(Part 2) Public restroom etiquettes: Meet the elephant in the room!

rest[…continued from here]

6) Extra-hygiene means extra-danger

In your effort to be super hygienic, don’t wash your hands so many times or do ablution so obsessively that you flood the whole place. Use the water reasonably.

Another extreme is flushing the toilet with foot instead of a hand. People, with hands PLEASE! Acrobatics required to use your foot to flush raise your risk of injury from slipping and falling – if you’re standing on one leg to flush the toilet. A flamingo can do it well, you can’t. It may end you up in way more mess than you thought you can get into, from touching the handle.

Some people go to extra length by not sitting on the seat and hovering closely above it. Now, if you were in the one ply cubicle, the floor art is understandable, because they move with a tiny gush of wind even. So, please, don’t hover above the seat, making it difficult for you to find balance.

You are in a world of communicable diseases, I accept! But a research says that 18% of your phones are more germ-ish than the toilet seat (unless you put the phone ON the toilet seat). So might as well save yourself the extra agony and perch your rear end on the seat. Don’t be a human spaceship.

If you are going all Indian toilet style up on the European toilet, then at least clean after yourself. Your shoe/slipper prints will be all over the seat. Roll the tissue around your hand and just clean it. I’m sure your mother taught you that as well, before you had an accident, in which you lost your memory on cleaning manners. By ‘you’ I mean people, not YOU, of course. You wouldn’t do that, would you!?!

7) Patience is virtue, lying is not

You may usually find a long line in front of washrooms, in places where there are little to no WCs available. Usually, the queue would literally be hanging by the bathroom doors (if handles are available that is, otherwise – hanging by the holes). You may just want to stand in line calmly, because the person in front of you deems every move from you as a line-breaking threat, and they have thought of every clever way to stop you. It may include physical violence as well. What impatience does to human beings sometimes!

There are times, when calm is a word in dreams only. You will enter a stampede and the next thing you know, you’re in a washroom.

And even though it sounds like a better option than waiting in line, and you may want to be the one to start that stampede through witty pretense – but it’s not! It usually involves pushing, shouting, hitting, lying, knocking each other down, etc. (perhaps hair pulling as well). Bad deeds don’t add up to success. Even if you manage to push all other contestants in line, it won’t feel like a victory. So avoid being in that group.

Don’t claim ownership of the bathroom. Or tell people that you’re waiting for your family member in there (thinking we all are after all brothers and sisters since Adam and Eve were our greatest fore-parents). Your turn will come, Insha’Allah, don’t worry.

Save yourself from unnecessary lies. (And who doesn’t know, lying is bad anyway.) Don’t render your Hajj/Umrah or any religious act that you are going to perform afterwards or performed before, useless.

8) Your kids are YOUR responsibility

Help the little ones before you help yourself. Their level of control is zero, as compared to yours. But first commode in the first row is always the bad choice, because that’s where the most uncontrolled splatters are. Which of course makes sense – they couldn’t make it any further. So walk a little (or perhaps run like a wind), holding your gag reflexes on standby, as you poke through all the stalls anticipating post-culinary exploration disaster. But there will be a cleaner one; I can guarantee (almost 90%). Don’t lose hope. Just un-witness the ones witnessed in line.

When you’re making sure that your kids are not eating their own boogers, also make sure that you are not the one sticking it on the walls. If you find such things, don’t feel ashamed to clean it off with the help of tissues, etc. I have personally witnessed women picking up someone else’s baby’s diapers and throwing them into the trash bags and cleaning up the area, just to provide better environment for the newcomers. It’s not an easy task. May Allah (swt) reward them immensely. Ameen

So, please! Those with diaper-clad babies – when you change the diaper of your baby, please, throw it into the dumpster. Babies’ faces are cute but their feces are not. Don’t just roll it in the air and let fate decide its destiny. Thus, when you clean after yourself, please, do that for the baby as well. Man or woman – whoever is taking it for the team.

9) Don’t abuse the toiletries

Sometimes the flush is not working, because of too much toilet paper clogged inside (or too much dinner). You may see the dustbin beside the pot, empty! And you wonder why do people throw everything around, while there is space for everything given? People who lead adult-lives, by the adulthood they should know how to use a chair with a hole in it. It is something that they have been taught to use and have been using since fifteen years or so. Definitely we are the disease!

If the faucet sensor doesn’t work once, no need to constantly hit the poor thing, because it may fire back, by automatically turning itself on, when you will least expect it. Be gentle with the public property. You don’t want to go outside explaining people that it’s not what they think it is.

Forego the hand dryer altogether, because it probably won’t work anyway. Because you may stand there with your hands outstretched (crowding the place) waiting for some magic to happen – but it won’t. If the restroom looks well-maintained, then probably it will work, but usually it doesn’t; and all you do is make the crowd turn into a mob.

Save people some space and wipe your wet hands with tissue instead, if you wish.

Under dire circumstances, don’t jiggle someone else’s door handle angrily. Either you will lock them inside permanently or break the handle. Both ways, your future isn’t bright.

Don’t take your overloaded purse/bag inside the toilet. Sometimes the hooks aren’t very strong. Sometimes there are no hooks at all. Either way, draping it around your neck may be the last resort. Hand it over to someone close outside the restroom. Don’t bring them in, just so they could wait outside your stall, holding your bag. It will crowd the area unnecessarily.

(If you think this all as a mere exaggerated joke, I would just say you’ve been extremely lucky. But these guidelines will help you in the future, whenever you get out of the warm folds of your home sweet home.)

10) Stay God-conscious

Jokes apart, this is something serious, because one of the grave punishments includes someone not being conscious about cleanliness.

We can’t single-handedly eradicate the lack of hygiene issues in public restrooms, but we can dilute its strength. We will not be fighting. We will go on patiently and will always work upon this issue, until it doesn’t need to be worked on anymore. This is just a small step towards some basic awareness – but a small step is better than nothing, better than an intangible ideal.

 

Please, make purification your half faith! Our religion is so beautiful and complete. It teaches us how to live a life – from the smallest details to the biggest of issues, and bathroom etiquettes are the very basic of life.

 

Basically, a good policy is:

 

Try to leave the vicinity in the condition you would wish to find it. Treat it like you usually treat your own toilet at home, especially when the guests are coming. Be the best version of yourself that ever existed. Be the super-you. You got it in you somewhere, so just be that.

 

Be the change you want to see in the world. And if we, Muslims, are not going to practice the best of the manners taught by their religion, how are we ever going to preach? Actions speak louder than words. Even if nobody is watching you, Allah (swt) is. Angels are taking notes. You will be rewarded. Insha’Allah.

 

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the best behaviour that wouldn’t hurt us or people around us. Ameen.

(Part 1) Public restroom etiquettes: Meet the elephant in the room!

restroomI’m sure that it’s an international issue, but I’m going to specifically discuss public washrooms around the religious sanctities since Tahara (cleanliness) is our half faith. In my travels, it has become clear that people don’t understand how to behave in the washrooms, let alone take care of Tahara.

Yes it’s a fairly gross subject; but this dormant ‘loo-phobia’ you may have, could soon be defeated by nature, hitting its panic button on you. You will start to see black spots floating in the air, and one of them of them will even speak to you. Nature does not always wait for the most opportune time to make its appearance; your days there (especially at Hajj) may be longer than your endurance. So, sometimes you are forced to visit the nearest facility. Unfortunately, the nearest restrooms are not always the most fun to call upon. And in case you can’t find one near, just follow your senses. Your nose will guide your way. Wherever it smells funny, there it is. But you won’t be laughing!

So consider this a refresher course – a guide to be crammed, forwarded or shared as needed. (Not for the weak hearted.) Just breathe into a paper bag, until you throw up. But till then, bear with me.

1) Clean after yourself

Now, this is a no-brainer. Bathrooms should be clean. There should be no sign of fecal matter (yours or anyone else’s). But since it’s not always the case, you will walk into a cubicle and walk right out again, mentally and emotionally scarred. To even get to the seat, you have to wade through a lake of mystery liquid that, by the laws of logistical probability, very likely isn’t water. And when you arrive, you may find that the last person to use it couldn’t decide, because it’s everywhere but in the bowl given, which isn’t rocket science. Feces are supposed to go in the water inside the toilet into the dark abyss.

“Duh,” you say, “everyone knows that.”

Oh really? Then why is it on the toilet seat and on the restroom floor approximately all the time?

There is a button located directly above the toilet paper that is marked with the word… wait for it… “FLUSH”. Press that! And if the water isn’t available, then you should’ve kept a water bottle with you. If it’s too late, then cry us some river, please, and get it flushed.

You shouldn’t expect free toilet paper, tissue or soap either. So carry them with you in small amounts.

P.S. If it’s like a cubicle, from which Ikea should learn space management, then don’t go in with big gallons of water (above 1 litre – definitely a ‘no-no’), because that will leave no space for you. And if you start to wrestle in there, deciding whether the bottle should occupy the space or you, making people outside lose it and giving up right beside the door of your cubicle, then you may not have many gymnastic abilities to try when stepping out.

2) Cover and let others stay covered

People naturally expect privacy in the restroom, but it’s far from priority for most.

You may get in to only find your second biggest fear happening (I say second biggest fear, because your first biggest fear is obviously being that person) – someone didn’t lock the door and is now smiling at you. Smiling is Sunnah – I accept. But in such circumstances, it’s frightening. But obviously screaming too is the worst option at that time. It will draw a large crowd. Just close the door immediately – don’t even wait to apologize. If the guilt is overwhelming, then offer them something from your bag/purse/wallet as a peace offering – definitely after they have stepped out of the cubicle. Or you can stand outside their door and beg for their forgiveness. If they were out of water (as you may have noticed in a split second), you could go to a bathroom close by and steal some water – but be sure to knock to make sure no one is in there. You don’t want to get stuck doing double bathroom apologies. It will get expensive and tiring. And you may lose your own control during the process.

There is a clear line that is not supposed to be crossed. Your Satr (part of body to cover) is from navel till knees. Keep it covered. Nobody wants to see it. (This is meant for men in Ihram also – people are there to attain closeness of Allah (swt) and your unawareness about your whereabouts could make a difference).

If you can’t find any stall empty, please, prefer the bushes over exhibition, because others may join you in your brave-step-taken; and now, you have a sin of the entire bathroom audience on you and this would yank the Haram meter up to a highest level.

3) Don’t steal toiletries

The person you saw smiling at you may have a reason behind it – no bathroom lock.

Now, I don’t know, if people think whether they are going to build their own toilet someday or open a bathroom business, that’s why they came in with screw-drivers and took all the locks away; or it’s their way of serial revenge – but that stuff is not for free and it’s not yours to take away. Let it be where it belongs. Or next time, you will be in that state, where one of your hand will be covering the space, from where the lock is kidnapped and another will be holding the door (while someone will be trying to open it) and you won’t be the one smiling this time.What goes around comes around. Beware!

Please don’t steal – be it locks, tissue paper, pipes, etc. Anything. You don’t want to owe toiletries to so many people on the Day of Judgment.

4) Don’t answer nature calls with a conversation

Now, here’s a fairly interesting pet peeve: talking. Holding court in the area, where people are relieving themselves, is not good for unbiased judgments. They might not want to be your audience or testify for anything in your favour. And worse than observing a forum, is having someone engage them in that conversation.

ou do know it’s not ok to talk while attending to your ‘business’, right?

And even, the most commonest-of-all-common senses say, “It’s just gross!”

This brings me to attending phone calls in the toilet. If there’s any sort of line, don’t use your phone in the bathroom. This is purely a matter of courtesy. Please, focus on the task at hand. If it’s called a restroom, it doesn’t mean you rest in there. No text or a selfie can be more urgent than what others, with bladders the size of a grape, in line need to do – every second for whom means the difference between dignified relief and a desperate sprint from the door to a dark corner of the nearest hill/jungle, which you shouldn’t be grumpy about, when you step on it.

5) Keep your creativity confined to your own walls

I’m all for creativity and art, but, please, limit your mediums to less-pukable ones. Nobody wants to see your art on the toilet floor or anywhere around it. I’m glad human being doesn’t possess superpowers, with which they could climb the walls, because you may have to deal with wall art as well – and, no, I’m not talking about graffiti. But I’m coming to that.

Keep your graffiti confined to your own walls. This is a public area. Not yours to claim or paint. Do not spray paint the bathroom doors with things that may force parents to blindfold their kids, when sending them in these toilets. (Now you know the reason behind that wreck). Then writing your number beside, seriously? I can’t even comment on this one. I’m out. Sorry – retiring from earth. I live in space now.

Heart not warmed yet? It will be microwaved because…

[To be continued Insha Allah…]

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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Taharah – Half of Faith

Clean water and water bubbles

By Hafsa Ahsan and Naba Basar                                                             

We live in a world which gives us mixed messages regarding cleanliness (Taharah). On the one hand, Islam lays great emphasis on cleanliness and encourages oneself to stay clean at all times. On the other hand, the mass media encourages our children to get as dirty as they want. Washing one’s hands is recommended only when selling a certain brand of antiseptic soap. So, what guidance do we derive from the Quran and Sunnah regarding Taharah?

Importance of Taharah

Taharah has been greatly emphasized upon by Allah (swt) in the Quran.

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves (by taking a bath and cleaning and washing thoroughly their private parts, bodies, for their prayers, etc.).” (Al-Baqarah 2:222)

Types of Impurities

Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Approach not Salah (the prayer) 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.” (An-Nisa 4:43)

Impurity may be categorized as ritual impurity (Hadath) and physical impurity (Khabath). A person attains ritual impurity when something comes out of the anus (feces or wind) or the frontal private area (urine or prostatic fluid), or when a person vomits. If a person enters this state, he must abstain from prayers, until he departs from this state. Wudhu would be enough for purification.

Physical impurity, on the other hand, is the impurity of physical substances, which include menstrual blood, urine, feces, pork, canine saliva and vomit. These impurities must be removed from whatever they contaminate (such as the person’s skin, clothing or prayer rug); otherwise, the prayer will not be valid. If you come in contact with any of these impurities, then they must be washed, since it’s a matter of basic cleanliness.

Significantly, if an impurity is invisible or does not smell, it does not affect a person’s worship. Such trivial amounts are unavoidable and are forgiven under Islamic law.

Wudhu

Taharah must precede Salah. One has to be in a state of purity, plus one’s clothes and the place where Salah will be offered, must be clean as well. Wudhu is an essential pre-requisite of Salah, without which one’s Salah is not accepted. The procedure of Wudhu has been described in the Quran as follows:

“O you who believe! When you intend to offer Salah (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles. If you are in a state of Janaba (i.e. had a sexual discharge), purify yourself (bathe your whole body). 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. Allah 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.” (Al-Maidah 5:6)

Humran (the freed slave of Uthman Ibn Affan (rta)) narrated: I saw Uthman Ibn Affan (rta)asking (for a tumbler of water) to perform ablution (and when it was brought) he poured water from it over his hands and washed them thrice and then put his right hand in the water container and rinsed his mouth and washed his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out. Then he washed his face thrice and (then) forearms up to the elbows thrice, then passed his wet hands over his head and then washed each foot thrice. After that Uthman (rta) said, “I saw the Prophet performing ablution like this of mine, and he said, ‘If anyone performs ablution like that of mine and offers a two-Rakah prayer, during which he does not think of anything else, then his past sins will be forgiven.’ (Bukhari)

The Fard (obligatory) actions of Wudhu are:

1)        washing the face,

2)        washing both arms, including the elbows;,

3)        performing Masah of one fourth of the head,

4)        washing both the feet, including the ankles.

It’s not sufficient to pass a wet hand over the feet or shoes. However, certain conditions make an allowance for Masah to be done over certain types of socks.

Wudhu has a great psychological impact on the one performing it. If performed properly, it not only washes away one’s sins, but also cools down parts of the body. Dr. Ghulam Mustafa Khan in his booklet “Personal Hygiene in Islam” states: “The psychological advantages derived from performing Wudhu are clearly evident in the Prophet’s (sa) advice to perform Wudhu when we are overpowered by anger. The psychological changes, brought about by the physical act (of Wudhu), may be compared to a cold sponging of the body to reduce convulsions due to high temperature. In addition to the physical removal of a person from the arena of arguments, all parts of the body instrumental in the expression of anger – the hands, tongue, eyes and teeth – are cooled down and so are the brain centres controlling these parts.”

Tayammum

If water is not available, then Tayammum is one of the options to be availed. Allah (swt) says: “…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 (Tayammum). Truly, Allah is Ever Oft­ Pardoning, Oft ­Forgiving.” (An-Nisa 4:43)

Tayammum (dry ablution) can be done as follows:

1)      Make the Niyyah (intention) to perform ablution.

2)      Strike the soil/earth with your hands and wipe your face.

3)      Then, wipe your hands up to the wrists. Wipe the right hand first, followed by the left.

In Fiqh-us-Sunnah, the following scenarios have been detailed, which make Tayammum inevitable:

1)      Total non-availability of water.

2)      The amount of water available is insufficient for ablution.

3)      One is ill or injured and cannot use water.

4)      The water is too cold to be used.

5)      It is dangerous to fetch water from a nearby source.

6)      Water has to be saved for things like cooking.

7)      Water is too far away to fetch in time for prayer.

Ghusl

A Ghusl must be performed after completing the monthly period, after ejaculation, after post natal bleeding (Nifas) or after sexual intercourse. It is preferable, but not compulsory, to perform Ghusl in the manner that the Prophet (sa) performed it.

In such cases, you should begin with washing your private parts. The intention is to make sure that pure water reaches every part of your body. However, if you pass wind during the cleansing procedure your Ghusl is still valid, but you will have to perform a separate Wudhu. The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not break off from your prayer, unless you hear or smell the passage of gas.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Ghusl is not compulsory in case of medical/vaginal check-up or ultrasound.

Ghusl-e-Janabah

Ghusl after sexual intercourse is obligatory, even if no discharge took place. Noticing wetness on waking up as a result of Ihtilaam (wet dream) necessitates a Ghusl. However, if upon waking from a wet dream, a person does not see any trace of sexual emission on his clothes or his body, he does not have to perform Ghusl.

Aisha (rta) said: “Someone asked the Prophet (sa) about a man seeing himself discharging in his dream though he does not feel wet. The Prophet (sa) said: ‘He does not have to bathe.’ Umm Salamah (rta) asked: ‘What about women, O Messenger of Allah?’ He (sa) said: ‘Women are the full sisters of men.’” (Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi)

In another Hadeeth, the Prophet (sa) confirmed that a woman had to perform Ghusl: “… if she sees the liquid.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Some people came to the Prophet (sa) and asked him about Ghusl after sexual intercourse. They told him that they live in a cold place. The Prophet (sa) told them: “It would be enough for the one of you to pour water over his head three times.” In another narration, he said: “For me, I pour water over my head thrice.” (Muslim) This indicates that performing Ghusl accordingly is sufficient to attain purification and no Wudhu is required. But one should bear in mind that rinsing the mouth and cleaning the nose by inhaling and exhaling water is essential.

Sunnah method of performing Ghusl-e-Janabah, as extracted from Bukhari and Muslim, is as follows:

  • Wash hands. With right hand, pour water on left.
  • Wash private parts.
  • Do Wudhu.
  • Wet scalp with fingers (run fingers through hair, so as to wet scalp).
  • Pour three handfuls of water on head.
  • Wash whole body (with or without soap), beginning with the right side and then the left.
  • Wash feet in the end.

It is Sunnah to perform Wudhu before bathing.

It was related by the mother of believers, Umm Salamah (rta), that she asked the Prophet (sa) about a woman’s Ghusl. The Prophet (sa) told her: “If a woman is performing Ghusl after having sexual intercourse, then there is no need for her to unbraid her hair. It is sufficient that she pours water over her head three times. But, when she is performing Ghusl after completing her menstrual period, then she has to unbraid her hair.” (Muslim)

Vaginal Discharge (Fatwah by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qasim)

Any discharge which comes from the vagina, emanating from the birth canal, is pure. It requires neither a ritual bath, nor Wudhu, nor the washing of affected clothing. The reason for this is the absence of any textual evidence that indicates the impurity of this discharge or that it invalidates a woman’s Wudhu.

This is very pertinent, especially since this discharge is something that affects all women, from the time of the Prophet (sa) to date. If it had been impure or if it had nullified Wudhu, this would have been clarified by the Lawgiver.

Also, this discharge is not a waste product – like urine and feces, which are the waste products of our food and drink. It is a natural emanation from the womb. This is why it increases with pregnancy, especially during certain months.

Umm Atiyyah (rta) said: “We did not regard yellowish and brownish discharge after Tuhr (becoming pure) as being of any significance.” (Bukhari and Abu Dawood)

General Hygiene

Taharah is not restricted just to Wudhu and Ghusl, as one may believe. A Mumin must strive to attain Taharah in all parts of life. Some basic practices include the following:

1)      Shaving the pubic hair.

2)      Cutting the nails of fingers and toes.

3)      Doing Ghusl, especially on Fridays.

4)      Washing hands, cleaning the nose and rinsing the mouth, after waking up.

5)      Washing hands, before and after every meal.

6)      Cleaning the teeth and rinsing the mouth, after every meal.

7)      Regularly using Miswak.

8)      Washing hands regularly with soap and water.

Conclusion

As one can imagine, Taharah or cleanliness in Islam is not to be taken lightly. All the instructions, which come to us from the Quran and Sunnah, clearly show that Taharah is something that every Mumin has to implement in one’s life consciously. It is the level of importance attached to it that makes it half of one’s Deen.

Is Dirt Good?

Jul 10 - Is dirt good

‘Dirt is good’ is a popular slogan of a well-known brand these days. How bad the impact is on young minds is not a cause of concern to the television channels. The media is reinforcing the message that children who, due to their carelessness, get their clothes dirty must not feel guilty about it, because if they do, they will never learn. How ironic the statement seems? Dirt and learning together? Education helps to purify your thoughts and cleanses your soul; however, if the way to explore the world is associated with ‘how-dirty-you-can-get’ slogans, how can children be expected to become responsible and cultured citizens of tomorrow? And how can education make them remove all dirt from their hearts?

With countless cartoons which show violence without pain and endorse dirty surroundings as elements of fun and enjoyment, the media has reversed the concepts of good and bad.

Dirt is of various forms. Besides visible dirt, there is the impurity of mind, heart and soul. Media is a manipulator of the mind, and children are the worst hit victims because of their impressionable age. Media depicts how a person can get away with any kind of wrong activity by just using a particular product. It shows how ‘the hero’ can do away with any evil deed through the act of spreading goodness. Moreover, it associates the cool image of a popular kid with irresponsibility, dirtiness and bad values.

Taharah promotes cleanliness of body, mind and soul. Keeping your heart free of malice, your mind from bad thoughts and your soul from all impurities is the true concept of Taharah.

How can parents combat these wrong perceptions inculcated through media? First of all, one must be able to differentiate between these messages and educate their child about the true concept of Taharah. Make your child feel uncomfortable with dirt and let him/her identify that learning is fun, but it can always take place without messing around. Play with them and help them organize and keep things in order. Discipline in early life will go a long way in ensuring your child’s mental and social upbringing.

Secondly, spread the word by action. When you are eating outdoors or in a public setting, keep an eye on your own behaviour. Are you the one throwing wrappers around? If you initiate one wrong act, know that there are many who will follow you. Locate a dustbin or if it is not there, keep the wrappers in your handbag for the time being. Those around you will learn that cleanliness is important to you.

“We should always identify and criticize wrong ideas that are promoted through the media, while watching TV together as a family, so that the young ones realize that the message is wrong,” says Saima, a housewife. With this approach, we can thwart the wrong perceptions that the media generates and enable our future generation to distinguish the good from the bad, before the media teaches them to see it the other way round.

Let’s Compare!

Jul 10 - Let's CompareI am left dumbstruck when I hear comments such as: “Have you been to ——-? Isn’t it immaculate? Their roads, buildings and parks… Their overall concern for cleanliness! But here (referring to Pakistan), God save us! People are so filthy.”

Alhumdulillah, I have had the privilege of globe trotting to at least four of the major continents across the world, and each time I travel, I am faced with such a predicament. I wonder that if this is such a clean country and so are its people, why do I have to carry my own utensils (for a makeshift Lota) to their washrooms? I can almost imagine the toilet paper available there grinning at me out of mockery.

Being a far less pious Muslim, I cannot even bear the thought of not washing up after the call of nature. So can anyone please explain to me the point of overlooking such an important act of personal hygiene and making it up with polished floors, well-swept roads and imposing fine for littering around? (Not that those initiatives are not appreciated.)

To me, both outlooks are extreme. One considers cleaning up only themselves personally and ignoring the surroundings around them to the extent of throwing garbage and spitting right outside their own dwellings. The other bothers a lot about removing their pet’s poo from the pavement, without being concerned about washing up themselves after using the toilet, themselves.

Islam is as wonderful as it is, and it saves us from swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. It offers a moderate and applicable path with detailed instructions to maintain personal and public hygiene, ensuring clean, safe and pure environments. To appreciate the beauty of our Deen, we can draw comparisons with other religions about their stance on Taharah (purity and cleanliness). This is mainly to acknowledge Allah’s (swt) blessings in disguise, which He has bestowed upon us by making us Muslims, and not to malign anyone.

The late Maulana Zafar Ali Khan has translated Dr. Draper’s Book (1882) and called it “Marka-e-Mazhab Aur Science.” In one of the selected paragraphs of his book, he writes:

“In the middle ages of Europe, most of its land consisted of vast jungles or barren terrain. It comprised of quick sands and filthy marshes. There was neither any system of cleanliness prevalent nor was there a sanitary infrastructure built to dispose off unclean water. The inhabitants wore one garment for years, without even washing it. Consequently, their clothes would become dirty and foul smelling. Bathing was considered a serious offence.

“Once, the Pope of Rome had King Fredrick II of Sicily and Germany convicted in 1250. The most glaring crime, for which the King was found guilty, was of bathing every day like Muslims. The Pope declared every such individual as an apostate, who happened to follow even part of the Muslim culture.

“In 1478, the then Pope established a religious court and burnt to death 2,000 people allegedly convicted for tending to personal hygiene. Another 70,000 people were imprisoned and fined.

“The magnitude of filth was such that when Britain’s Lord Priest stepped out in public, countless lice could be visibly seen roaming on his attire.

“Philip II by law ordered the closure of all Hamams (bathing facilities) after the fall of Muslims in Spain. The King suspended his Governor of Isabella for daring to wash himself daily.”

Similarly, not far away from our territory, in our neighbouring India, in 1975 an article was published in one of their dailies. In it, their Prime Minister admitted consuming cow’s urine every day. In Hinduism, the urine and stool of cow is considered to be sacred. Hence, some of their sweet mart makers sprinkle cow urine on their preparations for the attainment of blessings.

In Sikh religion, if one shaves his/her under arm hair, the individual is considered to be out of the fold of faith.

This is but a glimpse into the past and present of some of the nations whom we today constantly look up to for guidance in our lives. Pitifully, in spite of the superficial glamour and dazzle we witness, there lies a darker side that is not so pristine; otherwise, fatal diseases, such as AIDS and many others, would not have come into existence.

Alhumdulillah, in spite of poverty and negligent environments, the Muslim world is not responsible for such ailments. It is the people who do not practice Taharah and opt for unclean and defiled lifestyles.

In light of the above examples, one can realize the revolution that Islam brought to this world. Muslims have always been graceful and close to Fitrah (human nature). Perversion and unnatural habits have no room in our Deen. We are not a nation that has just recently discovered soap bars, fragrant scrubs or the dental floss. We are the ones, who set precedence for the usage of all such personal and public hygiene related products, and that too, 1400 years back.

So, please, dare not call yourself medieval. Just adopt the Sunnah and you will be modern!

Handling Hygiene with Kids

Jul 10 - Handling Hygiene with kids

“My mother never hires a maid with small children,” says a friend of mine, “She thinks they are dirty; constantly smelling of their infants’ and toddlers’ waste on their clothes, as their hygiene is poor.”

I recall an incident I witnessed back in my own childhood. We were at a private swimming pool, when a few mothers caused a furor. A boy aged 3-4 relieved himself outside the pool. The boy’s mother, without any mortification, calmly walked him to the toilet as he continued to poop, marking their path with droppings. Everyone at the scene duly expressed what they thought of the mother’s ‘potty’ training skills. As for us, children, we were just grateful he decided to ‘go’ before getting into the pool.

It is not just uneducated women, who have low standards of hygiene with their children, is it? Even educated mothers need training about maintaining overall cleanliness after they have a baby – in their persona, home and environment. Getting dirty in cleaning up is a mandatory part of a mother’s life, especially during the first three years post-baby. There are no two ways about it – it is her job and she must know how to get it done effectively.

Doing away with hang-ups

Just like medical students must give up any queasiness in handling blood, human flesh, organs or cuts, new mothers, too, must give up innate abhorrence to human waste and body excretions.

In order to bring up a healthy and happy child, a mother must accept the fact that from now on anything that comes out of her baby’s body has to be cleaned up by her: spit-up

milk, nose goop, vomit, earwax, saliva, excreta – you name it. When a mother happily accepts this as part of her ‘job’, she can move past it quickly and efficiently.

As Muslim women, we should ultimately believe in and hope for the great reward promised by Allah (swt) for doing this so-called ‘dirty’ work. We will be rewarded not just for efficiently rearing a clean baby, but also for upholding the high standards of Taharah (purity) and cleanliness required by Islam.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated: “Cleanliness is half of faith.” (Muslim)

Read relevant literature

Issues of Taharah need to be understood in-depth by reading Islamic literature on its do’s and don’ts. Websites, such as askimam.org and islam-qa.com, answer everyday questions about hygiene issues regarding children, e.g., what to do if a child urinates on its mother’s clothing? Does washing a baby’s excreta invalidate Wudhu?

Sheikh Uthaymeen replied to this question as follows: “With regard to changing a baby’s diaper, if you mean the act of changing in itself, this does not affect the validity of one’s Wudhu. If you mean that it involves touching something that is Najis (impure, i.e., the baby’s urine and stools), this does not affect your Wudhu either, because there is no connection between touching something Najis and the validity of one’s Wudhu. There is scholarly consensus on this point. All one has to do is wash one’s hands to get rid of any Najis material.

“If you mean that it involves touching the child’s private parts: whether the child is a boy or a girl; in the case of a child under the age of two years, the rulings on Awrah (that which is to be covered) do not apply, as the scholars have stated. So if you touch them, this does not affect your Wudhu. And Allah (swt) knows best.” (Islam-QA.com)

Make use of modern cleaning resources

Gone are the days of cloth diapering and hand-washed clothes! Now, new mothers can avail resources that maintain hygiene and purity, from waterproof cot mattresses and sheets, to wet wipes and ‘breathable plastic’ diapers, hand sanitizers and baby bath gels, to fully automatic washing machines. Also, cleaning materials, such as absorbent sponges, flannels and scented floor wipes, help a lot during potty training a couple of years after the birth, in which ‘potty accidents’ regularly need to be cleaned up!

Here are a few tips, regarding how a mother can clean up leakages efficiently:

Wet bed

During the first few months, when a first-time mother is learning the ropes herself, she might be too exhausted to change the baby’s diaper before falling asleep, having to face a wet baby, bed sheet and mattress in the morning.

  1. Change the baby’s clothes first. Put on a clean diaper and dry clothes; feed him/her, then proceed to the next step.
  2. Take the sheet to the tap. Wash just the wet area of the bed sheet with running water. Do NOT immerse the entire sheet in a pail. The urine on the wet portion should be drained away completely, using a minimum amount of running water.
  3. Once the wet spot has been washed, purity is restored. Wring it dry. You can wash it further with soap/detergent, if you wish. You do not need to wash the entire bed sheet.
  4. As a precaution, place a large rubber mat covering the entire mattress to prevent it from getting soiled in case of leakages. You can place the bedsheet over this rubber mat.

Soiled mattress or carpet

Remove any solids (feces or vomit) with dry tissue first; then, discard the tissue in the toilet. An absorbent, damp cloth should then be used to clean the soiled patch on the mattress/carpet thus:

  1. Wash the cloth with water under a tap, wring, and rub the patch; repeat this, until the stain is considerably gone, and the soiled area on the carpet/mattress has lost its smell.
  2. Mix enough detergent in some water and repeat the process: wet the cloth in the soap-water, rub the patch, rinse the cloth, wring; wet, rub, repeat. Eventually, the patch of carpet/mattress will be thoroughly clean and pure.
  3. Once it has dried, prayer can be performed on it, Insha’Allah. Using an absorbent cloth to rub the area repeatedly ensures that the excreta are completely removed.

On the go:

Some items are essential for mothers of babies and toddlers on the go: wet baby wipes, changing (waterproof) mat, some extra diapers, small plastic bags (for waste disposal), a plastic bottle filled with tap water, tissues (or a tissue roll) and hand sanitizers.

Make your children wash their hands before and after eating; make them use the toilet in such a way that after they are done, an onlooker cannot tell that it has been used. Tell the boys never to urinate while standing and always wash themselves after answering the call of nature. If they are old enough, they can have small aerosols of air fresheners in their toilets to use.

As mothers of the next generation, we have to leave no stone unturned in inculcating high standards of cleanliness and purity in our little ones from day one, whether, we are in our private spaces or in public.

“Allah is clean, and loves cleanliness.” (Ibn Majah)

Clean is Cool!

If you go long enough without a bath even the fleas will leave you alone, cautions Naba Basar.

Among your friends you must have noticed that there are some who carry a clean and crisp look coming to school. Since it takes all kinds of people to make this world, there are also some who come to school without even washing their faces.

In the Quran, Allah commands the believers to be clean and to keep away from dirt. Those who do not practice the morality of the Quran, as in everything else, fall into this sorry state. Believers’ bodies, food, clothing, and the place where they live are always spotless and well-ordered. They try to make every place resemble the purity of Paradise. As Allah says in the Quran: “You who believe! Eat of the good things We have provided for you…” (Al-Baqarah 2:172)

In another place Allah commands: “Purify your clothes. Shun all filth.” (Al-Muddaththir 74:4-5)

So, what do believers have to do? Simple! Allah created water, which is a great blessing and is a reason for us to be thankful to Allah. We may begin by washing our hands and face when we get up in the morning and taking a shower. The Quran tells us: “…[He] sent you down water from heaven to purify you and remove the taint of Satan from you, and to fortify your hearts and make your feet firm.” (Al-Anfal 8:11)

You may be spooked to know that besides the two angels who maintain a record of our deeds, Allah has also assigned one devil along each one of us. This devil is a cause of all trials and temptations for us. His strategies are quite devious. Allah warns human beings, that the devil, makes dirtiness look pleasant and tries to prevent them from cleaning themselves.

He may try to make us put off brushing our teeth after a meal or taking regular showers by making it seem like too much trouble. Even if such occasional slips do not bring serious consequences, over time they may be damaging to a person’s health and appearance. And this is exactly what Satan wants. He resents human beings and tries to drag them to Hell, and he really wants to see them living in filth.

Some kids are temperamental and are driven by their mood swings. They may be clean and presentable in parties, but the rest of the time they look scruffy. One wonders, how do they regard cleanliness? Well, they are very different in their aims and intentions from those who believe in Allah. Their aim is to look good and not be criticized by others, but they do not think of pleasing Allah by cleaning themselves.

But to a believer, it is more important to please Allah and to obey His command. Eventually he looks cool to others as well, who appreciate him for his neat and tidy appearance. So there really is no point in looking cool by gelling ones hair and powdering our faces if we do not practice basic hygiene consistently. This may include:

  1. Observing dental care and cleanliness
  2. Taking daily showers
  3. Washing ourselves properly following every call of nature
  4. Performing Wudhu calmly and gracefully prior to prayers
  5. Wearing clean and tidy clothes
  6. Checking ourselves for unpleasant odours
  7. Keeping our rooms filth-free
  8. Not leaving around left over food in our room
  9. Emptying our dustbins daily
  10. Keeping our dustbins closed
  11. Not littering outside our house
  12. Not throwing garbage on the roads

The Best Prescription

Islam considers health to be one of the most important blessings given to human beings by Allah. Good health is something for which we are accountable to Allah. The Prophet (sa) said, “The first thing every servant of Allah will have to account for on the Day of Judgment is that he will be asked by Allah, Have I not given you a healthy constitution and have I not quenched your thirst with cold water?” (At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (sa) also said, “No one will be allowed to move from his position on the Day of Judgment until he has been asked how he spent his life; how he used his knowledge; how he earned and spent his money; and in what pursuits he used his health.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The preservation of this blessing can only be achieved through taking good care of one’s health and taking every measure to maintain and enhance it. Moreover, the Quran and the Sunnah contain teachings, which show every Muslim how to protect his health generally and how to take care of each of his organs. Numerous examples can be given. Prominent among these is Wudhu (ablution), which Islam regards as compulsory whenever it is invalidated.

Bathing

Another act of worship, which also helps to maintain good health, is taking a shower, or Ghusl. This is compulsory when one is in the state of ritual impurity. We read in the Quran, “If you are defiled (following sexual intercourse or a wet dream) then purify yourselves.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:6) The Prophet (sa) also recommended his followers to have a shower on many occasions, such as on Fridays. He said, “He who comes to Friday prayer should first have a shower.” (Agreed upon)

Bathing is also recommended on the two feasts. Taking a shower is also recommended for entering into the state of consecration (Ihram); whether for Hajj (pilgrimage) or Umra (lesser-pilgrimage); after washing the body of a deceased person in preparation for burial; for praying for rain or eclipse of the sun; before secluding oneself for prayer; when body odour becomes too strong; and before attending any social gathering.

Hands, Feet, Nails, etc

Islamic teachings are not confined to general cleanliness, but also take care of local cleanliness, such as washing one’s hands. The Prophet (sa) used to wash his hands before eating. We are also recommended to clip our nails. Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said, “Five practices are part of natural cleanliness: circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, plucking out the armpit hair, cutting the nails and trimming the moustache.” (Agreed upon).

A Muslim is also supposed to keep the feet clean, for the Prophet (sa) used to rub in between his toes with his little finger when he performed his ablutions.” (Abu Dawood) He also said, “Woe to heels (from the punishment of Hell if they are not washed). Perform the ritual of ablution properly.”(Abu Dawood)

Mouth and Teeth

Islamic teachings also take care of the cleanliness of one’s mouth. We are required to rinse our mouths, as the Prophet (sa) said, “When you perform ablutions, rinse your mouth.”(Abu Dawood). The Prophet (sa) also said, “Rinse your mouth after drinking milk, because it contains fat.”(Abu Dawood). We are also commanded to keep our gums clean. The Prophet described the process of cleaning one’s teeth as “purification of one’s mouth, and an act that is pleasing to the Lord.” (Al-Nasa’i). The Prophet (sa) also said, “If I were not afraid that it would be too hard for the community, I would have asked Muslims to brush their teeth whenever they prayed.” (Agreed upon)

Eyes, Ears, Nose

Another aspect of health protection is to keep clean one’s ears, eyes, nose, hair and genitals. It has been authentically reported that the Prophet wiped his ears, using his forefingers to clean them from inside and his thumbs on the outside, thus wiping them both inside and out. It is also authentically reported concerning cleanliness of the eyes that the Prophet used to wipe the inner corner of the eye. We are also recommended to clean our noses, for the Prophet said, “When any of you perform the ablutions, introduce water into the nose and then blow it out.” (Ibn-Majah). Science has proven that the act of inhaling water slightly in order to moist the inner top of the nose is beneficial for Sinus patients since it clears away germs.

Hair and Private Parts

With regard to keeping the hair clean, the Prophet said, “He who has hair should take good care of it.” (Abu Dawood). Local cleanliness particularly includes the genitals and private parts. Anas (rta), the Prophet’s servant, said, “When the Prophet defecated, I brought him water to wash with.” (Agreed upon). Aisha (rta), the Prophet’s wife, told Muslim women, “Tell your husbands to wash their private parts with water, for I am too shy to tell them so. The Prophet (sa) used to do that.” (At-Tirmidhi)

It is part of the duty of every Muslim, therefore, to safeguard this blessing and not to allow any change to overcome it through ill usage. Islam put stress on human body’s cleanliness. In summary, our healthy body is a gift from Allah and we are the trustees. We should not misuse it, nor provide wrong raw product for the factory and should keep superb maintenance of this delicate and sensitive machine, in order to enjoy Allah’s blessings. It is after all, the container of our soul.