The Muslim Woman and her Ownself PART 3

She takes care of her mouth and teeth

The intelligent Muslim woman takes care of her mouth, for no-one should ever have to smell an unpleasant odour coming from it. She does this by cleaning her teeth with a siwak, toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash after every meal. She checks her teeth and visits the dentist at least once a year, even if she does not feel any pain, in order to keep her teeth healthy and strong. She consults otolaryngologists ("ear, nose and throat" doctors) if necessary, so that her breath will remain clean and fresh. This is undoubtedly more befitting for a woman.
`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) used to be very diligent in taking care of her teeth: she never neglected to clean them with a siwak, as Bukhari and Muslim reported from a number of the Sahabah (RAA).

Bukhari reported from `Urwah (May Allah be pleased with her) via `Ata':

"We heard `A'ishah the Mother of the Believers cleaning her teeth in the room . . ."[8]
Muslim also reports from `Urwah (May Allah be pleased with her) via `Ata':

"We heard her using the siwak . . ."[9]
`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) never woke from sleeping at any time of day or night without cleaning his teeth with a siwak before performing wudu'"[10]
The Prophet's concern for oral hygiene was so great that he said:

"If it were not for the fact that I did not want to overburden my ummah, I would have ordered them to use the siwak before every prayer."[11]
`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) was asked what the Prophet (PBUH) used to do first when he came home. She said, "Use siwak."[12]

It is very strange to see that some Muslim women neglect these matters, which are among the most important elements of a woman's character, besides being at the very heart of Islam.

They are among the most important elements of a woman's gentle nature, and they reveal her feminine elegance and beauty. They are also at the heart of Islam because the Prophet (PBUH) urged cleanliness on many occasions, and he detested unpleasant odours and an ugly appearance. He said:

"Whoever eats onions, garlic or leeks should not approach our mosque, because whatever offends the sons of Adam may offend the angels."[13]
The Prophet (PBUH) banned those who had eaten these pungent vegetables from coming anywhere near the mosque, lest the people and the angels be offended by their bad breath, but these smells pale into insignificance beside the stench of dirty clothes, filthy socks, unwashed bodies and unclean mouths that emanates from some careless and unkempt individuals who offend others in gatherings.

She takes care of her hair

The Prophet (PBUH) also taught Muslims to take care of their hair, and to make it look attractive and beautiful, within the limits of Islamic rulings.
This is reported in the hadith quoted by Abu Dawud from Abu Hurayrah (RAA), who said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: `Whoever has hair, let him look after it properly.'"[14]
Looking after one's hair, according to Islamic teaching, involves keeping it clean, combing it, perfuming it, and styling it nicely.

The Prophet (PBUH) did not like people to leave their hair uncombed and unkempt, so that they looked like wild monsters; he likened such ugliness to the appearance of the Shaytan. In al-Muwatta', Imam Malik reports a hadith with a mursal isnad from `Ata' ibn Yassar, who said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was in the mosque, when a man with unkempt hair and an untidy beard came in. The Prophet (PBUH) pointed to him, as if indicating to him that he should tidy up his hair and beard. The man went and did so, then returned. The Prophet (PBUH) said, `Is this not better than that any one of you should come with unkempt hair, looking like the Shaytan?'"[15]
The Prophet's likening a man with untidy hair to the Shaytan clearly shows how concerned Islam is with a neat and pleasant appearance, and how opposed it is to scruffiness and ugliness.

The Prophet (PBUH) always took note of people's appearance, and he never saw a scruffily-dressed man with untidy hair but he criticized him for his self-neglect. Imam Ahmad and al-Nisa'i report that Jabir (RAA) said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) came to visit us, and he saw an unkempt man whose hair was going in all directions, so he said, `Could he not find anything with which to calm his head?'"[16]
If this is how he Prophet (PBUH) taught men to take care of themselves, then how much more applicable are his teachings to women, for whom beauty and elegance are more befitting, as they are the ones to whom men draw close and seek comfort, tranquillity and happiness in their company! It is obvious to the sensitive Muslim woman that the hair is one of the most important features of a woman's beauty and attractiveness.

Good Appearance

It is no surprise that the Muslim woman is concerned with her clothes and appearance, without going to extremes or making a wanton display of herself. She presents a pleasing appearance to her husband, children, mahram relatives and other Muslim women, and people feel comfortable with her. She does not put them off with an ugly or untidy appearance and she always checks herself and takes care of herself, in accordance with the teachings of Islam, which asks its followers to look good in ways that are permitted.
In his commentary on the ayah:

( Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful [gifts] of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, cleans and pure, [which He has provided] for sustenance? . . .) (Qur'an 7:32)
Al-Qurtubi said: "Makhul reported from `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her): `A group of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) were waiting at the door for him, so he prepared to go out to meet them. There was a vessel of water in the house, and he peered into it, smoothing his beard and his hair. (`A'ishah said) I asked him,

"O Messenger of Allah, even you do this?" He said, "Yes, when a man goes out to meet his brothers, let him prepare himself properly, for Allah (SWT) is beautiful and loves beauty."'"[17]
The Muslim does all of this in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes of either exaggeration or negligence:

( Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just [balance] between those [extremes].) (Qur'an 25:67)
Islam wants its followers, and especially its advocates (da`is), to stand out in gatherings in an attractive fashion, not to appear unsightly or unbearable. Neglecting one's appearance to the extent of being offensive to one's companions in the name of asceticism and humility is not part of Islam. The Prophet (PBUH), who was the epitome of asceticism and humility, used to dress in decent clothes and present a pleasant appearance to his family and companions. He regarded dressing well and looking good to be a demonstration of the Blessings of Allah (SWT):

"Allah (SWT) loves to see the signs His gifts on His servant."[18]
Ibn Sa`d reports in al-Tabaqat (4/346) that Jundub ibn Makith (RAA) said:

"Whenever a delegation came to meet the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), he would wear his best clothes and order his leading Companions to do likewise. I saw the Prophet (PBUH) on the day that the delegation of Kindah came to meet him; he was wearing a Yemeni garment, and Abu Bakr and `Umar were dressed similarly."
Ibn al-Mubarak, Tabarani, al-Hakim, al-Bayhaqi and others report that `Umar (RAA) said: "I saw the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) ask for a new garment. He put it on, and when it reached his knees he said,

`Praise be to Allah (SWT), Who has given me clothes with which to cover myself and make myself look beautiful in this life.'"[19]
So long as this taking care of one's outward appearance does not go to extremes, then it is part of the beauty that Allah (SWT) has allowed for His servants and encouraged them to adopt:

( O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.
Say, Who has forbidden the beautiful [gifts] of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, [which He has provided] for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, [and] purely for them on the Day of Judgement. Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand.) (Qur'an 7:31-32)

Muslim reports from Ibn Mas`ud (RAA) that the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"No-one who has even an atom's-weight of pride in his heart will enter Paradise." A man asked him, "What if a man likes his clothes and shoes to look good?" (Meaning, is this counted as pride?) The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Allah (SWT) is beautiful and loves beauty. Pride means denying the truth and looking down on other people."[20]
This is the understanding adopted by the Sahabah and those who followed them sincerely. Therefore Imam Abu Hanifah (RAA) always took care to dress well and to ensure that he smelled clean and fresh, and urged others to do likewise. One day he met a man who used to attend his circle, who was dressed in scruffy clothes. He took him to one side and offered him a thousand dirhams with which to smarten himself up. The man told him, "I have money; I do not need this." Abu Hanifah admonished him:

"Have you not heard the hadith, `Allah (SWT) loves to see the signs of His gifts on His servant'? So you have to change yourself, and not appear offensive to your friend."
Naturally, those who call people to Allah (SWT) should be better and smarter in appearance than others, so that they will be better able to attract people and make their message reach they hearts.

Indeed they, unlike others, are required to be like this even if they do not go out and meet people, because those who proclaim the word of Allah (SWT) should take care of their appearance and pay attention to the cleanliness of their bodies, clothes, nails and hair. They should do this even if they are in a state of isolation or retreat, in response to the call of the natural inclination of man (fitrah) which the Prophet (PBUH) told us about and outlined its requirements:

"Five things are part of the fitrah: circumcision, removing the pubic hair, plucking hair from the armpits, cutting the nails, and trimming the moustache."[21]
Taking care of oneself in accordance with this fitrah is something encouraged by Islam and supported by every person of common sense and good taste.

She does not go to extremes of beautification

or make a wanton display of herself Paying attention to one's appearance should not make a Muslim woman fall into the trap of wanton display (tabarruj) and showing her beauty to anyone other than her husband and mahram relatives. She should not upset the balance which is the basis of all Islamic teaching, for the Muslim woman always aims at moderation in all things, and is on the alert to prevent any one aspect of her life from taking over at the expense of another.
She never forgets that Islam, which encourages her to look attractive within the permitted limits, is also the religion that warns her against going to such extremes that she becomes a slave to her appearance, as the hadith says:

"Wretched is the slave of the dinar, dirham and fancy clothes of velvet and silk! If he is given, he is pleased, and if he is not given, he is displeased." [22]
Our women today, many of whom have been influenced by the international fashion houses to such an extent that a rich women will not wear an outfit more than once, have fallen into that slavery of which the Prophet (PBUH) warned and, as a result, they are trapped in the misery of that senseless enslavement to excessively luxurious clothing and accessories. Such women have deviated from the purpose for which humanity was created in this world

.One of the worst excesses that many modern Muslim women have fallen into is the habit of showing off expensive outfits at wedding parties, which have become fashion shows where competition is rife and is taken to extremes far beyond the realms of common sense and moderation. This phenomenon becomes clearest when the bride herself wears all her outfits, which may number as many as ten, one after the other: each time she changes, she comes out and shows it off to the other women present, exactly like the fashion models in the West. It does not even occur to the women among whom this habit is common, that there may be women present who are financially unable to buy such outfits, and who may be feeling depressed and jealous, or even hostile towards the bride and her family, and other rich people. Nothing of this sort would happen if brides were more moderate, and just wore one or two outfits at their wedding parties. This is better than that extravagant showing-off which is contradictory to the balanced, moderate spirit of Islam.

No doubt the Muslim woman who has surrounded herself with the teachings of this great religion is spared and protected from such foolish errors, because she has adopted its principles of moderation.

2 - Her Mind

She takes care of her mind by persuing knowledge

The sensitive Muslim woman takes care of her mind just as she takes care of her body, because the former is no less important than the latter. Long ago, the poet Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma said:
"A man's tongue is half of him, and the other half is his heart; What is left is nothing more than the image of flesh and blood."[23]
This means that a person is essentially composed of his heart and his tongue, in other words what he thinks and what he says. Hence the importance of taking care of one's mind and supplying it with all kinds of beneficial knowledge is quite clear.

The Muslim woman is responsible just as a man is, so she is also required to seek knowledge, whether it is "religious" or "secular", that will be of benefit to her. When she recites the ayah ( . . . But say, `O my Lord! Advance me in knowledge.') (Qur'an 20:114) and hears the hadith, "Seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim,"[24 ]she knows that the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah are directed at men and women equally, and that she is also obliged to seek the kinds of knowledge that have been made obligatory for individuals and communities (fard `ayn and fard kifayah) to pursue them from the time that this obligation was made known to the Muslim society.

The Muslim woman understands the high value that has been placed on knowledge since the earliest days of Islam. The women of the Ansar asked the Prophet (PBUH):

"Appoint a special day for us when we can learn from you, for the men have taken all your time and left nothing for us." He told them, "Your time is in the house of so-and-so [one of the women]." So he came to them at that place and taught them there."[25]
The Muslim women had a keen desire for knowledge, and they never felt too shy to ask questions about the teachings (ahkam) of Islam, because they were asking about the truth, and ( Allah is not ashamed [to tell you] the truth) (Qur'an 33:53). Many reports illustrate the confidence and maturity with which the early Muslim posed questions to the Prophet (PBUH), this great teacher, seeking to understand their religion more fully. `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported that Asma' bint Yazid ibn al-Sakan al-Ansariyyah asked the Prophet (PBUH) about performing ghusl after a period. He said,

"Let one of you (who has finished her period) take her water and purify herself properly, then pour water over herself, then take a piece of cloth that has been perfumed with musk, and clean herself with it." Asma' (May Allah be pleased with her) asked, "How should she clean herself?" The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Subhan Allah! You clean yourself with it!" `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) told her in a whisper, "Wipe away the traces of blood."
Asma' also asked him about performing ghusl when one is in a state of janabah. He said,

"You should take your water and purify yourself with it properly, and clean yourself all over, then pour water on your head and rub it so that the water reaches the roots of the hair, then pour water all over yourself."[26]
`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said,

"How good are the women of the Ansar! Shyness did not prevent them from understanding their religion properly."[27]
Umm Sulaym bint Milhan, the mother of Anas ibn Malik, came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said,

"O Messenger of Allah, Allah (SWT) is not ashamed (to tell) the truth, so tell me, does a woman have to perform ghusl if she has an erotic dream?" The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Yes, if she sees water (i.e., a discharge)." Umm Salamah covered her face out of shyness, and said, "O Messenger of Allah, could a woman have such a dream?" He said, "Yes, may your right hand be covered with dust, otherwise how could her child resemble her?"[28]
Muslim reports that Umm Sulaym came to the Prophet (PBUH), when `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) was with him, and when Umm Sulaym asked this question, `A'ishah said,

"O Umm Sulaym, you have exposed women's secret, may your right hand be rubbed with dust!" The Prophet (PBUH) said to `A'ishah, "Rather your hand should be rubbed with dust; O Umm Sulaym, let a woman perform ghusl if she saw such a dream."[29]
The women of that unique generation never hesitated to strive to understand their religion; they would put questions directly to the Prophet (PBUH) about whatever happened to them. If they doubted a person's opinion (fatwa), or were not convinced of it, they would enquire further until they were sure that they understood the matter properly. This is the attitude of the wise and intelligent woman. This was the attitude of Subay`ah bint al-Harith al-Aslamiyyah, the wife of Sa`d ibn Khawlah, who was from Banu `Amir ibn Lu'ayy and had been present at Badr. He died during the Farewell Pilgrimage; she was pregnant, and gave birth shortly after his death. When her nifas ended, she prepared herself to receive offers of marriage. Abu'l-Sanabil ibn Ba`kak (a man from Banu `Abd al-Dar) came to her and said,

"Why do I see you preparing to receive offers of marriage? By Allah (SWT), you will never get married until four months and tens days have passed." Subay`ah (later) narrated: "When he said this to me, I got dressed and went to see the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) in the evening. I asked him about it, and he told me that my `iddah had ended when I gave birth to my child, and said that I could get married if I wished."[30]
Subay`ah's efforts to understand the shar`i ruling precisely represent a blessing and benefit not only for Subay`ah herself, but for all Muslim women until the Day of Judgement. Her hadith was accepted by the majority of earlier and later scholars, above all the four Imams, who said that the `iddah of a widowed woman, if she is pregnant, lasts until she gives birth, even if she were to give birth so soon after her husband's death that his body had not yet been washed and prepared for burial, and it becomes permissible for her to re-marry.[31] What a great service Subay`ah did to the scholars of the Muslim ummah by seeking to understand the shar`i rulings precisely and tto reach a level of certainty about this issue.

Islam has made the pursuit of knowledge obligatory on women and men alike, as the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim."[32]
In other words, it is a duty on every person, man or woman, who utters the words of the shahadah, so it comes as no surprise to see Muslim women thirsting for knowledge, devoting themselves to its pursuit. Muslim women of all times and places have understood the importance of seeking beneficial knowledge, and the positive effects this has on their own characters and on their children, families and societies. So they seek knowledge enthusiastically, hoping to learn whatever will benefit them in this world and the next.