Saturday 25 April 2009

Guide Dog or Guide Pony

Mona Ramouni, a Michigan woman who became blind shortly after birth, wanted to have more independence. But for Ramouni, who is a practicing Sunni Muslim, a leader dog was not an option. Many Muslims view dogs as unclean, and Ramouni, who lives with her family in the suburbs of Detroit, respected her parents' wishes that she not bring one into the home.

However, according to Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter, many Muslims see horses as "regal animals."

Enter Cali (short for Mexicali Rose), a miniature horse who stands 2 1/2 feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds. Cali is one of a small number of miniature horses that's been trained as a guide animal in the U.S. "I want a horse that will be a partner for the next 30 or so years. ... What I really want is to be able to take her places and go places with her that neither of us ever would have been able to do without each other," Ramouni told the Associated Press.

Miniature horses often live into their 30s, making them superior to leader dogs in at least one way: longevity.

"It's made [Ramouni] so much more empowered," said Kelli Finger, a coworker at Ramouni's workplace, where she proofreads textbooks in Braille. Cali has also gotten along well with other, more conventional, guide animals at the office, Finger added.

Ramouni says having Cali as a guide opens up new opportunities, but the U.S. government may soon tighten the definition of a guide animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act to exclude farm creatures such as horses.

The new ADA regulations are under review and final language will be issued later this year, according to Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar.

In the meantime, Ramouni said she hopes to pursue a doctorate in child psychology at the [University of Michigan's] main campus in Ann Arbor.

The benefits go beyond the practical, she says.

Before Cali, "I had basically given up. I mean, I had been to the point where I thought, 'I'm going to get nothing out of my life,'" Ramouni said. "And having Cali ... showed me that I had forgotten about all the optimism I had as a kid. When I was a kid, I thought I could do anything. I thought everything was possible."

Islam does not forbid having guide dogs. There is a very minority of scholars who consider all dogs as completely impure.

Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh, a prominent Al-Azhar scholar, states the following:

First of all, in rural areas blind people find human aid, although in modern day cities it is very difficult for a blind person to find someone to aid him in carrying out his activities. Thus, guide-dogs serve as a very practical solution for the blind.

Secondly, the dogs used to enter the mosque of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because it did not have any fences. According to this, Imam Malik said that the dog is clean. However, we have to keep in mind that the other schools of thought hold a different view. Therefore, keeping it outside the prayer hall in a kennel fulfills the objective of aiding the blind and also does not violate the opinion of the majority of schools, who find the dog to be unclean.

Sheikh `Abdel Khaliq Hassan Ash-Shareef, an Egypt-based renowned scholar and da`iyah, says:

Imam Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani said in explaining the hadith narrated by Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Whoever keeps a dog, except a dog that is trained for hunting or a dog for herding livestock, his reward will decrease each day by one carat" (Al-Bukhari): "Ibn `Abdul-Barr says: 'Based upon this hadith it is permissible to have a dog for hunting, guarding, and also in farming, and it is reprehensible for other than these purposes except other similar tasks by analogy. Thus, it is reprehensible to own a dog without a need because they frighten people and prohibit the entrance of angels to the house.'

Additionally, this hadith has been used as a proof on the permissibility of rearing a young dog because of its benefits when it grows up, and in such case, the intention of attaining the benefits of owning this dog in the future acts as a present necessity, just like buying something that will not benefit at present for its benefit in the future.

It has been also used as a proof on the cleanness of the dog that is permissible to own, because owning a dog while staying away from it is very difficult. Therefore, the permission of its ownership is a permission of the complements of its intended objective; and this is a strong proof. Although it is opposed by the generality of the hadith obligating the cleansing of whatever a dog has licked, specifying [exceptions] from the generality is valid, if it has evidence backing it up.

This hadith also shows the kindness of Allah Almighty in permitting to His servants what has benefits to them, illustrates the role of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in informing the Ummah of rulings concerning daily activities, and proves the rule of: giving preponderance to a preferred benefit over the harm because of the exceptionality of benefiting from what has been forbidden to own." See: Fath al-Bari fi Sharh Sahihal-Bukhari by Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani.

Based on the above, it is permissible to have a guide-dog for the blind, and it is permissible to keep it inside a kennel outside the prayer hall in the mosque. Owning a dog to aid the blind is a benefit that, by analogy, is given the same rulings of owning it for herding or guarding purposes.

Read more about this here and here.

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