Ethics In Islam

Cleanliness and Purification


       In connection with ethics and good conduct, we have already discussed piety and sincerity of intention. As purification and cleanliness of heart is essential for us, which we derive from piety and sincerity of intention, similarly external cleanliness is also essential for all human beings. Islam has commanded the followers both for internal and external cleanliness i.e., the heart should be spotlessly clean even from the thought of anything other than Allaah and the body should be clean from all dirtiness and pollutions. In the first Revelations to the Kind Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (Sal-lal-laa hu 'alai-hi waa aa-li-hi wa-sal-lam) - the Verses in the beginning of the Surah 'Iqra' - Man's attention has been drawn towards his real entity and also that generosity of Allaah, which He showers on human beings by adorning them with the jewel of knowledge. And in the following Revelation to the Prophet, while declaring His Greatness and stressing on His worship, Allaah commands man to acquire both internal and external cleanliness and purification:

"O you wrapped up (in a mantle)! Arise and deliver your warning! And your Lord do you magnify! And your garments keep free from stain! And all abomination shun!" (S. 74: 1-5).

       In the second Revelation, after teaching the lesson of Tauhid, the stress on cleanliness and purification gains its importance. Cleanliness and purification are the good habits and nice ethical characters which form the essence of humanity.


       Islam has made purification binding for each and every act of worship especially for 'Salaat' (Prayer). The Kind Prophet said:

"Salaat is not accepted without purification."

On another occasion he said:

"Purification is a part of faith."

       The followers of Islam, after getting the Qur'aanic injuNction on purification, so rigidly followed it that Allaah blessed them with the beauties of love. The Qur'aan says:

"In it are men who love to be purified; and Allaah loves those who make themselves pure." (S. 9: 108).

       This Verse reveals that Purification is the simplest and best means for gaining the love and pleasure of Allaah.

Definition of Purification

       It must be noted that purification and cleanliness are two different things. The present society insists on cleanliness to maximum possible extent, and has tried to keep everything neat and clean. But purification is altogether a different thing. Modern society lacks even the glimpse of this quality. Truly speaking, except Islam, no ideology has this reality of social life. In Islam, beside neatness and cleanliness, there is a complete and firm order of purification and it is so important that no worship in Islam can even be conceived of without purification. Now, one may question what is purification in addition to neatness and cleanliness.

       This can be well understood from this fact that Islam has divided everything of the world into two groups - one is 'Pak' or pure and the other is 'Na-pak' or impure. All sorts of animate beings are included in this division. In the Islamic jurisprudence, all have been listed according to their state of being pure or impure. Among the impure things, urine, stool etc., rank first and then those things which have been declared 'Haraam' or taboo by the Islamic Shariat. Therefore, when a Muslim offers any worship, it is binding on him to keep his clothes and himself safe from all impurities of whatever nature. The water from which he performs ablution or takes bath, shall also be pure and if any impure thing mixes with it, then that water also becomes impure and unusable. Even if in that water an impure thing falls or that water is licked by any 'taboo' animal, then the whole water becomes impure, not at all useable for bath, ablution etc. Similarly a man, for whom a bath is compulsory, starts his bath and during bathing the drops of water used in washing the body and organs fall into the pot or tub from which he is taking water, then the person bathing will be able to clean his body from dirt and filth from that water but that will not, according to Islamic Shariat, make him purified. The drops of water falling from his impure body make the water of the tub or pot impure and, therefore a bath from it cannot make him purified. The prayers or worship of this man, although he took a bath, will not be acceptable unless he takes bath again from pure water. This is the conception of purification in Islam, which other religions miserably lack.


       Here it must not be considered that Islam has insisted on purification only and not paid any attention to cleanliness or neatness. No! Islam has also ordered for cleanliness and stressed on keeping everything neat and clean. The Kind Prophet and his companions have taken great care of keeping their body, clothes and place of residence clean and advised people both by instructions and action to do so. Along with the cleaning of body, the Kind Prophet had also insisted on cleaning of mouth and teeth. Cleaning of teeth from 'miswak' (a soft stick for tooth-brushing) is a most important and desirable Sunnah of the Prophet, who signified the act in the following words:

"If Ummat may not have felt trouble, I would have made tooth-brushing (by miswak) compulsory before every prayer."

       Why Islam commanded for this cleanliness and neatness is obvious. Naturally, the aim is to keep the brain and heart, which are placed safely under fine and delicate membranes, protected from all dirtiness and impurities so that they may be linked with Allaah with profound devotion and in complete absorption and concentration; and also when man prostrates before his Master, bad odour, impurities etc., shall not disturb his thought and interfere with his link with the Master. This is the reason why the Kind Prophet forbade people to enter the mosque after eating raw onion and garlic so that their foul breath or belch may not disturb and annoy the fellow-worshippers. It is well known that the odour of onion and garlic is undesirable and not liked by people.

       Islamic Shariat also commands the Muslims to clean the privy parts of the body after answering the call of nature or urinating, first with earth or something else and then wash them with water. This method has been prescribed for cleanliness and is the way of Sunnah.

       The Kind Prophet commanded the followers, for the sake of cleanliness that:

"When any one of you awakes from sleep he should not put his hand in the pot of water unless he washes his hand thrice."

He does not know where his hand passed the night (i.e., during night his hand may have been lying on such a part of the body where it may have become impure or dirty).

       The Kind Prophet also commanded the people to save themselves and their clothes from drops of urine. Once he saw a man urinating in a standing position. He said:

"Don't urinate in standing position, because in this way the drops of urine fall on legs and clothes making them impure."

He also told people that they should not sit at such a place for urinating or answering the call of nature, which is a thoroughfare or a shady resting place for the people. The reason for this command is obvious.

       These are a few specimens of the injunctions of Islamic Shariat on cleanliness and purification. In fact, the religion of Islam is that bright code of life or has those brilliant principles of living and a shining mirror of internal and external cleanliness, which protect its followers from all vices and distortions on one hand and help them achieve the Pleasure of Allaah on the other. No other religion of the world has given so much stress on cleanliness and purification.

(The End)





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