Human beings are born in a state of purity. Indeed, Islam bases the concept of purity on the natural disposition of the human being. While people generally consider cleanliness a desirable attribute, Islam insists on it, making it an indispensable fundamental of the Faith. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Purity is half of Faith and the praise of Allah fills the scale.” [Muslim]
Maintaining the purity is the goal of Muslims which can only be achieved by total adherence to the guidance of Islam. In fact, inseparable from prayers in Islam is purity as Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “No prayer is accepted without purification, and no charity is accepted from earnings made from impermissible sources.” [Muslim]
From an Islamic perspective, purification is a manifestation of both ritual purification (outer cleanliness) and spiritual purity (internal purification of the heart).
(1) Ritual purification or Physical cleanliness: It refers to cleanliness of the human body and the surrounding environment from perceptible filth. Cleanliness from physical impurities is required by Islam to be observed by each and every Muslim in his/her daily life. Apart from body, Islam requires a Muslim to keep his clothes, houses and streets clean.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “O children of ‘Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” [surah: Al-A’raaf, ayah: 31]
Muslims are asked to use clean water and keep it safe from impurities and pollution. Ridding the streets of impurities and filth is considered as a charity. Prophet Muhammad (saw) strictly warned against it, saying, “Beware of the three acts that cause others to curse you: relieving yourselves in a watering place, on foot paths or shaded places.” [Abu Dawood]
In view of the significance of ritual purification in Islam, Muslims should have the highest standard of cleanliness and personal hygiene of all the people in the world. But it is highly regrettable that the heap of garbage has become an identity of Muslim homes and localities. The Muslim majority areas are marked with unhygienic and unhealthy conditions.
Cleanliness is the pathway to health and strength. Islam wants a healthy and strong Muslim society which is immune against infectious diseases and is capable of understanding and applying God’s message and carrying it away to the whole world. We, as parents and guardians, are responsible in teaching our kids about purity and cleanliness from their very young age.
(2) Spiritual purity: This means that one is free from polytheism, hypocrisy and ill manners, love of wealth, love of fame and other carnal desires. The emphasis in Islam is more on the cleanliness of the inner-self that is heart, mind and soul. Islam stresses the need for integrity and warding off all negative attributes such as stinginess, envy and hatred. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Do not envy one another, nor hate one another, nor leave one another in lurch. Take the servants of Allah as brethren.” [Muslim]
Modesty in dress, for men as well as for women, assists one in maintaining purity of thought. The directives of Zakah and Fasting are nothing but to purify ones wealth and soul.
The external cleaning process and rituals in reality are the preparatory ground work to obtain the more important task and that is cleanliness of the inner-self, which is the ultimate goal of the religion. A pure mind in a pure body is the watchword of Islam.
Body cleanliness, heart purity and integrity bring Muslim closer to Allah Almighty Who bestows upon him His love, acceptance and forgiveness in addition to earning the respect and love of human beings.
May Allah help us to be among His pure servants and help us to obey Him.