Amidst social distancing and isolation many of the child hood memories are recalled these days , the fairytale movies and stories where a magic spell would freeze everyone on spot and then a kind hearted prince appears to break the spell. The images of deserted streets ,shopping malls air ports and all public places etc are strengthening the feeling further that the Creator is there to control you no matter how powerful you are . In a distant conversation while discussing the magic spell on lighter note a friend suggested that this the best time for all intending to be married , to get married ,as marriages were coming difficult day by day with pomp and show. On a serious note the families got reconnected out of robotic routines and have chances to see the family members each other over breakfast lunch and dinner and most importantly the half faith(nisf Eeman) that was taught in childhood to all of us and which seemed something invisible ,has reemerged in a stronger and emphatic manner . Looking at the concept of cleanliness as Muslims we clearly know and understand that Islam stresses the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene by calling it half faith. There are many verses in the Quran which discuss and emphasize cleanliness.And most prominently the Hadith by Prophet Mohammad Peace Be Upon Him “Safai Nisaf Iman Hay “cleanliness is half Faith.
In Bible and Christianity a very strong stress on personal hygiene and cleanliness can be observed and cleanliness is connected to the goodliness of an individual s character. In Hinduism its taken as an essential virtue of the individual and Bhagawat Geeta mentions it as a divine and celestial practice.The very word used for cleanliness is Saucum and it refers to both physical and spiritual cleanliness internal and external.When we talk about Sikhism cleanliness is an important consideration for Sikhs. Sikhs follow a ritual of cleanliness and prayer each morning and evening which is set out in the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scriptures). The morning ritual includes showering, cleaning the teeth and mouth before prayer, and then eating. Looking at Buddhism its again the internal and external cleanliness and spiritual purification is directly connected to clean and neat surroundings One of the most important teachings of Buddha for everyday life, The Noble Eightfold Path, takes up values such as right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Looking at the plight of cleanliness and hygiene let me share that it has always been a shady area as a nation. Going to public toilet or rest rooms even on motorway or on a public picnic spot is just like a nightmare and one would think and rethink .Lets overlook it with an excuse that its used by everyone and may be its difficult to maintain it.Lets move ahead to our educational institutions and I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that no matter it’s a primary or secondary school or a college or a University (public or private both ) cleanliness and hygiene is the least observed least taught lesson and by this I mean that it’s just TAUGHT .Teaching can be effective if it is practiced but its very unfortunate that the restrooms ,common rooms meant for personal cleanliness are mostly in a horrible condition. Amidst this pandemic threat you think twice before you enter (it was my last month visit to a university in KP and Punjab and more or less faced the same situation ,exceptions may be there though ) The leaking taps ,broken showers and at times the stinking sinks , wonders what we mean by education ? Is it only reading writing and preparing assignments or its something more than this .And even the rest rooms for female students would present the same disastrous look .The well dressed boys and girls in attractive attires and believe me the place they get ready one cannot even stand there for a bit .Ok give them the benefit of doubt again that since they belong to different remote areas they are unaware of it .Lets move to the public and private office ,the same story continues .Why there is a lack of actual hygiene habits and improper use of wash room ?Like many other concepts cleanliness is also taught in a superficial manner without the slightest explanation of what faith means and how cleanliness is half faith .At times the individual talking about it teaching it would be a contradiction to what he or she is teaching.
Let’s hope and pray that the world is out of the situation but in the meantime I think the roles and responsibilities of many institutions and stakeholders should be redefined
Looking at the religious leaders the hygiene at mosques and tableeghi marakaiz doesnot need an explanation .May be being a religious person is the certificate to overlook the hygiene issues apparently.A colleague shared that when he asked his cook regarding his hand washed with soap he simply replied that no as I pray five times a day .The recent division among religious clergy whether to attend the mosques and Friday prayers is quite disturbing and as both the groups would come with references and quotes from the Muslim History .Islam is a progressive religion and flexible enough to .So are the directives keeping in view the situations and circumstances .Unfortunately we always miss out the collective approach at such occasions and each school of thought tries to prove itself right .If there are relaxations given in prayer fasting Hajj under certain circumstances, there can be exemptions in situations of pandemics .Doesn’t it sound logical that to save and protect others if you are suffering from any such disease.
Let’s hope and pray that the world is out of the situation but in the meantime I think the roles and responsibilities of many institutions and stakeholders should be redefined .We look forward to the religious clergy for a better and different role .Along with prayers and Ibadat they can emphasize the half faith too with practically engaging the community for individual and collective hygiene for community s and surroundings .We agree that ablution five times a day is itself cleanliness but use of soap isn’t prohibited even .Social Distancing and its benefits can be highlighted as the social interactions and values are more results of culture .Collective prayers do help in connecting community but under critical circumstances decision can be taken .No religion discourages Cleanliness and hygiene so let’s promote it in community from the place of worship. Ulema have already come up with some directives for the current scenario however Council of Islamic Ideology can take it into consideration further.
The educational Institutions indeed have a very critical role to play along with the teaching and learning,no matter which level it is .Last but not the least disasters ,emergencies need to be dealt with logic and patience focusing on what can be done and how it can be done with in available resources opportunities and information .It is time for us to play our responsible role where ever possible as effective individuals for a collective common good .Stay safe everyone .
The writer has experience in the field of education and is currently working as a resource person in the development sector Twitter handle gul_shagufta