The religion of Islam is truly fascinating. Not only does it guide on major matters such as divinity, the afterlife and revelation, but it also speaks much about basic human practices such as cleanliness and matters related to one’s natural disposition.
It’s no wonder why many Muslims see religion as more of a lifestyle and a code of conduct than mere rituals. Islam has – in a remarkable manner – laid out everything there is to know when it comes to life in this world and the hereafter, and it has not spared the topic of grooming. For if one is not physically clean, it prevents one from being spiritually and mentally clean.
Such is the significance in Islam that many hadith and jurisprudence compilations begin with a chapter titled, Kitab al-Taharah i.e. The Book of Cleanliness.
The importance of cleanliness in Islam is deeply rooted in the Qur’an and prophetic traditions. For example, Allah mentions in the Qur’an, “Surely Allah loves those who are most repenting, and loves those who keep themselves pure.” [Holy Qur’an 2:222]
Remaining clean and keeping on top of grooming rituals may be difficult, which is why Allah reminds us that a simple act such as Wudhu has not been prescribed to make our lives difficult, but so that we can be grateful.
“O believers! When you rise up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, wipe your heads, and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of ˹full˺ impurity, then take a full bath. But if you are ill, on a journey, or have relieved yourselves, or have been intimate with your wives and cannot find water, then purify yourselves with clean earth by wiping your faces and hands. It is not Allah’s Will to burden you, but to purify you and complete His favour upon you, so perhaps you will be grateful.” [Holy Qur’an 5:6]
The hadith compilations are also replete with related traditions. In one narration, the Prophet ﷺ quite profoundly kept it straightforward when he said, “Cleanliness is half of faith.” [Sahih Muslim]
The hadith is thought-provoking as it gives us a picture of how important cleanliness is in Islam. The simple idea of it taking up that much space within the domain of faith goes to show how much importance Islam has placed upon the matter. In fact, before the advent of Islam, no such religion came close to dedicating as many traditions to the topic.
It could therefore be argued that cleanliness is the cornerstone of Islam. Without it, there is no full version of Islam. For many of us in a post-covid world, cleanliness has become significant. But at the very same time, the modern world views matters related to cleanliness lightly. Islam on the other hand has made cleanliness a permanent, indispensable, elemental and basal part of faith, without which there is no development of simple acts of worship.
Grooming in Islam
In one narration, the Prophet ﷺ mentioned, “Five are the acts quite akin to the Fitra, or five are the acts of Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubes, cutting the nails, plucking the hair under the armpits and clipping the moustache.” [Sahih Muslim]
This hadith is profound as it sums up perfectly what a human ought to do to stay clean. The hadith is simple with clear guidelines and does not prescribe anything foreign to what a human being already knows. The word fitra in the hadith can be translated as a natural disposition which means acts that are closest to what we are inclined to do when we were first born. As human beings grow, they tend to learn behaviour from those around them, and sometimes this is at the cost of neglecting or forgetting what is natural to them. This hadith reminds us that certain acts of cleanliness are integral to our natural disposition.
The Prophet ﷺ not only told us about this but also made it clear how long we can leave things before its too late. In one narration it is mentioned, “[The Messenger of Allah ﷺ fixed the time for us paring the moustache, trimming the fingernails, shaving the pubic hairs and plucking the underarm hairs – that we not leave it for more than forty days.” [Jami’ Tirmidhi]
Islam is a holistic religion that focuses on every matter relevant to a human being’s life in this world. From hygiene to marriage and charity to trade, there is not a single thing Islam has missed. As we fast approach the blessed month of Ramadhan, let us take these few weeks to learn more about the Fiqh related to cleanliness in Islam.
Juber Ahmed is our Digital Editor and travel enthusiast with a keen interest in Islamic history and heritage. He travels with his wife to various places around the world and writes about his experiences.
Juber's favourite Quote...
"The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" [Saint Augustine]