BY Mohammad Namjoo
Cats and Islam
Cats and Islam
Origins of reverence
Cats have been venerated in the Near East since antiquity, a tradition adopted by Islam, albeit in a much modified form. According to many hadiths, Mohammad prohibited the persecution and killing of cats. Muhammad purportedly allowed a cat to give birth on his cloak, and cut off the sleeve of his prayer robe rather than wake his favourite cat, a female named Muezza, who was sleeping on it.
One of Muhammad's companions was known as Abu Hurairah (literally: "Father of the Kitten") for his attachment to cats. Abu Hurairah claimed that he had heard Muhammad declare that a woman went to Hell for starving a female kitten and not providing her with any water. According to legend, Abu Hurairah's cat saved Muhammad from a snake. In gratitude, Muhammad stroked the cat's back and forehead, thus blessing all cats with the righting reflex. The stripes some cats have on their foreheads are believed to mark the touch of Muhammad's fingers.
Hygiene and neutering
In Islamic tradition, cats are admired for their cleanliness. They are thought to be ritually clean, unlike dogs, and are thus allowed to enter homes and even mosques, including Masjid al-Haram. Food sampled by cats is considered halal and water from which cats have drunk is permitted for wudu. Furthermore, there is a widespread belief among Muslims that cats seek out people who are praying.
Muslim scholars are divided on the issue of neutering animals. Most, however, maintain that neutering cats is allowed "if there is some benefit in neutering the cat and if that will not cause its death".