The Prophet Prefers Cats

Posted on December 27, 2011


Did you know the Prophet Muhammad had a favorite cat? It’s name was Muezza (Mu izza).

One day, the Prophet was awakened from a nap by the call to prayer. He yawned and began to stretch, but  he caught himself when he noticed that Muezza was asleep on the sleeve of his robe. The devout Prophet found himself in a bit of a predicament. He eventually decided to do what most of us would. He cut off the sleeve and slipped away to prayers leaving Muezza in undisturbed slumber. When he returned, he stroked the cat three times which is said to have granted cats seven lives and the ability to always land on their feet.

Or so the story goes…

All this for doing Jack-squat! In fact, Muezza was inconveniencing the prophet.

Dogs, on the other hand, are functional creatures who protect and serve loyally. However, knowing what I know about Islamic culture today, I bet the Prophet would not have even allowed his dog inside the house. Being an owner of two pugs, I’m more than a little prejudiced in the dog vs. cat debate. Still, I promise to save my whining for a different post. This one is dedicated to felines and the totally inexplicable love given to them in Istanbul and throughout the Mediterranean.

My first experience with cat culture on the Mediterranean was in Malta. Almost immediately, I noticed that there seemed to be more cats than people living on the island. There were specially constructed houses for them on the street. There was even a multi-storied structure labeled “Cat Hotel.”

You can see these cat houses all over Istanbul, too. Even though streets are often small, and sidewalks sometimes non-existent, reserve space for cats.

These styrofoam penthouses come with a luxury brick to protect them from blowing away.

Here is a nice re-enforced cardboard model. The duct-tape and plastic siding insulates and weatherproofs at the same time.

While Islam’s reverence for cats doesn’t explain the whole Mediterranean cat culture e.g. Malta, it is interesting to see how Istanbulites’ treatment of cats aligns very well with the teachings of Islam. According to one of the Hadiths, cats are considered to be as cleans as “one of those who go around amongst us.” In Istanbul, cats are allowed inside homes and businesses.

This one found the most comfortable spot in the Mango store.

Unfortunately, dogs are usually not welcome inside, so they do their best to block entrances in protest.

On a rainy winter night, a dog could never hope to find the kind of comfort the cat in the following video did:

I got most of the information in this post about Islam and cats from an article in the The Muslim Observer Among some of the interesting things I learned was this harsh punishment from the Hadiths.

“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.’”

I also found out that the Prophet shares something in common with my grandma. As a kid, I remember one time my grandmother came over to the house and shocked the whole family. Actually, she just kind of grossed us out. We were watching as she fed ice-cream to our cat from the same spoon she was using. When we questioned her on the matter, she said that it is scientifically proven that cats have cleaner mouths than humans so there was no risk and “isn’t that right, itty witty kitty?”

Apparently, Muhammad was of the same mind. He was said to drink from the same water previously drunk by his cat and even use it in his ablutions.

According to the Muslim Observer, Islam teaches:

  • cats should not be sold for money or other traded goods
  • cats saliva is harmless unless the cat has “visible impurities” in the mouth
  • 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)

Hope this was an interesting glimpse into Mediterranean and Islamic cat culture. I’ll leave you with a couple more images of Istanbul cats from my last walk.

King of the urban jungle.

Can you find all four rock cat’s?

The cat below has two different colored eyes just like the cats in Van. The Turkish city is known for its cats who have two different colored eyes and LIKE TO SWIM!

Another rock cat.

Why not end with a lowly Istanbul street dog.