Oct 20, 2014

The success of "I want to touch a dog" event

When I saw this event planned on Facebook several weeks ago, I really wanted check out this event. “I Want to Touch a Dog” is a unique, one-of-a-kind event organised in Malaysia by a man named Syed Azmi. He wanted to help people overcome certain misconceptions and sensitivities surrounding dogs.
Dogs are deemed impure in Islam and a Muslim who touches their saliva or excrement must cleanse himself with earth and water in a ritual called "sertu" or "samak".

But lack of exposure to dogs, increasing conservatism in some segments of society, and lack of animal rights awareness have seen cases of the animal being treated horribly.
The dogs which were at the event to be touched or petted included a purebred sleek-haired Afghan hound, Chow Chows, Huskies, Chihuahuas, a Whippet and other cute and adorable dogs. The dogs were all thoroughly vetted by the organizers. Among invited guests was KPB Tuan Mohd Jamil Mohd Khalid , Veterinarian Dr Hasnul Ismail Heshmael Salukis, Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin, a religious teacher and Masters student at UTM's Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (Casis).

Syed Azmi explained the objectives of the event to a group of crowd made up of Malaysians from all walks of life, mainly to help the general public overcome the negative perception of dogs and foster respect between dog owners and members of the public regardless of age, race and religion. 
The event then continued with a religious talk by Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin.
Among the issues highlighted ( credit to Ahamad Emran) was:
1. Important thing is, to control your heart. this is probably THE most difficult thing to do. at any point, you shouldn't even think that you're better than the dog. a dog may most probably enter heaven, tapi kita ni, masih belum tentu lagi kat mana kedudukan kita kelak. as such, treat all god's creation with proper care, handling and respect
2. Islam itu luas. bab hukum-hakam is just one part of it. there's also muamalat (dealings/interactions with others) that need to be considered too (will get back to these later on other points).
now, on some hukum hakam yang baru belajar tadi. it's important to note that the ustaz just now emphasize that this is accordance to mazhab shafie (which are being practiced by majority muslim in Malaysia), which are known to be a bit stricter and inclining on the "safe side". yes, i'm aware of other mazhab as well, but please leave that argument on other discussion.
a. it's OK to touch a dog, with strong reason to do so: education, overcoming fear, helping a dog in distress, etc. it's NOT OK to touch a dog simply because you want to pet it
b. it's OK to own a dog, with strong reason as well: as guide dog, to safeguard your property, for hunting, for police/military usage, etc. it's NOT OK to own a dog just as pet.
b.1. if you're getting one to guard your property, do get your neighbour's consent. back to point no.2 above. if getting a dog will cause discomfort to your neighbour, it's wise NOT to get a dog.
c. it's okay to keep a dog outside your house, it's not okay to keep it inside your house
d. if you touch a dog when either you, or the dog is wet, then you need to do sertu. the cleansing of using water+soil 1x, and water 6x. this is because at this time, it's considered as najis mughallazah
e. if you touch a dog when both of you are dry, cleaning yourself with water is enough. this is considered as najis only. (i pun baru tahu pasal ni. reason being, if air liur is najis, dikiaskan "apa-apa yang dari anjing" is najis, e.g bulu)
f. mistreating or ill-treatment of dogs are HARAM, by all mazhab.
g. if you see a muslim who owns a dog, PLEASE do not straightway label HARAM, or masuk neraka, or something like that. Islam teaches us to always think positive about others. they may have need to own one, they probably keep it outside their house, etc. refer point 1-(hati kena baik), and 2-(interactions with others). plus who gets to enter syurga or neraka is something that none of us have knowledge of
h. having said point (g), and refering back to point (2), AVOIDING fitnah is better. which probably means, if getting a dog would cause you into being cast away by neighbours, family, friends, and attracting more negative than positive, it's probably wise to just avoid it at all
i. and having said point (g) and (h), in the end, it's toleration towards others, education, communication and open mind that can keep us living in a harmony community.

Then a simple demonstration of how ‘Sertu’ or samak is done. Sertu/ Samak is a way for Muslims to ‘cleanse’ themselves after touching a dog. The whole process is relatively easy and sstraightforward. Based on the demo, you’ll need clean yourself with water and dirt, mix them together and wash the affected part for seven times.
See here : how to samak/ sertu  video credit to Tun Farsha Shazwani
Participants performing samak after touching the dogs video credit to Jovian Anak Lee
Those who attended were encouraged to wear colour coded clothings to enable identification
  • Yellow – those who want to touch dogs
  • Red – volunteers who bring dogs to the event
  • Orange – for the curious who would like to go and witness the event
  • Purple – general volunteers
  • Green – Sertu coaches
Dr Hasnul Ismail Heshmael Salukis, a vet here with a beautiful Afghan Hound called Nobita
For Ustaz Mohd Iqbal, the event  was groundbreaking and it was the first time he had the opportunity to give a religious talk to many non-Muslims
"I've always wanted to try giving dawah (preaching) through an urban approach. It's a wonderful experience," he said.
Uztaz Mohd Iqbal explained that while Muslims have to be aware when dealing with dogs - they have to be in an environment of cleanliness when conducting religious rites - this does not mean dogs should be treated as hina (treated with contempt).

Personally, I think it was a fabulous event that educated many Muslims and also non-Muslims on how a Muslims should or should not handle a dog, what can be done or not to a dog as well a great platform for non -Muslims and Muslims to mingle and understand each other a little more. Kudos to Syed Azmi. I really hope to be able to see and join more of these events soon. I for one believe strongly in practicing moderation in religion.
Photos and pictures credits to : I want to touch a dog facebook page,  Dr Hasnul Ismail Heshmael Salukis, Kah Siong Lee, Mei Ping and Travis Chang


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