Salehatul Khuzaimah Mohamad Ali, who is Malay-Muslim, doesn't let the critics stop her from treating dogs.
Stigma against dogs harms them
The Malaysian veterinarian is better known as Dr. Ima on her TikTok channel, where she has more than 270,000 followers.
The animal lover said the stigma against dogs is actually her biggest challenge at work.
She said that there is a tendency for people who are afraid of dogs, or people who associate dogs with being haram (not permissible), to harm dogs.
She shared this in a TikTok video, where she shows news reports of intentional dog abuse by members of the public.
Growing up, she was taught that touching or having dogs is forbidden.
If not for her field of work, she would likely still carry this stigma, admits Khuzaimah.
Despite having been a vet for 13 years, netizens ask her to change her job because it is haram, or tell her to pick other patients.
"I get a lot of criticism just because I'm handling dogs," said Khuzaimah.
But as a vet, she said it is not possible to avoid treating dogs altogether.
Touching dogs is not a sin
It is a common misconception 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 into contact with a dog's saliva will have to be cleansed seven times — once with water mixed with earth (soil), and six times with clean water. This cleansing method is referred to as sertu.
In an interview with Free Malaysia Today, Khuzaimah said the sertu procedure is easy and should not be a deterrent to animal lovers.
She added that it is her duty to care for all creatures not only because she is a vet, but because they are lives created by Allah.
“Both dog and pigs are also creatures created by God […] but the stigma and the mentality of our society especially the Malay Muslims against dogs and pigs is so negative that this often leads to the mistreatment of both animals,” she told Focus Malaysia.
Hopes to be an inspiration for Muslim vets
The 37-year-old has her own clinic in Selangor, Malaysia. Her husband and three children are very supportive of her work.
Beyond just treating animals, she is an advocate for animal welfare through her TikTok platform.
"Not everyone can understand what I actually try to fight for," says Khuzaimah.
In her videos, she shares about the interesting animal patients she sees at work as well as debunks myths and misinformation about pet care and animals in general.
When it comes to canines, Khuzaimah says there is much to do to improve awareness and education on the overpopulation of stray dogs.
These include promoting pet owners to spay and neuter, as well as to adopt, not shop.
She hopes her work can inspire others to show care to animals.
"I just hope that in the future we have more Muslim vets that can fight for animal welfare," said Khuzaimah.
@drima_vet Ihsan to every animals including dogs. Thank you @myforeverdoggo for the awesome coverage ❤️#vetlife #drima_vet #TikTokGuru #LearnOnTikTok #fyp #foryoupage #JomBelajar #dog ♬ original sound - Salehatul Khuzaimah