Cat hair is pure in the Hanafi school, and details of the Shafi`i opinion 

Answered by Sidi Mostafa Azzam

Are cat hair najis according to the hanafi school of fiqh? Should I consider my past prayers void for the presence of some cat hair on my clothes and so make them all up?

Answer:
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Walaikum assalam,

Cat hair is pure in the Hanafi school.

As for the Shafi`i school, Shaykh Mustafa Azzam, a brilliant student of Shafi`i fiqh (and dear friend) wrote the following:

 

Is Cat Hair Really Filth?

(in the Shafi`i school)

Question: If cats (alive) are not filthy, why is cat hair?  Cats are known to shed – it is extremely difficult to own a cat that doesn’t.  Since we are allowed to own cats, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, how can their hair be filth?

Answer:

If cats (alive) are not filthy, why is cat hair?

            Cat hair in general is not filth; rather, separated cat hair, in particular, is filth.  Separated cat hair is filth because, “A body part separated from a living being is considered (n: in respect to being filth or not) like the unslaughtered dead of that animal, except for the hair of those animals that Muslims may eat after slaughtering (n: i.e. such hair is pure)” (Maqasid, 11).  Since unslaughtered dead cats are filth, any part separated from a cat while the cat is alive is also filth, just as its unslaughtered dead is.

Cats are known to shed—it is extremely difficult to own a cat that doesn’t.  Since we are allowed to own cats, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, how can their hair be filth?

            You mean that given these premises, (separated) cat hair cannot be filth and must be pure.  This argument needs a second look.  The argument does not imply that cat hair cannot be filth; rather, it hints at the issue that when filth is normally a hardship to avoid, it becomes excusable.  This issue will be discussed after taking a look at the problem with the above argument.  The following application of the above argument should show the problem with it:

a) Babies are known to vomit—it is extremely difficult to have a baby that doesn’t.  Since we are allowed to have babies, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, baby vomit must be pure.

b) Marital relations are known to produce pre-ejaculate (madhy)—it is extremely difficult to have marital relations without its production.  Since we are allowed to have marital relations, and they are looked upon favorably in Islam, pre-ejaculate must be pure.

            The difficulty of avoiding such filths does not make them any less filth.  What it does do, though, is make certain amounts of them excused, given certain conditions.

Excused Filths

            There is a general principle that whatever [filth] is normally a hardship to avoid is excused.  That is the general principle; as for its application, the imams of the school have dedicated whole texts to it (e.g. the poem of Ibn `Imad, plus its commentary by Ahmad Ramli, plus the supercommentary by Rashidi and glosses by Sulaiman Jamal; also ad-Durrat al-Muntadarah by Shurunbulali).  Many examples of excused filth are usually included in the general texts, as well (e.g. Reliance, f4.3-4.4).

            Amongst excused filths are 1) a small amount of hair that is filth (such as cat hair) (Mufid al-`Awamm, 67), 2) a child’s filthified mouth when it touches something (such as when the child puts a toy in his mouth after having vomitted and not had his mouth rinsed out) (Mufid al-`Awamm, 68), and 3) pre-ejaculate for whom it is a problem, or if washing it away before intercourse causes one’s desire to subside (Fath al-`Allam, 1:327 (Dar Ibn Hazm)).

Conclusion

            It should now be clear that the hair separated from a live cat is filth, but since a small amount of it is normally a hardship to avoid, a small amount of it on one’s person during prayer is excused.

            Practical measures for someone with a cat are to simply brush oneself off (to remove cat hair that is a large amount, the small amount that may remain being excused), lay out a prayer mat (to avoid a large amount of cat hair on the carpet, if there is), and pray.

And Allah knows best.

Mostafa Azzam
Amman, Jordan.