Meeooww – Cats in Islam
The domestic cat (Felis catus) is a carnivorous mammal and one that has been a companion for mankind for ages. Apart from keeping us company, cats also help to eradicate rodents and dangerous insects in the home. A solitary hunter, the cat is now the most popular pet in the world. In Islam, the cat has a dignified place and this was exemplified by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). To understand the special position of cats in Islam, it is important to look at the way the Prophet (SAW) dealt with cats. In doing so, we talk of Muezza.
For the uninitiated, Muezza is the favorite cat of the Prophet (SAW) and he treated the cat with all sense of care, mercy and affection. Still in the same line, we are reminded of the fact that one of the companions was nicknamed Abu Hurayrah which can be loosely translated to mean ‘father of kittens’ as he was quite fond of them, just like the Prophet (SAW).
It will interest you to know that the word cat was derived from the Arabic word ‘qit’ and a small cat is called ‘hurayrah’. All the acts of kindness towards cats as displayed by the Prophet (SAW) and his Companions should not come as a surprise as the Prophet (SAW) taught all Muslims that mercy to animals is part of faith.
It is in the light of this that the Prophet (SAW) treated cats with kindness and mercy, with the same applying to other animals as well. At this point it becomes imperative to mention some of the hadiths that reflected the Prophet (SAW) teachings on cats. According to a hadith narrated by ‘Abdullah bin Umar (RA):
Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, ‘A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.’ Allah’s Apostle (SAW) further said ‘(Allah knows better) Allah said (to the woman), you neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the earth.’ –Buhari, Volume 3, Book 40, Number 553.
In another narration by ‘Aisha (RA), Ummul Mu’minin, the Prophet (SAW) talked about the purity of the cats:[box_light]Dawood ibn Salih ibn Dinar at-Tammar quoted his mother saying that her mistress sent her with some pudding (harisah) to ‘Aisha (RA) who was offering prayer. She made a sign to me to place it down. A cat came and ate some of it, but when ‘Aisha finished her prayer; she ate from the place where the cat had eaten. She stated: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: It is not unclean; it is one of those who go around among you (al-tawafeena ‘alaykum). She added: I saw the Messenger of Allah (SAW) performing ablution from the water left over by the cat. –Muslim[/box_light] [pullquote_left]”It (the cat) is not unclean; it is one of those who go around among you (al-tawafeena ‘alaykum)”[/pullquote_left]
And another narration by Asma’ bint Abi Bakr goes thus:[box_light]The Prophet (SAW) prayed the eclipse prayer, and then said, ‘Hell was displayed so close that I said: O my Lord! Am I going to be one of its inhabitants?’ Suddenly he saw a woman. I think he said, who was being scratched by a cat. He said, ‘What is wrong with her?’ He was told, ‘She had imprisoned the cat till it died of hunger.’ – Buhari, Volume 3, Book 40, Number 552.[/box_light]
All the hadiths that have been quoted in the earlier sections clearly demonstrated the love and affection that the Prophet (SAW) showed towards the cats and this is surely in tandem with his teachings on being kind to all the living creatures of Allah (SWT). In the modern society of the 21st century, one issue that keeps coming up concerning the cats is buying and selling them. What is perspective and viewpoint of Islamic teachings on the purchase and sale of cats? This will be dealt with in the following sections.[pullquote_right]‘A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.’ [/pullquote_right]
In an overview, the Prophet (SAW) explicitly forbade the buying or selling of cats for money or other traded goods. So, trading in cats is not allowed in Islam. However, cats can be given out or received as gifts. As a matter of fact, giving gifts to your fellow brothers and sisters in Islam is highly encouraged. To clarify the issue of non-trading in cats, in a hadith collected by Dawood and narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah (RA) he said: The Prophet (SAW) forbade payment for cat.
After thrashing out the issue of selling these domesticated felines, we move on to the act and practice of keeping cats in the home. Is this an act that is condoned? And if it is, what is the implication of praying in a cloth that has cat fur on it?
Cats as Pets
Keeping cats at home and taking care of them is very much allowed in Islam, as exemplified by the Prophet (SAW) and Abu Hurayrah. Cats belong to the category of permissible things, and can be kept in the home as long as they are not stolen, bought or acquired via a haram way. But if you fear that the cat will transmit diseases or you fear you will not be able to take care of them, then it is not obligatory on you to keep them. And for those that keep the cats, it is important not to do so in an extravagant or ostentatious manner.
Concerning the issue of fur on the cloth and praying with it, the Shafi’i madhaab believes that the fur on the cat is not impure but the separated or shed hair is (Maqasid, 11). And a vast majority of the cats shed hair regularly. As long as an unslaughtered dead cat is filthy, any part of it that is shed while alive is also considered impure as well. However, the general ruling is that any visible cat hair or fur should be brushed and very small amounts are not considered to nullify the prayer.
For a more detailed explanation, here’s what we found at SunniPath:
Question: If cats (alive) are not filthy, why is cat hair? Cats are known to shed; it is extremely difficult to own a cat that doesn’t. Since we are allowed to own cats, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, how can their hair be filth?
If cats (alive) are not filthy, why is cat hair?
Cat hair in general is not filth; rather, separated cat hair, in particular, is filth. Separated cat hair is filth because, A body part separated from a living being is considered (n: in respect to being filth or not) like the unslaughtered dead of that animal, except for the hair of those animals that Muslims may eat after slaughtering (n: i.e. such hair is pure) (Maqasid, 11). Since unslaughtered dead cats are filth, any part separated from a cat while the cat is alive is also filth, just as its unslaughtered dead is.
Cats are known to shed, it is extremely difficult to own a cat that doesn’t. Since we are allowed to own cats, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, how can their hair be filth?
You mean that given these premises, (separated) cat hair cannot be filth and must be pure. This argument needs a second look. The argument does not imply that cat hair cannot be filth; rather, it hints at the issue that when filth is normally a hardship to avoid, it becomes excusable. This issue will be discussed after taking a look at the problem with the above argument. The following application of the above argument should show the problem with it:
a) Babies are known to vomit, it is extremely difficult to have a baby that doesn’t. Since we are allowed to have babies, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, baby vomit must be pure.
b) Marital relations are known to produce pre-ejaculate (madhy),it is extremely difficult to have marital relations without its production. Since we are allowed to have marital relations, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, pre-ejaculate must be pure.
The difficulty of avoiding such filths does not make them any less filth. What it does do, though, is make certain amounts of them excused, given certain conditions.
There is a general principle that whatever [filth] is normally a hardship to avoid is excused. That is the general principle; as for its application, the imams of the school have dedicated whole texts to it (e.g. the poem of Ibn `Imad, plus its commentary by Ahmad Ramli, plus the supercommentary by Rashidi and glosses by Sulaiman Jamal; also ad-Durrat al-Muntadarah by Shurunbulali). Many examples of excused filth are usually included in the general texts, as well (e.g. Reliance, f4.3-4.4).
Amongst excused filths are 1) a small amount of hair that is filth (such as cat hair) (Mufid al-`Awamm, 67), 2) a child’s filthified mouth when it touches something (such as when the child puts a toy in his mouth after having vomitted and not had his mouth rinsed out) (Mufid al-`Awamm, 68), and 3) pre-ejaculate for whom it is a problem, or if washing it away before intercourse causes one’s desire to subside (Fath al-`Allam, 1:327 (Dar Ibn Hazm)).
It should now be clear that the hair separated from a live cat is filth, but since a small amount of it is normally a hardship to avoid, a small amount of it on one’s person during prayer is excused.
Practical measures for someone with a cat are to simply brush oneself off (to remove cat hair that is a large amount, the small amount that may remain being excused), lay out a prayer mat (to avoid a large amount of cat hair on the carpet, if there is), and pray.
And Allah knows best.
Scholars have different opinions on the hukum of selling cats. Based on the narrated hadith by Imam Muslim, Abu Zubayr who said: I asked Jaabir about the price of dogs and cats. He said, The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade that.
The opinion of most scholars are, the cat is ‘Harus’ to be sold. They see the forbidden in the hadith is a ‘Makruh tanzih’. But some scholars opinion said that it is Haram.