Sunnah and Health Awareness


The Sunnah (the collection of Prophet Muhammad's deeds and sayings) occupies an important place in the thought of Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who is indeed regarded by both his followers and many of his opponents as a major figure in the contemporary Muslim thought.

In the broader scheme of Islamic legislation, the Sunnah is well-acknowledged as the second source of legislation after the holy Qur'an. It comes second in value and importance. Over the past few years, there has been a number of voices calling for undermining the importance of the Sunnah and relying basically on the Qur'an. While undoubtedly the Qur'an is the central pillar in Islamic legislation, efforts to downsize the Sunnah should be confronted because after all, it is considered the most important source after the Qur'an, explaining many of its verses.

What follows is a review of Al-Qaradawi's chapter on "Islamic Concept of Hygiene As Seen by the Sunnah" from his book "The Sunnah: A Source of Knowledge and Civilization." The chapter was separately translated from Arabic into English by Al-Falah Foundation and was published as an independent short book in 1997.

The introduction highlights the role of the Sunnah as the second main source of legislation which is strongly illustrated by the Qur'an itself [And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids, abstain from it] (Al-Hashr 59:7). It also notes the role of the Sunnah as it provides a practical way to implement the teachings of Islam (both belief and practice). The Sunnah also instructs Muslims to lead their daily lives according to Islam, even in the most minute details. It is indispensable to guide Muslims and indeed the rest of humankind to a proper way of life that would be otherwise unknown to them. Behold what Allah Almighty says about Prophet Muhammad with regard to his value to his people, {There has come to you a messenger, (one) of yourselves, unto whom aught that you are overburdened is grievous, full of concern for you, for the believers full of pity, merciful] (At-Tawbah 9:128).

Thus, the Sunnah covers all the aspects of the lives of Muslims, as it is taken to be a comprehensive way of life. One of those aspects that so far has not received due attention is the area of hygiene and health principles as seen by the Sunnah . Whereas the concept of hygiene in the West is a recent concept that probably goes back a few hundred years; in Islam, its roots go back 1,400 years. Moreover, hygiene and cleanliness in Islam are not merely concepts, but more importantly acts of worship. Prayers in Islam cannot be performed without wudu' (ablution). If a Muslim is junub(unclean due to sexual intercourse or discharge), he or she can neither pray nor read Qur'an before performing ghusl(ritual cleansing of the entire body).

The way to thank Allah for the gift of health would be to preserve it in accordance with Allah's rules

The book in question, Islamic Concept of Hygiene As Seen by the Sunnah, engulfs all aspects of hygienic behavior in the life of Muslims. It displays several traditions that urge cleanliness and healthy living on the individual and the collective levels. Such directives include combating pollution, playing sports, and refraining from using drugs and intoxicants. The book does not address Muslims exclusively. In fact, in the same manner that Islam reaches out to humanity in its totality, this book tries to extend the message of Islam to everybody in universal terms. So far, there is not any religion or culture in which hygiene is not discussed extensively.

The book opens with an overview of hygiene in the Sunnah, stressing that the Sunnah has considerably cared about humankind's hygiene as well as its psychological well-being. Towards this end, the Sunnah came with much information and ideas that "are looked upon as a precious treasure valued by all who genuinely care about man's welfare" (Al-Qaradawi 5).

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