Cat Hair

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Answered by Sidi Mostafa Azzam

  Is cat hair really najas in the shafii madhhab? If so, why doesn’t imam nawawi mention it in al-maqasid or ahmad ibn naqib in the umdat? Can anyone give references for such a ruling in our madhhab?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

It is mentioned in al-Maqasid as well as `Umdatas-Salik, as well as virtually every other Shafi`i fiqh text.  Says Maqasid, “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)” (pg. 11).  Maqasid and the `Umdah are mutun, or concise study texts, whose job is to facilitate memorizing the rulings.  For this reason, they often state a general rule under which many specific examples fit.  It is not their job to state all examples; the sheikh teaching the text is generally responsible for that.  For example, the sheikh may take the above statement from Maqasid and test the students’ understanding by taking cat hair as an example and applying the above rule to it: “Cat hair (separated from a living cat), is it a body part separated from a living being?  Yes.  So it is like the unslaughtered dead of that animal.  Is the unslaughtered dead of a cat pure or filth?  Filth (since the only unslaughtered dead that is pure is that of humans, locusts, and aquatic life).  Okay, but we still need to look at our exception, i.e. the hair of edible animals.  Are we discussing hair?  Yes.  Is cat an edible animal?  No.  So this example does not fall under the exception.  Thus, we return to our rule, and so cat hair is filth, just like an unslaughtered dead cat.”  This is how a teacher may help the student understand the ruling.  One needs to be aware that that is how the mutun are written; they are written to facilitate memorization and not to facilitate understanding.  They are very terse and are not meant to be read like a newspaper.  In fact, they are not meant to be read on one’s own.  But what can you do if you have no teacher.  Reading Reliance on one’s own is not sufficient, but it is better than nothing.  Sheikh Nuh once said to me (paraphrase), “When I did Reliance, I was putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, but it’s better than nothing … until we can get teachers into every area.”  The best thing for people to do is study the small mutun with a teacher, and master them.  There are many people able to give one the Shafi`i fiqh one needs.  Sidi Abdal-Karim Yahya taught ar-Risalat al-Jami`ah at Zaytuna in a short program.  Sheikh Talal Ahdab and Sidi Hamza Karamali are both near Toronto .  Shaheed Carter and some of his wife’s family members are near Atlanta and are able to teach the basics.  Amr (I forgot his last name) is in Fresno , California .  All these people, and others (in North America , Great Britain , South Africa ), are fully capable of teaching Shafi`is what they need for valid prayer and fasting, and some halal and haram.  One could even set up classes by phone.  One could take a weekend out and drive a few hours to a teacher to quickly cover a basic text.  Says the poem of the Zubad, in Shafi`i fiqh (paraphrased):

If you know not the answer, ask someone you trust.
If you find no one, then go somewhere else you must.

And Allah knows best.

Mostafa Azzam.
Amman, Jordan.

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