By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS
During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Muslims were mostly enduring hard times, with many Arabian tribes and other forces lined up against them.
Moreover, they suffered economic siege for long periods. Therefore, they were mostly poor. Their clothes were simple, rough and hardly suitable for the climate. Many did not have more than one robe which they would wear every day, at work and other places. With the hot climate in Arabia they were bound to sweat. This often gave them a bad smell. When they came to the mosque, particularly on Friday, the smell was often too sharp for comfort. Some of them complained to the Prophet. He advised all his companions to take a shower on Friday before coming to the prayer.
Abu Said Al-Khudri reports: “I bear witness that God’s messenger (peace be upon him) said: ‘Taking a bath on Friday is a duty on everyone who has attained puberty, as is cleaning his teeth and wearing some perfume if he finds it’.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
This Hadith is the strongest with regard to the standards of cleanliness that we should observe on Friday. There are other Hadiths which may give more details, but they make clear that such actions are strongly recommended, not duties. The difference is that a duty involves clear instruction that must be obeyed. If it is not, then the person who neglects it leaves himself open to punishment by God. A recommended action is less important. It earns reward for us when we do it, because by doing it we show our obedience to God and His messenger. If we fail to do it, we incur no sin and are liable to no punishment, but we deprive ourselves of the reward that goes with it.
The great majority of scholars are of the view that taking a bath or shower on Friday is strongly recommended, before going out to attend the Friday prayer, which must be offered in congregation. The Prophet also recommended us to use a toothbrush to clean our teeth and mouths. This would ensure that no one will have a bad mouth smell when they come to the mosque. In addition, he has recommended us to wear some perfume. He made it clear that this is recommended, adding the phrase “if he finds it” to indicate that it is not obligatory.
Scholars agree that all these actions should be done before we go out to attend the Friday prayer, which falls due just after midday. However, if one takes a bath early, or at anytime after dawn prayers, he does well. Needless to say, the closer one does this to the time of Friday prayer, the better. However, the matter is left to people’s convenience. It may be that an earlier bath is more convenient for some people, particularly when several adults live in the same house. If they all want to take a bath shortly before the prayer, they may be in each other’s way.
It must be made clear that taking a bath or shower on Friday applies to everyone who attends the prayer, man or woman. It does not apply to children, below the age of puberty, because prayer is not obligatory to them. However, if they are going to the mosque, it is better if they are instructed to take a bath so that they develop this habit at an early age. Friday prayer in the mosque is not obligatory to women, but they are welcome to attend it if they so wish. They are also recommended to follow the same practices of cleanliness.