9  Hygiene

9.1 Wudhu – Washing before prayer

9.2 Ghusl – Ritual Bathing

9.3 Dogs, Sniffer Dogs and Guide Dogs

9.4 Istinjah – Washing the private parts

9.1       Wudhu – Washing before prayer

Prior to making Salaah or handling the Qur’an, one must have performed ritual washing, known as Wudhu.  This involves washing the hands, mouth, nasal passage, face, forearms, wiping the head, and washing the feet.  This can be achieved in most wash basins, but sometimes only with difficulty, e.g. where timer taps have to be held down, or where taps are very close to the edge of the basin, or are very hot and very cold.  Also non-Muslims are put out by nose-washing and foot washing.  Therefore if an organisation is considering dedicated Salaah facilities e.g. for its Muslim employees, it would be beneficial to provide dedicated Wudhu facilities to complement the Salaah facilities.

Wudhu remains intact until broken by the acts of passing urine, stool or rectal wind, flowing of blood from a cut, sleeping and a few obscurer technicalities.  It then has to be made again before Salaah can be made.  It is also broken along with the general state of ritual cleanliness, Ghusl, by sexual and menstrual discharge, contact with a dog’s saliva, and touching a wet dog’s coat.

9.2       Ghusl – Ritual Bathing

Ghusl means an all-over bath or shower.  By bath is meant a bucket-bath, i.e. in either case, shower or bath, it implies that clean, soap-free water must be run over the whole body and drained.  Soaking in one’s own bathwater is un-Islamic, and revolts most Muslims.  The requirements to complete a Ghusl include the actions of making Wudhu and the washing to the root of every hair.

It is performed as a non-obligatory ‘ceremonial’ act in preparation for Jumu’a and Eid Salaahs.  As noted above, however, Ghusl is an immediate obligation when necessitated by sexual and menstrual discharge (whether or not after intercourse), contact with a dog’s saliva, and touching a wet dog’s coat.

Material items that are similarly contaminated must be cleaned of the physical impurity and then washed three times under clean running water before they can be used.

9.3       Dogs, Sniffer Dogs and Guide Dogs

It can be seen from the requirements of Ghusl above, that Muslims and dogs do not mix well.  When police dogs are used in any kind of intervention involving Muslims, their homes or their masjids, enormous offence and trouble can be caused.  For example the soiling of carpets through contact with dogs, or from even the possibility of dog mess being brought in on shoes, will require large quantities of carpet to be cleaned of the physical impurity and then washed three times under clean running water before they can be used again, or just as likely replaced completely.  This is regardless of how clean the dog is deemed to be per se.

There is no intrinsic difference between a guide dog and any other dog, so Muslims cannot make exception for guide dogs.  There is no conceivable situation involving a blind or visually impaired person with a guide dog in which the dog cannot be left outside Muslim premises and all the needs of the blind person be met by other people.  Indeed being aware of the difficulties, Muslims would invariably feel duty bound to assist.  Problems can arise in the workplace where a blind person with a guide dog is working alongside a Muslim.  This situation requires a clear understanding by colleagues, of the religious obligation on the Muslim to avoid contact with the dog, which would account for the awkward manoeuvrings of the Muslim around the dog.  Of course, guide dogs are invariably well-behaved so the problem is far less acute than that with pet dogs who expect to be petted, a situation which most Muslims would regard with astonishment if they hadn’t already made the cultural adjustment.

Sniffer dogs are in use at airports, trained to detect drugs.  The dog is trained to nuzzle right into a suspect bag.  In situations like this, where dogs are used close to ordinary people and their possessions, some thought is required.  Obviously if a criminal offence is being committed the perpetrator has little to complain about as long as a reasonable procedure is followed.  However since there exists the possibility of a mistake or an innocent explanation or the involvement of an innocent third party or their luggage, the procedure should allow for the dog to be held back once it has indicated some suspicious find, a clear explanation given, and the opportunity for an official or the person involved himself to go through the contents of the bag.  In the circumstances it would be reasonable to keep the dog at hand to draw attention to individual suspiciously scented items, but restrained at a distance as long as there was reasonable basis for doubt.  The author has witnessed the situation and it is clear that the dog will often pick up a suspicious scent from several metres away.

What is also lacking at airports is any explanation to travellers what is taking place.  It is usual merely to have the sniffer dog wandering around the Customs passage unimpeded, with no explanation whatever, and this causes extreme consternation to Muslim travellers.  Once a traveller has been contaminated by dog-related impurity, it can be a long time for before it is possible for him or her to make a ghusl and resume religious obligations such as salaah.  Travellers often carry sacred items such as the Qur’an itself, and interference in this way from a dog would provoke a very strong reaction from most Muslims.

Both male and female Muslim travellers often carry significant amounts of attar, oil-based perfumes, for themselves or as souvenirs or as the most preferred gift.  (To make a gift of attar is a Sunnah.)  Some forms of attar are diluted with benzene-based compounds, but none are diluted with alcohol or acetone.  (It is understood that acetone-based cosmetics have been used as ingredients for explosives - there is no religiously-based reason to carry it.)

Addendum: Police Use of Dogs Policy

Quoting from City of London Police's "Police Use of Dogs Policy" of December 2006, "The Muslim community can be offended by dogs walking on their household floors. This issue has an impact on the approach to spectulative searches. … This matter has been drawn to the attention of all Chief Officers in a letter from the ACPO Police Dog Training Group. […]

"[…] ensure that this issue is raised during the training of Police dog handlers to ensure that considerations are given to minimse the offence caused to the Muslim community and other faiths/beliefs when dogs are deployed in their households. […]

"It is recognised that the proximity of any dog to a follower of Islam can cause great distress or offence. With this in mind dogs will not be used to search the home, place of worship or religious instruction, or immediate workplace of any Muslim: unless there is an immediate risk to life or national security, or in instances where the immediate investigation may be compromised due to loss of evidence and no other reasonable tactical options were available.

"In all other circumstances searches will be conducted by search trained police officers deploying any additional search equipment as may be either necessary or available."

Clarification of the Muslim Position

The following may clarify the relationship between Muslims and dogs.

There are three levels of impact that the use of police dogs may have for Muslims, these being (i) formal religious edicts, (ii) cultural extrapolation from religion, and (iii) inflammation (or amelioration) of an antagonistic confrontation.

Contextual circumstances cover use of dogs in (i) public order, (ii) apprehending persons, (iii) routine detection e.g. of explosives, (iv) consensual searching e.g. for a missing person, (v) imposed searching e.g. of a premises, for hidden materials, and plausibly, (vi) exhibited in police public relations events.

The Muslim Perspective

(i) Religious Context

The formal religious position, agreed by all significant Muslim sects, is that working dogs are permitted to be used by Muslims, normally as guard dogs or in hunting. Dogs may not be used or kept inside human habitations, i.e. indoor places of work, houses, community buildings, mosques, etc. Also religiously formally determined, a dog's bodily fluids, saliva, mucus, urine etc are profoundly unclean, and this extends also to the wet fur of a dog, e.g. in the rain or emerging from a pool. Any Muslim in clothes or skin contact with a wet dog or a dog's fluids, has his or her higher level of ceremonial cleanliness broken and is obliged to perform a ghusl, or head-to-toe bath or shower, in which he or she washes the entire body, every area of skin and to the root of every hair, gargles and cleanses the nostrils. (The same ceremonial ablution is required after sexual intercourse, after sexual discharge or following the end of a woman's menses.) Contaminated clothing or other materials, e.g. floor coverings, walls, or anything else that would not normally be used in a profoundly dirty environment, must be washed clean in running water as well.

The person is unable to perform any formal religious act such as the mandatory 5 daily prayers until the ghusl is completed, and this would cause extreme consternation for a conscientious Muslim if the prayer could not be completed in time for its stipulated time period, or e.g. if he was en route to congregational salaah, or travelling, e.g. at an airport or railway station.

Consequently, while dogs have a role, it is one that is treated by Muslims with extreme wariness. The disruption caused by the unanticipated need to perform ghusl, and the real possibility that this will not be possible in time, is a major matter. To try to appreciate it, one might compare it with being on the way to attend a very important personal engagement and having one's appearance ruined by a stranger vomiting heavily and malodorously over one's clothes.

(ii) Cultural Context

The vast majority of Muslims in Britain have had minimal Islamic education; whether from their parents or from madressah teachers, it will have been received at a primary school age, so lacks refinement and is conceptually simplistic. Therefore most Muslims perceive of dogs as being intrinsically offensive and intrinsically dirty, and may assume that the religious requirements explained above apply to any contact with dogs. Since the issue with dogs is essentially one of perception, the fact that the negative cultural reaction of most Muslims is much stronger than the formal religious implications imply, it is more important to accommodate them than to rely on a slightly more studied religious response.

(iii) Antagonistic Context

Where dogs are deployed in a context in which Muslims or Muslim property are targeted, the impact the use of dogs has may go well beyond the target. Other apparently untargeted Muslims may be directly affected by the use of dogs - they may also use the same property, they may recognise elements of religious and of emotional significance, and may therefore react very strongly themselves. If the initial situation is confrontational, the strong reaction of Muslim onlookers may easily accelerate the level of confrontation e.g. by bringing in more people who will see matters that stir them up to an angry response. Desecration of religious material is such an emotive issue that this may happen rapidly and may happen even if there is a clear urgent need for police action. Given cultural attitudes, it is likely that elders will be inflamed more than youth.

The Police Perspective

This hinges on the degree of consent in the role of the police in an activity using dogs. Clearly where there is sufficient consent from Muslim members of the public, then any of the Muslim objections can be overcome - e.g. using dogs to help search for a missing child would overwhelm practically all objections. Using dogs to control public order could very likely inflame a situation, especially if they were targetted at Muslims and especially if it wasn't obvious that public order was under direct threat.

Using dogs to sniff for explosives where there is a real and immediate threat to public safety is very different to using sniffer dogs opportunistically or as a deterent at ports, airports and other public places. Where they are deployed in a confined space, unleashed or on very long leashes, as they are at Heathrow Terminal Three Arrivals, they are extremely disturbing. In that context, Muslim travellers will and do react very defensively to the dogs. Though they undoubtedly have value for security and drugs control, the arrangements ought to be such that anyone whose luggage or person is picked out by them, can move his self and baggage out of reach of the dogs and consent to a human search. Whether the possibility that the dogs are in error may be high or low, the traveller will not know that, so innocent travellers ought to be able to easily see how to avoid the dogs yet still be subject to search for illegal substances. For the not-innocent carrier, respect for religious niceties is obviously less of an issue.

Where dogs are intended to be used to search a premises for explosives, clearly the matter rests on the probability of the prospect them being there, the nature of the building and the time available. It would take the most extreme circumstances to justify using dogs to search a building such as a mosque that has very recently been in full public use (making it highly unlikely that materials would be stored there - whereas access to parts of Finsbury Park masjid had been denied to all but a few of Abu Hamza's coterie) and whose occupation by the police was of such a short duration that a slower method could not be used. Police need to be mindful of the vast difference between searching a 'normal' masjid and one that has been sequestered by an obviously vicious group. What is most important here is to recognise the difference between poorly formed popular prejudice against e.g. Salafi and latterly Deobandi institutions and the fact that Salafi and especially Deobandi institutions form a very large part of normal, engaged Muslim communities. There is a danger that an operation based on a prejudiced assessment of risk could use heavy handed tactics to be used in an environment where the ordinary Muslim community could not discern any need for heavy-handedness.

Guide Dogs

The Guardian reported on 25th September 2008 that, "a blind Muslim student yesterday became the first person to be allowed to take a guide dog into a UK mosque […] after the Muslim Law (Sharia) Council UK issued a fatwa in response to his request."[1] While this very liberal development might suggest a less emotive response to the use of police and other dogs among Muslims, this development needs strong caveats. Firstly although the Muslim Law (Sharia) Council UK has eminent people in its make-up, it has very limited credibility among most British Muslims. Secondly, the fatwa is limited to allowing the guide-dog to go no further than the shoe-lobby, not into any of the religiously significant areas. Thirdly the masjid concerned, Jamia Masjid-e-Bilal, has strongly partisan Bareilvi views that put it at odds with most other masjids in its neighbourhood - there is little prospect of other masjids copying this example, not even other Bareilvi masjids elsewhere that have less inclination to court favours. Fourthly the masjid premises themselves are a very large redundant industrial building, itself in a rough state of repair, where there is ample room for this to be implemented without encroaching on the masjid space. There is almost no likelihood of anything similar happening in the vast majority of masjids where any space at all is at a premium.

9.4       Istinjah – Washing the private parts

On using the toilet, Muslims wash away urine or fæcal matter with clean running water.  This is called Istinjah.  It is usually achieved with a large pot with no handle, usually with a teapot-shaped spout, called a lota, shattaf or bodna, and used like a bidet, though far more manageable than the latter.  WC provision for Muslims should include a lota and a source of clean running water, preferably in the cubicle itself.

Given the strong emphasis on personal hygiene, it should be no surprise that men’s upright urinals are unacceptable to Muslims.  For the uninitiated, it may be necessary to explain that these furnishings provide the user’s lower half with a fine, evenly distributed spray of impurity from his own and his neighbour’s business and serve only to confirm Muslims in their self-belief that they have a superior lifestyle. Instead, toilet is always performed individually, out of sight, sitting or preferably squatting.

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/sep/25/disability.islam