Owning a dog in Iran could result in 74 lashes under a new law passed by the Iranian government while in Malaysia, Muslims clerics have voiced their outrage after a dog patting event was held in a public park.

Both incidents have made it clear how some Muslims feel about man's best friend. Simply put, many, including several scholars, believe dogs are impure.

The Koran does not give specific guidance on how Muslims should behave with the animals but it does have some passages where dogs are mentioned and which have different interpretations.

In one instance, the Koran describes a situation where the angel Gabriel interrupts a meeting with the Prophet Muhammad because a dog has wandered into the prophet's home.

"We angels do not enter a home in which there is a dog or a picture," Gabriel tells the prophet.

One of the hadiths (teachings, deeds and sayings of the prophet Muhammad) used by Muslims to explain their antipathy towards dogs reads: "If a dog licks the vessel of any one of you, let him throw away whatever was in it and wash it seven times."

Therefore, several Muslim scholars believe that the saliva of a dog is impure and thus the animals cannot be kept as a pet.

However, some have also argued that considering the dog's saliva as dirty is not a matter of religion, but of common sense against the spread of illnesses.

Is keeping a Dog Haram for Muslims?

There is no a clear answer on whether the Koran forbids people from keeping dogs as pets or from touching them.

As the Koran mentions dogs used for hunting, some believe the animals can be kept, if used for a specific purpose.

According to Islam Questions and Answers, "It is not permissible for a Muslim to keep a dog, unless he needs this dog for hunting, guarding livestock or guarding crops.

"Al-Bukhaari (2145) narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: 'Whoever keeps a dog, a qiraat [unit of measurement] from his good deeds will be deducted every day, except a dog for farming or herding livestock.'"

However, according to Islamic Concern, another website aimed at clarifying Islamic concepts that might be misinterpreted, the Koran does not forbid Muslims from owning a dog.

"Traditionally, dogs have been seen as impure, and the Islamic legal tradition has developed several injunctions that warn Muslims against most contact with dogs. Unfortunately, many Muslims have used this view to justify the abuse and neglect of dogs, even though cruelty contradicts the Koran's view that all animals form 'communities like you.'

"It is NOT haram to own a dog, though it is not hygienic to keep a dog in the house. It is NOT haram to touch a dog or any other animal. If the saliva of a dog touches you or any part of your clothing, then it is required of you to wash the body part touched and the item of clothing touched by the dog's mouth or snout," the website continues.

"It is incumbent upon all Muslims who own animals, whether for farming or work purposes or as pets, to provide adequate shelter, food, water, and, when needed, veterinary care for their animals.

"It is haram to keep a dog or any other animal on a short lead for long periods without food, water, and shelter. It is cruel, and therefore haram, to keep any animal in a cage so small that it cannot behave in a natural way.

"It is haram to participate in any blood 'sport,' like dog fighting and trophy hunting."