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Personal hygiene in Islam

Islam is a religion of cleanliness and that of purity. It is of great importance for us Muslims to be clean and pure as it is a precursor to most of our rituals and worship. Not only for worshipping purposes, a Muslim should keep himself and his surrounding clean at all times. The Prophet SAW said in a hadith that “cleanliness is half of faith.” (Saheeh Muslim).

The Quran also further emphasized the importance of cleanliness as Allah said in the Quran : “Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222). Although cleanliness is a something of a desirable trait in Islam, some forms of purification are compulsory. Scholars divide purification into 3 parts:

#1. Purification or ritual washing in order to perform prayer

#2. Keeping the body, clothing and surroundings clean

#3. Removing dirt or grime that gathers is various parts of the body like teeth, nostrils, under the nails, the arm pit and around the genitals.

Before one starts to offer prayer he/she should purify himself from all impurities major or minor. As Allah SWT said in the Quran: “O you who believe! When you intend to offer the prayer, wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, wipe your heads, and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. If you are in a state of Janaba (i.e. had a sexual discharge) purify yourself.” (Quran 5:6)

One of the ways to purify yourself before prayer is by performing wudu (ablution), which is to rid yourself of minor impurities. But for major impurities like after sexual intercourse, one should perform ghusl (spiritual bath).

However, there are some cases where wudu or ghusl are not applicable. Like in a case where there is little or no water or when the use of water can be detrimental to the person (for instance in the case of a serious wound), or when the person is travelling and has no access to water. In this case, a person can perform Tayammum (dry ablution) . Clean earth is used in performing tayammum. Allah SWT said in the Quran: “…But if you are ill or on a journey or any of you comes from answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (i.e. sexual intercourse) and you find no water, then perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands. God does not want to place you in difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favour on you that you may be thankful.” (Quran 5:6) The natural way of personal hygiene.

The Prophet SAW taught us the natural way to maintain personal hygiene. He said in a hadith “Five things are part of the fitrah: shaving the pubic hair, circumcision, trimming the moustache, plucking the armpit hairs, and cutting the nails” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim). This was thought to be the way followed by all the Prophets (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon them all) and then enjoined on us the believers.

Shaving of the pubic hair is one of the main ways to remain clean. Because pubic hairs are thick and coarse, remnants of impurities like faeces and urine may be trapped in it or the skin. Although the Prophet SAW recommended plucking, there are now easier and faster ways to shave. For example using a razor.

Keeping your genitals and underwear clean are one of the ways of avoiding urinary tract infections. Many of the scholars have come to decision that circumcision is obligatory upon every Muslim provided it does not pose any danger to the person’s health. Circumcision makes it easier to rid the penis from urine, dirt and all other impurities. However female circumcision is not obligatory.

The Prophet SAW advised us to shave our moustache but to leave the beards. Scholars haven’t actually agreed whether to totally shave off the moustache or to just trim it. However, all agreed that moustache shouldn’t be allowed to grow to the point where it hangs over the mouth or enters the mouth. This is to ensure that the area around the mouth is clean so it doesn’t omit a bad odour.

Plucking might be a more thorough way of removing hair from the arm pit but it may not be the most comfortable. Removing hair from the armpit makes it easier to maintain cleanliness and personal hygiene as it a place where sweat and grime gather. Bacteria can grow in areas with hair, moisture and darkness.

Dirt and bacteria can easily find their way under long nails. This can be a health hazard and bacteria can enter the food we prepare and when interacting with other people. The Prophet SAW knew the importance of personal hygiene in Islam that was why he advised his followers to remove hair from the pubic area and armpit and that moustaches and nails be trimmed at least every forty days. We as Muslims should strive to maintain a good personal hygiene as it is important if we are to worship Allah the right way. Islam is a religion of purity and cleanliness and Muslims must portray this.