If found this feature story –dateline July 31, Saudia Arabia– enlightening (courtesy www.arabnews.com). I will avoid travelling there until my own status is clarified. Given my mystery-solving work I would hopefully be classified as a “working dog” under the new rules.
JEDDAH: The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice began enforcing a ban on the sale and escorting of cats and dogs in public places in Riyadh yesterday, a local newspaper reported.
Prince Sattam, acting governor of Riyadh province, issued a decision prohibiting the sale and escorting of cats and dogs in Riyadh in line with a fatwa issued by the Council of Senior Scholars.
The Makkah governorate in August 2006, acting on a request from the commission, prohibited the sale of pet cats and dogs.
The commission made the request after receiving several complaints that many Saudi youths, influenced by the Western culture, brought their pets into public places and caused distress to families with young children.
“The ban was based on the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying that it’s forbidden to give or accept any money related to the selling or buying of dogs,” said Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, head of the commission in Makkah province.
“It’s also prohibited to keep a dog inside home. A dog can be owned for purposes of hunting, police duties, guarding houses and property, and by farmers for herding cattle and sheep,” he added.
But how will people find dogs that can be used for security or hunting purposes? “Like they used to in the old days,” said Al-Ghamdi after a pause.
Laith, a 25-year old pet owner, said he bought a new cat two days ago at a famous pet store in Jeddah. “Nothing has changed. All pet stores are still selling cats and dogs. It’s just one of those regulations that are issued, yet never implemented,” he said.
Muslims are discouraged from keeping dogs inside their homes because they are not considered clean animals. However, in two separate Hadiths narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), which means the cat-loving companion, the Prophet (pbuh) told his companions of the virtue of saving the life of a dog by quenching its thirst.
He referred to a man whom Allah blessed for giving water to a thirsty dog. And the other was a prostitute who filled her shoe with water and gave it to a thirsty dog. For this deed she was granted the eternal paradise.
Nuha, a 34-year-old pet owner, said that the Qur’an while narrating the story of the People of the Cave mentions that they owned a dog.
“The Qur’an narrates in Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave) the story of some pious youths who took refuge in a cave. These people had a dog with them, and the fact that Allah mentions the dog and counts the dog among them, indicates that dogs are permitted to live among people,” said Nuha, who owns four cats and two hamsters.
Nuha was referring to the verse: “And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep. And We turned them on their right and on their left sides, and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance (of the cave as a guard).” (Holy Qur’an 18.18)
When the ban was first issued, Abeer Mishkhas, a Saudi columnist, wrote how the streets of Jeddah are full of stray cats, which are regularly run over.
“It’s interesting to note that the municipality has failed to protect animals on the streets of Jeddah as well as in the zoo. … I wonder if the officials have considered taking these stray animals to municipality-funded shelters to save their lives? No, it seems that the danger to our ‘culture and tradition’ comes from dogs and cats inside houses. Those outside are outside any rules and regulations,” Mishkhas said in her article.