I recently saw that Jemima Khan had got a pet dog for one of her children, and in response many Muslims pointed out to her that Islam banned dogs as pets. Is this really true? [Cooper]
as salaam alaikum Cooper.
The first point to remember is that nothing is absolutely forbidden in Islam. For example, Muslims are forbidden to drink but if a person is dying of thirst and nothing else is available the he can drink to save his life. Muslims are forbidden pigs flesh but the most effective insulin is made from extracts from the swine and that insulin is widely used by Muslim for the sake of their health.
The second point is that there are things which are forbidden and those which are disapproved of. For example meat which is not killed according to Islamic ritual is not forbidden but disapproved off. But meat which is killed in the name of some deity other than Allah is forbidden.
The third point is that need for something is taken into account. The need as can be seen from the examples given above.
Now apply this to keeping dogs as pets. This is not forbidden but disapproved of. Islam specifically allows dogs to be kept for hunting or as guard dogs. There are good reasons for not keeping dogs as pets as can be seen by government legislation which places restrictions on certain breeds because they are a danger such as having to muzzle them or keep them on a leash when taking them out. Islam has gone a step further and totally removed their presence as pets.