By: Dr. Rabiah Aminudin
COVID-19 undoubtedly has become one of the world’s greatest disruptions in modern history. The virus has managed to put the fast paced modernised and globalised world on hold, seeing governments enforcing unprecedented moves such as constraining public movement as well as closing borders . As such, societies also are forced to change the way they operate and have to let go common traditions and practices that revolve around community gathering. Religious communities including Muslims are one of the most affected with the repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic, not only spiritually but also socially as religious group activities such as congregational prayers, pilgrimage, and Eid celebrations are put on suspension. However, Muslims can use this time to reflect on the teachings of Islam in the face of this pandemic. Keeping hygienic conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness, for example, has been an essential part of Islam.
For centuries, Islam through the teachings of Quran and Sunnah, has provided detailed guidelines for its followers to keep their hygiene from daily life occurrences such as ablution prior to compulsory prayers to specific events such as full-body ritual purification mandatory (ghusl) before the performance of various rituals and prayers, for any adult Muslim after having sexual intercourse, ejaculation or completion of the menstrual cycle as stated in the Holy Quran
“O you who believe! When you intend to offer the prayer, wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, wipe your heads, and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. If you are in a state of Janaba (i.e. had a sexual discharge) purify yourself.”(Al-Ma’idah:6).
Oral hygiene also has been emphasised by the Prophet SAW. He promotes the use of “miswak” or its modern days equivalent, the toothbrush after meal as well as prior to their daily five times prayers. The principal of hygiene and cleanliness in Islam is not constrained to physical but also extended to spiritual aspects of life as they are seen as complementary to one another. As such, this includes dietary practices in Islam which emphasises on the cleanliness and purity of the food that Muslims consume.The Quran stated that
“They ask you what is lawful to them (as food). Say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what you have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allah: eat what they catch for you, but pronounce the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah; for Allah is swift in taking account.”(Al-Ma’idah:4)
Islam prohibits certain types of food and drinks because they are considered as impure and harmful to human beings. Islam not only considers prohibited items as harmful, but also consider the whole process of food preparation have to be clean and free from non-halal and unclean ingredients and processed and produced using tools that is not contaminated with unclean and non-halal ingredients. We should bear in mind that cleanliness of our food also plays an important role in keeping COVID-19 at bay. As Muslims, we should always ensure that our meals are permissible, clean, nutritious, and healthy to ensure that our bodies receive the appropriate nourishment and enable us to contribute our energy, intellectual capacity, and expertise to the society. Therefore, when it comes to maintaining good hygiene practice during COVID-19 as guided by the World Health Organization, it is in line with Islamic teachings and practices. Islam has always emphasised the importance of maintaining good hygienic practices in all aspects of life; physically and spiritually.
Although Muslims may need to step up their hygienic practices by including soap and sanitizers in washing their hands, wearing masks in public areas, and practice social distancing, these are all good practices that should have already be embedded in the daily life of a Muslim.
Rabiah Aminudin is the Head, Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia