Seeing-Eye Dog Allowed in UK Mosque

Feel-good story from December 2007. From the Times Online.

A RETRIEVER is in training to become the first dog in Britain to be permitted to enter a mosque, acting as a guide for its blind Muslim owner.

Keeping pet dogs is considered “haram” (the Arabic word for “forbidden”) in Islamic teaching, because they are regarded as unclean, particularly their saliva.

The mosque took its decision after advice from imams and scholars at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), who carried out a full review of Islamic teaching on dogs.

The animal is now being trained by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to curb its natural friendly instinct to jump up and lick people. Any worshipper who touched the dog’s nose, or whose clothes were touched by saliva, would have to wash straightaway.

The retriever is being taught to sit in a purpose-built kennel outside the prayer hall of the mosque and wait for its owner, Mahomed Khatri, 17, to come out after worship.

Khatri is being trained to handle the dog, which will enable him to worship more often at the Al Falah. He is expected to pay his first visit with the dog early next year.

And from this Danish-based online news site:

“To tackle the inevitable issue of a Muslim owned guide dog we engaged in conferences with relevant agencies, imams and mosques in Leicester to learn, raise awareness and tackle the issue,” Imam Ibrahim Mogra, chair of the interfaith committee at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told IslamOnline.net.

Imam Mogra said the MCB, the umbrella organization of Britain’s two million Muslims, carried out a full review of the Shari`ah ruling on keeping dogs.

“It is correct to say that the saliva of a dog is regarded impure,” he noted.

“In this case the guide dogs are highly trained. A lot of money is invested in their training and these animals are very disciplined, and highly unlikely to jump on people, sniff them unnecessarily or lick their faces, or any other parts of a person’s body.”

A retriever salivates less than other dogs and thus reduces of the risk of flicking spittle onto worshippers.

MCB leaders saw tackling the issue of guide dogs as urgent, given recent incidents in which Muslim restaurant owners and taxi drivers refused customers with guide dogs.

“We initially got in touch with national guide dog associations after controversies highlighted in the media, surrounding the reluctance of taxi drivers to allow guide dogs into their vehicles,” said imam Mogra.

In June, Sallahaddin Abdullah was fined £200 in Cambridge after refusing to allow a blind couple into his taxi because they had a guide dog.

The MCB then issued a ruling saying British Muslims should allow guide dogs to enter restaurants and taxis.

Mogra affirmed that Shari`ah does not preclude being around guide dogs, and it is actually an Islamic duty to help the visually impaired.

Al-Falah Mosque congregants welcomed allowing Khatri’s guide dog into their mosque.

“I am not bothered in the slightest,” Sulaiman Patel, a regular worshipper at the mosque, told IOL.

Patel insists that the blind Muslim teen should receive every possible support to help him pray at the mosque.

“I can’t see any arguments against it,” added the 26-year-old bakery manager.

“I’m very proud that my mosque is leading on this.”

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Filed under animals, Islamic relations

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