Individual Duties in Islam
No matter what policy or course of action man pursues in his life, indeed he looks after nothing but his happiness and prosperity. The recognition of the happiness of something is of minor importance with regard to-the recognition of the thing itself; that is, unless we know ourselves, we will not know our actual needs whose fulfilment provides us with happiness. Therefore, the most essential duty of man is to know himself so as to perceive his happiness and prosperity and endeavour to fulfil his needs by the means that are at his disposal. He must not waste away his valuable life which is his only treasure.
The Holy Prophet (SA) states: "whoever knows himself knows his Allah".
And Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali (AS), states: "whoever knows himself, attains the highest position of knowledge."
After knowing himself, man realizes that his greatest duty is to value highly the essence of his humanity and not to trample upon such a valuable treasure. He also finds that he must strive for his physical and mental health so as to attain a prosperous and delightful eternal life.
Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali (AS) states: "Carnal desires will be low and insignificant to whoever respects himself."
The entity of man is comprised of two things: self or personality and body. It is man's responsibility to try to keep both these essential parts, i.e., the self or soul and body healthy and stable. He is duty bound to endeavour for the health of his soul and body in accordance with the adequate and precise orders given on both of them by the holy religion of Islam.
Abstaining from Harmful Things: Through a series of rules and regulations, the holy religion of Islam has adequately safeguarded the physical health such as enjoining people not to eat corpse, blood, flesh of some animals, and poisonous food; prohibiting them from drinking alcoholic beverages and polluted water; over eating; causing harm to the body; and other directives which are beyond the scope of this chapter.
Keeping Clean: Cleanliness is one of the most important principles of health. For this reason, great importance has been attached to this principle in the holy Shari'ah of Islam. The importance given by Islam to cleanliness cannot be found in any other religion.
The Holy Prophet (SA) has stated: "Cleanliness is a part and parcel of Islamic faith" and this, by itself, is the greatest praise for cleanliness.
Repeated recommendations have reached us from the leaders of Islam in regard to taking bath. Al-'Imam Musa ibn Ja'far (AS) states: "Taking a bath every other day makes man healthy and stout."
Al-'Imam 'Ali (AS) states: "Bathroom is a very good place since it removes the dirtiness of man."
In addition to giving general orders concerning cleanliness and neatness, Islam enjoins in particular for each and every cleanliness; for instance, it orders the people to pare the nails of their hands and feet, to shave arid remove the excess hair on their bodies and heads, to wash their hands before and after meals, to comb their hair, to gargle with water and inhale water, to sweep their homes, and to keep clean the roads, house doors, ground under the trees, etc.
Beside these orders, Islam has specified certain actions which are linked with permanent taharah and neatness such as for reciting salat and having sawm, removing the najasahs (impurities) from the body and the clothes, performing several times everyday the wudu' before reciting the salawat, and performing various ghusls. (taking bath according to the specified Islamic manner). From the fact that water should reach the surface of the body during wudu' before salat and ghusl and that the body should not be dirty and greasy, it becomes clear that the cleanliness of the body is implicitly essential.
The Neatness of Clothes: The Surat al-Muddaththir is one of the suwar which was revealed to the Holy Prophet (SA) in the early stages of his prophetic mission. In the fourth verse of this surah, Allah orders the people for taharah of their clothes: "And do taharah of your garments (74:4)."
The taharah of garments is wajib for salat according to specific Islamic jurisprudential order, but, in general, taharah from uncleanliness and dirtiness is always recommended. Many recommendations have reached us from each of the Fourteen Ma'sumin (AS) in this regard. The Holy Prophet (SA) states: "Whoever puts on clothes should clean them as well." Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali (AS) states: "Washing garments relieves one from grief and anxiety and neat clothes are a means for acceptance of his salat."
It has been narrated from al-'Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (AS) and al-'Imam Musa al-Kazim (AS) that possessing ten or twenty shirts and changing them is not extravagance.
In addition to the cleanliness and taharah of garments and body, a Muslim must also be well-dressed and must meet the people with the best possible appearance and looks. Al-'Imam 'Ali (AS) states: "Put on beautiful clothes and dress yourself up, for Allah is good and likes the good things, but these should be religiously lawful." Then, al-'Imam 'Ali (AS) reads the following verse:
"Say: Who has prohibited the embellishment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants and the good provisions...(7:32)?"
Gargling with Water and Brushing the Teeth: Being a channel for food, the mouth of man gets contaminated due to eating food. Food particles remain in the roots of the teeth, on the tongue, and in all other parts of the mouth thus rendering the mouth contaminated and malodorous. Sometimes, as a result of fermentations and chemical actions and reactions that take place in food particles , poisonous matters are formed which get mixed with the food and then enter the stomach. Moreover, the breath of such a person in a gathering pollutes the air and annoys other people.
Therefore, the holy religion of Islam has ordered the Muslims to brush their teeth everyday (especially before each wudu') gargle their mouth with pure water, and clean their mouth from contamination.
The Holy Prophet (SA) states: "If it were not for the fear of hardship and indigence, I would have made brushing the teeth wajib upon Muslims." Elsewhere, the Holy Prophet (SA) states: "Jibril always recommended brushing the teeth to an extent that I even imagined it would become incumbent upon the Muslims later on."