The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

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  • The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

  • Cleanliness and Beautification

    The attention to hygiene is another aspect of Civilized Manner (Suluk Al-Hadari) which is an unknown concern in any other religion or philosophy before Islam. Cleanliness became an essential part of the rites and worship to such extent that it is an inseparable part of the Muslim's life.

    The five daily Prayers are obligatory upon every Muslim, man and women. This Prayer is actually pledge to meet Allah, the Exalted, from the rising of the dawn until the disappearance of the twilight at evening. It is, in fact a spiritual shower washing away sins five times a day. In this respect Allah says: "And establish regular Prayers at the two ends of the day and when the night approaches, surely the good deeds blot out the evil deeds." (11:114)

    This Islamic Prayer has a uniqueness unlike the Prayer in other religions in that physical purification is a necessary condition. If Prayer is the key to Paradise then, likewise purification is the key to Prayer. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Allah does not accept Prayers without purification." [Note: Reported by Muslim and Ibn Majah on the authority of Ibn `Umar, also by Ibn Majah on the authority of Anas and Abi Bakrah and also Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah on the authority of the father of Abi Al Malih, Sahih Al- Jami' Al-Saghir, No.7746]  

    This purification and cleanliness are of two kinds: purification from impurities and purification from the excretions of the penis, vagina or anus.

    Purification from impurities purifies the body, the clothes and the place in which one prays from any impurities such as the stains of the blood, dead animals and pigs, and the vomiting, urine or excrement of human beings and animals.

    The other kind of purification does not mean cleanliness from something palpable. But rather purifying the inner of oneself because it is an order from Allah. A Muslim is obliged to make ablution if exposed to minor impurities. This means he must wash the areas of the body which are ordinarily exposed to dust and dirt and he should have a body-washing (Ghusl) after menstruation and sexual intercourse. Moreover, these acts of purification are connected to recurrent natural stimuli which one must blot out through purification. It is also preferable, in Islam, for the Muslim to be eager to clean his body regularly, particularly when he meets his fellow Muslims in the congregational Prayers.  

    Ghusl is also an act in which it is preferable to be performed before the Friday congregational Prayer as stated in the noble hadith. In other versions, the hadith goes to the extent of ordering one to perform (Ghusl) as part of the overall cleanliness and hygiene of the Muslim Society: "Ghusl on Friday is obligatory (Wajib) on every adult!" [Note: Reported by Malik, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah on the authority of Sa'id, Sahih Al-Jami' Al-Saghir, (3690)]  

    By adult, he means a sane human being who is of the age in which his deeds are held accountable before Allah. Another hadith obliges the Muslim to perform (Ghusl) at least once a week saying: "Every Muslim should bathe once every seven days where he should wash his head and alt of his body." [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Abu Hurairan, Al-Lu `Lu' Wal Marjan, (No.442)]  

    The Sunnah has directed attention in taking care of certain parts of the human body such as the mouth. The means of cleaning it was the Swak which is easily found and used in the Arab Peninsula. In this respect, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "The Swak is a purifying agent for the mouth and it is a way of seeking Allah's Pleasure." [Note: Reported by Ahmad on the authority Abi Bakr; also by Al-Shafi'i, Ahmad, Nasa'i, Ibn Khaizamah, Ibn Hibban, Al-hakim and Al-Baihaqi on the authority of `Aishah, and by Ibn Majah on the authority of Abi Umaman, Sahih Al-Jami Al-Saghir, (3695)]

    Concerning the hair, Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever has hair should care about it." [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud on the authority of Abu Rurairah, (No. 4163), Sahih Al-Jami' Al-Saghir, (No.6497)] `Ata' Ibn Yasser reported that: "A man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him): When he was in the mosque with uncomped hair and an untidy beard. The Prophet pointed to him as if ordering him to fix his hair and beard. He did so and returned. Thereupon the Prophet (Peace be upon him): When he was in the mosque observed, "Isn't this better than one of you coming with his hair uncomped, as if he was a devil ?" [Note: Reported by Malik, Al-Mawatta', vol.2, p.949]  Thus the Prophet as the instructor taught the Muslims the importance of having a pleasant appearance which comes second in importance after the excellence of the inner self. Furthermore, he taught Muslims to wash their hands thrice on waking up before putting them in the water, saying, "For no one knows where his bands were during sleep." [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majab, Al-Nasa'i, Abu Dawud, and Al-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abu Hurairah, Sahih Al-Jam'i Al Saghir, No.332]  

    For Arabs used to clean their private parts with stones due to scarcity of water and many of them weren't in the habit of wearing pants, so perhaps they might have touched their private parts (where the impurity was) while they were asleep.

      He also taught them to wash their hands after eating and particularly after eating meat. He went so far as to warn them against neglecting to wash their hands before sleep saying: "Whoever goes to sleep without washing his hands from the traces of fatty foods, exposes himself to illness and should blame no one but himself." [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud (No.3852), Al-Tirmidhi (No.1861), Ibn Majah (No.3267), and Ibn Hibban as mentioned in Al-Mawarid (No. 1354), all of them reported it on the authority of Abu Hurairah except Ibn Majah who reported it after Fatimah, (May Allah be pleased with both of them), No.3296]

    The Sunnah stressed the importance of cleanliness in the house saying: "You must clean your houses and do not follow in the footsteps of Jews". [Note: Reported by Al-Tirmidhi]  

    Moreover, the Sunnah instructed Muslims to maintain the cleanliness of the roads by lifting any harmful objects found on it. This is considered a Sadaqa and as a means to ridding the streets of impurities and filth.  

    Some Bedouin Arabs used to urinate on the roads or in the shade. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) strictly warned them against it and considered it one of the reasons to provoke Allah's curse and the people's curse saying:

    "Beware of those acts which cause others to curse. They asked, "What are those acts?" The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Relieving oneself in the people's walkways or in their shade". [Note: Reported by Ahmad, Muslim and Abu Dawud on the authority of Abu Hurairah, the previous reference (no. 110)]

    "Beware of the three acts that cause others to curse you: relieving yourselves in a watering place, on foot paths or shaded places." [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Al-Hakim and Al-Baihaqi on the authority of Mu'adh, Sahij' Al- Jaini' Al-Saghir (no. 112)]

      This instruction in conjunction with the others were the first attempts, known in the history of mankind, to link human beings with the protection of the environment from harm in the name of religion.  


    A. Why Should Islam Stress the Importance of Cleanliness:

    This is due to several considerations in the Sunnah as well as the Qur'an.       First, cleanliness is one of the qualities which Allah, the Exalted, loves. He says: "Surely God loves those who repent, and He loves those who are always pure." (2:222) He also praised the people of Qiba' and their love of cleanliness, saying, "A mosque which was founded upon piety from the very first day is more worthy be stood in. In it are men who love to purify themselves, and God loves those who purify themselves."(9:108)  

    Purification or cleanliness is considered an inseparable part of faith to the extent that some Muslims mistook the saying: "Cleanliness is a sign of faith" as a hadith. The actual authentic hadith in this respect says: "Purification is half of faith" [Note: Reported by Muslim, Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abi Malik Al-Ash'ari, Sahih Al- Jami' Al-Saghir (No.3957)]  

    Purification includes both moral purificatiwhere one is free from polytheism, hypocrisy and ill manners, and physical purification means private and public cleanliness.  

          Second, cleanliness is the pathway to health and strength. Islam aspires the health and strength of Muslims, preparing them to confront and overcome different circumstances and as ammunition for the Muslim group. The strong believer is better and Allah loves him more than the weak believer. The Muslim is entrusted with his body thus, he must not neglect it until it becomes plagued with disease for the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

    "Your body has a right on you." [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of `Abdullah Ibn `Amr, Al-Lu `lu' Wal Marjan (No.715)]

              Third, cleanliness is a prerequisite to beautification or appearing in the way most loved by Allah and His Prophet. It is reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Allah is Beautiful and He loves beauty."

    After the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "If one has an atom's weight of arrogant pride in his he! he will not enter Paradise". On hearing the Prophet's words, a man said: I like to wear elegant clothes and shoes or he said one likes to wear elegant clothes and shoes.' The Prophet commented, "Allah is beautiful and he loves beauty, arrogant pride means the denial of the truth and despising people." [Note: Reported by Muslim on the authority of Ibn Mas'ud in the book of Iman, (No.147)]

    Allah, the Exalted says: "O children of Adam, adorn yourselves fully at every time of prayer." And says: "Who had forbidden the ornament of God which He brought forth for His servants and who has forbidden the good things which he has provided?"(7:31-32)  

    Hence, `the Prophet forbade men going to the mosque in the clothes worn at work. Al-Hasan used to adorn himself wearing musk and his best garments on going to the mosque. When asked about this, he explained:

    "I beautify myself for Allah's Sake." Then he recited, "Adorn yourselves fully at every time of Prayer."

    Lastly, cleanliness and pleasant appearance are of characteristics which allow relationships to strengthen amongst people. The sane human being will try to avoid people who are unkempt. Hence, the Prophet emphasized the importance of Ghusl or bathing on Friday. Similarly, there is a prohibition on eating garlic, onion, leek and food like it, before going to the mosque in order not to disturb others from the strong odor. If one insists on eating them, then he is not permitted to enter the mosque and is deprived of the congregational Prayer.  

    In both Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:"Whoever has eaten garlic, should not approach our mosque". [Note: Agreed upon, Al-lu'lu' Wal Marjan (No.331-333]  

    Jabir Ibn `Abdullah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever has eaten garlic or onion should keep away from our mosque and stay at home." [Note: Agreed upon, Al-Lu `lu' Wal Marjan (No 331-333)]

           And Al-Mughirah Ibn Shu'bah reported; "Whoever has eaten from this malignant tree, should not approach our mosque until its smell completely vanishes." [Note: Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Ibn Hibban, Sahih Al- Jami' Al Saghir (No.6092)]  

    These Hadiths rebukes those who eat these raw legumes and threaten to exclude him from approaching the mosques. By analogy, smokers, nowadays, should be deprived of approaching the mosques for they expose people to passive smoking, consequently, to danger.  

    These legumes are lawful - halal per se, whereas , smoking is dangerous physically, spiritually, and economically and it is thereupon judged as forbidden. The Ayah in which Allah describes his Prophet in the books of old times apply to smoking as Allah says: "He enjoins on them what is good and forbids them from what is evil".

    On the bases of instinct, intellect and scientific proofs, tobacco is definitely not one of the good things in life.


    B. Among the Privileges of Islam:

    The regard to cleanliness in Islam is seen as one of Islam's great privileges. This fact is emphasized through two points: Firstly, the Arabs, like many people from the same environment and circumstances, were almost Bedouin thus, most of them held little importance to personal hygiene and the cleanliness of their houses. This could be attributed to the scarcity of water in the region as there were no rivers such as the Nile, the Tigris or the Euphrates. What existed were wells which were either deficient or abundant and relied upon rainfall which was sparse in number and quantity. They therefore had to exert perseverance and effort in order to progress from the stages of Bedouinism to the state of civilization thus growing to love cleanliness to the extent that it became an inseparable characteristic of their lives.

    On reading the hadith, one becomes acquainted with the bad habits which prevailed amongst them, such as urinating in running and stagnant water as well as in walkways and shaded places.

    In this respect, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:"None of you should urinate in still water and then perform Ghusl in it." [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Abu Hurairah, Al-Lu'lu' Wal Mrajan (No.161)]

          "None of you should urinate in stagnant water and then make ablution in it ". [Note: Reported by Ahmad, Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nasa'i, Sahih Al-Jami' Al Saghir, (No.7594)]


    "None of you should urinate in a bathing place." [Note: Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Al Nasa'i, Al-Hakim and Ibn Hibban on the authority of `Abdulah Ibn Mighfal, Sahih Al- Jami' Al-Saghir (No.7597)]

    The second point is that, the prevailing religions in the Arabian Peninsula and the areas in its vicinity, did not lay great importance to cleanliness nor did they encourage their followers to partake in it. In fact, a number of hadiths reported that the Jews did not care about hygiene of their houses therefore, Allah's Prophet said: "Clean your houses and do not follow in the footsteps of the Jews."

    As for the Christian monks, they renounced personal hygiene as part and parcel of the world which they had rid themselves of. This world included marriage, eating the best food and similar pleasures. All the other religions and philosophies are based upon the belief that the human body is an evil entity which should be deprived of all the good things in life including cleanliness and ornaments.


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