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Friday bath, Muslims & cleanliness!

“Excuse me, Sir. I was told that you are a Muslim? ” “Well in that case, I would like to know, how do you people manage with only one bath a week? he asked. 

Possibly less out of ignorance and more to vilify me, he continued in the same vein. ”I understand that you people take bath only on Jumma, that is Fridays?” 

Ignoring the clear sarcasm in his tone, I said, “Yes you may be right..” I paused. “It is true that Muslims do take bath on Fridays, but they also take bath on the eve of their festivals. They also bath after burying their dead. The Muslim males take bath every time they ejaculate for any reason. Muslim females also take bath at the end of their menses. Muslim couples take bath after having sex. This is over and above the daily routine bath one undertakes as a matter of habit.”

“Do you know gentleman,” I continued, ”Muslims wash their genitals after passing urine? Do you also know that prior to each prayer five times a day, Muslims perform what is known as Ablution (Wudu), whereby they wash off all those parts of the body which are exposed to environmental pollution?”

Is it out of sheer ignorance or systematic vilification campaign, one cannot decide for sure, but giving the benefit of doubt to all our friends who are not only awfully ignorant about Muslims and Islam but are also vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, we would like to give them a brief idea of the concept and practice of cleanliness in Islam. 

The importance of cleanliness in Islam can be gauged from this simple fact that most of the Books of Ahadith (Prophet’s deeds and sayings) and also the Books of Fiqh (Sharia) start with a chapter on Taharah that is cleanliness. (In fact the meaning and spirit behind the concept of Taharah is much beyond the superficiality of the conventional cleanliness). This particular chapter starts with the classification of water and goes on to describe how water gets impure or polluted, modes and methods of purification of water and host of other topics. This chapter ends with a concluding topic of ‘how Muslims should bath their dead?’

Muslims go much beyond the superficial and cosmetic concept of ‘Manicure & Pedicure’ imported from the West. They do not believe in the technology which combines toilet papers with odor-masking perfumes.

Muslim males are required to get circumcised so that even faint traces of urine are not entrapped in the foreskin of the genitals. The fruit of such a clean practice is borne out by the results of studies carried out by Prof. Schot of Australia, in the African AIDS belt, where to his surprise he discovered that the occurrence of this fatal disease was least among those who practiced circumcision. Dr. Advani of Tata Cancer Research Institute, Mumbai, also confirmed that Muslim women constitute the least percentage among the victims of vaginal cancer. The observation, he said, can only be explained by the fact that their males are circumcised.

Muslims are duty bound to shave off their armpits and pubic hair as a matter of routine practice. The males are also instructed to trim their moustaches in order to keep them clear of oral intakes. Our beloved Prophet strictly prohibited his followers to consume onion and garlic (indicating thereby any foul smelling consumable including cigarettes) before going to any congregational prayer in mosques, lest they offend fellow companions praying next to them. Brushing of teeth ( once in a day ) is very recent development of near past. Muslims are known to use Miswak, the herbal brush for the past 1400 years, five times a day prior to each ablution, as recommended by their Prophet.

Cleanliness is inbuilt in Islamic Sharia, as prerequisite to every form and mode of worship. Be it the recital of the holy Qur’an, offering of the five daily prayers, fasting or the Hajj. In fact a Muslim cannot offer his obligatory prayers with unclean body, clothes or using dirty premises. The Holy Qur’an instructs the faithful to ”keep their clothes clean” (74:4). They are also made to imbibe this very message that “Allah loves those who are clean.” (2:222). In fact to what length and breadth, Islam goes on to take care of its followers in respect of personal hygiene, can be exemplified by the afore-mentioned verse whereby Muslims are categorically prohibited to have sex with their mates during menses. 

Well at this juncture someone may start feeling that Islam prescribes much more stringent code of cleanliness than they ever thought. They are not wrong. But they are not fully correct too! The emphasis in Islam is more on the cleanliness of the inner-self, that is heart, mind and soul. The external cleaning process and rituals in reality are the preparatory ground work to achieve the more important task and that is cleanliness of the inner-self, which is the ultimate goal of the religion.

- Moin Don (moindon@yahoo.com)
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