Muslim vet nurse in S’pore has helped hundreds of dogs in 4 years: “It’s my responsibility to care for them” – Mothership.SG

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PERSPECTIVE: A common misconception people have is that Muslims are prohibited from touching dogs.

As explained by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), touching dogs is not against Islamic law and it is not a sin. However, any area that comes in contact with a dog’s saliva will need to be cleaned seven times, once with water mixed with soil (soil) and six times with clean water. This cleaning method is called crimped.

Ahmat Sharezza Ahmat Ja’affar, 28, is a Malaysian who lives and works in Singapore. For the past four years he has been a veterinary nurse at Brighton Vet Care. As a veterinary nurse, he is responsible for looking after pets, including dogs, and helping to care for them.

Talk to Mothership, Ahmat shares how he pursues his passion for animals while maintaining his religious belief and his obligations as a Muslim.

As said to Syahindah Ishak

Why are animals so important to you?

Growing up, my mother would bring stray cats home and take care of them. When a cat dies, it will adopt a new one. Our house would be filled with cats.

I guess my love for animals started from there … I really love animals, the H. I find them easier to manage than humans. *Laughs*

What is your favorite animal?

I love all animals but I must say cats, the H.

Image courtesy of Ahmat Sharezza.

How did you become a veterinary nurse? What did you study at school?

As I got older, I took my passion for animals seriously. I studied agricultural and animal sciences at Universiti Putra Malaysia and got my bachelor’s degree.

After that I went to Singapore and immediately started working as a veterinary nurse. I have worked for Brighton Vet Care for almost four years now.

Okay, let’s not beat around the bush anymore. As a Muslim, how do you deal with dogs on a daily basis?

*Laughs* I am probably asked this question a thousand times.

Okay, first of all I think people need to understand that as Muslims we can touch dogs. Only certain parts of a dog, like its saliva, are considered unclean in Islam. This is when we need to wash the area that has touched the dog’s saliva seven times, once with water and dirt, and six times with clean water.

Indeed, today there are soaps specially designed for this, which makes washing easier. You can find it online or in stores.

Screenshot from Google.

I have a few of these soaps with me. I put one in my clinic and one at home. It is basically like normal soap, but it is made of clayey earth.

So after taking care of the dogs, I’m going to wash my hands with soap. When I get home I will also take a shower using the soap to be on the safe side as parts of my body may have accidentally come into contact with the dog’s saliva.

Also, when I was studying in Malaysia, we had a subject devoted to it – on what is halal (authorized) or haram (not allowed) with regard to animals. We were taught how to deal with dogs or pigs, and how to perform the Islamic cleansing ritual.

And these animals, including dogs, they are under my responsibility as a veterinarian nurse. It is my responsibility to treat them, provide them with good service and take care of them.

Image courtesy of Ahmat Sharezza.

So being a Muslim has never stopped you from pursuing your passion?

Not at all.

There are people who come up to me and ask me: “Uh Ahmat, do you seriously work with dogs? “

I will simply answer: “Why not?”

I mean, I’m not doing a bad thing. I help these animals. These animals also have feelings, they also feel pain like us. So why not?

Has your family ever questioned your career choice?


I am very lucky. They have supported me from the start. They know my passion is for animals. They never doubted what I’m doing.

I know there are parents or family members in the Muslim community who do not allow their children to work with dogs. But it has never been a problem for my family.

And being a veterinary nurse is a good job. I’m doing something right. I believe Islam teaches us to do good and take care of other beings.

Why do you think some Muslims still feel very suspicious of dogs?

In my opinion, I think it is more common in the older generation who immediately think that dogs are haram or that they are unclean, without fully understanding Islamic law.

It is important to educate ourselves and know what is right and wrong, without being too quick to draw conclusions.

I mean, if you’re a muslim touching a dog just wash it off.

I understand that some people want to avoid touching dogs because having to bathe seven times is quite complicated. But if a dog comes up to you and licks you or something, it’s not the end of the world.

In fact, while I was doing my research I went through all the veterinary clinics in Singapore and it was crazy because I could hardly find any Muslims in the vet industry.

Yeah, there aren’t that many Muslims.

Is it because most Muslims are still wary of handling dogs? Why do you think there are not many Muslims in this area?

I don’t think they are afraid or worried about handling dogs. I think they are scared of people’s perspective on them, especially from the Malaysian / Muslim community. This is what I think personally, the H.

What would you say to young Muslims who wish to pursue a career in the veterinary industry?

Don’t be afraid of what others are saying. Don’t bother with all the negativity because if your passion is animals, then go for it.

As Muslims, we also need to properly educate ourselves about our religion. Know what is right and wrong, and how to handle dogs properly. Know how to wash afterwards.

And just remember that we, as Muslims, have to be kind to all animals. Islam taught us that.

Do you remember your first time with a dog as a veterinarian nurse? How was it ?

Yes I remember it clearly. I had to deal with a big dog.

My boss had already warned me that he was a big dog. She told me to talk if I don’t know anything.

I wanted to try, you know? When I was studying I only had the chance to handle and restrain small dogs.

But at work, I had to do all kinds of things, like drawing blood from the dog, for example. It was a good learning experience for me. I always learn on the job.

How did you feel when you saw the dog for the first time?

I was actually a little scared, the H. He was a very big dog and I didn’t have a lot of experience. But it went well.

Over the years, I realize that some dogs can appear aggressive and large, but they end up being very clingy and manja (pampered), it’s very cute.

How do pet owners, especially non-Muslims, react when they see you? What do they say?

There are so many clients – not Muslims – who come to me and ask me if I am a Muslim. After I tell them I am, they will ask me if I can touch the dogs. That’s when I educate them, and eventually they will understand.

There are also clients who get a little shy and awkward when they see me. It’s like they want to ask me questions but they don’t want to offend me either, you know? I’m just going to act as usual and do my job. When they see me treating their dogs, I see them become calmer. Some of them will also end up asking me questions, and then I’ll just explain it to them.

What about Muslim customers? What do they tell you when they see you?

So far, they have been very understanding. There is no judgment or anything like that. I am very lucky, I have good relations with my clients, Muslims and non-Muslims.

I think Singaporeans are generally more open these days.

In your four years as a veterinarian, how many dogs do you think you’ve treated in total?

*Laughs* So much, the H. Probably hundreds. A working day lasts about 12 hours, so I take care of dogs, cats, hamsters and all kinds of pets.

So at least a hundred dogs.

What are some of your memorable moments as a veterinarian nurse?

I have been bitten by dogs and cats several times which is normal for this job. I think my colleagues have worse. A colleague of mine had his butt bitten by a large dog. *Laughs*

Is it difficult to handle dogs?

I mean, of course when I have to restrain the dog to draw blood it can get difficult because these animals don’t know what’s going on and it can be a shock to them to suddenly be restrained. But so far it’s okay for me. Like I said I got bitten here and there but everything is normal, the H.

In fact, dogs are easier to handle than cats.

What? Oh good?

Yeah, cats are just something else. I feel stupid when I fight with cats. They have more personality than dogs, you know?

So when you try to approach or hold back cats, especially those who are already in a bad mood, it’s crazy I tell you. They run so fast and their bite is actually much more painful than a dog bite.

If I have to choose between restraining a dog or a cat, I prefer to restrain the dog. Dogs are always good, more manageable.

Do you have a favorite dog breed?

Sure. My favorite breed is the Pomeranian. They are very small and cute. They can get aggressive at times, but they are very small so there is little that they can do.

Do you think you will still be in this industry 10 years from now? What will your future look like?

I really like this job. I really don’t see myself working in an office and interacting with humans, don’t be offended the H. *Laughs*

No, it’s okay, I totally understood.

Yeah, it’s my passion. I can never let go.

No matter what, I will always work with animals. I just love them.

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The best images are courtesy of Ahmat Sharezza. Quotes have been edited for clarity.

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