I am left dumbstruck when I hear comments such as: “Have you been to ——-? Isn’t it immaculate? Their roads, buildings and parks… Their overall concern for cleanliness! But here (referring to Pakistan), God save us! People are so filthy.”

Alhumdulillah, I have had the privilege of globe trotting to at least four of the major continents across the world, and each time I travel, I am faced with such a predicament. I wonder that if this is such a clean country and so are its people, why do I have to carry my own utensils (for a makeshift Lota) to their washrooms? I can almost imagine the toilet paper available there grinning at me out of mockery.

Being a far less pious Muslim, I cannot even bear the thought of not washing up after the call of nature. So can anyone please explain to me the point of overlooking such an important act of personal hygiene and making it up with polished floors, well-swept roads and imposing fine for littering around? (Not that those initiatives are not appreciated.)

To me, both outlooks are extreme. One considers cleaning up only themselves personally and ignoring the surroundings around them to the extent of throwing garbage and spitting right outside their own dwellings. The other bothers a lot about removing their pet’s poo from the pavement, without being concerned about washing up themselves after using the toilet, themselves.

Islam is as wonderful as it is, and it saves us from swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. It offers a moderate and applicable path with detailed instructions to maintain personal and public hygiene, ensuring clean, safe and pure environments. To appreciate the beauty of our Deen, we can draw comparisons with other religions about their stance on Taharah (purity and cleanliness). This is mainly to acknowledge Allah’s (swt) blessings in disguise, which He has bestowed upon us by making us Muslims, and not to malign anyone.

The late Maulana Zafar Ali Khan has translated Dr. Draper’s Book (1882) and called it “Marka-e-Mazhab Aur Science.” In one of the selected paragraphs of his book, he writes:

“In the middle ages of Europe, most of its land consisted of vast jungles or barren terrain. It comprised of quick sands and filthy marshes. There was neither any system of cleanliness prevalent nor was there a sanitary infrastructure built to dispose off unclean water. The inhabitants wore one garment for years, without even washing it. Consequently, their clothes would become dirty and foul smelling. Bathing was considered a serious offence.

“Once, the Pope of Rome had King Fredrick II of Sicily and Germany convicted in 1250. The most glaring crime, for which the King was found guilty, was of bathing every day like Muslims. The Pope declared every such individual as an apostate, who happened to follow even part of the Muslim culture.

“In 1478, the then Pope established a religious court and burnt to death 2,000 people allegedly convicted for tending to personal hygiene. Another 70,000 people were imprisoned and fined.

“The magnitude of filth was such that when Britain’s Lord Priest stepped out in public, countless lice could be visibly seen roaming on his attire.

“Philip II by law ordered the closure of all Hamams (bathing facilities) after the fall of Muslims in Spain. The King suspended his Governor of Isabella for daring to wash himself daily.”

Similarly, not far away from our territory, in our neighbouring India, in 1975 an article was published in one of their dailies. In it, their Prime Minister admitted consuming cow’s urine every day. In Hinduism, the urine and stool of cow is considered to be sacred. Hence, some of their sweet mart makers sprinkle cow urine on their preparations for the attainment of blessings.

In Sikh religion, if one shaves his/her under arm hair, the individual is considered to be out of the fold of faith.

This is but a glimpse into the past and present of some of the nations whom we today constantly look up to for guidance in our lives. Pitifully, in spite of the superficial glamour and dazzle we witness, there lies a darker side that is not so pristine; otherwise, fatal diseases, such as AIDS and many others, would not have come into existence.

Alhumdulillah, in spite of poverty and negligent environments, the Muslim world is not responsible for such ailments. It is the people who do not practice Taharah and opt for unclean and defiled lifestyles.

In light of the above examples, one can realize the revolution that Islam brought to this world. Muslims have always been graceful and close to Fitrah (human nature). Perversion and unnatural habits have no room in our Deen. We are not a nation that has just recently discovered soap bars, fragrant scrubs or the dental floss. We are the ones, who set precedence for the usage of all such personal and public hygiene related products, and that too, 1400 years back.

So, please, dare not call yourself medieval. Just adopt the Sunnah and you will be modern!