Springtime for many, is a time for rejuvenation, renewal and reflection on the beauty of nature as this gorgeous season unfolds around us. The air is filled with birdsong and fresh breezes, the weather warms and all around us budding flowers and leaves remind us of the bounties of Allah’s creation. After taking in the loveliness outside, we come back inside with a deep desire for our homes to reflect the freshness of spring, and thus a period of cleaning and decluttering ensues.
Whether you love spring cleaning, loathe it, or simply don’t believe in it (“I’d rather keep my house clean consistently all year round”), as homemakers, cleaning plays a very significant part of our day-to-day activities. Our role requires us to create homes in which our families feel serenity, peace and can take refuge from the stormy world outside. For a tranquil and calm environment to exist, our belongings need to be where they should, and our homes should be reasonably clean. Many of us can attest to the psychological burden caused by an overwhelming high stack of dishes, crumby floors, clothes strewn all over the place, and frantically rushing around trying to locate a misplaced item. When our surroundings are messy and dirty, this has a tangible effect on our inward state.
In fact, purity and cleanliness are two important principles of our religion. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is reported to have said that cleanliness is half of faith, and the Qur’an expounds upon the virtues of cleanliness in many places:
“Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves” [Qur’an 2:222]
When the Prophet, peace be upon him, first began to preach in Makka, he was instructed by Allah in surah Muddaththir to arise, to warn the people, to glorify the One True God and to purify his clothes. When we wish to enter a state of ritual purity for worship, we bathe and wash ourselves, and our clothes and place of prayer must also be free of impurities or najasah. It is further mentioned that Angels are repulsed by dirt and foul smells, while the Shayatin gather in filthy places such as lavatories. Thus we should be acutely aware of the importance of cleanliness not only in terms of our personal hygiene, but also with regard to our surroundings.
As homemakers, we want our homes to be Angel-magnets! We want to act upon the Sunnah of our Prophet (pbuh), and for this we require knowledge. As many of you may have read before, each Muslim is obligated to know their ‘ilm al-hal, or personal obligatory knowledge, which depends upon her or his circumstances. Whilst knowledge of purity and impurity is essential for every Muslim, it is even more so for the ones responsible for cleaning the home, the ones removing impurities while washing clothes, washing and changing babies and children, cleaning the bathroom etc.
It’s surprising to think of the number of different questions that arise when one begins to study the fiqh, or rulings regarding such matters. My baby peed in the bath, do I have to spill the water out?! My baby peed on me, and I have to pray fajr in the next five minutes… argh! My toddler climbed on me while I was praying and he was wearing a dirty nappy, (or diaper for you US ladies ;) ), am I allowed to continue? Does my washing machine sufficiently clean impure substances from our clothes? My menstrual blood has stained my underwear and won’t go away no matter how much I wash it, can I still wear it? How thoroughly do I have to scrub the bathroom floor?
The fiqh of tahara, as you can see, is extremely relevant to our day-to-day lives. Thus it is absolutely essential for us to take steps to learn this sacred knowledge, which is integral to our life as human beings and particularly as mothers and homemakers. Now don’t get me wrong, striving for cleanliness doesn’t mean achieving perfection (and a little bit of dirt is good for the immune system, right?!). But when we know that we are not where we want to be with the cleaning aspect of our homemaking, inshaAllah we can begin to take small steps to improve.
At the same time, remember that in this season when we are actively focussing on cleaning our homes, we should also take some time to think of our spiritual rejuvenation. A shaykh once mentioned in a talk I attended, that it is incredible that people will go to great lengths to ensure that even their toilet bowl is sparkling clean, and yet give no consideration to the dirt and impurity settling in their hearts.
The scholars of spirituality liken the heart to a vessel that must be polished. If we neglect our spiritual development or commit sins, our hearts become rusty and must be polished by righteous deeds and acts of remembrance of Allah, to return them to a state in which Allah will be pleased:
“The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children, except one who comes to Allah with a sound heart” [Qur’an 26:88-89]
What better time to reflect upon this, than now as we spring-clean and with Ramadan only a few months away!