mughallaza or not in the first place with yaqin, is the one that is going to make a difference between whether it is going to be 'easy' or not for you.

Now an equally good illustration of our scholars going at length to uphold the rule of judging things by its al-asl (and that originally it is pure) is that their immediate and automatic response upon seeing hair in the machine is they will not consider it dog hair with yaqin since there is the possibility that it may be some other animal hair or even human hair despite however unlikely (but not impossible) this might be; the point being: the possibility of it being non-Mughallaza exists. They will try to give every excuse that it is pure in the first place as in the case of the dog and the container. However, if you have already reached the state of certainty (presumably by inferring for example that the colour of the dog's fur is brown and you find brown hair in the machine even when you do not physically see the dog's brown hair going into the machine (technically, there is still room for doubt to arise here) and there is nothing we can do to change your mind about this, is there?) that it is dog hair, then you have to treat it as such (however, if you begin to doubt yourself, then this is an indication that it is not knowledge based on yaqin but zann which is, by definition, the element that you know is more or higher than the element you do not know (while for yaqin, there is no element that you do not know) - but if no doubt comes to you, then it is Mughallaza). Well, it is your own personal ijtihad [i.e, the judgement or decision you make] in deciding whether the hair found is dog hair. In any case, doing your laundry at another place is still the safest option.

Now, if on the other hand, dog hair does not remain in the washing machine but dog hair and dog saliva for example, have contaminated your family's clothing after which they have washed it in the washing machine using soaps and detergents (and there are no traces of dog hair in the machine - as far as you are able to tell), then if you have to follow the ibdal position, the area affected by the impurity [mahall mutanajjis] becomes pure. It follows from this that the washing machine is also pure and is not contaminated by the Mughallaza.

Anyway, I can now see the hikma of why when we were children, we have always been discouraged by our teachers from investigating a matter further into hair-splitting detail (you don't say!) for fear of finding some sabab or cause for great hardship. As the wisdom of the Prophetic Sunna goes: yasiru wa la-tu'asiru [when it is easy don't make it harder].
May this help, and only Allah and His Messenger know the best ruling.

Your poor brother,

Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti


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