What is Islam's teaching on hygiene?

by Matt Slick

Hygiene and cleanliness are important within Islam.  Muslims participate in ritual washing, personal hair grooming including pubic hair, armpit hair, and mustaches, as well as cutting the nails.  All of these are required in the teachings of Muhammad.

  • "The Prophet said "Five things are in accordance with Al Fitra (i.e. the tradition of prophets): to be circumcised, to shave the pelvic region, to pull out the hair of the armpits, to cut short the moustaches, and to clip the nails.' (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 74, Number 312: Narrated Abu Huraira)

There is also compulsory requirements of ritual cleansing in preparation for prayer and fasting. The ritual washing for prayer is called ablution which consists of the washing of the face, hands, and forearms with water.  If no water is available, they can use dirt. They must use their left hand when cleaning themselves after using the restroom and they must wash their hands afterwards. Likewise, after sexual intercourse a husband-and-wife must go through a ritualistic head to toe washing and rinsing.  In Islam, "Allah loves those who keep themselves pure and clean," (Surah 2:222). 

Prayer

This cleanliness extends to ritualistic prayer as is described in the following quote.

  • Surah 5:6, "O ye who believe! When ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful."

As you can see from Surah 5:6, in order for Muslims to pray they must first wash their faces, their hands, and arms up to their elbows. They must also rub their heads with water as well as their feet and ankles.  If water cannot be found, they are to use clean sand or earth.

Sexual Intercourse

Abstain from sexual intercourse with women after menses.

  • Surah 2:222, "They ask thee concerning women’s courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah. For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean."

In Islam, the discharge of blood is considered unclean.  In fact, many things are considered unclean such as... Urine, feces, semen, a dead body, blood, dogs, pigs, infidels, wine, and beer1 

Camel Urine as Medicine

Hygiene includes medicines by which sickness and uncleanness are eradicated.  Mohammed taught some interesting concepts. He advocated drinking camel urine as a medicine.

  • "Some people from the tribe of 'Ukl came to the Prophet and embraced Islam. The climate of Medina did not suit them, so the Prophet ordered them to go to the (herd of milch) camels of charity and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). They did so, and after they had recovered from their ailment (became healthy) they turned renegades (reverted from Islam) and killed the shepherd of the camels and took the camels away. The Prophet sent (some people) in their pursuit and so they were (caught and) brought, and the Prophets ordered that their hands and legs should be cut off and that their eyes should be branded with heated pieces of iron, and that their cut hands and legs should not be cauterized, till they die." (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 794,  Narrated Anas).

Aside from the cruel treatment that Muhammad imposed upon people as is evident in the above hadith, I know of no studies that show that drinking the urine of the camel has medicinal value. But, according to the seventh century mentality of Mohammed, and the un-verifiable command to drink urine, we can see that Muhammad's knowledge base was rather restricted and superstitious.

Wings of a fly

Muhammad said that one wing of a house fly has a disease and the other wing has the cure

  • The Prophet said "If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease," (Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 537, Narrated Abu Huraira.)

This is a small mention of an interesting tidbit from Muhammad. Keeping in line with the idea of hygiene and cleanliness, we see that Muhammad's ideology was in accurate in many ways.  The cure for disease is actually found on the wing of the fly, a creature that lives on feces and decaying food?  Obviously, Mohammed did not know what he was talking about.

Cleanliness and purification using Water

There are ways for Muslims to purify things for their use when using water. Following is a quote that details the conditions that must be met in order for the water to be pure enough to be used.

"(i) The water should be clean. Hence an impure thing cannot be purified with mixed water like rose-water or melon-water etc. (ii) The water should be pure. (iii) The water should not become mixed while the impure thing is being washed. Furthermore, the smell, color or taste of the impurity should not exist after the washing after which no further washing is necessary, but if the smell, color or taste of the water changes during earlier washings there is no harm in it, for example, if a thing is washed with Kurr-water or under-Kurr water and, in order to purify it, it is necessary to wash it twice, it will become pure if the color, smell or taste of the water with which it is washed for the second time does not change, even though the color, smell or taste of the water undergoes a change during the first washing. (iv) Original impurity should not remain in the impure thing after washing it with water."2

Once purified water is obtained, it can be applied to various objects such as utensils, containers, ovens, wheat, rice, clothing, etc. 

Earth

But, earth is also used as a means of purification as long as it meets the following conditions. Typically Earth is used when water cannot be obtained for ritualistic cleansing.

(i) The earth should be pure (ii) The earth should be dry (iii) If an original impurity, like blood or urine, or something which has become impure, like impure clay, is stuck on the sole of the foot or shoe of a person, it should be cleared by walking on earth or by rubbing the foot or shoe on it. Furthermore, it is necessary that the earth consists of clay, or floor made of stones or bricks, or any other similar thing. In case, however, the sole of one's foot or shoe is impure, it does not become pure by walking on a carpet or a mat or on green grass...In order to purify the sole of one's foot or shoe it is better that one should cover a distance of at least fifteen cubits by walking on earth."3

You can see from the above paragraph, Muslims are obligated to remain clean by using dirt if water is not readily available.

 

Conclusion

Purification is an important part of the Muslim's spiritual life. However, their requirements are reminiscent of the Old Testament purification laws of the Jews. I find it interesting that they practice much of purification requirements the same way the Jews did, the very people they hate (Surah 5:51; 5:8). Like the Jews, the Muslims are also under a system of rituals, and purification requirements that they believe make things, and themselves, acceptable to God. But his means that their sanctification before God depends on their own efforts and ability to maintain a level of purification.  Of course, this is impossible since God requires holiness (1 Peter 1:16), and we can never be pure enough as a result of our own efforts.

In Christianity all things have been made pure by the blood of Christ. In Islam they offer water and dirt as a means of purifying objects.  In Christianity the blood of Christ is offered to God as the means of purification.

  • Hebrews 9:22, "And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
  • 1 John 1:7, "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

The Muslims are still under the requirements of the law and must try and retain their position in favor with Allah by performance and ritualistic practices that make things pure and themselves pure.  They must do this because they have no atoning sacrifice. They have no work of God must cleanse them. They are lost in a set of rules and regulations that they must maintain if there to please their god.

  • 1. http://www.al-islam.org/islamic-laws-ayatullah-abul-qasim-al-khui/impure-things-najasat
  • 2. http://www.al-islam.org/islamic-laws-ayatullah-abul-qasim-al-khui/purifying-things#water
  • 3. http://www.al-islam.org/islamic-laws-ayatullah-abul-qasim-al-khui/purifying-things#water
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.