Allah says in the Quran in Surah al-Baqarah that He loves the humans who repent to Him and those who purify themselves. Additionally, Prophet Muhammad (S) said in a strongly worded Hadith that cleanliness is half of faith. This leaves no room for doubt for a Muslim. Being clean, having a good appearance, and taking care of our hygiene are all important things in Islam.
It’s important for us to realize that this has a dual meaning. Cleanliness refers to physical and inward purification. Both are important for Muslims. If we look around the world, we will see that personal hygiene is something that the whole world stresses upon. We have millions of products related to hygiene, including soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, etc.
What is missing in this world today is the spiritual and inward cleanliness. Islam, however, perfectly balances both. Most aspects of Islam focus on spiritual and inward cleanliness. However, Allah and the Prophet (PBUH)’s strong words regarding the importance of cleanliness and purification helps us to keep the importance of hygiene in view as well.
Just think about a person who is a leader in a community or a teacher of a group. If he shows up with a disheveled look, unclean clothes, unpleasant smell, etc., how many people will take him seriously? Being clean and having a pleasant appearance is a must as a human trait because it’s human nature to like clean things and dislike dirt and filth.
The Significance of Cleanliness in Islam
The religious and spiritual importance of cleanliness
A. Cleanliness holds a profound religious and spiritual significance in Islam. It is often said that “Cleanliness is half of faith,” reflecting the importance of this virtue in the religion. Several Quranic verses and Hadiths (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad) emphasize this significance:
In Surah Al-Baqarah (2:222), we are reminded of the importance of cleanliness . This verse underscores the spiritual dimension of cleanliness in Islam. It states:
Allāh loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.”
Surah At-Tawbah (9:108) highlights how God loves those who purify themselves, emphasizing that cleanliness is not just a physical act but also a means of spiritual purification.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself emphasized the importance of cleanliness, stating, “Cleanliness is half of faith” (Sahih Muslim). His teachings reinforced the idea that keeping our bodies and surroundings clean is an integral part of our faith.
Cleanliness is a reflection of a person’s faith and character
Cleanliness is indeed a reflection of a person’s faith and character in Islam. A clean heart is often associated with a clean body and environment. When a person prioritizes cleanliness, it indicates their commitment to faith and righteousness. Cleanliness is not merely a superficial act but a spiritual one as well, symbolizing the removal of impurities from both the physical self and the soul. Someone dedicated to cleanliness is likely to lead a disciplined and spiritually fulfilling life.
Ritual Cleanliness in Islam
The concept of ritual purity (Taharah)
Ritual purity, known as “Taharah,” is a foundational concept in Islam. It refers to the state of cleanliness required for various religious rituals and acts of worship. Before performing prayers, reading the Quran, or engaging in other acts of worship, Muslims are expected to be in a state of ritual purity.
The importance of Wudu (ablution) and Ghusl (ritual bath)
Wudu (ablution) and Ghusl (ritual bath) are essential practices to maintain ritual purity.
Wudu (ablution) and cleanliness
Muslims need to perform wudu a few times a day, at least. As a result, this form of cleaning and self-purification is always at the forefront of a Muslim’s cleanliness routine.
It is compulsory for Muslims to perform salah (prayer) five times a day. We can only perform salah when we are in the state of wudu. To perform wudu in the way Allah described in Surah al-Ma’idah, we have to wash our hands, face (including mouth and nose), arms, and feet, and run our hands through our hair. The things that break wudu include sleeping, answering the call of nature, passing wind, etc.
As a result, most Muslims perform wudu five times a day, and possibly even more if they offer optional prayers or read the Quran by touching the printed version. Hence, Muslims take part in the form of purification and cleanliness regularly.
Wudu involves cleansing specific body parts, such as the hands, face,head, and feet, before each prayer.
Abdullah bin Zaid narrated that:
“The Prophet performed Wudu. So he washed his face three times, and washed his hands two times each, and wiped his head, and washed his feet [two times].”Jami` at-Tirmidhi 47
Ghusl (full-body ritual purification) and cleanliness
Muslims have to perform ghusl, i.e., ritual bathing when they are in a state of janaabah. The state of janaabah is when a Muslim has engaged in sexual intercourse. It is also applicable when a Muslim ejaculates, even if it was via nocturnal emission (wet dream). This renders cleanliness invalid.
In all such cases where semen exits the body (except for exceptional medical cases or otherwise), ghusl is compulsory. Women also have to perform ghusl after the completion of their menstrual periods and after postpartum bleeding.
Ghusl can be one of two types. One is the short version where a person makes the intention to perform ghusl and then washes the body from head to toe with water, including the mouth and nose. The longer version (which is the sunnah) requires a more methodical and slower approach. However, both serve the purpose. Hence, ritual bathing is another way for Muslims to obey the Islamic command of being clean and pure.
Ghusl is a more comprehensive ritual bath required after certain impure activities or states. These practices ensure that Muslims approach their acts of worship in a state of physical and spiritual purity.
The role of cleanliness in daily prayers (Salat)
Cleanliness plays a crucial role in daily prayers (Salat). Muslims perform Wudu before each prayer, reinforcing the connection between cleanliness and worship. Being physically and spiritually clean is essential when standing in the presence of Allah.
Personal Hygiene in Islam
The importance of personal cleanliness in daily life
Personal hygiene in daily life is highly valued in Islam. It goes beyond religious rituals and encompasses everyday practices like regular bathing, maintaining clean bodies and clothes, and practicing good hygiene. These practices are seen as a way to uphold Islamic values in daily life.
The recommended practices for oral hygiene, including Miswak usage
Islam encourages the use of the Miswak (a teeth-cleaning twig) for oral hygiene, highlighting the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy mouth.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “I have told you repeatedly to use the Siwak. (The Prophet (ﷺ) put emphasis on the use of the Siwak.)
Sahih al-Bukhari 888
The significance of clean clothing and grooming
Muslims are encouraged to wear clean and modest clothing as part of their daily lives. Grooming and maintaining a neat appearance are also considered important aspects of personal hygiene and cleanliness.
Personal hygiene and toilet etiquette
Islam has outlined very specific ways for Muslims to utilize the toilet. In fact, most Muslim practices relating to the toilet ensure that they have a standard of cleanliness that is far and beyond what is even practiced in the first world Western countries.
The crux of the Islamic hygiene routine in this regard, which ensures cleanliness, is the usage of water for purification. Muslims must wash their genitals after answering the call of nature, whether it be urination or defecation. In the West, the usage of toilet paper is the most common and widespread method. However, Islam adds the requirement of water that leads to a more thorough cleaning.
Cleanliness in Dietary Practices
The principles of clean and halal (permissible) food in Islam
In Islam, the principles of clean and halal (permissible) food are deeply rooted in the religion’s dietary laws. Muslims are instructed to consume food that is not only halal but also tayyib, which means pure and wholesome.
Key principles include
- Avoiding haram foods
- Ensuring halal slaughter
- Preventing cross-contamination.
The significance of proper food handling and preparation
Proper food handling and preparation are essential to maintain cleanliness and safety. Islam places great importance on hygiene during food preparation, including
- Cleanliness of cooks
- Safe storage practices.
The practice of washing hands
The practice of washing hands before the meals is integral to Islamic dietary hygiene, specially when you are sexually impure. It helps remove impurities before eating and shows gratitude and cleanliness after the meal.
It was narrated from ‘Aishah that: If the Prophet wanted to eat when he was sexually impure, he would wash his hands.
Sunan Ibn Majah 593
Cleanliness in Social Interactions
The importance of clean and presentable appearance when interacting with others
Islam values a clean and presentable appearance when interacting with others. This reflects self-respect and respect for those with whom one interacts. Dressing modestly and neatly contributes to a positive image and promotes cleanliness in social settings.
The etiquette of visiting others’ homes and maintaining cleanliness
When visiting others’ homes, Muslims follow etiquette such as removing shoes to keep living spaces clean, maintaining personal hygiene, and being considerate of the host’s space and privacy.
The concept of cleanliness in marriage and family life
Cleanliness is emphasized in marriage and family life, with couples encouraged to share household cleanliness responsibilities and teach children the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene from a young age.
Cleanliness of the Environment
The Islamic teachings regarding cleanliness in the community and public spaces
Islam teaches that cleanliness extends to the community and public spaces. Muslims are encouraged to keep public areas clean and free from pollution or waste, reflecting social responsibility and environmental respect.
The duty of Muslims to maintain a clean and healthy environment
Muslims have a duty to care for the environment, including responsible waste disposal, resource conservation, and mindful actions that promote cleanliness and sustainability. Environmental cleanliness aligns with personal and communal cleanliness.
Cleanliness and the acts of natural disposition (fitra)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told us that there we are all born with a natural disposition. This means there are certain things that are part of our innate nature. Among them is the belief in Allah. When it comes to cleanliness, the Prophet (PBUH) said that five things are part of the fitra: removing pubic hair, circumcision, trimming mustaches, plucking armpit hair, and cutting nails.
- Removing pubic hair : The Prophet (PBUH) informed us that we should remove pubic hair at least once every 40 days. He recommended plucking the hair, but any method for its removal is acceptable as long as it serves the purpose. Doing so helps to ensure that we can clean ourselves and maintain purity.
- Circumcision : Most Islamic scholars are in agreement that circumcision is mandatory for men. Once again, this also helps Muslims to keep maintain cleanliness in a better way. Most Muslim parents have this done shortly after childbirth.
- Trimming mustaches: It is sunnah for Muslim men to let their beards grow while trimming the mustache. Some schools of thought are of the view that the mustache should be shaved. Regardless, trimming the mustache so that it doesn’t get in the mouth while eating, etc., is the standard Islamic viewpoint.
- Removing armpit hair is also important as the armpit is an area where swear and moisture easily collects. With dirt build-up, it’s easy for the armpit to become filthy, giving off an unpleasant odor.
- Cutting nails is also a part of fitra and maintaining cleanliness. Dirt collects easily under long nails, which gives off a bad odor and is also unhygienic. The bad effect of long nails come to the fore when a person eats food or prepares food for others, as the filth enters the food.
Challenges and Modern Perspectives
In the modern world, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene can be challenging due to fast-paced lifestyles, pollution, and processed foods. These challenges can impact individuals and communities by compromising their health and well-being.
How contemporary Muslims can adapt Islamic principles to their daily lives
To adapt Islamic cleanliness principles to contemporary life, Muslims can incorporate daily routines, mindfulness, and eco-friendly practices. By doing so, they can uphold their commitment to cleanliness and faith.
The importance of environmental conservation in the context of cleanliness
Environmental conservation is crucial in the context of cleanliness, and Muslims can play a significant role by reducing waste, conserving resources, and promoting sustainability, aligning their faith with responsible stewardship of the planet.
The importance of having a good appearance
Allah always encourages Muslims to dress well and have a good appearance without being extravagant. There is nothing wrong with Muslims having good clothes and wearing them. In fact, Allah encourages it in many places in the Quran, especially for Muslims who are visiting mosques for prayer. For the Juma prayer, the Prophet (PBUH) asked us to wear good clothes, and for Eid prayer, the best clothes.
While wearing good clothes is important, they must be within Islamic guidelines. That means they should be modest and moderate, not flashy and over the top.
Allah ordered Muslims to take their adornment when they go out in public. This means having a good outward appearance, utilizing perfumes and deodorants, and practicing good hygiene to ensure that bad odors aren’t present. The Prophet (PBUH) said that Muslims should wear good clothing but without pride or being extravagant.
The Prophet (PBUH) said that a person who eats garlic or onion shouldn’t go to the mosque. This is because of the bad odor emitted by a person who eats these things, thereby once again showing the immense value Islam attaches to cleanliness.
A point-by-point plan for Muslims
- Regularly perform wudu
- Perform ghusl at least once a week
- Remove pubic and armpit hair once every 40 days
- Clip fingernails and toenails regularly
- Trim the mustache often
- Brush teeth regularly, preferably twice a day
- Comb hair and beard to maintain a neat appearance
- Wearing good clothes, especially to the mosque
- Use perfumes and deodorants to avoid bad odors
- Maintain cleanliness in and around your house
- Dispose of garbage without inconveniencing people
- Don’t litter the streets; promote a clean community
- Encourage others to maintain cleanliness as well
Cleanliness in Islam isn’t just about washing hands and rituals. It’s a reflection of our faith and character. Think of it as a way to keep our bodies and souls pure. We wash before prayers, practice personal hygiene, and even follow dietary rules. It’s about respecting ourselves, others, and our environment.