In ‘touch a dog’ issue, scholars see modernisation of Muslim youth

In ‘touch a dog’ issue, scholars see modernisation of Muslim youth

The recent “touch a dog” event in Selangor is a sign of changing times for Muslims in Malaysia, as youth exposed to a variety of religious reading materials begin to move beyond the traditional practices of their forefathers, Muslim scholars said.

The challenge now is for religious authorities to deal with the modernisation of Malaysian Muslims, said former Perlis mufti Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who believes the backlash against Sunday’s programme had worsened the situation.

He said critics of the “I want to touch a dog event” had reacted too emotionally and created a mountain out of a molehill.

“This is the problem with some Muslims, how do we deal with the modernising landscape? We cannot manage it as if we were from the dark ages. We must handle these modern changes in a mature manner,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“We should not present Islam as an extremist religion, and keep fighting one another. We are not the Taliban.”

He dismissed claims from some clerics that the programme would eventually encourage premarital sex and was an insult to Islam.

“People are just being too emotional, when in fact this is a small issue and can be resolved easily.”

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) is now probing into the event’s organisers, saying that the programme should not have been held as it contravened the Shafie school of jurisprudence, which views dogs as unclean.

But International Islamic University Malaysia (UIA) lecturer Dr Maszlee Malik said Muslim youth were no longer confining themselves to Shafie’s teachings and were now opening themselves up to the various branches of Islam practised worldwide.

“Muslim youth are now exposed to the other schools of jurisprudence through books, the media and the Internet.

“They are exposed to the fatwa by clerics from the Maliki school of jurisprudence which does not view dogs as unclean and does not prohibit touching dogs,” Maszlee told The Malaysian Insider.

There are four schools of jurisprudence among Sunni Muslims: Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi and Shafie. All four schools are accepted among Sunni Muslims as being within the confines of Islam.

However, Malaysian Muslims traditionally follow the Shafie school of jurisprudence, which has a stricter view of dogs.

Jakim also recently declared Shafiie as being the “official” school of jurisprudence in Malaysia.

Despite this, Asri said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that Muslims were free to switch between schools.

Citing Syrian scholar Wahba Zuhayli, he said people were encouraged to follow any of the four jurists and that it was not compulsory to commit to just one school of jurisprudence.

Maszlee said the Maliki school of jurisprudence was gaining traction among Muslim youth here.

“The flood of international, English-speaking Muslim scholars who have mastered a variety of schools of jurisprudence and Islamic knowledge in the media appear to have convinced the urban youth.

“Their tolerance and wisdom have won over the youth, who find that the Maliki teachings they bring appealing,” said Maszlee.

Asri told The Malaysian Insider that even if Malaysian Muslims wished to adhere to Shafiie’s view on dogs, critics of the “I want to touch a dog” were still guilty of double standard.

He said many of Shafiie’s teachings were openly violated in Malaysia, yet the authorities did not blink an eye.

“If we want to stand by the Shafie school of jurisprudence, many of his teachings are contravened in Malaysia. For example, Shafie does not allow men and women (who are not related by blood or marriage) to shake hands.

“Yet, all the male and female leaders shake hands with one another and no one makes a fuss about it being an insult to the Shafie school of jurisprudence.”

Muslim preacher and former PAS Selangor Ulama committee member Wan Ji Wan Husin said it was shallow of some quarters to say that the “I want to touch a dog” event was part of a “liberal and plural” agenda.

“It is shallow to say that because Imam Abd Al-Bar issued a fatwa saying it was only makruh (disliked, but permitted) to keep dogs (simply as pets or companions) and he is neither a plural or liberal figure.

“I notice that criticism towards the programme is not based on knowledge, but on long, deeply rooted sentiments (among Malaysians) that dogs are disgusting creatures.”

Wan Ji said society must be educated on the laws pertaining to touching and keeping dogs so that they understand the issue better.

“The Quran makes it clear that dogs can be used for hunting, with the hadith (prophetic traditions) stating that dogs can be kept to protect you and your livestock.” – October 23, 2014.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting