Let’s Talk Taharah

clean-water“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” (George Bernard Shaw)

While people generally consider cleanliness desirable, Islam insists upon it. Let’s talk Taharah.

We jump into the shower, soap up and clean the dirt off – then get on with our days’ activities. We mull over the brand of our toothpaste, soap and shampoo more than the actual “act” of cleaning.

Islam deals with hygiene as part of an overall scheme of ritual, spiritual and physical cleanliness called Taharah. The nearest meaning of Taharah in the English language is “purity.” But it also includes essence of cleanliness, ablution as well as sanctity.

We do not know “Taharah.” We generally associate Taharah with cleaning and hygiene only.

Hygiene is a complex Pandora’s box of a topic, full of doubtful stuff we’d rather not confront. It contains filth and disease, bugs, germs and grubby private habits. On the other hand, it also contains images of sparkling kitchens and bathrooms; scrubbed, perfumed and well-groomed people; and an endless array of cleaning products. It sits uneasily between filth and cleanliness; between the private and the public; and between the scientific and the religious domains of society. While we all agree that hygiene is important, improving it becomes difficult if we cannot agree on what it means or understand where it comes from.

Islam deals with hygiene as part of an overall scheme of ritual, spiritual and physical cleanliness called Taharah. The nearest meaning of Taharah in the English language is “purity.” But it also includes essence of cleanliness, ablution as well as sanctity.

So, do we humans have hygiene instincts? After a series of research projects looking into hygiene motivation around the world (example, India, Africa, Netherlands and the United Kingdom), a scientific study found evidence for this idea. When interviewed about the ‘why’ of their hygiene habits, the study found that people found it hard to explain their reactions to certain stimuli. Faced with feces, bodily fluids, rotten food and creepy-crawlies, people would say, “I can’t explain it – they are just yuck!” It seemed that there was a powerful sense of disgust involved, which compelled people to avoid nasty, sticky, oozing and teeming stuff. (‘A Natural History of Hygiene’, Valerie A Curtis, PhD, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

So, do we humans have hygiene instincts? After a series of research projects looking into hygiene motivation around the world (example, India, Africa, Netherlands and the United Kingdom), a scientific study found evidence for this idea.

It is in our nature (Fitrah) to want to be pure or Tahir. Taharah is an instinct ingrained in us by Allah (swt). It is no wonder then that Taharah is the first lesson of Islam. Allah (swt) says in one of His first revelations: “And purify your garments….”  (Al-Muddaththir, 74: 4 – 5)

There is a link between physical and ritual purity. Physical purity is ridding one-self of dirt and physical impurities (Najasah). Being physically clean is conducive to ritual purity. Just like having a clean container is essential for keeping water free of impurities. No matter how pure the water is, if the container is contaminated with filth, it will certainly contaminate the water.

In many cases, Taharah encompasses both physical and ritual purity simultaneously.  For example bathing (Ghusl) after sexual intercourse, and for women – at the end of menstruation and after post partum bleeding is a deliberate cleansing act of purifying the body by following a Sunnah prescribed ritual.

The Islamic prayer (Salah), has a uniqueness unlike the prayer in other religions, in which physical purification is a necessary condition. If prayer is the key to Paradise then, likewise purification is the key to prayer. 

A distinctive characteristic of Taharah is that it is a means to an end as well as an end in itself.  It is a form of worship (Ibadah) as well as preparation for other forms of Ibadah. Since worship is direct communication with Allah (swt), Taharah can also be viewed as a protocol preparation for an important event.

Taharah embraces cleanliness. A clean environment and a clean body are part of aesthetic beauty and are also necessary for sanitation and health. However, we must not equate it with fancy stuff only. There are some cases like Tayammum (dry ablution) where Taharah is achieved without cleanliness as we usually understand.  The spectrum of Taharah then goes beyond our acceptable perception of hygiene here.

Do not think for a minute that Taharah is merely a hypothetical concept.  Islam is pragmatic in all matters and Islamic concepts have practical implications. Taharah is an essential part of the rites and worship to such extent that it is an inseparable part of a Muslim’s life.  The Prophet (sa) said: “Purification is half of faith.” (Muslim, Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

A distinctive characteristic of Taharah is that it is a means to an end as well as an end in itself.  It is a form of worship (Ibadah) as well as preparation for other forms of Ibadah.

The Islamic prayer (Salah), has a uniqueness unlike the prayer in other religions, in which physical purification is a necessary condition. If prayer is the key to Paradise then, likewise purification is the key to prayer. The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah does not accept prayers without purification.” (Muslim and Ibn Majah)

Taharah then becomes essential knowledge for every Muslim, it is not simply “staying clean” or “being hygienic” – but preparing for standing before Allah (swt).  It is a ruling of Islamic law. Every Muslim is obliged to turn to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) and take instructions from there.

“O you who believe! Approach not As-Salah when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter, nor when you are in a state of Janabah, (i.e. in a state of sexual impurity and have not yet taken a bath) except when travelling on the road (without enough water, or just passing through a mosque), till you wash your whole body. And if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes after answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (by sexual relations) and you find no water, perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands Truly, Allah is Ever Oft Pardoning, Oft Forgiving.” (An-Nisa, 4:43)

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The Companions of the Prophet (sa) declared with confidence, that yes, our Prophet (sa) has even taught us how to clean ourselves after going to the toilet – Alhumdulillah.

Why is there such stress on Taharah in Islam? Firstly, it is one of the qualities beloved to Allah (swt). He says: “Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:222).  Secondly, it is the path to health and strength. The Muslim is entrusted with his body, thus, he must not neglect it. The Prophet (sa) said: “Your body has a right on you.” (Agreed upon)

Thirdly, it is a prerequisite to appearing in the way most loved by Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa). Allah (swt) says: “O children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes) while praying.” (Al-Araf, 7:31)

And lastly, cleanliness and pleasant appearance are conducive for cultivating healthy human relationships. A man came to the Prophet (sa) with unkempt hair and untidy beard. The Prophet (sa) pointed to him, as if ordering him to straighten his hair and beard. He did so and returned. Thereupon the Prophet (sa) observed, ‘Is that not better than one of you coming with his hair unkempt, as if he were a devil?’ (Malik)

Science continues to zero in on, to make more precise, what we ‘feel’ to be right: dirt causes disease. But as a species, we are naturally hygienic – in fact, we ‘knew’ that all along. Islam endorses and institutionalizes the whole hygiene thing for us in the most user-friendly package – so go soap up!

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The Purpose of Life

purposeThese four words probably come to every human being’s mind regardless of religion, creed or caste. They are the motivating factors for the conversion of many non-Muslims. These words are what make us the best of creation. They make us ponder over the creation and the Creator. Furthermore, they make us realize that we were not created for mere play. The purpose of our life is not to get a job, marry, have children, grandchildren and then retire. Our purpose, our goal, our destiny is something higher. It is to gain the pleasure of our Creator and to return to our home, Jannah.

These words are what make us the best of creation. They make us ponder over the creation and the Creator. Furthermore, they make us realize that we were not created for mere play.

There comes a point in our life when we realize we are tired, tired of doing the exact same things every day. Things that are utterly useless, things that do not take us anywhere. We realize that life has lost its joy and contentment. If you haven’t felt it till now, you will feel it someday because Allah has put it in our Fitrah. You will lie on your bed, look at the ceiling and wonder why you were created, how you were created, how you will die, where you will end up and so on. Yes, we have all heard about heaven and hell but have we ever thought about it, about our real and eternal home? Have we ever desired going there? The answer for most of us is no. This is not surprising as the pleasure of life has so encompassed us that we do not desire anything higher. We have lost our vision, our belief.

However the people who have thought about the purpose of life, know that your Creator did not just create you. He is not just a Khaaliq. He is also a Rabb, the one who maintains, the one who holds you together, the one who loves you. He has sent you with an instruction manual and a role model, the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (sa). Allah clearly says in the Quran in Surah Al-Mulk, Ayah 2 “Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.”

He again says in another place “And I (Allah) created not the Jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).”(Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

The idea of a life without purpose sounds crazy. Allah expresses this in the Quran by saying,

“Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?” (Al Muminun 23:115)

Our work starts here. We have to go on a Holy Quest. We have to search for the purpose. It is not hard, just one sincere prayer for guidance can lead you to the truth if He wills. Our Lord wants us to find him, to know him. Your desire to know the right path is enough for him to bring you to it, know that you just have to take the first step, He will cover the rest.

Fitrah – Revert Support Programme

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The word ‘Fitrah’ refers to one’s inborn disposition towards virtue. It is the faculty of knowing Allah (swt) with which every child is created. Consider the following Hadeeth:

Abu Hurairah (rtam) reported: The Messenger (sa) said: “No one is born except they are upon natural instinct; then his parents turn him into a Jew or Christian or Magian; as animals produce their young with perfect limbs, do you see anything defective?” (Muslim)

Fitrah is a revert support programme. Functioning under the umbrella of Alwasila Trust, Fitrah’s aim is to “provide assistance and support to Muslims who are new to the Deen of Islam through educational, financial and social support.” Alhumdulillah, 12 individuals have accepted Islam through Fitrah. Families initially stay under Fitrah for three months, where they are given support in the form of food, housing, transport, education, etc. After that, they are encouraged to start their own business supported by Alwasila Trust’s “Rozgar” scheme.

As per their vision, the three-pronged approach of Fitrah works in the following areas:

Educational support: This includes the conduction of various courses as well as one-on-one counselling to introduce the beliefs and practices of Islam to the reverts.

Financial support: Zakat and Sadaqah are provided to the reverts as part of financial assistance. The idea is to relieve them from any previous loans and help create opportunities for entrepreneurship through Rozgar (another forum from Alwasila Trust that facilitates the lesser-privileged factions of the society to become economically independent).

Social support: This includes provision of emotional counselling in order to equip new Muslims to deal with the social struggles and opposition they might face.

So how does Fitrah choose the individuals to provide the aforementioned support? This is done through a systematic procedure in which newly-reverted individuals and families are adopted through Fitrah after a verification team reviews their background and authenticity. Currently, there are 16 individuals and 3 families under Fitrah’s care. Assistance is provided on various levels in order to ensure that a complete and well-rounded understanding of Deen is imparted to them.

Newly reverted men are enrolled in a weekly course that introduces them to the basic concepts and principles of Islam as well as fundamentals of the Quran and the Sunnah. Women are also sponsored for a Quran course. The duration of both courses is a year and a half.

Most families disown the members who revert to Islam. Hence, they are in need of housing. Initially the family is sponsored through a Zakat fund, which covers housing as well as the children’s education, if needed. A start-up loan for micro-financing is arranged through a Sadaqah Fund.

Counselling is offered to deal with emotional and social struggles met with during this period of change.

Brothers and sisters can support this effort by donations (as approximately PKR100,000- 150,000 is required to support one family through Fitrah).

Contact details

Website: www.fitrah.net

Email: info@fitrah.net

Fitrah: Your Disposition Towards Virtue

Vol 6 - Issue 1 FitrahYour foot slipped and you ended up with another sin on your deeds account. “Can’t really help it,” you say, “I’m just a sinful human being – unable to resist temptations.” But is the case really as simple as it appears? Are we really doomed to stumble from sin to sin, writing it off to the weakness and imperfection of human nature and our inclination towards the sin?

At times, even without being aware of it, many Muslims have unduly succumbed to the Christian idea of the inherent sinfulness of human nature, the history of which reaches back to the Fall of Adam (as) in Paradise. According to the Christian version of the story, Adam’s (as) disobedience stripped him of the original perfection Allah (swt) had created him with, and along with Adam (as), the whole of the human race was plunged into ruin and has since been in bondage to sin. Thus, according to this doctrine of original sin, every child is born in sin and in an impure state – inherently, unable to do good, please God or gain salvation. It is through the Christ’s obedience and his sacrifice on the cross (where he suffered and died for all the sins of the whole mankind) that Christians are restored to their original perfection. Salvation for Christians is based on faith in this sacrifice of Christ.

In contrast, for Muslims, it is inconceivable that any person should be punished for the sins committed by others. In Islam, every human being is responsible in front of Allah (swt) for his/her own deeds. Thus, salvation in Islam depends on both faith (Iman) and good conduct (Ihsan).

Christianity and Islam also differ on the notion of the inherent human nature. If Christians believe that every person is born in an impure state, then Islam advocates just the opposite. Every child is born in a state of Fitrah – natural purity and original goodness, which inclines a person towards right actions and submission to Allah (swt). Fitrah is our inherent disposition towards virtue, which endows us with the ability to differentiate between right and wrong.

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Every child is born on Al-Fitrah [true faith of Islamic Monotheism (i.e., to worship none but Allah Alone)], but his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism, as an animal gives birth to a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” (Bukhari)

Islam recognizes that all children, no matter if they are born to Muslim or non-Muslim parents, possess this original state of Fitrah, and if they die before attaining maturity, they go to Paradise. As the above Hadeeth states, it is the social circumstances after the birth that cause the child to diverge from Fitrah. Thus, if someone follows the wrong path, it is not because something is wrong with his/her innate nature, but because of the negative effects of social circumstances and the emergence of the person’s own Nafs (desires) after the birth.

Allah (swt) has not left us helpless in front of our Nafs. Tawbah or repentance has a very significant role in a Muslim’s life. Although we are born in a state of original goodness, all of us are subject to temptations. Allah (swt) has given us the ability and opportunity to repent our sins, which means that we are able to admit our errors and turn away from them towards Allah (swt). Awareness of the divine mercy of Allah (swt) and our own predisposition towards virtue gives us hope of salvation and increases our confidence about our own potential to do right and resist wrong. Instead of complaining about the flaws in our nature, we should stand firm on our Fitrah, resist temptations of Shaitan and turn our faces towards Allah (swt).

“So set you (O Muhammad (sa)) your face towards the religion (of pure Islamic Monotheism) Hanif (worship none but Allah Alone). Allah’s Fitrah (i.e., Allah’s Islamic Monotheism) with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in Khalq-illah (i.e., the religion of Allah – Islamic Monotheism); that is the straight religion, but most of men know not.” (Ar-Rum 30:30)