|photo taken from Syed Azmi's facebook|
I would like to congratulate and thank Syed Azmi for organizing the “I want to touch a dog” campaign. His effort to bring fellow Muslims to get to know and not fear dogs is timely. I have written about the subject in my book, The Quran and I. In the sixth chapter, I shared about Pedro. I append the story below.
I hope the religious authorities will see his effort positively and encourage more such campaigns. You can see the happiness Muslims share during that event, both young and old.
I know Syed Azmi and he is one of those rare good hearted people who have chosen to spread joy and happiness in the world. This event is just one of his initiatives. Syed Azmi wants us to remember a very important reason why the Quran was sent to us,
“We did not bestow the Qur'an on thee from on high to make thee unhappy” – Quran 20:2
Thank you and Salam Syed Azmi,
Pedro was my first canine friend. Not that I did not have any experiences with dogs before Pedro, but he made a real impact on my life. He changed my entire framework about man’s best friend. I was 16 when I knew Pedro.
Growing up in a Muslim home, we were taught to fear and loath dogs. Most of us did not want anything to do with them. In fact, many if not the majority grew up totally terrified of them. We were taught to hate this beautiful God’s creation. This is an irony because they are ‘man’s best friends’. They help us guard our house, tend our sheep, catch baddies, sniff out drugs, assist the blind to ‘see’, help in search and rescue operations and they keep us company.
Most adult Malay-Muslims cannot give a real reason as to why we cannot keep dogs. Some say that we cannot touch them when they are wet while others stress on the saliva being filthy. Some say they are filthy in totality.
My Umi’s main worry is that when you have dogs at home, “malaikat tak masuk rumah”. This has become one big stress for Umi and one big irritation for my sister Kak Ani because my sis and family keep dogs – my mom all sad and dramatic about angels not visiting her grandchildren – meaning Satan will run wild in the house!
When I am being a good son, I try very hard to convince my Umi not to worry because the angels are not shallow beings and some canine won’t stop them from caring for little children. I try to persuade her that even without the angels it’s okay because God is always very near to us as the Quran said that,
“NOW, VERILY, it is We who have created man, and We know what his innermost self whispers within him: for We are closer to him than his neck-vein” - Quran 50:16.
And at the heart of it our best protector is God, not the angels,
“Nay, God is your protector, and He is the best of helpers” - Quran 3:150.
But when I am being cheeky I will tell my Umi that, “Kalau tak mau mati, simpan anjing dalam rumah, malaikat maut tak boleh masuk!”. Hehe! But most time I try to be a good son J.
None of all this confusion is Quranic but the misunderstanding push many Malay-Muslims into acting cruelly towards dogs. A Muslim friend of mine who lives in a farm at Janda Baik had his dog catapulted to death with ball-bearings by unhappy neighbors. My friend’s land borders the jungle and keeping a few canines will keep away wild animals like panthers, wild boars, Pig-tailed Macaque, musang, etc. The dogs play an important role in keeping not just his cows, sheep and poultry safe, but also his 7 kids and wife.
It is not unusual that if you are a Muslim and you rear dogs, other Muslims will even question your faith. Sigh ….
The Quran on the other hand says animals; dogs included are a community like us humans.
“There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, or a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” - Quran 6:38
And the Quran tells us to train with our best knowledge other animals like the way we train our dogs, making our connections with dogs as an exemplary behavior,
“They ask you what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which you have trained as hounds are trained, you teach them that which God taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention God's name upon it, and observe your duty to God. Lo! God is swift to take account”. - Quran 5:4
If you are a Malay-Muslim reading this and is still not convinced, there is another story in the Quran about man and his best friend. It’s an account about a few youths whom God had increased in His guidance and gave strength to their hearts and they are friends to canine.
“[And now] We shall truly relate to thee their story: Behold, they were young men who had attained to faith in their Sustainer: and [so] We deepened their consciousness of the right way. - Quran 18:13
“And thou wouldst have thought that they were awake, whereas they lay asleep. And We caused them to turn over repeatedly, now to the right, now to the left; and their dog [lay] on the threshold, its forepaws outstretched. Had thou come upon them [unprepared], thou wouldst surely have turned away from them in flight, and wouldst surely have been filled with awe of them” - Quran 18:18
Here are some canines I knew.
Blackie – Behind my house was a remnant of a Chinese New Village and Blackie was our friend Bok Teik’s dog. Blackie was forever sleeping and yawning and occasionally tried to snap the flies hovering over him with his jaw.
Tohtonku – A dog I knocked with my Honda CupChai C70 as I turned into Mt Erskine from Gottlieb Road. I was thrown off my bike and Tohtonku was growling in pain. His best friend a Chinese boy about 11 years of age rubbed his chest while calling his name “ Tohtonku! Tohtonku! Tohtonku! …” about a minute later the canine was up and running again … phew!!!
Patches and Bright (a combination of Brown and white), two dogs at Nick my buddy’s house in late 70s – early 80s who never bothered anyone.
Brandy –Nick’s current, a blind dog.
Kafula – My sister’s Rhodesian-ridgeback, a huge animal but totally gentle and protective, a friendly breed. My niece Aisha used to drag Kafula by his tail when she was still a toddler and pulled at his ears.
Miri Martina – Another one of my sister’s dog – named after Miri the town they lived in for a couple of years. The friendliest mongrel I have ever known. She is always excited to see you – tail wagging and her body forming a U-shape as she moves nearer and nearer towards you.
Nic – One of the fiercest dogs I ever known who completely cannot get along with me. My friends Mano and Beng named him Nic as per mechanic as he is always sleeping under the car.
Charlie – Mano’s dog which seems to be on heat all year long humping anyone's legs left unguarded.
Ga – Short form for Jaga - A female canine Beng, Peng and I adopted during my final year at MU. We were housemates at TTDI – at that time, there was a movie “Three men and a baby” but in our case it was “Three men and a bitch”.
Michael – Ga’s male companion. We named him Michael to irritate our chief tenant who goes by the same name. I think the dog was insulted.
Change – A mongrel I took care of when I stayed at Pandan Perdana. I named her Change as I really felt that Muslims must change our attitude towards dogs. My friend Mano says that if I ever kept a piglet at home, we will need to name the piglet Revolusi!
I thought I would tell you about Pedro last. Pedro was Jennifer’s dog. They had two - Pedro the male one and Pedrina the female. Jennifer, Kak Ani’s best friend and housemate were living in Jalan Telawi area in late 70s and early 80s. Pedro in all other ways, looks, size, mannerism, etc was like a German Sheppard except that he was completely brown in color, from head to tail. He hardly made any noise or barks. In the mornings when I walked to the bus stand, Pedro would walk alongside me. It was very nice and you felt very safe to have such a canine friend with you. He would sit and wait with me at the bus stop. Occasionally, throwing his melancholic glances at me and if I smiled back he would actually wag his tail a little. He could read your feelings. When I get on the bus, he would wait just a little while looking at me and walked back home as the bus moved.
With all the robberies and attacks in Kuala Lumpur, each one of us can do with a Pedro!
“ VERILY, this Qur'an shows the way to all that is most upright, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that theirs will be a great reward;” – Quran 17:9