Arabs in the 7th century believed that the cat was pure spirited. Pre-Islamic Arabs are said to have worshipped a Golden Cat.
The Prophet Muhammad (s) was tender and kind towards cats. He appreciated cats. Muhammad’s (s) favorite cat was called Muezza. There is a well known story regarding the Prophet Muhammad (s) and Muezza.
When the call to prayers was heard, Muezza was asleep on one of the sleeves of the Prophet’s (s) robes. The Prophet (s) wanted to wear the robe to go to prayers. Rather than disturb Muezza, Muhammad (s) cut off the sleeve to leave Muezza in peace. Prophet (s) then stroked the cat three times, which, it is said, granted Muezza seven lives and the ability to land on his feet at all times (as you might know, cats have a self-righting mechanism,a righting reflex, which is a complex series of movements when a cat falls and which protects the cat from breaking her back).
Prophet (s) was so attached to his cat that when he gave sermons he let Muezza rest on his lap and he also drank from water previously drunk by his cat. He also did his ablutions from the same water that was drunk by a cat. He seemed to treat his cat in the same way as cat lovers do today but even cat lovers might think twice about drinking the same water that had been drunk by a cat for fear of transmission of disease from the cat’s saliva (but see below).
Islam teaches Muslims to treat cats well and that the cat is a creature to be cherished and loved. Mistreating a cat is regarded as a severe sin in Islam.
Cats according to the Qur`an and Sunnah
An example as to how Muslims are punished for mistreating cats can be found in the `ahadith (oral traditions telling the story of the Prophet Mohammed (s) and which have been recorded in writing). When a woman kept a cat locked up and failed to feed the cat until the cat died, the woman was tortured and “put to hell.”
It is believed that you will suffer no harm if you drink from the cat’s water provided no impurities are seen in the cat’s mouth. In another story from the `ahadith, it is stated that a when a cat ate a pudding put down during prayers, the person who was in charge of the pudding ate from the same place as the cat and Prophet (s) said this was alright as the cat is not unclean and is “one of those who go around amongst us.”
Islam teaches Muslims that, in relation to a cat:
the cat should not be sold for money or other traded goods
cats saliva is harmless unless the cat has “visible impurities” in the mouth
that Muslims are free to live with cats but they must treat cats well, providing the cat with enough water and food and giving “roaming time” (a degree of freedom of movement)
Bukhari’s authentic hadith is one of the six major Sunni hadith collections (Wikipedia). Muslims see this hadith as the most trusted collection; many would say the most authoritative book after the Qur`an.
This hadith regarding cats is set out in Volume 3, Book 40, Number 552. The story of the women mentioned above is recited. It seems that the woman was scratched by the cat and to punish the cat she imprisoned it and failed to feed it. Her actions were frowned upon and she was duly punished.
Islam’s teachings in relation to cats indicates a gentle approach to our fellow creatures, including humans!
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article that appeared on Pictures-of-Cats.org, citing the resources of Islamonline.net and Wikipedia.