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Health: Islam's injunction toward personal hygiene

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By Summer R. Ahmad

Islam lays great emphasis on physical cleanliness; it goes so far as to say that our inner spiritual cleanliness cannot be attained without outer cleanliness. Muslims are admonished to purify their outer being to establish inner purity, as our outward cleanliness helps open the doors of spirituality.

In fact, purifying oneself, excellence in personal hygiene and cleanliness of oneself and one’s surroundings are held to such a high standard in Islam that the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.) has said that “Cleanliness is half of the faith.” Again, in Surah Baqarah (2:223): “Allah loves those who turn to Him and loves those who keep themselves clean.”

Nearly 1,500 years ago, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) taught Muslims a way to purify themselves with a method called Wudhu (ablution) prior to performing each of their five daily prayers. He said, “The key to Paradise is salat (prayer), and the key to salat is ablution.”
One part of the Wudhu, which Muslims were taught by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), was to use the toilet and clean themselves with water. To do so, the use of a simple method for cleaning oneself after using the toilet with a vessel filled with water has been used by Muslims across the world for centuries. Thus, in Muslim homes and mosques and in Islamic countries, one will enter the bathroom and find the lota or vessel in every bathroom stall, filled with water for one to use after using the bathroom, so that the high standards of outward cleanliness in Islam can be fulfilled any time after one uses the bathroom.

How can one clean using a vessel like a lota as the Musims do? It is very simple. Today in stores we are able to find plant watering containers or neti pots/neti lotas. One should choose a vessel with a shorter spout to make it easier to use.

Fill the watering can with warm water. After using the toilet, pick up the watering can by the handle with the right hand and use it to pour the water on one’s backside while one is still seated at the toilet. Using one’s left hand clean the soiled area. Do not touch the skin with the spout of the watering vessel.

Put the water vessel down. If one prefers, one can dry the wet area of the skin with a small amount of toilet paper. As always, wash hands with warm water and soap. In this way, less toilet paper, if any, is used.

Thus, Islam upholds cleanliness as a very essential requirement in the path to purifying oneself. The use of a water vessel is an excellent and effective method to clean oneself after using the toilet that has been taught to Muslims.

[Summer R. Ahmad lives in Columbia and holds a Ph.D. in Medical Radiation Physics.]

(Courtesy: Missourian)
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