Mysteries of Cleanliness

>> Sunday, February 8, 2009


So it was suggested to me that I should also explain what Imam Ghazzali wrote because the readings are too hard for the common reader. The main reason I never wanted to explain the writings of Ghazzali was because I did not want to lead the readers views by my own views. But then while reviewing the past posting I realized that the excerpts are hard to understand. So I have come up with a middle ground. I will explain what the piece is about but will not give commentary on it.

This piece is on Cleanliness and the chapter (chapter or book 3) has to deal with Wudu. Basically like everything else Imam Ghazzali claims that this too has a esoteric and exoteric attributes. He puts this after the Shahada (or the chapter called Foundation of belief) but before Salah (and the rest of the five pillars). Reason for this is because Shahada or the foundation of belief makes you a Muslim so he talks about that first. He wants to talk about Salah before anyother pillar because Salah 5 times a day is the action you perform the most. However to perform Salah you must make wudu first hence he has placed this section between the first two pillars.

In the Words of Imam Ghazzali

The Holy Prophet said: Religion is founded on cleanliness. He said: Cleanliness is the key to prayer. God said: Therein arc men who love purity and God loves the pure (9:109). The Prophet said: Cleanliness is one-half of belief. God said: God desires to make you clean and to complete His favours on you (5 : 7).
Those who possess insight understand by these sayings that the most important thing is the purification of the heart. If the tradition `cleanliness is one-half of faith' is limited only to the external cleanliness of physical organs by water and not also to the purification of the heart which may entertain evil designs and thoughts, its meaning then will be distant and it is impossible.
Purity has got Four Stages
(1) The first stage is the purification of the external organs from excrements and fifths. (2) The second stage is the purification of the body organs from sins and faults. (3) The third stage is the purification of the heart from evil traits and evil vices. (4) The fourth stage is the purification of the inner self from everything except God. This is the stage of the Prophets and the saints. Every item of cleanliness is half of action, because the object of the actions is the glorification and greatness of God. In reality God's knowledge is not attained unless the heart is purified of all things other than God. For this reason, God said: Say 'God', then' leave them to play in the useless talks (6:91). There can be no two things in mind at the same time and God also has not created two minds in the same man. The object of the actions is to adorn the mind with praiseworthy qualities and religious firm faith. It is well known that the mind will not be adorned with those qualities till the blameworthy evils and false faith reign in it.
To purify the mind from these evils comprises half of its actions and the first half is pre-requisite for the second. In this sense, purity is said to be half of belief. So to purify the bodily limbs from the prohibited things is the first half and to strengthen it with religious acts is its second half. These are the stages of belief and every stage has got its rank. Nobody will attain a 'higher stage. unless he first goes through the lower one. He can not attain real purity of heart till he purifies it from the blameworthy vices and adorn it with the praiseworthy qualities. He can't purify the heart till he purifies his organs from prohibited things and makes it firm with religious acts. The more honourable is the object, the more difficult is the attainment of that object. The longer is the road that leads to it, the greater are the obstacles. Don't think that this can he attained with ease and without efforts. He who is blind to these stages of purity will not understand the above mentioned four stages. He will understand the lowest stage of cleanliness. It is like the outer husk of a crop or like skull in relation to brain. He understands that the outer cleanliness is the desired object and makes exaggeration in it and spends much time an wealth in advertising (Istinja) in cleanliness of cloth, body and • the use of water and thinks that the noble purity comprises these outward and external cleanliness. The early Muslims concentrated their entire attention and energies on the purification of their hearts and were lenient in their outward cleanliness. Even Hadrat Omar, being placed in a high position, made ablution with the water from a jar which belonged to a Christian woman. The companions were accustomed not to wash their hands after eating from the remains of fat and food but to wipe them out against the arches of their feet and regarded the use of soap as innovation. They used to say prayer kneeling and prostrating directly on the ground in the mosque and walk barefooted on the roads. They used to use pebbles after calls of nature.