Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Holy Quran, Mr. Ikhlas and Katmir the Dog - Man's Best Friend

There he goes... Mr. Ikhlas and His Doggy Tales.
Mr. Ikhlas and His Dogs
My neighbourhood of Damansara Heights is full of government pensioners. Most have found a sedate happy post-work life, and many like to frequent the mosque here, the Umar al-Khattab mosque, named after a boon Companion of the Prophet and 2nd Caliph ul Islam. Respectable and a quiet lot, I was surprised to be 'adopted' by one of the retirees named Mr. Ikhlas. One morning, he saw me having tea alone at my favourite Indian-Muslim restaurant, so he asked whether he could join me. It all began from there.

Since then he has shared with me some of his history and I found him to be an interesting subject, full of nuggets of experiences and hard-earned wisdom. It would be a long post if I was to write about everything he told me, but today I would like to share with you his life-long love for dogs.

Mr. Ikhlas would like to have a Husky breed one day.
I am not surprised, the Huskies look gorgeous. 
"I had nine dogs when I was young!" He happily recounted, "My father's land in the kampung (village) was quite large and we needed them. But they were not just watchdogs, they were also my pets. This did not go down entirely well with my late mother. She used to tell me to stop petting and playing with them so often. Malays have a particular cultural aversion to canine that goes  beyond the religious edicts of Islam. But one day a cleric from the northern state of Perlis paid us a visit, and he found me with my favourite dog. Immediately he came by and stroked my dog's head, musing 'What a beautiful dog!'. After that clerical approval, my mother stopped nagging me about my dogs." Thus he told me, with his eyes smiling at his distant but happy childhood memories.

"Even nowadays I am fond of dogs although I don't keep one presently. Why, I love to talk to them. After all, you know that our neighbourhood is full of dogs (Yes, it's true.). I would stop by and talk to any that I come across." Then he chuckled as he concluded, "My neighbours must find me a strange character when they see me talking to their dogs. But dogs understand us, you see. Let me tell you an interesting story..."

He took a sip from his glass of water and continued, "One evening, while I was sitting in my porch I heard one of my sons shout out - 'Hey dad, here he comes agaaain...!' Then without any warning, my neighbour's dog, an enormous German Shepherd plonked his huge hairy head on my lap - Much to the surprise and consternation of my Chinese contractor who was doing some work at our house! Then I saw that the poor dog was crying, he had tears running down from his eyes. I immediately asked, "What's wrong then, old boy? Are you hungry?" To which the dog sadly nodded his reply. So I got off my backside and straight away went to the kitchen to find him some food to eat. The next morning I saw my neighbour in his compound, he was returning from somewhere. So I told him - 'Please, next time if you go outstation, make sure that there is someone to feed your dog. Yesterday the poor fellow came to me hungry and crying!' The neighbour was surprised but he did promise to do so from then on."
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The Dogs that Came One Night
The preceding story sets just nicely for my own doggy tale. After a spat of burglaries around my office, we decided to install an alarm system. About 2 months later I was awoken by the ringing of my cellphone at 4am. It was the office alarm! Something triggered it! So I got dressed quickly and half awake I drove to my office. A block away I could already hear the ear-piercing siren of my office alarm. When I arrived, the streets were empty save for a gang of dogs hanging about the entrance to my office. "What the...?!" I remember thinking. The dogs let me pass and I cautiously made my way to the stairwell (my office is on the 1st floor). I was startled when suddenly, as I was about to ascend the stairs, a black-white spotted mongrel came traipsing down. "What the...?!" I thought again.

I unlocked my office and disarmed the alarm. There was no one there and nothing was disturbed. Something must have fallen from the desk or shelves, or perhaps maybe a small mice may have triggered the internal motion sensors. But I am ever grateful to the gang of dogs and especially to that black-white boss dog who heard the alarm and stood guard outside my office door before I arrived.

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Katmir the Dog and the Seven Sleepers

In the Holy Quran (and also partly covered in the Bible) there is a tale of the seven sleepers and the dog that took refuge in a cave from the dictate of a tyrant and a city of disbelievers. For hundreds of years they slept, accompanied and guarded by the dog. The dog, for his loyalty, along with the seven faithful sleepers were promised heaven. Some Muslims figured that the name of the dog is al-Rakim, for in the Quran verse 18:9, this was written:-

"Or deemest thou that the People of the Cave and (ar-Raqim) the Inscription 
are a wonder among Our portents?" (translation by Marmaduke Pickthall)

But many scholars now say that ar-Raqim is actually the leaden plate on which was inscribed the names of the seven sleepers. Ergo, Pickthall using the word "The Inscription" in his translation of the verse. Mr. Ikhlas however called the dog Katmir. In my brief research I found similar names given to the dog... Kitmir, Ketmir, Kratim etc. But I like Katmir, so I will stick to Katmir.

This is one reputed location for the Cave of the Sleepers, near Amman, Jordan.
Another location is in Ephesus, Turkey.
I like dogs. Below my office is a pair of strays that haunts the Chinese Kopi Tiam (bistro). They are harmless and friendly. If I pass them, I would greet them inquiring, "How are you today then? Good?" They are avid tail-waggers, so you know that they are friendly. I hope to one day purchase a small piece of land and build a house. Hopefuly the land will be large enough to accommodate a dog (or several dogs even). When I shared this dream with Mr. Ikhlas he said, "Please tell me when you do, because I will certainly come visit you and your dogs!"

Do you love dogs too, sunshine? Perhaps one day you and I may be blessed to be in heaven and meet old Katmir himself!

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Earlier Doggy Postings - Seven Reasons why Dogs are like Saints Click Here

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way
All pets welcomed!

3 comments:

jo said...

i love dogs too.and me born in year of the dog. Yep most malays despise dogs these days, a blanket haram on that Allah's creation. Sad. It was not so bad when I was growing up in that state where the cleric came from. I hope to have one one day. Corgi maybe. :)

Milky Tea said...

Hey Jo,

We are all born in the year of the dog! Oops, too much info on our age! Hehehe. Yes, the Malays have forgotten the story about Nabi Adam and the Dog... Man's best friend.

Corgi, Mum? I would like a great big dog... maybe a great dane.

THanks for dropping by,

TK

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting and I did not know that the name of the dog was Al_Rakim, now that is what I am naming my dog in the future :) could you please clear up what you meant by the story of Nabi Adam and the dog?