I was recently made aware that Islam forbids the buying and selling of cats and dogs.

lt was narrated from Abu Az-Zubair that Jabir said: "The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) forbade the price of a cat." Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 12, Hadith 2161


It was narrated that Jabir said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) forbade eating cats and he forbade their price.” Sunan Ibn Majah,Vol. 4, Book 28, Hadith 3250


Abu Zubair said:

I asked Jabir about the price of a dog and a cat; he said: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) disapproved of that. Sahih Muslim 1569

Living in an urban setting, it is not recommended to adopt a stray cat which may attract municipalities fines or may have been infected with diseases.

What path do urban dwelling Muslims usually adopt to get a cat if they have no friends and families who already own a cat?

  • Sidenote: Majority of the ulema considered sale of cats to be permitted. Responses to the hadith are that it either applies to wild cats, or that it makes it Makruh. – UmH Oct 3 '18 at 16:35

First be aware that owning is not the topic of discussion in this hadith at all, as the issue is the matter of sales only.

Views of the fiqh schools

The majority of scholars like the scholars of the four schools of jurisprudence and many of the tab'iyn and ibn 'Abbas () among the sahabah consider the sale as permissible while one statement of imam Ahmad and ibn Hazm of the dhahiri school and abu Hurrairah () and Mujahid and some other tabi'in are saying it is not allowed for sale.

Ibn Rajab in his Jami' al-Uloom wal Hikam جامع العلوم والحكم quoted among those who say the sale is permissible (Source islamqa #181675):

  • Ibn 'Abbas () among the sahabah.
  • 'Ata', Al-Hassan al-Basri according to one statement, Ibn Sireen, Al-Hakam and Hinad (or maybe Hammad? Typo in the fatwa?) among the tabi'iyn.
  • Sufyan a-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, Malik, A-Shafi'i , Ahamad according the most known of his two statements among and Ishaaq had two statements too among the scholars of followed maddhabs.

Al-Hassan al-Basri was also quoted having said that buying is allowed if it was for some use while selling it is frowned upon.

Some scholars say the ahadith have weaknesses for example imam Ahamd, ibn 'Abd al-Barr, at-Tirmdihi, al-Bagahwi, al-Khattaabi and ibn al-Mundhir. But this hardly applies to that of Sahih Muslim (most sahih narrations on this topic only meet the conditions of Muslim). This was rejected by scholars like Muslim, an-Nawawi and al-Bayhaqi.

Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’ (9/269): As for what as al-Khattaabi and Ibn al-Mundhir said about the hadeeth being weak, this is a mistake on their part, because the hadeeth in Saheeh Muslim has a saheeh isnaad. End quote. (Source islamqa #69770)

An-Nawawi used similar words in his commentary on Sahih Muslim -see here in Arabic- and defended the view of the majority with an explanation similar to that of imam al-Baghawi which I will quote later.

Therefore some later scholars like ibn Qayyim has adopted the view that it is not permissible, which is also the view defended on islamqa.

Some insight from the hadith interpretation

In his Tohfat al-Ahwadhi تحفة الأحوذي al-Mubarakpuri محمد بن عبد الرحمن بن عبد الرحيم المباركفوري when discussing the hadith said quoting al-Baghawi in his sharh as-Sunnah شرح السنة :
In the following I will translate from Arabic, this is my own translation take it with the necessary care!

هذا محمول على ما لا ينفع ، أو على أنه نهي تنزيه لكي يعتاد الناس هبته وإعارته والسماحة به كما هو الغالب فإن كان نافعا وباعه صح البيع ، وكان ثمنه حلالا
This (prohibition) is based on (the prohibition) of what is useless, or that it is a properly prohibition or disapproval, so that people get used to give it as a gift or lend or abandon them, so if it was of use and a person sold it the sale would be valid and the price halal.

this can be taken as the explanation of the majority of scholars and he added:

وقيل إنه يحمل النهي على كراهة التنزيه وأن بيعه ليس من مكارم الأخلاق ، ولا من المروءات ، ولا يخفى أن هذا إخراج النهي عن معناه الحقيقي بلا مقتضى
It was also said that this prohibition is of the kind of a properly disapproval and that selling is not among the good manners, nor among the generosities, and it is clear that this is a removal from the prohibition from its real meaning without reasoning.

Note that at-Tirmidhi in his comment on the hadith in his Jami' which al-Mubarakpuri was discussing actually pointed at weaknesses in some narrations and he even considered this as one of them.

It was also said that this applies to wild -not domesticated- cats!

Note that imam al-Qurtobi in his al-Mufhim المفهم لما أشكل من تلخيص كتاب مسلم on Sahih Muslim said:

لفظ زجر يشعر بتخفيف النهي، وأنه ليس للتحريم، بل على التنزه عن ثمنهما
The wording "disapproved" gives an indication that this prohibition is not heavy, and that it doesn't mean tahreem (making unlawful), but to turn away from getting the price of it.

In this article -in Arabic- the author therefore comes to the conclusion that the stronger opinion is that of the majority.

So owning a cat is allowed it is rather frowned upon to sell it. As it is in general something that has no use for a Muslim and having it is matter of luxury, so it is not a necessity for which one may consider paying a price.

Note that a similar discussion is also about the matter of selling dogs especially hounds which are clearly mentioned in the Qur'an! So the statement of the hadith must be taken with some care.

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