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Cleanliness: 50% faith!

Huzaima Bukhari

“Fifty percent of faith is attributable to cleanliness”Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Sahih Muslim, Chapter No.2, Hadees No. 534

As staunch Pakistani Muslims, we appear to profess complete faith in the teachings of Islam and sayings of our holy Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). If anyone dare utter a single word against his Holiness, we are set to kill and be killed. Such is the strength of faith and love that disregards even one’s own life. The connection is so strong that we want to imitate our Prophet (PBUH) in every aspect—clothing, food, mannerism, etc.—sometimes without considering that a particular thing may not commensurate with our region, culture or climatic conditions. If a religious cleric even mistakenly associates anything with his Holiness, it becomes sacred to the extent that it must be earnestly protected. Undoubtedly, no one can raise a finger with respect to the awe and admiration that we have for our beloved Prophet (PBUH).

Regrettably and despite our adoration for the holy Prophet (PBUH) and of course our claim of unshakeable belief in the Quranic injunctions and ahadees, our faith remains at a threshold of fifty percent, the principal reason being our extremely callous attitude towards cleanliness. Religious scholars have interpreted this hadees to cover cleanliness of both body and soul which is good enough because the two are closely connected. They say that spiritual cleansing implies strong faith in God by erasing false and confusing notions from the mind in addition to focusing on noble and pious deeds. Our biology teacher used to say, “A healthy body, houses a healthy mind.” Using similar jargon, one can say: “A clean and hygienic environment, houses an unquestionable faith.” Therefore, if we want to prove ourselves sincere followers of Islam, then we should observe cleanliness, keeping every detail meticulously in account, but do we really?

In the bygone days, people generally relied on permanent stuff for daily usage. Thus, crockery, cutlery, containers, shopping bags made out of natural elements etc. were commonly available in all households that helped to keep garbage at a minimum. These days, use of disposable utensils, plastic bags and packing material have increased large scale accumulation of waste and in the absence of proper management, one finds heaps of undisposed rubbish in every nook and cranny of especially, the cities. The last Chief Minister of Punjab had engaged the services of a Turkish company to clear up mess created by Lahoris but apparently, the present government has shooed them away although their monstrous trucks can still be seen roaming on the roads. Resultantly, Lahore, which was comparatively cleaner than other Pakistani cities, has gradually started giving a shabby look. In the first place, we as citizens of this country should be consciously aware to maintain cleanliness without the need of hiring foreigners for this purpose, and secondly, we have a large community of cleaners in need of jobs and who have been loyally providing their valuable services throughout the Sub-continent’s history. 

Much has been written about the advantages of cleanliness and one keeps reading articles on this subject on and off. Muhammad Ali Musofer in an op-ed published in Dawn back in 2013 laments about the insensitivity displayed by people in general: “It is also observed that people clean their homes and shops and throw the garbage on the street without considering its implications. It is evident that even students of elite schools throw garbage on the ground even in the presence of garbage bins.” Within many people’s homes, it has been usually noticed that rooms frequented by guests are beautifully maintained and if someone wants to test the true nature of the host with regard to cleanliness, all they need to do is check out their toilets and kitchens.

Writers have persistently mentioned the necessity to educate the public and have requested the government to introduce measures to manage waste and ensure cleanliness of the streets, drains and canals. Suggestions regarding propagation of significance of hygiene and proper sanitation procedures come from all walks of life. Educational institutions, mosques and media have been called upon to instill the message of cleanliness among the public. Many environmentalists have constantly approached the authorities to follow in the footsteps of civilized countries in making productive use of garbage. The most advanced country in the world that has efficiently handled its share of filth is probably Singapore even though it has limited land mass and a dense population. Maybe it is because Singaporeans firmly believe in practicality rather than a theoretic vision of a Pakistani Muslim whereby the present life is to be sacrificed for a better life in the afterworld.

Someone posed a question that why do towels get dirty when they are supposed to clean? I guess we treat are environment like towels. In scrubbing ourselves, we in fact, destroy our surroundings in the most despicable manner. We first cut trees for manufacturing paper, convert into tissue rolls, cups and plates, only to dispose them after use—merely for the sake of avoiding ‘menial’ work. What a shame and how unfortunate for the health of the environment!  

There is no point in labeling ourselves as faithful followers of a Prophet (PBUH) who is supposed to be a blessing for not just Muslims but the entire universe, if fundamentals are to be blatantly neglected. An outsider entering this country ought to be totally astounded by the quality of cleanliness like we are enraptured by that of Japan for example. (By the way and as per our tenet, Japanese too are a nation with fifty percent faith because of their love for cleanliness but not their religious ideology). The roads, neighbourhoods, buildings, shopping areas, gardens, public toilets etc. should appear impeccable with no visible signs of dirt and grime. If this were the position then definitely we could have proudly claimed that we are people with faith level of one hundred percent. However, we leave no stone unturned to prove that we are half-baked unclean Muslim Pakistanis who have no regard for hygiene or sanitation yet we have the nerve to call non-Muslims impure. We forget that the dirtiest of mess created by us is picked up by those whom we consider foul even though they are likely to be closer to professing a deeper faith by their act of cleanliness.

One stops to think why our nation is so obsessed with being God’s favourite when our actions strongly speak otherwise. Littering and spitting are our preferred pastimes so naturally we end up with surplus waste material strewn all over as we are not pressed about disposing it in a scientific way. Before we look towards the government to carry out this job, we should be assessing our own attitude and behavior that requires immediate reformation. Hold a small function and at the end of the day, the ground or the floor becomes extremely messy with half eaten chicken legs, soiled tissue papers, wrappings etc. The hosts do not care to place dust bins and even if they do, the guests hardly care to use them. The importance of cleanliness cannot be denied, therefore all municipal administrations existing in the country must be forced to immediately set upon fulfilling their duties for which they are being paid by the taxpayers.


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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