A Retriever is in training to become the first dog in Britain to be permitted to enter a mosque, acting as a guide for its blind Muslim owner.
The animal has been chosen because it salivates less than usual, thus reducing the risk of flicking spittle onto other worshippers at the Al Falah mosque in Leicester.
Keeping pet dogs is considered “haram” (the Arabic word for “forbidden”) in Islamic teaching, because they are regarded as unclean, particularly their saliva.
The mosque took its decision after advice from imams and scholars at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), who carried out a full review of Islamic teaching on dogs.
The animal is now being trained by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to curb its natural friendly instinct to jump up and lick people. Any worshipper who touched the dog’s nose, or whose clothes were touched by saliva, would have to wash straightaway.
The retriever is being taught to sit in a purpose-built kennel outside the prayer hall of the mosque and wait for its owner, Mahomed Khatri, 17, to come out after worship.
Khatri is being trained to handle the dog, which will enable him to worship more often at the Al Falah. He is expected to pay his first visit with the dog early next year.
This initiative in Leicester may lead to an easing of the anticanine stance taken by mosques in Britain. Few Muslims keep dogs as pets.
Ibrahim Mogra, a senior imam at the MCB, who has overseen the review of teaching on guide dogs, said they could be justified as they served an “urgent practical purpose”.
He said: “We found the Koran allows Muslims to use dogs for hunting. So if Muslims can eat a prey bitten by dogs, then there should not be a problem using them to guide you if you are blind.”
Khatri, an A-level student at Loughborough further education college, lost his sight in 2005 because of detached retinas. He is also a member of the national blind cricket team.
Khatri said that, like many other Muslims, he did not like dogs, but was now quite excited about owning one.
He added: “Having a guide dog will give me complete independence to go anywhere.
Now I only go around with friends, or just stay in.”
The MCB reexamined the rules on dogs after incidents in which Muslim restaurant owners and taxi drivers refused customers with guide dogs. In June Sallahaddin Abdullah was fined ?200 in Cambridge after he refused to allow a blind couple into his taxi because they had a guide dog.
The MCB issued a ruling after saying British Muslims should allow guide dogs to enter restaurants and taxis.