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Personal Hygiene between Christianity and Islam (2/2)

Personal Hygiene

Unlike Christianity, Islam pays a lot of attention to personal hygiene

By Editorial Staff

In the past part, I dealt with the hygiene etiquette for urination, defecation, sexual intercourse and fluids resulting from wet dreams or otherwise, menstruation and lying-in in Christianity and Islam.

In this part, I will handle circumcision, dental and oral hygiene, body hair and nail care, the cleanliness of clothes, regular bathing and perfume as means of personal hygiene in Christianity and Islam.


Circumcision in Islam

Circumcision is one of the inborn characteristics of man in Islam. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “The inborn characteristics of man are five. Another version says: Five things are of the inborn characteristics of man: circumcision, shaving the pubes, plucking out hair under the armpit, clipping nails and trimming moustaches.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

The Companions of the Prophet used to get circumcised. Said bin Jubair reported that Ibn `Abbas was asked, “How old were you when the Prophet died?” He replied. “At that time I had been circumcised.” At that time, people did not circumcise the boys till they attained the age of puberty. Sa’id bin Jubair said, “Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘When the Prophet died, I had already been circumcised. ” (Al-Bukhari)

Circumcision in Christianity

The Old Testament states that God established a covenant between Him and Abraham to be kept by means of circumcision generation after generation. In the Old Testament, we read: “…This is [the sign of] My covenant, which you shall keep and faithfully obey, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised…” (Genesis 17:1-27)

The New Testament tells us that prophets used to get circumcised. We notice that John the Baptist was circumcised. We read: “It happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child [as required by the Law], and they intended to name him Zacharias, after his father.” (Luke 1:59)

The New Testament also tells us that Abraham was given the covenant of circumcision and so he circumcised his son Isaac. In the New Testament, we read: “And He gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day…” (Acts 7:8)

Moreover, the New Testament states that Jesus himself was circumcised. We read: “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)

However, the New Testament focuses on the so-called “circumcision of the heart” rather than the physical circumcision. In the New Testament, we read: “…But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and [true] circumcision is of the heart, a spiritual and not a literal [matter]. His praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:25-29)

Dental & Oral Hygiene

Dental & Oral Hygiene in Islam

A Muslim is supposed to clean his mouth and teeth at least five times a day. In Wudu’ (ritual ablution), a Muslim rinses one’s mouth with water every time one is going to offer any of the five obligatory prayers; Humran (the freed slave of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan) reported: I saw ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan 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 said: “I saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) performing ablution like this of mine, and he (peace be upon him) said: ‘If anyone performs ablution like that of mine and offers a two-unit prayer during which he does not think of anything else (not related to the present prayer) then his past sins will be forgiven.’” (Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad ordered Muslims to clean their teeth and prohibited negligence in dental hygiene. He was about to make dental and oral hygiene indispensable to the validity of prayer itself. However, he feared that he would have caused them to experience hardship.

Siwak is a stick taken from the Salvadora persica tree, known as arak in Arabic. In Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, Siwak was used as a toothbrush. Prophet Muhammad was going to order cleaning teeth with Siwak for every prayer.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of God said: “Had I not thought it difficult for the people of my community, I would have commanded them to use the Siwak before every prayer.” (Al-Bukhari)

`A’ishah reported that the Prophet said: “Make a regular practice of Siwak for verily it is the purification for the mouth and a means of the pleasure of the Lord” (Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad used to clean his teeth especially when entering his house. It is reported that `A’ishah was asked: “With which thing would the Messenger of God begin if he entered his house?” She said: “If he entered his house, he would begin with the Siwak.” (Muslim)

Prophet Muhammad would also clean his teeth if he got up at night. It is reported that Hudhayfah said that whenever the Prophet got up for Tahajjud prayer he used to clean his mouth (and teeth) with Siwak. (Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad also forbade he who eats garlic or other bad-smelling foods to enter mosques so that people will not be annoyed by the bad smell of one’s mouth. Ibn Omar reported that at Khaybar Battle the Prophet said: “He who eats this plant (garlic) should not approach our mosques.” (Al-Bukhari)

Dental & Oral Hygiene in Christianity

We do not find any concern about the physical cleanliness of the mouth in the Bible, including the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible, especially the New Testament, is rather concerned about the moral rather than physical cleanliness of the mouth.

The New Testament quotes Jesus as saying: “It is not what goes into the mouth of a man that makes him unclean and defiled, but what comes out of the mouth; this makes a man unclean and defiles [him].” (Matthew 15:11)

In the New Testament, Jesus is also quoted as saying: “Do you not see and understand that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the abdomen and so passes on into the place where discharges are deposited? But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles [him].” (Matthew 15:17-18)

Body Hair & Nail Care

Body Hair & Nail Care in Islam

As for the head hair, Prophet Muhammad ordered honoring i.e. cleaning and taking care of hair. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “He who has hair should honor it.” (Abu Dawud)

Prophet Muhammad prohibited neglecting hair cleanness or care. Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: “The Prophet came to us and saw a man with disheveled hair. He said: ‘Could this man not find anything to tidy his hair?'” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud & An-Nasai’)

Ata’ ibn Yasar reported: “The Messenger of God was in the mosque when a man came in with a disheveled beard and hair. The Messenger of God gestured to him that he should return home to groom his hair and beard. The man did so and he returned to the mosque. The Messenger of God said, ‘Is this not better than that he should come with his head disheveled, as if he were a devil?’” (Malik)

As for the moustache, Prophet Muhammad ordered trimming moustaches. As to public hair, the Prophet ordered shaving it. Concerning the armpit hair, the Prophet ordered plucking it out. Regarding nails, the Prophet ordered clipping them.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “Five things are of the inborn characteristics of man: circumcision, shaving the pubes, plucking out hair under the armpit, clipping nails and trimming moustaches.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Out of deep concern about the body hair and nail care in Islam, Prophet Muhammad set a deadline for trimming or shaving the body hair and clipping nails. A Muslim may not leave his body hair untidy or nails unclipped for more than forty days.

Anas reported: “We were given a time limit with regard to trimming the mustache, shaving the pubic hair, plucking the armpit hair and clipping the nails. We were not to leave that for more than forty days.” (Muslim)

Body Hair & Nail Care in Christianity

We do not find explicit commands for body hair and nail care in the Bible, including the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible only orders growing or shaving hair for worship rather than cleanliness or care purposes.

For example, about growing hair in the Bible, we read: “During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.” (Numbers 6:5)

About shaving hair in the Bible, we read: “Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.” (Numbers 6:18)

Cleanliness of Clothes

Cleanliness of Clothes in Islam

Islam commands and stipulates cleanliness of clothes for the validity of prayers. In the Qur’an, we read:

And for your clothing you are to purify (Al-Muddaththir 74:4)

Ibn Al-Mundhir cited the cause of the revelation of this verse on the authority of Zayd ibn Marthad as follows: “The tripe of a camel was thrown at Prophet Muhammad while he was praying. So the above verse was revealed.” (Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir Al-Qur’an Al-Azim)

Prophet Muhammad urged Muslims to wear the best and cleanest clothes. Ibn Mas`ud reported that the Prophet said, “He who has, in his heart, an ant’s weight of arrogance will not enter Paradise.” Someone said: “A man likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?” The Messenger of God said, “God is Beautiful, and He loves beauty.” He said: “Arrogance means ridiculing and rejecting the truth and despising people.” (Muslim)

Cleanliness of Clothes in Christianity

In the New Testament, we do not find express commands concerning the cleanliness of clothes. However, in the Old Testament, there are several commands for cleaning clothes. For example, in the Old Testament, we read: “And the Lord said to Moses, Go and sanctify the people [set them apart for God] today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.” (Exodus 19:10)

We also read: “Purify every garment as well as everything made of leather, goat hair or wood.” (Numbers 31:20)

We further read: “On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean. Then you may come into the camp.” (Numbers 31:24)

Regular Bathing

Regular Bathing in Islam

Though taking a bath is obligatory for many reasons in Islam, including sexual intercourse, wet dreams, the discharge of sexual fluids like semen, menstruation and lying-in, and is recommended on Fridays and feasts, taking a bath is still required for personal hygiene purposes if seven days pass without taking a bath.

Abu Hurairah reported that Prophet Muhammad said: “It is obligatory for every Muslim that he should take a bath once in seven days, so he should wash his head and body.” (Al-Bukhari)

Regular Bathing in Christianity

Though the commandment to purify oneself is commonplace in the New Testament, such a commandment is not intended for physical purification but moral purification.

In the Old Testament, the obligation of physical cleanliness, especially bathing, is recurrent, but such an obligation is usually meant for worship purposes and does not set a deadline for such bathing which is intended for personal hygiene.


Perfume in Islam

Prophet Muhammad liked to wear perfume all the times. For example, Prophet Muhammad used to dab on perfume after bathing. `A’isha reported that whenever the Prophet took a bath after ritual impurity he asked for the Hilab or some other perfume. He used to take it in his hand, rub it first over the right side of his head and then over the left and then rub the middle of his head with both hands. (Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad recommended putting on perfume when going for Friday Prayer. Abu Said Al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of God said: “Ghusl on Fridays is obligatory for everyone who has reached the age of puberty, and he should put on whatever he can find of perfume.” (Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad used to wear much perfume even when getting into the state of Ihram (self-denial for pilgrimage). `A’isha reported: I used to perfume the Messenger of God with the best scent available till I saw the shine of the scent on his head and beard. (Al-Bukhari)

Perfume in Christianity

In the New Testament, we find that Jesus liked perfume. For example, we read: “Now when Jesus came back to Bethany and was in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster flask of very precious perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, for what purpose is all this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a large sum and the money given to the poor. But Jesus, fully aware of this, said to them, why do you bother the woman? She has done a noble (praiseworthy and beautiful) thing to Me. For you always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me. In pouring this perfume on My body she has done something to prepare Me for My burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news (the Gospel) is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told also, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:6-13)

In the Old Testament, we come to know that perfume used to be used for anointment purposes. For example, we read: “Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.” (Exodus 30:25)



1- The Glorious Qur’an

2- Sahih Al-Bukhari

3- Sahih Muslim

4- Sunan Abi Dawud

5- Sunan An-Nasai’

6- The Holy Bible

7- Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir Al-Qur’an Al-Azim


Read Also:

Personal Hygiene between Christianity and Islam (1/2)

Islam as Conducive to the Most Healthful Habits

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