If you were to visit a museum and see historical artefacts from the Muslim world, chances are you would see a variety of water jugs. Despite Islam being associated with desert climates where water is scarce, washing oneself with water is a part of regional Muslim cultures the world over.
The Prophet Muhammad taught “cleanliness is half of faith” and was in the personal habit of washing and grooming. These were of course simpler times with more basic systems facilities, but he would wash, groom and deodorise himself regularly, and was meticulous in brushing his teeth (which in his day was done using the soft branch of a specific tree). His example teaches us that being spiritual or ‘Godly’ is not about denying the world and its natural gifts, but about positively embracing life and being grateful for life’s treasures.
There are some practices or cleaning habits that are quite particular to Muslim religious practices. Muslims perform a ritual wash called wudhoo before offering the ritual prayer or salah. Some may use a “prayer mat” as a clean area and environment for prayer. Private areas are normally washed after visiting the loo. It is customary to shower and wear fresh clean clothes when visiting the mosque for larger congregational prayers, like the Friday lunchtime prayer service. And perhaps less known is that Muslims avoid the saliva of dogs because, according to Islamic teachings, it makes clothes and materials impure for the purpose of prayer.
The Qur’an advocates the virtues of being “pure”, and so we can understand being clean in different ways. Islamic teachings emphasise being clean on the inside by having clean intentions or reasons for doing things; possessing clean wealth by honesty in trade and earnings; having clean bodies by washing and bathing; clean clothes odours in social gatherings; eating clean foods; washing a deceased person before burial, and, offering prayers in clean environments. In this way, physically washing oneself is part of a more holistic idea of being clean, fostering wellbeing and goodness.