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Dog Days

We live in a western compound in Riyadh. Among the differences from the world outside is that here there are pet dogs aplenty. And that includes our own wee dog which was obtained from the unofficial rescue people over 6 years ago. Dogs, to Saudis, are not a normal pet as they are regarded as slightly unclean in their culture. This is not like the situation with pigs, which – according to my research – are the only animals named and expressly forbidden in the holy Qu’ran. A further research online as to why dogs are regarded unclean revealed a surprisingly wide range of opinion from scholars and lay people. As with so many things it comes down to interpretation of the intention behind the edicts. A particularly helpful guide to things Islamic is the website “” which runs an Islam Question and Answer page. Here you can read the opinions of Islamic scholars. I quote below part of its answer concerning whether dogs are unclean or not…

“There is scholarly consensus on the purity of some animals and the impurity of others, and there are some concerning which there is a difference of scholarly opinion.

Animals whose flesh may be eaten are pure according to scholarly consensus. That includes the an‘am animals (camels, cattle and sheep). That also includes birds which may be eaten, such as pigeons and geese, and also sea creatures such as fish of various types, except for a few concerning which there is a difference of scholarly opinion, such as crocodiles. Those scholars who think that it is permissible to eat them also regard them as pure.

As for animals whose flesh may not be eaten, such as predators and domesticated donkeys, there is a difference of scholarly opinion as to whether they are pure or impure.

Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) discussed the issue of animals and whether they are pure or impure, and the types concerning which there is scholarly consensus and those concerning which there is a difference of scholarly opinion, in a very smart way. There follows a summary of what he said.

He (may Allah have mercy on him) said: With regard to leftover water and animals there are two categories: impure and pure.

Those which are impure are of two types: the first type is that which is impure according to all scholars, namely dogs and pigs, and that which is born from both of them or one of them. They are impure in and of themselves, and their leftover drink and anything that comes out of them is also impure. That was narrated from ‘Urwah and it is the view of ash-Shafa‘i and Abu ‘Ubayd, and it is the view of Abu Hanifah regarding leftover water in particular.

However, Malik, al-Awza‘i and Dawud said: Their leftover water is pure, and it may be used for wudu’ and drunk. If they eat from some food, it does not become haram to eat it.

The second type are those concerning which there was a difference of scholarly opinion [as to whether they are impure]. This type includes all predators, except cats and creatures that are smaller than cats. It also includes birds of prey, donkeys and mules. It was narrated from Ahmad that their leftover water is impure, and if nothing else can be found, one should do tayammum and not use it for wudu’. It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that he regarded the leftover water of donkeys as disliked (makruh). This is also the view of al-Hasan, Ibn Sirin, ash-Sha‘bi, al-Awza‘i, Hammad and Ishaq.”

Even so, I know several Saudis who own pet dogs, and whenever I am at the vets with our wee dog there are usually some Saudi families with their dogs there too. These tend to be completely inappropriate breeds such as huskies, but that's another rant. And on the rare occasions we are outside the compound with Belle, she is a real attraction. I have seen cars screech to a halt along side us and children - rarely restrained by seatbelts and bouncing around in the front seat or even on the driver's lap (yet another rant) - hang out of the windows and want to see the dog close-up.

Why am I looking into this? Well, recently I was walking in the compound with Belle on a lead (as is required) and I met a friend who had his dog with him too, also on a lead. Something happened between the two dogs, and a fight ensued. As we pulled them apart, my friend’s dog took exception to that and bit my leg. Although a flesh wound it was quite substantial and there were a couple of deep scratches in my calf. I returned back to our house and Elaine had a look at it and recommended a visit to a local hospital to get it seen to properly.

So, into the car and off to our nearest hospital that has an Emergency Department. As mentioned previously, the hospitals are private but we have health insurance provided by my employer. There is a however a small excess payment for each treatment. The process went as follows:

Step 1 – Registration. Checked in at the first desk where my health insurance was verified, which is also cross-indexed with my Iqama (residency) number and phone number. I had to pay the insurance excess amount of 35 SAR for the consultation. I was then told to sit until a triage nurse saw me.

Step 2 – Triage nurse. An efficient Filipino who asked what treatment was needed. I showed her the bite marks. When I explained it was from a dog she became a little apprehensive and explained that her hospital did not carry anti-rabies treatment, I would have to go to a Government hospital for that. However, my friend had assured me that his dog was fully vaccinated from rabies, so I confirmed that was not necessary, and an anti-tetanus booster would do. But firstly my weight and blood pressure were taken. Once this was done I was asked to wait for the doctor.

Step 3 – Doctor. A nice Syrian lady doctor who spoke impeccable English looked at the wound and cleaned it out with antiseptics, and prescribed the anti-tetanus jag and antibiotics. Another nurse then bandaged up the calf and administered the injection. I was then sent to the reception.

Step 4 – Reception. Back again and this time I was charged a further 11 SAR for the treatment rendered, and was told to go to the pharmacy to collect my antibiotics.

Step 5 – After a short wait at the pharmacy I was issued with my medicine, charged a further 16 SAR and sent on my way.

The whole process from walking in had taken less than 45 minutes, and was relatively stress-free. That said, it was a Friday morning when few of our Saudi compatriots were out and about. The frequent payment of small amounts was a bit tedious, I would rather have paid it all in one lump (62 SAR = £13), but that seems to be the system, and it is not unique to that particular hospital. I don’t know whet happens if a real emergency occurs and someone is brought in unconscious or in need of immediate treatment. And I don’t want to find out either, thank you. However, it is churlish to grumble about small things like that, because if I had been in the UK I could have had to wait for many hours at our local A&E to be seen.

When I next saw my friend he was still mortified by the fact his dog had bitten me, but these things happen when you get between fighting animals. But at least the dogs were uninjured, a trip to the vets would have been far more expensive!

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