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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many Muslims utilize both water and toilet paper to ensure thorough cleaning. A very common sight that you can see in any Muslim country is the presence of bidets in bathrooms. When a person logically thinks about it, then you realize that water is the only way to really ensure that all traces of urine and fecal matter are removed from the body.
Alongside the Islamic stipulations, Muslims must also utilize the other things available to use now to ensure cleanliness. Washing the hands after answering the call of nature is an absolute must. Additionally, brushing the teeth is very important for dental hygiene. Even in that regard, the Prophet (PBUH) recommended the usage of miswaks for Muslims to keeps their mouths clean and to avoid unpleasant odors.
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