Body Hygiene: Excreta & Secretions

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Islamic Medicine
Staff member
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, Verdana]by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule


Concept of hadath: Hadath (excreta) abrogates/nullifies wudhu (MB#138). A Muslim must be in a state of ablution, wudhu, all the time. Hadath is of three types: flatus, riih al dubr, (MB#110), stool, ghait or buraaz (BG#66), and urine, bawl. In cases of occurrence of hadath, ibadat is not possible before cleansing, taharat. The following acts of ibadat are specifically forbidden: prayer, salat, prostration during Qur'anic recitation, sajdat al tilawat, prostration for thanksgiving, sujuud al shukr, circumbulation of the ka'aba, tawaaf, carrying the mushaf, haml al mushaf. Carrying is allowed of books that contain Qur'anic verses provided the verses are not more than 50% of the material. Exceptions are allowed for children who have to study the Qur'an and are not able to maintain ablution all the time. Sleep abrogates wudu because flatus may be passed during sleep and the person is not aware (BG #75). Flatus is always passing but in small quantities that should be ignored. The only amount of flatus that is taken seriously is when a clear sound is heard or when there is a smell (BG#76). Non-human excreta: Excreta of animals is treated as human excreta.

Concept of najasat: Najasat refers to stool (ghait), urine (bawl), blood (dam), pus (qayh), vomitus (qay'i), intoxicants (khamr), moisture of dogs (kalb), moisture of pig (khanzir), prostatic fluid (madhi), urethral fluid and (wadi). In general solids are not najasat because when touched nothing is transferred from them (al jaf bi al jaaf tahirun bila khilaaf). Smoke from burning of a najasat material is also najasat. The human, dead or alive, is not najasat but can be contaminated with najasat especially if he does not follow the Islamic hygienic code (MB#200). Human sexual discharges, the male seminal fluid and the female sexual discharge are not najasat. Milk, human or non-human, is also not najasat. A distinction must be made between najasat which must always be cleaned and without which acts of ibadat are not valid and other causes of filth such as sweat that have to be washed away anyway. Thus not everything that has to be washed is considered najasat. Non-najasat material that could encourage infection should not be left unwashed on the argument that it was nor specifically mentioned as najasat. Both najasat and non-najasat material must be cleaned away; the difference is that the former nullifies wudhu but the latter does not. The term najasat,, like taharat, has both a physical and moral dimension. The discussion above refers to the physical najasat (najasat hissiyat). The moral dimension, najasat ma'nawiyat, is discussed elsewhere.

Excreta disposal (qadhau al haajat): Relieving one-self of body wastes is a physiological necessity. It however must be done in such a way that infection and toxic material will not pollute the environment or cause harm to humans and other living things. Proper excreta disposal also has a social purpose of making sure there are no bad smells when the waste products putrefy. Proper excreta disposal also has an aesthetic dimension to make sure that the environment is pleasing to look at. Isitnjah refers to cleansing oneself of all traces of the excreta. Cleansing is needed for stool and urine but not for flatus. In case of flatus, no physical cleaning is necessary in the anal area; only the wudhu is repeated.

Materials for istinjah: Water and solid cleansers are used. The solids may be paper, stones (istijmar MB#124), or other plant material. Human bones and material known to be najasat are not allowed (MB#125, BG#88, 89). A solid is used first followed by water (BG#93). Water is the universal and best cleanser (MB#117, 121, 122, BG#1,2,3). Other liquids like milk or vinegar can not be used for cleansing. Water that has been used already in wudhu or cleaning najasat, mau musta'mal, is not usable in istinjah because it could transfer infection. Water that has any filth dumped into it can not be used for cleansing if it is less than 216 liters (kullatain). This is based on the premise that a lot of water does not become najasat (al mau al kathiir la yanjis). It is not usable if there are easily visible signs of pollution such as change of colour, taste or smell even if it is more than 216 liters. We can extrapolate and say that water that appears normal and is more than 216 liters should not be used if bacterial assays indicate that it has more than the allowable coliform concentration.

Toilette Etiquette (adab qadhau al haajat): Islam has taught toilet etiquette to protect both human dignity and also prevent infection. The following are forbidden: facing the qibla (MB#118), facing Jerusalem al quds, conversation in the toilet (BG#82), use of golden or silver vessels, and use of vessels belonging to persons whose hygienic standards can not be ascertained. It is recommended that the toilet be in an isolated place, al khala (BG#86), to use the left hand (MB#123, BG #83) so that the right hand is used only for feeding thus preventing transfer of infection, to enter the toilet with the left foot and to exit with the right foot, and to expose the minimum of nakedness as necessary even if no other human is in the vicinity. Excretion is forbidden on the road, shades where people sit, and on the banks of rivers (BG#81). The toilet is an undesirable place (MB#116). Stay in it must be as short as possible and the stay should never be prolonged beyond need. Shoes or sandals must be worn to prevent the feet from being soiled by filth. A dua must be recited on entering on entering (BG#78) and expression of gratitude to Allah must be recited on exiting.

Washing hands: Hands play a big role in the spread of feco-oral infection. Islam therefore emphasises their regular cleaning. After istinjah and before start of wudu the hands must be washed. Hands are also washed on waking up from sleep because they might have touched the anal or urethral openings (MB#131, BG #35).


Safeguarding from urine: It is a great sin not to protect the body and clothes from urine (MB#164, BG#90). Splashing of urine to contaminate clothing should be avoided. In cases of urinary incompetence, the person is exempted and can pray even if the clothes are contaminated.

Etiquettes of urinating: The regulations about urine are logical measures to prevent urinary contamination and infection. Attempts must be made to empty the bladder fully to prevent spotting after urination (BG#92). Urethral massage for both the male and the female is recommended for this purpose. The following are prohibited: urination on hard ground, urination in a vessel, urinating in a bath, urinating in a hole, urinating in stagnant water (MB#177), urination on any edible material, and facing Makka or Jerusalem. It is prohibited to urinate while standing (MB#168) if it is feared that it will cause splashing of urine. In some cases it is better to sit when urine splashing is less likely away.

Cleansing urine: Urine is washed away using water (MB#165). Similarly floor contaminated by urine is washed with water (MB #166). The urine of babies still breast-feeding is treated differently because it has less content of impurities; for boys splashing of water is enough but for girls washing is necessary (MB#167, BG#26). Touching the penis requires repeat of wudhu (BG #68).

Non-human urine: Prophet ordered people to drink camel urine for medicinal reasons (MB#173). Dog's urine in the mosque was not washed away (MB#137) whereas human urine was. This may indicate higher infectivity of human urine and that animal urine may contain organisms generally not pathogenic to humans.


Skin secretions: Washing of the whole body (ghusl) is obligatory in connection with many acts to make sure that the body is regularly cleared of accumulated secretions. In wudhu, it is recommended to pass fingers between the bases of toes and fingers to clear away collected secretions that can be a substrate for infection. Rings and other coverings on the body must be removed before wudhu and washing to make sure that all parts of the body are washed.

Eye secretions: Tears are not najasat but should be wiped or washed away. Normal eye discharge seen in the morning is also not najasat but must be washed away quickly because it could be a focus of infection.

Ear secretions: The secretions of the external ear can accumulate and become ear wax or could facilitate bacterial infection leading to otitis media. It is recommended in wudhu to clean the external meatus and the ear canal as deep as is safe. This regular cleaning prevents ear infection.

Oral secretions
: Saliva, su'ur, is the main oral secretion. It is not najasat (MB#179). It is useful for lubricating food, initiating the digestive process, keeping the oral mucosa well moistened, and being an anti-microbial. Spitting saliva should however be discouraged because it leads to spread of air-borne infection. Spitting in the mosque or the public highway is esthetically not acceptable. The prophet emphasized regular use of the tooth-pick to maintain oral hygiene and prevent infection. It is recommended to use the tooth-pick in the following cases: when entering the mosque, reading Qur'an, after eating, before salat, and on waking up at night. The tooth-pick must be washed between uses. It is also recommended to rinse the inside of the mouth during wudhu, madhmadha, (BG #48).

Nasal Secretions
: Nasal secretions are not najasat (MB#179). The Prophet recommended blowing the nose three times on waking up (BG#34) to clear away secretions and accumulated infectious and toxic material. During wudhu washing the inside of the nostrils (istinshaaq) removes secretions and infections (BG#36). Care should be taken not to blow the nose in the open air because that spreads air-borne infections.

GIT secretions: Contents of the upper GIT are mostly recently ingested food. Vomiting is not najasat and does not nullify wudhu. The lower GIT especially the lower intestine has fecal excretory material that is najasat. Vomitus that is severe may contain intestinal contents in which case it may be considered vomitus

Throat secretions: Throat clearings are not najasat but should be disposed of carefully because they transmit air-borne bacterial and viral infections.

Vaginal discharges
: The vaginal canal has no glands but there is moisture that is a transudate. The cervix secretes some fluids. Bartholin's glands near the introitus are also secretory. The moisture inside the vaginal canal is not najasat as long as it is inside the vaginal canal. Inter-menstrual vaginal discharges are not najasat (MB #219). Washing is needed when there is a vaginal discharge following a wet sexual dream (BG #96, 97) although the fluid itself is not najasat. All vaginal discharges and any other fluids in the perineal area should be washed away very quickly because of the high potential of infection. Chronic vaginal discharges or bleeding do not prevent a woman from praying. She should wash her vagina, pad it, make wudhu, and pray immediately. Any delay nullifies the wudhu. Touching the perineal area of one self or someone else nullifies wudhu. This also applies if the perineum is of a child or an animal.

Penile discharges: There are three types of penile discharges: seminal fluid (mani), prostatic discharge (madhi), and urethral discharge (wadi). Semen is not najasat because it contains sperms that are living human hereditary material. Dry semen on a cloth is rubbed away while the wet one is washed with water (MB #172) and the cloth can be used for prayer. Wudhu has to be repeated when prostatic fluid (madhi) is passed (BG #69). Touching the penis or self or another person nullifies wudhu.

Intravascular fuids: There are 2 types of intra-vascular fluids: blood (hemorrage, epistaxis, menstruation) and lymph. Blood is cleaned away with water (MB#171). The liver and spleen are not considered blood and can be eaten (BG#11). Menstrual blood on a cloth is washed away if wet and rubbed if dry (BG#27, 28) and the cloth can be used for prayer. Blood of epistaxis is not najasat (BG #69) but must be washed away immediately.

Membranous cavity secretions: Pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and synovial fluids are not najasat and must be washed away if they are outside their cavities.

Non-human secretions: The saliva of a dog is considered dirty and has to be washed with water 7 times one of them with soil (MB #136). On the other hand cat saliva (BG #9) and camel saliva (BG#24) are not considered najasat. The same ruling applies to domestic animals whose meat is edible.


Hair: Scalp hair can trap and accumulate infectious and toxic material from the atmosphere because of its continuous exposure. Rubbing the hair with wet hands in wudhu (mash al ra'as) helps remove accumulation of possible air-borne pathogens. Scalp hair must be washed and combed regularly to prevent any accumulation of filth. Dyeing, plaiting, hair locking of hair are permissible provided they do not prevent proper cleaning. Proper cleaning of hair requires that water reaches the root of the hair. Hair of both men and women can only be dyed with colors other than black. Black dyeing or plucking away white hair is considered deception about the age of a person. The only exception is in situations of jihad when enemies are made to believe that Muslim soldiers are young and therefore strong. Shaving scalp hair is needed when lice and other ecto-parasites are feared to grow in it. It is however offensive (makruh) to shave only part of the head unless there is a medical indication. Shaving of scalp hair for women is discouraged without the consent of the husband. Regular washing and shaving of abdominal, chest hair, pubic hair, and axillary hair is recommended for hygiene.

Nails (adhfar): It is sunnat to trim finger-nails and toe-nails. If left to grow, nails accumulate dirt and pathogens. Some of the excreta may lodge under the nails during istinjah and be a nidus for infection.

Beard (lahyat): The male beard must be kept to maintain gender identity. The beard should not be allowed to grow beyond the size that can be maintained hygienically. It is recommended to clip the moustache. The beard should be washed during wudhu. Regular combing of the beard is necessary to prevent accumulation of dirt.

Ablution (wudhu): Regular ablution involves washing the parts of the body that are most likely exposed to environmental pollution. The exposed organs that are washed are the face, the forearm, hands, the feet, and the head. It is recommended to wash or pass the wet hand over parts of the body that are normally exposed to the atmosphere such as the nostrils, the ear, and the back of the neck.

Bathing(ghusl): Washing of the whole body is obligatory after menstruation (haidh), post-natal bleeding (nifaas), and coitus (janaba). Bathing is also undertaken before for hajj, umrah, and jumaat. Bathing should not be in the open. Nudity must not be exposed at any cost.

Circumcision (khitaan): circumcision is obligatory for males and is recommended for females. In men only the prepuce is removed. In females circumcision should not involve clitoridectomy and should not cause any disfigurement of the perineal area. Circumcision is a hygienic measure to prevent accumulation of urethral discharges and urine under the prepuce. This can lead to infection.


Intra-vascular fluids: Phlebotomy is one of the commonest procedures in medicine. Venupuncture for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes is more common that operations on arteries. Lymphatic channels are rarely operated on. Surgery and catheterization also involve dealing with blood. Blood is not najasat when in the body. At the time of the prophet the therapeutic procedure of cupping (hijaamah) was common and the blood was not treated as najasat (BG #74).

Interstitial space fluids: Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are carried out involving pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, cerebro-spinal, and synovial cavities and spaces. The fluids and effusions are generally not considered najasat. Amniotic fluid in amniocentesis is treated in the same way.

: Esophageal, gastric, and naso-gastric tubes are inserted for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The fluids involved are not najasat but must be washed away to prevent their becoming nidi of infection. A tracheostomy tube may be inserted in cases of respiratory distress and respiratory secretions may accumulate in it. These secretions are not najasat.

: Catheters can be introduced into the heart and the bladder for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.

Stoma: Stomas are an opening of the GIT onto the surface of the abdomen. It may be temporary as esophagostomy, gastrostomy, jejunosotomy, and cecostomy. It may be permanent as in ileostomy and colostomy. Ileostomies are usually constructed following proctocolectomy. They discharge small amounts of liquids continuously. They do not need irrigation but an appliance must be worn all the time. Colostomies may be sigmoid or transverse. The sigmoid colostomy discharges solid stool on an average once a day and a pattern similar to normal defecation may develop. An appliance is not needed but a pouch must be worn for reassurance. Irrigation is achieved by use of a catheter. A transverse colostomy discharges liquid foul-smelling stool and is best avoided. The fluids from an ileostomy are not najasat but those from the colostomy are definitely najasat and must be dealt with accordingly. Enterostomy therapy is a specialised area of nursing that involves, inter alia, post-operative education and counseling of patients and their families (b) care of the stoma (c) dealing with long-term emotional and physical problems.

Fistulae: Bladder fistulae may join the vagina (vesico-vaginal fistula) or the colon (vesico-intestinal fistula). They usually follow trauma, infection, or irradiation. Rarely intestinal fistulae may discharge to the outside. Urethral fistulae may open into the vagina (urethro-vaginal), the rectum (urethro-rectal) or the skin (urethro-cutaneous). The contents of the fistula must be washed away. Those that contain stool or urine are treated as najasat and they can nullify wudhu.
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