A couple of weeks back we were at this park in Rawalpindi. It’s one of the very few, if not the only maintained open nature space with beautiful landscapes. We were admiring and taking in the beauty of it all, when a garbage bag flies by us and lands in a heap near a garden bed. I turned around to see a family making space for themselves on the bench after proudly having gotten rid of their rubbish. I couldn’t help but point it out to them to pick up their rubbish and bin it. The bin was literally a foot from them. Not that it was the only bin around. There were several bins installed all over the place and they could have thrown their rubbish in anyone of them. However they found it most suitable to leave their marking around the place they had come to enjoy.
What irked me the most was their apparent religiosity. Men all bearded, women clad in chaddars. This goes to show, the most important tenet of our faith, cleanliness and purity is not full embodied and hence not reflected by many in our culture. And it’s very clearly depicted in all spheres of our society.
And this sadly is the state of affairs in Islamic Republic of Pakistan which is supposed to be a fortress of Islam.
The Prophet ﷺ said cleanliness is half our faith.
However, with the state of affairs in the society, it seems it doesn’t even make up a third.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى says in the Qur’an:
…Truly, Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and cleanSurah Al-Baqarah:222
In Islam, love for Allah سبحانه و تعالى and His worship is tied up with purity. As Allah says in another ayat in Qur’an:
…In it [mosque] are men who love to clean and to purify themselves. And Allah loves those who make themselves clean and pureSurah Tauba:108
Yet sometimes it’s the vicinity of the masajid you find heaps of garbage and filth. Masjid toilets can be the most unclean.
What does this speak for the level of (inner and outer) purity of people frequenting the masjid?
The ayaat and hadith above clearly depict the importance of purity and cleanliness in our faith. They show, we cannot recieve spiritual proximity to Allah if our body, environment, hearts and minds are not clean. We say a lot about cleanliness but really do nothing.
Throwing garbage on roads, on tourist sites and parks has become a commonplace. You will see many people carelessly tossing wrappers out of their cars. People ruthlessly spit on walkways. They answer the call of nature just below the sign where it says not to.
I can cite numerous examples here. All this clearly shows the disregard and insensitivity we have developed towards cleanliness and hygiene as a society.
But what do we really need to do?
Our society is in dire need of education. That too in the light of faith. The training should begin young at homes and in schools. Schools shouldn’t just be a place of memorizing and regurgitating information. But they should instil civic sense in its pupils so they come at as responsible citizens of society.
Besides we can not ignore the importance of media. Almost every home these days have access to a TV. Active campaigns should be run on channels highlighting unhealthy and unhygienic trends in the society and how to counter them with good cleanliness practices.
Apart from all above, community leaders including religious teachers, council members etc need to play their part as well. The government can do it’s part in all this by installing bins and ensuring cleanliness in other ways. However if the masses don’t have basic hygiene sense, the bins will be of no use. With no civic sense, they will continue throwing their rubbish around the bins and not in the bins.
We can keep making criticizing and making suggestions. However to make a concrete changes in our society, we need to reflect deeply on our ways on individual and communal levels. It goes without saying our Islamic faith places great emphasis on cleanliness. If we aren’t establishing an important tenet of our faith, then what are we even doing?